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Behav Res Ther. 2012 Oct;50(10):596-603. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2012.06.002. Epub 2012 Jun 28.

Moving beyond the trait conceptualization of self-esteem: the prospective effect of impulsiveness, coping, and risky behavior engagement.

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  • 1Harvard Medical School - McLean Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, USA.


Past research has largely focused on examining self-esteem as an independent as opposed to a dependent variable. At the same time, research suggests that during adolescence, self-esteem is subject to yearly, monthly, as well as daily change, and consequently, it is important to identify underlying vulnerability factors and behaviors, which shape self-esteem lability. In the current multi-wave, longitudinal study, 142 adolescents between the ages of 12-18 completed monthly assessments across 4 months. At the initial assessment, adolescents provided self-report data pertaining to impulsiveness, maladaptive coping, risky behavior engagement, and self-esteem. At each of the follow-up assessments, adolescents provided information about risky behavior engagement and self-esteem. Results of time-lagged, idiographic multilevel mediation analyzes indicated that risky behavior engagement mediated the relationship between impulsiveness/maladaptive coping and subsequent low self-esteem. Critically, when included in the same model, impulsiveness was significant above and beyond maladaptive coping. Additionally, the reverse model with self-esteem as the predictor and risky behavior included as the dependent variable was not significant suggesting that our effect was unidirectional. As a whole, these findings suggest that impulsive youth may engage in behaviors, which ultimately precipitate negative self-evaluations and transient declines in self-esteem.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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