Multidimensional vs. Unidimensional perspectives of self-concepts in adolescent mental health

Year: 2003

Author: Marsh, Herbert, Parada, Roberto, Ayotte, Violaine

Type of paper: Refereed paper

In this study we demonstrate that the relations between self-concept and mental health are best understood from a multidimensional perspective. For a new French translation of the Self Description Questionnaire II (SDQII), confirmatory factor analysis demonstrated a well-defined multidimensional factor structure of reliable, highly differentiated self-concept factors, supporting its cross-cultural validity. Consistent with a priori predictions, correlations between 11 SDQII and 7 mental health problems (Youth Self-Report, YSR) varied substantially (+.11 to -.83; mean r = -.35). Externalizing factors (delinquent, aggressive behaviors) were almost unrelated to physical, appearance, and peer self-concepts but were substantially related to parents and honesty self-concepts (-.46 to -.70); anxious/depressed and attention problems were substantially related to emotional stability self-concept (-.71, -.83). Relations among 11 SDQ factors could not be explained in terms of one higher-order SDQ factor, relations among 7 YSR factors could not be explained in terms of one higher-order YSR factor, and relations between the 11 SDQ and 7 YRS factors could not be explained in terms of two higher-order (SDQ & YSR) factors. This highly differentiated multivariate pattern of relations supports a multidimensional perspective of self-concept, not a unidimensional perspective that is still prevalent in mental health research and assessment.