Adolescent depressive versus aggressive symptomatology and Eriksonian psychosocial stage resolution

Janis McAdams, Pace University


The present study sought to understand adolescent depression and aggression, as expressed in behavioral symptomatology, in the context of Erikson's theory of personality development. One hundred thirty-six adolescents in the 9th through 12th grade were administered the Erikson Psychosocial Stage Inventory (EPSI) and the problem scale of the Youth Self Report Profile (YSR). Cutoff criteria applied to the Anxious/Depressed and Aggressive Behavior subscales of the YSR were used to categorize subjects into 4 groups of behavioral symptomatology; (1) "control"; (2) "aggressive group"; (3) "depressed"; and (4) "mixed" group in which individuals demonstrated elevated scores on both Aggressive and Anxious/Depressed subscales. Resolution of the first six psychosocial stages as measured by the EPSI were compared across groups. Results of MANOVA procedure with post-hoc Scheffe supported the first hypothesis with results showing significant differences (p. $<$.001) in positive resolution among the four groups. The "control" group demonstrated the highest positive resolutions on all EPSI subscales and the "mixed" group the lowest. The depressive and aggressive groups reported significant differences in resolution of Trust and Autonomy only. In general, those who rated themselves as high on both types of pathology were more similar to the Depressed group than to the Aggressive group supporting the construct of "masked depression". The second hypothesis, that subjects reporting extremes of positive or negative EPSI resolution would be greatest in those reporting highest levels of symptomatology was not supported in MANOVA analysis using absolute values of EPSI scores converted into values reflecting deviance from the mean. Contrary to theory, both control and mixed symptomatology subjects demonstrated the greatest extremes of positive or negative resolution. Results supported the third hypothesis with the Depressed and Mixed groups agreeing with negative EPSI statements significantly more strongly than positive statements. Auxiliary analysis by gender was performed demonstrating significant differences between groups for males on the Intimacy subscale, females did not demonstrate significant differences. These results were discussed in terms of criticisms of Erikson's theory as describing male development only. Overall, findings suggest that depressive and aggressive symptomatology generally arise from different early experiences suggesting that they represent different ego organizations. However, those reporting a combination of aggressive and depressive symptomatology are most likely vulnerable to ego weakness, impulsive behavior, and possibly suicide. Results were discussed in the context of Eriksonian psychosocial stage resolution.

Subject Area

Behaviorial sciences|Developmental psychology|Personality

Recommended Citation

McAdams, Janis, "Adolescent depressive versus aggressive symptomatology and Eriksonian psychosocial stage resolution" (1992). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9239388.



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