Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 46, Issue 5, pp 1089–1109 | Cite as

Self-Competence and Depressive Symptom Trajectories during Adolescence

  • Anna Vannucci
  • Christine McCauley Ohannessian


The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between self-competence and subsequent depressive symptom trajectories, by gender, in a community sample of adolescents (N = 753; 53% female; 65% non-Hispanic White). Data were collected annually for three years beginning when adolescents were in the 10th and 11th grades (Age: M = 16.09, SD = 0.72 years). Adolescents provided self-reports of self-competence at baseline and depressive symptoms every year. In latent growth curve models examining the overall trajectory of depressive symptoms, higher global self-worth and self-competence in close friendships were significantly associated with greater decreases in depressive symptoms (ps < 0.05). In contrast, higher academic self-competence was associated with more attenuated decreases in depressive symptoms (p = 0.001). When examining subgroups of latent depressive symptom trajectories within the context of growth mixture modeling, higher self-competence in physical appearance was associated with a decreased likelihood of membership in trajectory classes characterized by high initial, then decreasing depressive symptoms or and low initial, then increasing depressive symptoms (ps < 0.01). Among girls, higher global self-worth and self-competence in close friendship and academic domains were associated with membership in a trajectory class distinguished by high stable depressive symptoms (ps < 0.01); these associations were not observed among boys (ps > 0.05). Findings suggest that the competence-based model of depression is valid and applicable during middle-to-late adolescence, and emphasize the importance of considering gender and individual differences in the developmental course of depressive symptoms to gain a more nuanced understanding of the role of self-competence in depressive symptom trajectories.


Depressive symptoms Adolescence Self-competence Self-worth Gender differences 



We would like to thank all of the adolescents and parents who participated in this study. We would also like to acknowledge the Adolescent Adjustment Project staff for their unmatched dedication to the implementation and conduct of this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant K01-AA015059 (PI: Ohannessian).

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval and Informed Consent

Ethical approval by the University of Delaware Institutional Review Board, and informed consent and adolescent informed assent were obtained.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Vannucci
    • 1
  • Christine McCauley Ohannessian
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for Behavioral HealthConnecticut Children’s Medical CenterHartfordUSA
  2. 2.Department of Pediatrics and PsychiatryUniversity of Connecticut School of MedicineFarmingtonUSA

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