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Self-esteem is relatively stable late in life: The role of resources in the health, self-regulation, and social domains
Wagner, J., Hoppmann, C., Ram, N., Gerstorf, D.

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

Developmental psychology, 51(1), 136.Developmental Psychology, 51(1), 136-149. 10.1037/a0038338

A large body of research has documented changes in self-esteem across adulthood and individual-difference correlates thereof. However, little is known about whether people maintain their self-esteem 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.