Discrepancies in parental and self-appraisals of prosocial characteristics predict emotional problems in adolescents

Peter Taylor, Alex M. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives. Parental appraisals of an adolescent may have an effect upon the adolescent's well-being and likelihood of emotional problems. However, the impact of these parental appraisals is likely to be partly determined by the young person's self-appraisal. It was predicted that a discrepancy in self- and parent appraisals of positive, prosocial qualities would be associated with an increased risk of emotional problems. Design. The study employed a cross-sectional design within a large sample of adolescent and caregiver dyads (N = 3,976, aged 11-17 years), drawn from the 'Mental health of children and young people in Great Britain, 2004' survey. Method. Two separate measures of prosociality were used to ensure that effects were not specific to one measure. The analysis explored the discrepancy in parent and self-ratings on these measures via interactions within a logistic regression framework. Potential confounds, including gender, parental mental health, conduct and hyperkinetic problems were controlled for in the analysis. Results. The logistic regression analyses demonstrated significant interactions between self- and parent ratings of prosocial qualities in predicting the odds of emotional disorder (i.e., depression and anxiety). This effect occurred across both measures of prosocial qualities whilst controlling for confounds. The pattern of the interactions suggested that low parental appraisals had a more detrimental effect on well-being when self-appraisals were highly positive. Conclusions. The results suggest that moderately high self-appraised positive traits may carry a cost of leaving young people more vulnerable to discrepant, negative parental appraisals. This has important implications for the meaning attributed to self-appraised positive traits in clinical contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-284
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date5 Dec 2012
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


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