Can adolescents differentiate between depression, anxiety and stress? Testing competing models of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS-21)

  • Veljko JovanovićEmail author
  • Vesna Gavrilov-Jerković
  • Milica Lazić


The present study used the Exploratory Structural Equation Modeling (ESEM) procedure and a bifactor-ESEM framework to evaluate the construct validity of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS-21) among adolescents. We also evaluated measurement invariance and latent mean differences across gender and age, and investigated the convergent validity of DASS-21 by examining relationships with positive and negative affect. A total of 1906 adolescents (60.7% females, Mage = 16.54) completed the DASS-21, whereas 998 adolescents (62.6% females; Mage = 16.98) completed both the DASS-21 and a measure of positive and negative affect. The results showed that the bifactor-ESEM model was the best representation of the data and this model proved to be invariant across gender and age. The findings indicated a strong general factor of emotional distress underlying responses to all DASS-21 items, but also suggested that Depression and Anxiety subscales possess substantial amount of specificity over and above the general factor. The Stress subscale showed little specificity after partialling out the general factor. Depression subscale explained variance of both positive and negative affect over and above the variance already explained by the general factor, whereas the Anxiety and Stress subscales did not. Our findings show that a bifactor-ESEM framework is a valuable tool for examining structural validity of DASS-21.


Exploratory structural equation modeling Depression Anxiety Stress Adolescents 



This work was supported by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia (Grant No. 179006).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Faculty of PhilosophyUniversity of Novi SadNovi SadSerbia

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