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Is Self-Complexity Linked to Better Coping? A Review of the Literature


  • The authors wish to thank Lise Abrams, Dolores Albarracín, and Barry Schlenker for their feedback on an earlier draft of this article, and we thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions and comments.

regarding this article may be sent to: Erika Koch, Psychology Department, McDaniel College, 2 College Hill, Westminster, MD 21157. E-mail:


Abstract Initial theorizing depicted self-complexity as the number of nonoverlapping self-aspects, such as traits, roles, and behaviors, and proposed that greater self-complexity is linked to better coping in response to stress and negative events. A review of the literature, however, finds inconsistent results. The inconsistency apparently arises from variation in the measurement of self-complexity. The different measures stem from disagreement over the definition of self-complexity, and the various definitions apparently result from theoretical disagreement about how to conceptualize the structure of self-knowledge. The present paper reviews the self-complexity literature and suggests directions for future research. The present paper suggests a positive, moderating relationship between self-complexity and coping, and additional research that includes careful measurement and definition of self-complexity may provide stronger support for this relationship.