An exploration into the mediating role of perceived rejection in the predictive relationship between off-time pubertal timing and depression in adolescence
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While depression in childhood is infrequent, this prevalence surges during adolescence. It has been proposed that puberty is a major contributor, as it leads to enhanced self-awareness, boosted social understanding, feelings of insecurity, social stress, and body image disturbance, particularly in girls. In addition, it has been proposed that individuals with heightened rejection sensitivity are more likely to develop emotional difficulties, such as depression, than those with lower rejection sensitivity. This opens the question not previously explored in literature; is perceived rejection a mediator of the relationship between early pubertal timing and subsequent depression in adolescence, and what are the gender differences in this relationship? Three hundred participants (156 female, 144 male) were included in this four wave study. Pubertal timing was explored through a self-report questionnaire at wave 4. Rejection sensitivity was measured through decoding perceived level of acceptance or rejection of thirty ambiguous facial expressions at wave 1. The dependent variable was participants’ scores of depression that were measured at each wave using the CDI. Multiple regression analyses indicated that males who entered puberty late had significantly higher levels of depression, while the effect of early pubertal timing and depression was not significant in girls. Perceived rejection was significantly correlated with depression in girls only. Therefore, a mediation model was not found in either boys or girls.