Associations between childhood adversity, psychiatric symptoms, and self-esteem outcomes in adolescents and young adults: An experience sampling study

Victor Mazereel*, Kristof Vansteelandt, Claudia Menne-Lothmann, Jeroen Decoster, Catherine Derom, Evert Thiery, Bart P F Rutten, Nele Jacobs, Jim van Os, Marieke Wichers, Marc De Hert, Davy Vancampfort, Ruud van Winkel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Objectives: Self-esteem and self-esteem stability are important factors during adolescence and young adulthood that can be negatively impacted by childhood adversity and psychiatric symptoms. We examined whether childhood adversity and psychiatric symptoms are associated with decreased global self-esteem as well as increased self-esteem instability as measured with experience sampling method. In addition, we examined if childhood adversity moderates the association between psychiatric symptoms and self-esteem outcomes. Methods: Our study consisted of 788 adolescents and young adults who were part of a twin pair. The twin structure was not of interest to the current study. Mean age was 16.8 (SD = 2.38, range: 14−25), 42% was male. We used a multilevel modeling approach to examine our hypotheses to account for the presence of twins in the data set. Results: Childhood adversity and psychiatric symptoms were negatively associated with global self-esteem (respectively standardized β = −.18, SE = 0.04, p <.0001 and standardized β = −.45, SE = 0.04, p <.0001), with a larger effect for psychiatric symptoms. Similarly, both were associated with increased self-esteem instability (respectively standardized β =.076, SE = 0.025, p =.002 and standardized β =.11, SE = 0.021, p <.0001). In addition, interactions between childhood adversity and psychiatric symptoms on both global self-esteem (standardized β =.06, SE = 0.01, p <.0001) and self-esteem instability (standardized β = −.002, SE = 0.0006, p =.001) were found, showing that the negative association of psychiatric symptoms with self-esteem outcomes is less pronounced in young people with higher levels of childhood adversity, or formulated differently, is more pronounced in young people with little or no exposure to childhood adversity. Conclusion: Global self-esteem and self-esteem instability in young people are influenced by both current psychiatric symptomatology and exposure to childhood adversity. Those with more psychiatric symptoms show worse self-esteem and higher self-esteem instability, which is moderated by childhood adversity. For young people with high childhood adversity levels lower self-esteem and higher self-esteem instability are less influenced by reductions in psychiatric symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-143
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychology
Volume80
Issue number1
Early online date6 Oct 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

Keywords

  • childhood adversity
  • experience sampling method
  • psychiatric symptoms
  • self-esteem
  • self-esteem instability
  • young adult

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