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Dev Psychol. 2015 Feb;51(2):248-59. doi: 10.1037/a0038481. Epub 2014 Dec 8.

Self-esteem development across the life span: a longitudinal study with a large sample from Germany.

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Department of Psychology, University of Bern.
Department of Psychology, Bundeswehr University Munich.
Department of Psychology, University of Koblenz-Landau.


The authors examined the development of self-esteem across the life span. Data came from a German longitudinal study with 3 assessments across 4 years of a sample of 2,509 individuals ages 14 to 89 years. The self-esteem measure used showed strong measurement invariance across assessments and birth cohorts. Latent growth curve analyses indicated that self-esteem follows a quadratic trajectory across the life span, increasing during adolescence, young adulthood, and middle adulthood, reaching a peak at age 60 years, and then declining in old age. No cohort effects on average levels of self-esteem or on the shape of the trajectory were found. Moreover, the trajectory did not differ across gender, level of education, or for individuals who had lived continuously in West versus East Germany (i.e., the 2 parts of Germany that had been separate states from 1949 to 1990). However, the results suggested that employment status, household income, and satisfaction in the domains of work, relationships, and health contribute to a more positive life span trajectory of self-esteem. The findings have significant implications, because they call attention to developmental stages in which individuals may be vulnerable because of low self-esteem (such as adolescence and old age) and to factors that predict successful versus problematic developmental trajectories.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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