This study examined the hypotheses that contingent self-esteem would be positively associated with alcohol-related problems and that global self-esteem would be negatively associated with such problems. It also examined the hypothesis that high stress and maladaptive coping would mediate these relationships. A sample of college students (n = 399) who were predominantly Hispanic (89%) completed measures of global and contingent self-esteem; stress and coping; and alcohol-related problems. Correlational and latent variable analyses indicated that contingent self-esteem positively related to alcohol-related problems, with maladaptive coping mediating this relationship. In contrast, global self-esteem negatively related to such problems, a relationship that was also mediated by maladaptive coping and stress. Overall, the results highlight the potentially harmful consequences of contingent self-worth and the adaptive nature of non-contingent self-esteem. They also demonstrate the important role that coping plays in mediating self-esteem's associations with alcohol-related problems. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.