Reciprocal effects between academic self-concept, self-esteem, achievement, and attainment over seven adolescent years: Unidimensional and multidimensional perspectives of self-concept

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In their influential review, Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, and Vohs (2003) concluded that self-esteem— the global component of self-concept—has no effect on subsequent academic performance. In contrast, Marsh and Craven's (2006) review of reciprocal effects models from an explicitly multidimensional perspective demonstrated that academic self-concept and achievement are both a cause and an effect of each other. Ironically, both reviews cited classic Youth in Transition studies in support of their respective claims. In definitive tests of these counter claims, the authors reanalyze these data—including self-esteem (emphasized by Baumeister et al.), academic self-concept (emphasized by Marsh & Craven), and postsecondary educational attainment—using stronger statistical methods based on five waves of data (grade 10 through 5 years after graduation; N = 2,213). Integrating apparently discrepant findings under a common theoretical framework based on a multidimensional perspective, academic self-concept had consistent reciprocal effects with both achievement and educational attainment, whereas self-esteem had almost none.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Journal Article

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