Journal of personality

Antecedents, Consequences, and Mechanisms: On the Longitudinal Interplay Between Academic Self-Enhancement and Psychological Adjustment.

PMID 25181603


We investigated the reciprocal associations between academic self-enhancement and key indicators of intra- and interpersonal adjustment as well as the role of self-esteem as a mediator. This longitudinal study involved three assessments in a sample of 709 German children and adolescents (Mage  = 11.83; 54% female) over the course of one academic year. We assessed self-reported subjective well-being as an indicator of intrapersonal adjustment and peer-reported popularity as an indicator of interpersonal adjustment. We computed cross-lagged and longitudinal mediational analyses. Academic self-enhancement prospectively predicted high subsequent well-being and popularity. Vice versa, well-being and popularity prospectively predicted high subsequent levels of self-enhancement. High self-esteem mediated the longitudinal associations between self-enhancement and well-being in both directions, but not the links between self-enhancement and popularity. Self-enhancement and adjustment are bidirectionally linked: Self-enhancement entails intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits; at the same time, adjustment in both domains fosters self-enhancement. In terms of intrapersonal, but not interpersonal adjustment, self-esteem seems to serve as a linchpin, accounting for all longitudinal associations. Furthermore, we present evidence indicating that self-enhancement indicators that are based on difference scores (instead of residuals) are problematic and might have led to negatively biased results in the literature.