Beyond Involvements in Romantic and Sexual Relationships: Effects of Self-Esteem and Parental Distress on Trajectories of Adolescent Psychological Distress

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: 422
Oral Presentation
Chi CHIAO , Insitute of Health and Welfare Policy, Research Center for Health and Welfare Policy, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan
Chin-Chun YI , Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
Kate KSOBIECH , University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Whitewater, WI
What accounts for the onset and change of psychological distress that occurs between late adolescence and young adulthood? As emerging research has begun its attention to the effect of early involvements in sexual and romantic relationships on adolescent psychological well-being, we extend the vulnerability model and the genetic hypothesis and propose initial levels of psychological distress and subsequent changes over this period are partly a consequence of adolescent self-esteem and parental distress, both of which may be at least as influential as teen involvement in romantic and sexual relationships. Data were from longitudinal surveys of Taiwanese adolescents at age 16 with 3 follow-ups over a 6-year time period (n=2,314). Psychological distress was assessed by Symptom Checklist-90 Revised (SCL-90-R). Growth curve models were used to predict the relationships between adolescent self-esteem, parental distress, and trajectories of adolescent distress, after taking early involvements in romantic and sexual relationships, influence of peers, school, and family, and adolescent risky behaviors into account. After a wide range of adjustments, the multivariate analyses indicated that positive self-esteem was associated with diminished initial levels of psychological distress in adolescents (β=-0.04, p<0.05), and also ameliorates their psychological distress over time (β=-0.01, p<0.01). In contrast, parental distress was not significantly associated with initial measurement of adolescent distress, but parental distress did exacerbate adolescent distress over time (β=0.01, p<0.001). In addition, living with both biological parents, and having a high level of family cohesion were associated with lower levels of psychological distress. Early involvements in sexual and romantic relationships, and risky behaviors of adolescents and their close friends were strongly related to higher levels of psychological distress. These results underscore the importance of an integrated psychosocial perspective. Policies and interventions aimed at promoting adolescent psychological well-being are recommended.