Discrepancies between perceptions of the parent-adolescent relationship and early adolescent depressive symptoms: An illustration of polynomial regression analysis

S. A. Nelemans*, S. J. T. Branje, W. W. Hale, L. Goossens, H. M. Koot, A. J. Oldehinkel, W.H.J. Meeus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Adolescence is a critical period for the development of depressive symptoms. Lower quality of the parent-adolescent relationship has been consistently associated with higher adolescent depressive symptoms, but discrepancies in perceptions of parents and adolescents regarding the quality of their relationship may be particularly important to consider. In the present study, we therefore examined how discrepancies in parents' and adolescents' perceptions of the parent-adolescent relationship were associated with early adolescent depressive symptoms, both concurrently and longitudinally over a 1-year period. Our sample consisted of 497 Dutch adolescents (57 % boys, M (age) = 13.03 years), residing in the western and central regions of the Netherlands, and their mothers and fathers, who all completed several questionnaires on two occasions with a 1-year interval. Adolescents reported on depressive symptoms and all informants reported on levels of negative interaction in the parent-adolescent relationship. Results from polynomial regression analyses including interaction terms between informants' perceptions, which have recently been proposed as more valid tests of hypotheses involving informant discrepancies than difference scores, suggested the highest adolescent depressive symptoms when both the mother and the adolescent reported high negative interaction, and when the adolescent reported high but the father reported low negative interaction. This pattern of findings underscores the need for a more sophisticated methodology such as polynomial regression analysis including tests of moderation, rather than the use of difference scores, which can adequately address both congruence and discrepancies in perceptions of adolescents and mothers/fathers of the parent-adolescent relationship in detail. Such an analysis can contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of risk factors for early adolescent depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2049-2063
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Early adolescence
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Multiple informants
  • Parent-adolescent discrepancies
  • Polynomial regression analysis
  • Difference scores


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