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Journal ArticleDOI

The Development of Global and Domain-Specific Self-Esteem From Age 13 to 31

01 Apr 2016-Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (American Psychological Association)-Vol. 110, Iss: 4, pp 592-608

TL;DR: This study is the first to provide a comprehensive picture of the development of global and domain-specific self-esteem throughout adolescence and young adulthood using long-term longitudinal data, and underscores the importance of examining development of self- esteem in specific domains in addition to global self-confidence.
Abstract: This study examines the development of global self-esteem and self-esteem in 6 specific domains across adolescence and young adulthood. Using a cohort-sequential design, we analyzed longitudinal data on 3,116 Norwegian men and women from 13 to 31 years of age by means of growth curve modeling. Questionnaire data provided information on global self-esteem and self-esteem in social, academic, athletic, and appearance domains. Data on important life outcomes was provided by register linkages. Results showed increasing levels of global self-esteem and self-esteem in most domains with increasing age. Being male, higher parental education, and reported higher levels of parental care were related to higher levels of global self-esteem and self-esteem in several domains. Self-esteem in the appearance domain showed high and stable correlations with global self-esteem, whereas in social domains, correlations with global self-esteem increased over age, with a particularly steep increase for romantic appeal self-esteem. As to the prospective relationship between self-esteem and important life outcomes, results showed that participants high in academic self-esteem attained higher education levels and higher income, but most of the relationship was explained by covariates such as parents' socioeconomic status and school grades. Low global self-esteem predicted later prescription of antidepressants, even after controlling for covariates. This study is the first to provide a comprehensive picture of the development of global and domain-specific self-esteem throughout adolescence and young adulthood using long-term longitudinal data. The results underscore the importance of examining development of self-esteem in specific domains in addition to global self-esteem.
Topics: Latent growth modeling (51%)

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Running head: DEVELOPMENT OF SELF-ESTEEM 1
______________________________________________________________________
This is an author generated postprint of the article:
von Soest, T., Wichstrøm, L., & Kvalem, I. L. (2016). The development of global and domain-specific self-
esteem from age 13 to 31. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. doi:10.1037/pspp0000060
Copyright 2015 APA. This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal.
It is not the copy of record.
The final publication is available on http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000060.
______________________________________________________________________
The Development of Global and Domain-Specific Self-Esteem From Age 13 to 31
Tilmann von Soest
University of Oslo and Norwegian Social Research (NOVA)
Lars Wichstrøm
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Ingela Lundin Kvalem
University of Oslo
Author note
Tilmann von Soest, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, and Norwegian Social
Research (NOVA); Lars Wichstrøm, Department of Psychology, Norwegian University of
Science and Technology; Ingela Lundin Kvalem, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo.
The data collection was supported by several grants from the Research Council of Norway.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Tilmann von Soest, Department of
Psychology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1094 Blindern, 0317 Oslo, Norway. E-mail:
t.v.soest@psykologi.uio.no

Running head: DEVELOPMENT OF SELF-ESTEEM 2
Abstract
This study examines the development of global self-esteem and self-esteem in six specific
domains across adolescence and young adulthood. Using a cohort-sequential design, we analyzed
longitudinal data on 3,116 Norwegian men and women from 13 to 31 years of age by means of
growth curve modeling. Questionnaire data provided information on global self-esteem and self-
esteem in social, academic, athletic, and appearance domains. Data on important life outcomes
was provided by register linkages. Results showed increasing levels of global self-esteem and
self-esteem in most domains with increasing age. Being male, higher parental education, and
reported higher levels of parental care were related to higher levels of global self-esteem and self-
esteem in several domains. Self-esteem in the appearance domain showed high and stable
correlations with global self-esteem, whereas in social domains, correlations with global self-
esteem increased over age, with a particularly steep increase for romantic appeal self-esteem. As
to the prospective relationship between self-esteem and important life outcomes, results showed
that participants high in academic self-esteem attained higher education levels and higher income,
but most of the relationship was explained by covariates such as parents’ socioeconomic status
and school grades. Low global self-esteem predicted later prescription of antidepressants, even
after controlling for covariates. This study is the first to provide a comprehensive picture of the
development of global and domain-specific self-esteem throughout adolescence and young
adulthood using long-term longitudinal data. The results underscore the importance of examining
development of self-esteem in specific domains in addition to global self-esteem.
Keywords: Self-esteem, self-concept, domains, development, adolescence

Running head: DEVELOPMENT OF SELF-ESTEEM 3
The Development of Global and Domain-Specific Self-Esteem From Age 13 to 31
Global self-esteem is generally conceptualized as the individual’s general attitude towards,
or evaluation of, the self, and it reflects people’s beliefs about how worthy they are as persons
and if they merit respect (Blascovich & Tomaka, 1991; Rosenberg, Schooler, Schoenbach, &
Rosenberg, 1995). Global self-esteem is thus seen as the central evaluative component of the self
and is regarded a fundamental psychological construct. Not surprisingly then, global self-esteem
has received comprehensive attention in psychological research (Leary & Baumeister, 2000;
Wagner, Ludtke, Jonkmann, & Trautwein, 2013). In recent years, research on self-esteem has
particularly advanced through the utilization of large-scale longitudinal data to examine the
developmental aspects of self-esteem across the life span (e.g., Erol & Orth, 2011; Orth, Robins,
& Widaman, 2012; Orth, Trzesniewski, & Robins, 2010; Shaw, Liang, & Krause, 2010; Wagner,
Gerstorf, Hoppmann, & Luszcz, 2013; Wagner, Ludtke, et al., 2013).
However, global self-esteem is also commonly conceptualized as the sum of domain-
specific self-concepts (e.g., physical self-esteem, academic self-esteem; Marsh & Shavelson,
1985). Considerably less attention has been directed towards the development of domain-specific
self-concepts and their importance for global self-esteem. We concur with several researchers
who contend that global self-esteem cannot be adequately understood if only its global
component is considered and domain-specific facets of self-esteem are not taken into account
(Harter, 2012; Marsh, Parada, & Ayotte, 2004; Marsh & Shavelson, 1985; Rosenberg et al.,
1995). Finally, although some advances have been made (Trzesniewski et al., 2006), the long-
term psychosocial consequences of having low versus high domain-specific self-esteem has
received little attention.
Given these lacunas in our understanding of the development, sources, and outcome of
self-esteem, this study aims to advance our understanding of self-esteem by examining: (1) the

