"‘I am tired, sad and kind’: Self-evaluation and symptoms of depression in adolescents

Emily Hards, Faith Orchard, Shirley Reynolds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)


Introduction: Although self-evaluation i.e., negative perceptions of the self is a common depression symptom in adolescents, little is known about how this population spontaneously describe their self and available data on adolescent self-evaluation is limited. This study aimed to generate and report on a list of words used by healthy adolescents and those with elevated depression symptoms to describe their self-evaluation. Linguistic analysis (LIWC) was then used to compare self-evaluation between the two groups.

Methods: Adolescents aged 13-18 years (n = 549) completed a measure of depression symptoms (the Mood and Feelings Questionnaire) and a measure of self-evaluation (the Twenty Statements Test). Responses were then collated and presented in a freely accessible resource and coded using Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC) analysis.

Results: Self-evaluation words generated by adolescents were uploaded to a publicly accessible site for future research: https://doi.org/10.15125/BATH-01234. Adolescents with elevated depression symptoms described themselves as ‘Tired’ and ‘Sad’ more than healthy adolescents. However, there was no difference between groups in respect to their use of specific positive, prosocial self-evaluation ‘words’ (i.e., ‘Caring’ and ‘Kind). Following Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC) analysis, adolescents with elevated depression symptoms generated significantly more words than healthy adolescents, generated more words classified as negative emotion, anxiety and sadness and generated fewer words classified positive emotion than healthy adolescents.

Conclusions: As predicted by the cognitive model of depression, our findings suggest that adolescents with elevated symptoms of depression generated more negative self-evaluation words than healthy adolescents; however they also generated prosocial positive self-evaluation words at the same rate as non-depressed adolescents. These novel data therefore identify an ‘island’ of resilience that could be targeted and amplified by psychological treatments for adolescent depression, and thus provide an additional technique of change.
Original languageEnglish
Article number126
JournalChild and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Data Availability:
The datasets generated and analysed during the current study are available in the University of Bath repository, https://doi.org/10.15125/BATH-01234.


  • Adolescents
  • Cognitive theory
  • Depression
  • Self-concept
  • Self-evaluation
  • Twenty statements test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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