Sociology, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version



Social Science Research 40:2 (March 2011), pp. 586-601; doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2010.12.013


Copyright (c) 2011 Elsevier Inc.

Presented here is the NIH PubMed Central version of the author's manuscript, online at


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.