Open Access Research article

Measurement invariance of the depressive symptoms scale during adolescence

Jennifer Brunet1*, Catherine M Sabiston2, Michael Chaiton3, Nancy CP Low4, Gisèle Contreras5, Tracie A Barnett6 and Jennifer L O’Loughlin5

Author Affiliations

1 School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, 125 University Pr., Montpetit Hall, Room 339, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6N5, Canada

2 Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, University of Toronto, 55 Harbord Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2W6, Canada

3 Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, T523, 33 Russell St, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2S1, Canada

4 Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, 1033 Pine Ave West, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1A1, Canada

5 Research Hospital Center of the University of Montreal, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Montreal, 850 Saint-Denis, S02-370, Montreal, Quebec H2X 0A9, Canada

6 Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center, Department of Exercise Science, Concordia University, 5757 Decelles avenue, Montreal, Quebec H3S 2C3, Canada

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BMC Psychiatry 2014, 14:95  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-14-95

Published: 31 March 2014



This study examined (1) the factor structure of a depressive symptoms scale (DSS), (2) the sex and longitudinal invariance of the DSS, and (3) the predictive validity of the DSS scale during adolescence in terms of predicting depression and anxiety symptoms in early adulthood.


Data were drawn from the Nicotine Dependence in Teens (NDIT) study, an ongoing prospective cohort study of 1,293 adolescents.


The analytical sample included 527 participants who provided complete data or had minimal missing data over follow-up. Confirmatory factor analysis revealed that an intercorrelated three-factor model with somatic, depressive, and anxiety factors provided the best fit. Further, this model was invariant across sex and time. Finally, DSS scores at Time 3 correlated significantly with depressive and anxiety symptoms measured at Time 4.


Results suggest that the DSS is multidimensional and that it is a suitable instrument to examine sex differences in somatic, depressive, and anxiety symptoms, as well as changes in these symptoms over time in adolescents. In addition, it could be used to identify individuals at-risk of psychopathology during early adulthood.

Factorial validity; Depression; Anxiety; Sex; Longitudinal; Youth