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J Pers. 1999 Feb;67(1):185-208.

Individual differences in reactivity to daily events: examining the roles of stability and level of self-esteem.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Mercer University, Macon, GA 31207-0001, USA.


Unstable self-esteem is thought to reflect fragile and vulnerable feelings of self-worth that are affected by specific positive and negative events. Direct evidence for this contention is lacking, however. To redress this situation, we examined the extent to which level and stability of self-esteem predicted the impact that everyday positive and negative events had on individuals' feelings about themselves. Participants recorded the most positive and most negative event that occurred each day Monday through Thursday for a period of 2 weeks. They then indicated the extent to which each event made them feel better or worse about themselves. As anticipated, negative and positive events had a greater impact on the self-feelings of individuals with unstable as opposed to stable self-esteem (although the effect for positive events was marginal). Additional findings indicated that event qualities (i.e., self-esteem relevance and concerns about social acceptance/rejection) could account for the unstable self-esteem/greater reactivity link for negative events, but not for positive events. Negative, but not positive, events had a greater impact on the self-feelings of individuals with low as compared to high levels of self-esteem. Theoretical implications are discussed.

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