Self-esteem and mastery trajectories in high school by social class and gender

Christina D. Falci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Using longitudinal data from 769 white adolescents in the Midwest, this research applies a social structure and personality perspective to examine variation in self-esteem and mastery trajectories by gender and SES across the high school years. Analyses reveal that high SES adolescents experience significantly steeper gains in self-esteem and mastery compared to low SES adolescents, resulting in the reversal of SES differences in self-esteem and the emergence of significant SES differences in mastery. Pre-existing gender differences in self-esteem narrow between the 9th and 12th grade because self-esteem increases at a faster rate among girls than boys during high school. These SES and gender differences in self-concept growth are explained by changes in parent-adolescent relationship quality and stress exposure. Specifically, boys and adolescents with lower SES backgrounds experienced steeper declines in parent-adolescent relationship quality and steeper gains in chronic work strain compared to girls and low SES adolescents, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)586-601
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Academic strain
  • Gender
  • Mastery
  • Parent-adolescent relationship
  • Self-esteem
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Work strain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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