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Examining the roles of self-esteem and self-concept clarity in the stress process Lee, Sharon C.


The current study investigated levels of self-concept clarity as an important concomitant to self-esteem in understanding how individuals adapt to stress. Self-esteem has been widely studied with respect to its influence on the stress process, but the variable of self-concept clarity may also have predictive validity on adjustment outcomes. One hundred and seventy eight individuals from 99 stepfamily unions took part in an initial telephone interview, a twice-daily diary over 7 days, and another telephone interview 2 years later. Results of hierarchical linear modeling indicated that generally, levels of self-concept clarity were significantly associated with levels of evening negative affect over the week, controlling for morning negative affect and self-esteem. Those with greater clarity tended to experience lower levels of evening negative affect. Furthermore, self-esteem attenuated the relationship between cognitive appraisals and evening negative affect. When individuals high in self-esteem appraised a stressor as more threatening or less controllable than usual, they tended to experience less subsequent negative mood compared to individuals lower in self-esteem. We also found that levels of self-concept clarity were significantly associated with levels of depressive symptomatology at 2-year follow up, such that higher levels of self-concept clarity were associated with lower levels of depressive symptomatology. However, there was a significant interaction between self-esteem and self-concept clarity. For individuals with higher levels of self-esteem, there tended to be no significant association between self-concept clarity and depressive symptomatology at 2-year follow up. These findings point to the vulnerability of those with both low self-esteem and low self-concept clarity, in terms of short-term and long-term adaptation to stress. Further, they argue for the consideration of such individual differences in designing stress management interventions.

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