A positive perspective on mental health has long been neglected in favor of psychopathological perspectives and mental health is often defined as the presence or absence of mental health problems and/or psychiatric diagnoses. However, the absence of mental health problems does not necessarily imply a state of well-being. The aim of this study was to investigate patterns of both self-reported emotional and behavioral problems as well as self-rated well-being in relation to alcohol experiences among Swedish girls and boys in early adolescence.
A general sample of 1383 young people aged 12 to 13 years from the research program LoRDIA (Longitudinal Research on Development In Adolecsence) were included in the study. Their internalizing and externalizing problem styles, well-being and alcohol experiences were measured though self-reports. Person-oriented analyses were applied to the data to determine specific mental health configurations (“types”) that occurred more frequently than expected by chance. Health profiles were analyzed both in general and specifically in the subsample of adolescents with an early alcohol debut.
Externalizing problems, in contrast to internalizing problems, occurred more commonly in adolescents who reported a high degree of well-being. Girls with low well-being and mental health problems were overrepresented (“types”) among those with alcohol experiences.
This is the first published study of data from the premiere data collection wave in the prospective LoRDIA-project. We found that young adolescents are generally “doing just fine”. Externalizing problems are, however, more common than internalizing problems among adolescents reporting high mental well-being. Girls with both mental health problems and low well-being are a vulnerable risk group in general and overrepresented among those with alcohol experiences. We believe that this study is relevant and provides a novel approach for understanding mental health among young adolescents. These results can contribute to knowledge about mental health in the youngest adolescents. We suggest that further research and practice should take both gender perspectives and positive psychology perspectives into account when describing and explaining mental health among adolescents, especially adolescents with an early alcohol debut.
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