Category: Child / Adolescent - Depression
Depression is characterized by impaired functioning due to low mood, loss of interest in daily activities, and other debilitating symptoms including worthlessness (APA 2013; WHO 1992). Two psychological constructs are closely linked to this sense of worthlessness experienced by individuals suffering from the disorder: shame-proneness and low self-esteem. Both constructs are predominantly characterized by negative evaluations of worth and each is significantly related to depression (Andrews, Qian, & Valentine, 2002; Sowislo & Orth, 2013); however, the two constructs have rarely been examined together in relation to depression. Thus, each construct’s unique association with depression remains unclear. The present study utilized latent variable modeling to examine the extent to which shame-proneness and low self-esteem are uniquely related to depression, over-and-above each other.
Participants included 391 students (76% female; age M = 18.88, SD = 1.43) from a mid-sized southern private university. Participants completed multiple self-report measures of shame-proneness, self-esteem, and depression. All measures were administered online, and participants received course credit for their participation.
The correlation between latent shame-proneness and latent self-esteem was -.62 (p < .01), and each was independently correlated with latent depression (rs= .51 and -.79, respectively; ps < .01). In the model with each predicting latent depression, self-esteem was significantly associated with depression (γ = -.76, p < .01); shame-proneness was no longer associated with depression (γ = .02, p = .64). Although the Chi square fit index was significant (χ2 = 45.3, p < .01), other indices suggested the model fit the data well: RMR = .026; GFI = .97; RMSEA = .067, 90% CI [.043, .090], p = .11.
The findings suggest a unique association of self-esteem with depression, over-and-above shame-proneness. Although shame-proneness was significantly correlated with depression independently, it was not associated with depression after controlling for self-esteem. This suggests that the attributes in shame-proneness that are associated with depression may be accounted for by self-esteem. Future research should address the particular aspects of each construct that might explain the difference, include additional constructs relevant to worthlessness (e.g., self-criticism), and test whether these findings generalize to other populations.