Pubertal timing and internalizing psychopathology of adolescent females: evaluating the maturation disparity hypothesis

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Pauldine, Michael R.
Clark, Brendan
Previous research has demonstrated a robust link between early pubertal timing and increased risk for anxious and depressive symptoms among female adolescents. Although a number of explanations have been proposed, the most widely accepted the maturation disparity hypothesis has yet to be empirically tested. This hypothesis posits that the discrepancy between physical and psychological maturation among early physical developers increases risk for internalizing psychopathology, and empirically testing this hypothesis was the primary aim of this dissertation. Additional aims included replicating the commonly found association between early pubertal timing and psychopathology, as well as tracking the trajectory of adolescent egocentrism across adolescence. A community sample of 137 girls age 12 to 15 years old (M = 14.32, SD = 1.03) completed self-report measures on demographics, physical and social cognitive development, and anxiety and depressive symptomatology. Results indicated that earlier pubertal timing was predictive of an increase in depressive symptoms, but was not associated with anxious distress. Also, contrary to expectations, imaginary audience ideation did not follow an inverted-U trajectory, as suggested by Elkind's (1967) theory and other previous research; however, the declining trajectory was consistent with Lapsley's (1993) "new look" model and accompanying literature. Partial support was found for the maturation disparity hypothesis. The difference between physical and psychological development significantly predicted depressive symptoms, while earlier pubertal timing and the interaction of pubertal timing by more advanced physical than psychological development were marginally significant predictors. Anxiety was also associated with a greater discrepancy between physical and psychological maturities, although neither pubertal timing nor the interaction term were significant. Clinical applications and directions for future research are highlighted.
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Thesis (Ph.D.)-- Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Psychology