Self-esteem instability moderates psychopathological scarring: Support for a malleable self hypothesis Academic Article uri icon


  • Shahar and Henrich (2010) hypothesized and found that depressive scarring, that is, depression's effect on personality and the self (Lewinsohn, Steinmetz, Larson, & Franklin, 1981) is particularly pronounced when the self-concept is malleable. We provided an additional test for this hypothesis by examining the moderating effect of self-esteem instability, a marker of self-concept malleability, on depressive versus psychopathological scarring. As part of a larger study, freshmen (N = 104) were assessed as to their self-esteem level and stability, and psychopathological symptoms, before and after their first exam period. General psychopathology predicted a decrease in self-esteem, only among participants with elevated self-esteem instability. In addition, the test-retest correlation of self-esteem was weaker among participants with higher baseline levels of self-esteem instability. Results are consistent with the malleability hypothesis and with the construct validity of self-esteem instability.

publication date

  • January 1, 2013