The role of temporal extension in self -esteem

Jeffrey Douglas Cole, Fordham University


There are recent studies showing that self-esteem has both state and trait characteristics. It is also known that stability of self-esteem, the degree of self-esteem change across time and situation, plays a role in the development of psychopathology, notably anxiety and depression. It has been shown that dispositional factors moderate situational effects on self-esteem, thereby also contributing to self-esteem stability. Based, in part, on literature regarding attribute certainty (Pelham & Swann, 1989) and the cognitive recruitment of self-referent events in maintaining self-esteem (Markus & Kunda, 1986), both temporally-contingent processes, the present study hypothesized that temporal extension—the chronological distance into the past and the future that the individual characteristically incorporates in his or her self-referent thinking (Perlman, 1976)—is one dispositional factor contributing to self-esteem stability. The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (SES; Rosenberg, 1965), the State Self-Esteem Scale (SSES; Heatherton & Polivy, 1991) and a measure of life stressors were used along with the Rappaport Time Line (RTL; Rappaport, Enrich & Wilson, 1985) to test hypotheses that state self-esteem is more highly correlated than trait self-esteem with life stressors, and that temporal extension contributes to stability of self-esteem, where stability of self-esteem is operationalized as the correlation between state and trait self-esteem. Results showed that the SSES is more highly correlated than the SES with the life stressors scale, and that particular dimensions of temporal extension (specifically greatest extension into the past and past density) correlate positively with state self-esteem and makes a positive contribution to a path model where state self-esteem is the endogenous variable and trait self-esteem and life stressors are included variables. Further research is needed to determine, conclusively, the role of temporal extension in this relationship, whether it is acting as a moderator or having direct effects on state self-esteem.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Cognitive therapy|Personality

Recommended Citation

Cole, Jeffrey Douglas, "The role of temporal extension in self -esteem" (2001). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3017544.