This multisample longitudinal study examined the directionality of effects between identity exploration and commitment processes and depressive symptoms across adolescence. We compared two theoretical perspectives. According to the vulnerability model, identity uncertainty predicts depressive symptoms, whereas the scar model holds that depressive symptoms play into identity uncertainty. In investigating both models, we examined reciprocal within-person associations in Study 1 (N 497, Mage Time 1 [T1] 14.03 years, comprising five annual waves) and Study 2 (N 1,022, Mage T1 15.80 years, comprising four annual waves). To this end, we applied the random-intercept cross-lagged panel model (RI-CLPM) in both studies. Results supported the vulnerability model across Studies 1 and 2. Specifically, within-person increasing reconsideration of commitment (Study 1) and ruminative exploration (Study 2) predicted a within-person increase in depressive symptoms 1 year later, but not vice versa. Commitment processes did not predict depressive symptoms at the within-person level. Our findings indicate that maladaptive exploration processes of identity formation play a particularly important role in the development of depressive symptoms at the within-person level.

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Keywords identity formation, adolescence, depressive symptoms, certainty-uncertainty dynamics, random intercept cross-lagged panel model
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Journal Developmental Psychology
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Becht, A.I, K. Luyckx (Koen), S.A. Nelemans (Stefanie), L. Goossens (Luc), S.J.T. Branje (Susan), Vollebergh, W.A.M, & W.H.J. Meeus (Wim). (2019). Linking Identity and Depressive Symptoms Across Adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 55, 1733–1742. doi:10.1037/dev0000742