This study investigated the role of friendships and social acceptance in self-perceptions of appearance and depressive symptoms, comparing adolescents with and without a facial difference. Adolescents with a visible cleft (n=196) were compared with adolescents with a non-visible cleft (n=93), and with a comparison group (n=1832). Boys with a visible difference reported significantly more positive perceptions of friendships and less depressive symptoms than the comparison group. These results were interpreted in the context of indicators of emotional resilience. The objective measure of facial difference did not explain levels of depressive symptoms, while subjective measures did. Subjective ratings of appearance mediated the association between social acceptance and depressive symptoms in all samples. Gender did not contribute in explaining the paths between friendships, appearance, and depressive symptoms. The associations between perceptions of social acceptance, appearance, and emotional distress, support the possible utility of strengthening social experiences in preventing and treating appearance-concerns.
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