Self-esteem as a complex dynamic system: Intrinsic and extrinsic microlevel dynamics

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Abstract

The variability of self-esteem is an important characteristic of self-esteem. However, little is known about the mechanisms that underlie it. The goal of the current study was to empirically explore these underlying mechanisms. It is commonly assumed that state self-esteem (the fleeting experience of the self) is a response to the immediate social context. Drawing from a complex dynamic systems perspective, the self-organizing self-esteem model asserts that this responsivity is not passive or stimulus- response like, but that the impact of the social context on state self-esteem is intimately connected to the intrinsic dynamics of self-esteem. The model suggests that intrinsic dynamics are the result of higher-order self-esteem attractors that can constrain state self-esteem variability. The current study tests this model, and more specifically, the prediction that state self-esteem variability is less influenced by changes in the immediate context if relatively strong, as opposed to weak, self-esteem attractors underlie intrinsic dynamics of self-esteem. To test this, parent-adolescent dyads (N = 13, Mage = 13 6) were filmed during seminaturalistic discussions. Observable components of adolescent state self-esteem were coded in real time, as well as real-time parental autonomy-support and relatedness. Kohonen’s self-organizing maps were used to derive attractor-like patterns: repeated higher-order patterns of adolescents’ self-esteem components. State space grids were used to assess how much adolescents’ self-esteem attractors constrained their state self-esteem variability. We found varying levels of attractor strength in our sample. In accordance with our prediction, we found that state self-esteem was less sensitive to changes in parental support and relatedness for adolescents with stronger self-esteem attractors. Discussion revolves around the implications of our findings for the ontology of self-esteem.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4781563
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalComplexity
Volume2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep-2018

Keywords

  • PARENT-CHILD INTERACTIONS
  • CONCEPT CLARITY
  • LIFE-SPAN
  • STABILITY
  • AUTONOMY
  • ADOLESCENCE
  • TIME
  • VULNERABILITY
  • PREDICTORS
  • EMERGENCE

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