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Relations of self-efficacy to symptoms of depression and anxiety in adolescents with learning disabilities Mercer, Kay Louise

Abstract

This study examined relationships between self-efficacy and symptoms of depression and anxiety in a sample of adolescents (n = 83), aged 13 to 17 years of age, who were receiving special education support on the basis of their school-based identification as students with learning disabilities. This study also examined these relationships within two subsets of the sample, those participants who met "traditional" aptitude-achievement learning disability identification criteria and those who could be classified as having reading disabilities. The participants, who were all volunteers, completed measures assessing their academic skills (Wide Range Achievement Test - 3rd Edition and the Gray Silent Reading Tests), their perceptions of self-efficacy (Academic, Reading, Social, and Emotional Self-Efficacy Questionnaires) and social support (Social Support Questionnaire), and their experience of life events (Life Events Questionnaire) and symptoms of depression (Reynolds Adolescent Depression Scale - 2nd Edition) and anxiety (Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children). As expected, emotional and social self-efficacy were strong predictors of symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Contrary to expectations, however, neither academic nor reading self-efficacy was a strong predictor of these symptoms. Also contrary to expectations, females did not report higher symptom levels than males, and participants who experienced particular difficulties in the highly salient area of reading did not report higher symptom levels and lower self-efficacy than other participants in the sample. The most depressed and anxious participants were slightly older, perceived themselves to be less efficacious emotionally, were less satisfied with the social support available to them, and reported experiencing more negative life events than participants who reported the lowest levels of depression and anxiety. For these adolescents, who were receiving in-school academic support, social-emotional factors were more strongly associated with their experience of symptomatology than were academic factors. The prevalence of clinically significant symptoms of depression within this sample (6%) was considerably lower than previous estimates for adolescents from the general population and for adolescents with learning disabilities. In contrast, the prevalence of clinically significant symptoms of anxiety (10.8%) and comorbid depression and anxiety (3.6%) was consistent with previous estimates for adolescents from the general population. Implications of these findings and directions for future research are discussed.

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