Personal versus interpersonal contributions to depressive symptoms among Hong Kong adolescents

Sunlta Mahtan Stewart, Barbara M. Byrne, Peter W H Lee, L. M. Ho, Betsy D. Kennard, Carroll Hughes, Graham Emslle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Cross-cultural theory proposes that an essential distinction between cultures lies in the extent to which individual members see themselves as either independent agents preferentially valuing agency and efficacy, or as embedded within a social context preferentially valuing interpersonal relationships. A nonreferred sample of 605 boys and 503 girls from Hong Kong provided information regarding: (1) perceptions of their personal self-efficacy or beliefs regarding their own ability to master challenges they face; (2) the degree of harmony in their interpersonal (peer and family) relationships; and (3) depressive symptoms as an assessment of their mood. Cognitive theories of emotions propose that both the individual's assessment of his/her self-efficacy and of his/her relationships influence mood. Hypotheses, based on cross-cultural theory, were that in this collective culture, interpersonal evaluations would predict more of the variance in mood than would personal self-efficacy. Contrary to Western sex-differences literature, it was predicted that the effect of interpersonal harmony on mood would be equally pronounced for girls and for boys. Structural equation modelling was used to test causal models. Consistent with findings from the West, evaluations of personal self-efficacy as well as interpersonal relationship harmony were significantly associated with depressed mood. Consistent with cultural theory, interpersonal relationship harmony was more strongly associated with mood than was personal self-efficacy for the entire sample of adolescents. In contrast to findings of sex differences in the salience of relationships in the West, the prediction of interpersonal relationships to mood was equal for boys and girls in Hong Kong. This preliminary study extends models of cognitive concomitants of mood disruption to a non-Western culture, and provides a framework to understand relative contributors to mood in adolescence. The findings tentatively suggest that treatment for depressive mood in Chinese populations should prioritize enhancement of the perceived quality of interpersonal relationships over increasing a sense of mastery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-169
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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