CHILDREN’S DAMAGED OR FRAGILE SELF-ESTEEM: LINKS TO PSYCHOPATHOLOGY AND VICTIMIZATION

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Abstract

Background: Self-esteem has been the focus of a vast body of literature over the last decades because of its association with psychopathology (e.g. Baumeister, 2003). Most of the research into self-esteem focused on explicit self-esteem. Recently, however, it has been proposed that implicit self-esteem and the discrepancy between implicit and explicit self-esteem are important concepts to further explain the relationship between self-esteem and psychopathology (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995; Bosson, 2000, 2003). Although research is still scarce, discrepancies between implicit and explicit self-esteem seem to be related to psychological maladjustment. Moreover, the direction of this discrepancy seems to be associated with distinct patterns of problems (Bosson, 2003; Schroder-Abe, 2007). High levels of explicit self-esteem and low levels of implicit self-esteem (fragile self-esteem) are linked to e.g. narcissism and defensiveness (Jordan, 2003; Zeigler-Hill, 2006) whereas low levels of explicit and high levels of implicit self-esteem (damaged self-esteem) seem to be related to e.g. depressive symptoms (Creemers, 2012). To date, no studies into these associations and patterns of self-esteem in children exist. The aim of the present study is therefore to analyze the relationship between implicit self-esteem, explicit self-esteem, the discrepancy between the two and emotional, behavioral and social problems in children across the elementary school period.
Method: Children (623) from elementary schools in the Netherlands were followed annually from kindergarten until fifth grade. Emotional, behavioral and social problems were obtained annually from multiple informants using a peer nomination procedure (Coie, Dodge et al., 1982) and the Problem Behavior at School Interview (Erasmus MC, 2000). The strength and difficulty questionnaire was used to measure self-reported problems. Implicit self-esteem was assessed using the self-esteem BIAT (Brief Implicit Association Test) (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995).
Results: A significant association was found between the discrepancy of implicit and explicit self-esteem and self-reported problems measured at age 12. Additionally, initial results show significant associations between self-esteem discrepancy and teacher and peer reported emotional, behavioral and social problems over the elementary school period. Moreover, associations seem to be dependent on the direction of the discrepancy; fragile self-esteem seems to be related to different problems than damaged self-esteem.
Conclusion: This study showed that the discrepancy between children’s implicit and explicit self-esteem is negatively associated with emotional, behavioral and social problems, measured through multiple informants over the elementary school period.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventISSBD -
Duration: 8 Jul 201212 Jul 2012

Conference

ConferenceISSBD
Period8/07/1212/07/12

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