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Relationship between self-esteem and psychological health

Gebauer, Jochen E. 2008. Relationship between self-esteem and psychological health. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the relationship between self-esteem and psychological health. In Chapter 1, I define self-esteem and psychological health, illustrate the prominence of these two psychological constructs, and review the literature on the relation between self-esteem and psychological health. As we will see, self-esteem can be defined as one's overall evaluation as a person, and psychological health can be defined as the absence of depression, anxiety, and negative affect together with the presence of life satisfaction and positive affect. Further, we will see that self-esteem and psychological health are among the most frequently researched psychological constructs. Thus, the corpus of research on the relationship between self-esteem and psychological health is massive. Nonetheless, the nature and dynamics of this relationship are complex and far from being fully understood. The empirical research presented in this thesis helps to better understand this relationship. To this end, I have conducted three empirical lines of research. The three lines of research approach the same overarching goal from three very different angles. In the first empirical chapter (Chapter 2), I report a line of research in which my collaborators and I studied the impact of one facet of psychological health - i.e., chronic mood - on self-esteem when recalling positive and negative past selves. In four studies, we found that chronically happy people assimilated towards a recalled positive self and contrasted away from a recalled negative self, which in both cases lead to a relative increase in self-esteem. Chronically sad people, on the other hand, assimilated towards a recalled negative self and contrasted away from a recalled positive self, which in both cases lead to a relative decrease in self-esteem. Thus, this research shows that psychological health in the form of chronic mood can impact self-esteem via the medium of recalling past selves. The research reported in the second empirical chapter (Chapter 3) was motivated by the conviction that a full understanding of the relationship between self-esteem and psychological health can be obtained only by placing this relationship in a larger context involving other psychological variables. Past research suggests that belongingness is the one psychological construct that is particularly relevant in this respect. Thus, Chapter 3 reports a line of research studying the relations between belongingness, self-esteem, and psychological health. In three studies, we developed and validated a novel two-dimensional measure of people's perceptions of the belongingness they experience from other people. The measure assesses the amount of belongingness experienced and the degree to which people perceive this belongingness as being unconditional or conditional on their achievements and contributions. We extended past social psychological research by demonstrating that the unconditionally of belongingness explains variance in psychological health independent of the amount of belongingness. More importantly, the data showed that self-esteem plays a central role in these relationships. Specifically, the amount of self-esteem (e.g., global self-esteem) mediated the relationship between the amount of belongingness and psychological health, whereas the conditionally of self-esteem (i.e., global contingent self-esteem) mediates the relationship between the unconditionally of belongingness and psychological health. In the final empirical chapter (Chapter 4), we wanted to elucidate why past empirical research failed to find a relationship between implicit measures of self-esteem and self-reported psychological health when controlling for explicit measures of self-esteem. One reason for this puzzling but consistent null result may be that existent implicit measures of self-esteem assess domain-specific self-esteem, but not global self-esteem. Thus, Chapter 4 reports a line of research studying the relation between psychological health and a novel implicit measure of global self-esteem. Six studies developed and validated this new implicit measure, finding that our newly developed measure predicts higher psychological health even when controlling for explicitly measured self-esteem. Finally, Chapter 5 reviews the contribution of the research presented in this thesis to our understanding of the relationship between self-esteem and psychological health. Overall, the research emphasises the complexity of the multi-faceted processes that underlie this relationship. Directions for future research are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
ISBN: 9781303213915
Funders: Cardiff University School of Psychology
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2016 23:13
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/54777

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