Self-esteem is relatively stable late in life: The role of resources in the health, self-regulation, and social domains

Jenny Wagner, Christiane Hoppmann, Nilam Ram, Denis Gerstorf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

A large body of research has documented changes in self-esteem across adulthood and individualdifference correlates thereof. However, little is known about whether people maintain their selfesteem until the end of life and what role key risk factors in the health, cognitive, self-regulatory, and social domains play. To examine these questions, we apply growth modeling to 13-year longitudinal data obtained from by now deceased participants of the Berlin Aging Study (N = 462; age 70 -103, M = 86.3 years, SD = 8.3; 51% male). Results revealed that self-esteem, on average, does decline in very old age and close to death, but the amount of typical decline is minor. Health-related constraints and disabilities as well as lower control beliefs and higher loneliness were each associated with lower self-esteem late in life. We obtained initial evidence that some of these associations were stronger among the oldest-old participants. Our results corroborate and extend initial reports that self-esteem is, on average, fairly stable into the last years of life. We discuss possible pathways by which common and often severe late-life challenges may undermine an otherwise relatively robust self-esteem system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-149
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Volume51
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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