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