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Co-occurrence of social anxiety and depression symptoms in adolescence: differential links with implicit and explicit self-esteem?

  • P. J. de Jong (a1), B. E. Sportel (a1) (a2), E. de Hullu (a1) and M. H. Nauta (a1) (a2)



Social anxiety and depression often co-occur. As low self-esteem has been identified as a risk factor for both types of symptoms, it may help to explain their co-morbidity. Current dual process models of psychopathology differentiate between explicit and implicit self-esteem. Explicit self-esteem would reflect deliberate self-evaluative processes whereas implicit self-esteem would reflect simple associations in memory. Previous research suggests that low explicit self-esteem is involved in both social anxiety and depression whereas low implicit self-esteem is only involved in social anxiety. We tested whether the association between symptoms of social phobia and depression can indeed be explained by low explicit self-esteem, whereas low implicit self-esteem is only involved in social anxiety.


Adolescents during the first stage of secondary education (n=1806) completed the Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS) to measure symptoms of social anxiety and depression, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES) to index explicit self-esteem and the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to measure implicit self-esteem.


There was a strong association between symptoms of depression and social anxiety that could be largely explained by participants' explicit self-esteem. Only for girls did implicit self-esteem and the interaction between implicit and explicit self-esteem show small cumulative predictive validity for social anxiety, indicating that the association between low implicit self-esteem and social anxiety was most evident for girls with relatively low explicit self-esteem. Implicit self-esteem showed no significant predictive validity for depressive symptoms.


The findings support the view that both shared and differential self-evaluative processes are involved in depression and social anxiety.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Dr P. J. de Jong, Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Groningen, Grote Kruisstraat 2/1, 9712 TS Groningen, The Netherlands. (Email:


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Co-occurrence of social anxiety and depression symptoms in adolescence: differential links with implicit and explicit self-esteem?

  • P. J. de Jong (a1), B. E. Sportel (a1) (a2), E. de Hullu (a1) and M. H. Nauta (a1) (a2)


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