When adolescents disagree with their mothers: CBCL-YSR discrepancies related to maternal depression and adolescent self-esteem

Child Care Health Dev. 2003 May;29(3):207-13. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2214.2003.00332.x.


Objective: To facilitate understanding of disagreement between mothers and adolescents when they report on adolescents' mental symptoms, discrepancy of reports were studied in relation to depressive symptoms of mothers and self-esteem of adolescents.

Participants: Sixty-eight mother-adolescent pairs participated. All the adolescents (11-17 years) were referred to child and adolescent psychiatric outpatient clinics in Norway for emotional or behavioural disorders.

Methods: The adolescents completed the questionnaire Youth Self Report (YSR), and mothers completed the corresponding Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL). Maternal depression was measured with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scales and adolescent self-esteem was measured with Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents.

Results: Mothers' level of depression emerged as a significant variable (P < 0.001) predicting CBCL-YSR discrepancy on internalizing disorders, explaining 41% of the variance. With increased levels of depression mothers tended to report more internalizing problems compared to the adolescents. For mother-adolescent discrepancy on externalizing problems, adolescents' age was the most significant variable. With increasing age the adolescents were more in agreement with their mothers when reporting their externalizing problems. But also self-esteem problems concerning their looks made adolescents inclined to admit more externalizing problems, thus being more in agreement with their mothers.

Conclusions: Subjective, psychological variables such as mothers' level of depression and self-esteem of adolescents may be useful to consider when interpreting informant discrepancy concerning the mental problems of adolescents.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Mothers
  • Norway
  • Psychological Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self Concept*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires