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Unformatted text preview: Self-Esteem Development Across the Lifespan Richard W. Robins 1 and Kali H. Trzesniewski 2 1 Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis, and 2 Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London, United Kingdom ABSTRACT— After decades of debate, a consensus is emerg- ing about the way self-esteem develops across the lifespan. On average, self-esteem is relatively high in childhood, dropsduringadolescence(particularlyforgirls),risesgrad- ually throughout adulthood, and then declines sharply in old age. Despite these general age differences, individuals tend to maintain their ordering relative to one another: Individuals who have relatively high self-esteem at one point in time tend to have relatively high self-esteem years later. This type of stability (i.e., rank-order stability) is somewhat lower during childhood and old age than during adulthood, but the overall level of stability is comparable to that found for other personality characteristics. Directions for further research include (a) replication of the basic trajectory using more sophisticated longitudinal designs, (b) identification of the mediating mechanisms underlying self-esteem change, (c) the development of an integrative theoretical model of the life-course trajectory of self- esteem. KEYWORDS— self-esteem; development; change; stability Ashewasnearingtheendofhislife,Michelangelobeganworking on what many people believe to be his most important work, the Florentine Pieta `. After working intensely for almost a decade, he entered his studio one day and took a sledgehammer to the sculpture.Hebrokeawaythehandsandlegsandnearlyshattered the work before his assistants dragged him away. Why did Mi- chelangelo attempt to destroy one of his greatest creations, a statue that has been described as among the finest works of the Renaissance? Disillusioned and isolated in the last decades of his life, Michelangelo had a heightened sense of perfectionism thatwasexacerbatedbyhisfailuretoliveuptotheexpectationsof his father, who viewed being a sculptor as akin to being a manual laborer. Michelangelo, it seems, had self-esteem issues. Was Michelangelo’s low self-esteem normative for someone his age? Was he likely to have been plagued by self-doubts throughout his life? An emerging body of evidence is beginning to offer answers to these kinds of questions. Inthisarticle,wereviewthecurrentstateofscientificevidence regarding the development of self-esteem across the lifespan. 1 After decades of debate, a consensus is emerging about the way self-esteem changes from childhood to old age. We focus here on two forms of change: (a) normative changes in self-esteem, which reflectwhetherindividuals,onaverage,increaseordecreaseover time (assessed by mean differences in self-esteem across age groups); and (b) the stability of individual differences in self- esteem, which reflect the degree to which the relative ordering of individuals is maintained over time (assessed by correlations between self-esteem scores across two time points, i.e., test–between self-esteem scores across two time points, i....
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This note was uploaded on 10/28/2009 for the course HD 2610 taught by Professor Mikels,j. during the Fall '07 term at Cornell.
- Fall '07