Running head: DEVELOPMENT OF SELF-ESTEEM 4
development of global and domain-specific self-esteem, (2) developmental differences according
to sociodemographic and parental factors, (3) the interrelationship between global self-esteem
and self-esteem in specific domains, and (4) the prospective relationship between trajectories of
global and domain specific self-esteem and important life outcomes. By using a cohort-sequential
design, we cover self-esteem development in adolescence and young adulthood (ages 13 to 31),
which are considered to be periods with several demographic and subjective challenges (Arnett,
2000; Galambos, Barker, & Krahn, 2006). To the best of our knowledge, no population-based
longitudinal study has examined the development of both global and domain-specific self-esteem
covering both adolescent and young adult years. This study will thus provide novel information
about domain-specific and global aspects of self-esteem, their interplay during these formative
years, and their prospective associations with important life outcomes.
Theoretical Perspectives on Self-Esteem
Global and domain-specific aspects of self-esteem have primarily been conceptualized by
using one of two broad and complementary theoretical perspectives, intrapersonal or
interpersonal: The intrapersonal perspective, as originally proposed by William James (1890),
theorizes that global self-esteem is based on people’s own perceptions of how adequately they
perform in domains where they consider success to be important. In accordance with the
intrapersonal perspective, theories have posited self-esteem to be hierarchical and multifaceted,
involving emotional, social, physical, and academic components that influence global self-esteem
(Fleming & Courtney, 1984; Marsh et al., 2004; Shavelson, Hubner, & Stanton, 1976). Global
self-esteem thus depends on secondary constructs of self-esteem in several specific domains. The
intrapersonal perspective therefore provides an account of how global and domain-specific
aspects of self-esteem are interconnected, and it claims that the nature of global self-esteem
cannot be completely understood without considering domain-specific aspects of self-esteem.

Running head: DEVELOPMENT OF SELF-ESTEEM 5
The interpersonal perspective emphasizes the social nature of self-esteem. Dating back to
Cooley’s (1902) and Mead’s (1934) notions in the framework of symbolic interactionism, this
perspective largely considers global self-esteem to be a result of internalizations of others’
perceptions and evaluations of oneself. Modern variants of the interpersonal approach include the
sociometer model of self-esteem (Leary, Tambor, Terdal, & Downs, 1995), according to which
the major function of global self-esteem is to identify threats of social exclusion. The
interpersonal perspective on self-esteem predicts that global self-esteem is primarily influenced
by self-evaluations that are important for the individual’s social status; self-esteem in domains of
social relevance may therefore be central in determining global self-esteem (Gentile et al., 2009;
MacDonald, Saltzman, & Leary, 2003). The two perspectives delineated here will be used as a
basis for predictions concerning developmental aspects of global and domain-specific self-esteem.
Development of Global and Domain-Specific Self-Esteem Across Adolescence and Young
Adulthood
A large number of studies have examined the development of global self-esteem across
age. Regarding adolescence, longitudinal studies provide support for the notion of increasing
levels of global self-esteem from middle adolescence onwards (Erol & Orth, 2011; O'Malley &
Bachman, 1983; Steiger, Allemand, Robins, & Fend, 2014). Similar results have been obtained
concerning developmental trends in emerging and young adulthood, where several longitudinal
studies reported increasing levels of global self-esteem from about age 18 into middle adulthood
(Erol & Orth, 2011; Galambos et al., 2006; Orth et al., 2012; Shaw et al., 2010; Wagner, Ludtke,
et al., 2013). The maturity principle, originally proposed to explain age trends in personality (see
Caspi, Roberts, & Shiner, 2005), has been used to account for the increasing trend in global self-
esteem (Trzesniewski, Donnellan, & Robins, 2013). According to the principle, through
adolescence and particularly young adulthood, people adapt more and more to social roles in

Citations
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Abstract: To investigate the normative trajectory of self-esteem across the life span, this meta-analysis synthesizes the available longitudinal data on mean-level change in self-esteem The analyses were based on 331 independent samples, including data from 164,868 participants As effect size measure, we used the standardized mean change d per year The mean age associated with the effect sizes ranged from 4 to 94 years Results showed that average levels of self-esteem increased from age 4 to 11 years (cumulative d = 034; cumulative ds are relative to age 4), remained stable from age 11 to 15, increased strongly until age 30 (cumulative d = 105), continued to increase until age 60 (cumulative d = 130), peaked at age 60 and remained constant until age 70, declined slightly until age 90 (cumulative d = 115), and declined more strongly until age 94 (cumulative d = 076) Moderator analyses were conducted for the full set of samples and for the subset of samples between ages 10 to 20 years Although the measure of self-esteem accounted for differences in effect sizes, the moderator analyses suggested that the pattern of mean-level change held across gender, country, ethnicity, sample type, and birth cohort The meta-analytic findings clarify previously unresolved issues about the nature and magnitude of self-esteem change in specific developmental periods (ie, childhood, adolescence, and old age) and draw a much more precise picture of the life span trajectory of self-esteem (PsycINFO Database Record

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