Time-Varying and Time-Invariant Dimensions of Depression in Children and Adolescents: Implications for Cross-Informant Agreement

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Abstract

The longitudinal structure of depression in children and adolescents was examined by applying a Trait-State-Occasion structural equation model to 4 waves of self, teacher, peer, and parent reports in 2 age groups (9 to 13 and 13 to 16 years old). Analyses revealed that the depression latent variable consisted of 2 longitudinal factors: a time-invariant dimension that was completely stable over time and a time-varying dimension that was not perfectly stable over time. Different sources of information were differentially sensitive to these 2 dimensions. Among adolescents, self- and parent reports better reflected the time-invariant aspects. For children and adolescents, peer and teacher reports better reflected the time-varying aspects. Relatively high cross-informant agreement emerged for the time-invariant dimension in both children and adolescents. Cross-informant agreement for the time-varying dimension was high for adolescents but very low for children. Implications emerge for theoretical models of depression and for its measurement, especially when attempting to predict changes in depression in the context of longitudinal studies.

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