Self-Esteem, Personality and Achievement in High School: A Prospective Longitudinal Study in Texas


  • Part of this research served as the first author's doctoral dissertation, Department of Psychology, Texas A&M University. The research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health grant R01 MH50069 to W. G. Graziano.
    The National Institute for Child Development Child and Family Well-Being Research Network provided funding for Dr. Elizabeth Hair to prepare parts of this paper. We offer special thanks to the students, teachers, and staff at St. Joseph's School, Bryan High School, and Lamar High School, Bryan, Texas. We also thank Dr. Joe Kopec, Principal, Bryan High School and Dr. Lauri A. Jensen-Campbell, and The Personality and Social Influence Research Group, formerly at Texas A&M University. We thank Lowell Gaertner and Mark Leary, who provided critical comments on an earlier version of this paper.

concerning this article may be addressed to Elizabeth C. Hair, Child Trends, 4301 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 100, Washington, D.C. 20008 ( or to W. G. Graziano, Department of Child Development & Family Studies, 101 Gates Road, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2020 (


Abstract This research explored four empirical questions: (1) Is self-esteem a better predictor of academic success and adjustment than other aspects of personality? (2) How is self-esteem related to Big-Five dimensions of personality during the transition from middle school to high school? (3) Do dispositions like Agreeableness or Openness relate to an adolescent's adaptation and affect reactions to the self? and (4) Do sources of information about adolescents (e.g., self-rating, other rating, objective “life history”) converge? We also explored the general hypothesis that personality, self-esteem, and teachers' ratings of adjustment during the middle school years predict later life outcomes during high school. Overall, results indicate Big-Five personality characteristics were more stable than self-esteem across this transition period. Agreeableness and Openness assessed in middle school are related to later scholastic competence and behavioral conduct, academic success, and adjustment in high school. Results were discussed in terms of personality development and self-evaluation.