How do the “tweenies” do? Mental health, alcohol experiences and personality among young adolescents.
Author: Karin Boson, PhD Student of Psychology, GU
Crucial factors concerning positive development through adolescence, such as mental health, alcohol use and personality traits are incompletely investigated among the youngest adoles-cents. The aim of the present licentiate thesis was to investigate young adolescents’ self-reported mental health (specifically in this thesis; mental well-being and mental health prob-lems), alcohol experiences and personality. The participants in the studies constituted of a sample from the Swedish multidisciplinary Longitudinal Research program on Development In Adolescence (LoRDIA). In Study I, patterns of self-reported internalizing and externalizing problems as well as mental well-being in relation to alcohol experiences was investigated among 1383 girls and boys aged 12-13 years. Person-oriented analyses were applied to the data with the purpose of finding specific configurations that were more frequent (“types”) than expected by chance. Externalizing problems were in contrast to internalizing problems, more commonly occurring among adolescents reporting high degree of mental well-being. Boys with an early alcohol debut reported high mental well-being and no co-occurring internalizing or externalizing problems. On the contrary, girls with both internalizing problems and low degree of mental well-being were overrepresented among those with alcohol experiences. Findings from this study suggest that gender as well as mental well-being perspectives need to be taken into account when describing and explaining mental health among adolescents, especially adolescents with an early alcohol debut. In Study II, psychometric properties of the personality measurement for children and adolescents labelled the Junior Temperament and Character Inventory (JTCI) was investigated, as well as the congruence on the child’s self-report and caregiver rating of the JTCI. The study included 1046 girls and boys aged 12-14 years along with 654 caregivers. Internal consistency and convergent validity were analyzed. Norms for the Swedish self-reported and caregiver rating version of JTCI were established and the congruence on the child’s self-report and caregiver-rating was analyzed. The internal structure for JTCI was not fully satisfactory; the dimension Persistence did not form a reliable construct in the Swedish self-report version. Revision and expansion of this dimension is therefore suggested. The child’s own perspective as well as the caregiver’s is preferable to provide a thorough understanding of the child’s personality. The results also support the importance of age- and gender specific norms of the JTCI. The findings from this thesis point out the need for gender awareness when studying mental health and personality among young adolescents. Girls with anxious personality behaviors, low mental well-being and internalizing problems might easily be neglected and experienced as more mature than they are.
This research is financed by:
Swedish Research Council, FORTE, VINNOVA, Formas.
Contact: Karin Boson, Registered Psychologist, and PhD Student of Psychology, Department of Psychology, Gothenburg University.