Is Self-Esteem a Cause or Consequence of Social Support? A 4-Year Longitudinal Study


  • This study was supported by a grant from the Australian Research Council.


Considerable research has been devoted to examining the relations between self-esteem and social support. However, the exact nature and direction of these relations are not well understood. Measures of self-esteem, and social support quantity and quality were administered to 961 adolescents across five yearly time points (Mage = 13.41 years). Structural equation modeling (SEM) was utilized to test between a self-esteem antecedent model (self-esteem precedes changes in social support), self-esteem consequence model (social support precedes change in self-esteem), and a reciprocal influence model. Self-esteem reliably predicted increasing levels of social support quality and network size across time. In contrast, the consequence model was not supported. The implications of this for helping adolescents to develop higher quality social support structures are discussed.