Self-Concept Clarity Across Adolescence: Longitudinal Associations With Open Communication With Parents and Internalizing Symptoms

Marloes P.A. Van Dijk*, Susan Branje, Loes Keijsers, Skyler T. Hawk, William W. Hale, Wim Meeus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

94 Citations (Scopus)


Higher self-concept clarity is related to several adjustment indices and may be promoted by open communication with parents, while problems with self-concept clarity development could enhance internalizing problems (i.e., depressive and anxiety symptoms) in adolescence. This longitudinal study examined linkages between self-concept clarity, adolescents’ open communication with parents, and adolescent depressive and anxiety symptoms. Dutch youths (N = 323; 51.1 % girls; mean age Time 1 = 13.3 years) reported on these constructs over four consecutive annual measurements. Concurrent positive links between open communication and self-concept clarity were found at Time 1. Over time, higher levels of open communication with parents predicted higher self-concept clarity only in middle adolescence (mean age between 14 and 15 years). We also found concurrent associations between self-concept clarity and both depressive and anxiety symptoms. Longitudinally, lower self-concept clarity predicted relatively higher levels of depressive symptoms across all waves, and also higher anxiety levels from Time 1 to Time 2. Conversely, higher levels of anxiety also predicted lower levels of self-concept clarity during the first three waves. Self-concept clarity did not mediate the longitudinal associations between open communication and internalizing symptoms. This study is one of the first to investigate self-concept clarity across adolescence. It highlights the possible importance of both anxiety symptoms and communication with parents in understanding the development of a clear self-concept, and demonstrates an association between lower self-concept clarity and higher levels of later depressive and anxiety symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1861-1876
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by grants to Wim Meeus and Susan Branje from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2013, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


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