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Future Depression Associated with Developmental Trajectories of Global Self-worth and Multi-dimensional Self-concept in Low-income Urban African American Adolescents Open Access

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Self-worth is commonly used as a barometer for psychological well-being in adolescence. As low-income urban African American youth are often exposed to contexts that may undervalue their worth (e.g., racial discrimination), positive self-perception may be especially crucial for their well-being. The current study focused on the development of global self-worth and two self-concept domains (i.e., social acceptance and physical appearance) within a large sample of African American adolescents. Analyses sought to: (a) identify classes of adolescents who demonstrate different trajectory classes of self-worth and domain-specific self-concept; (b) examine if gender predicts class membership; and (c) examine links between class membership and depression.Participants were a community sample of 610 urban and predominantly low income African American adolescents who reported their global self-worth, perceived social acceptance and physical appearance from grade 6 through 12. Depressive symptoms were reported in the year following grade 12. Growth mixture modeling was used to identify latent classes of children who showed different patterns of change in global self-worth and domain-specific self-concepts from grade 6 through 12. Additional analyses explored whether gender predicted class membership, and if class membership predicted depressive symptoms in the year following grade 12. Analyses indicated that a one-class solution fit best for global self-worth: overall, this sample showed high and increasing development of global self-worth. However, there was heterogeneity in the development of self-concept related to social acceptance and physical appearance, each demonstrating a two-class solution. For both domains, the majority of adolescents placed in a high and increasing trajectory class. A second group of adolescents demonstrated moderate and stable growth of social acceptance and physical appearance. Youth placed in the high and increasing physical appearance trajectory class were more likely to be male. Symptoms of depression were significantly higher in the year following grade 12 in the trajectory class of social acceptance marked by lower self-perception ratings. Results shed light on specific patterns amongst African American adolescents that may require intervention, and provide a foundation for examination of determinants and outcomes of domain-specific self-perceived competence.

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