Construction and initial validation of the Self-Worth Protection Scale


School of Psychology, University of Tasmania, GPO Box 252-30, Hobart, Tasmania, 7001 Australia (e-mail:


Background: The self-worth theory of achievement motivation holds that in certain circumstances students stand to gain by deliberately withdrawing effort. When failure occurs despite effort, students are likely to conclude that failure resulted from lack of ability. Thus, withdrawing effort offers a defence against conclusions of low ability, thereby protecting self-worth.

Aim: We undertook to assess the psychometric properties of the Self-Worth Protection Scale (SWPS).

Sample: Data were obtained from 243 participants (Study 1) and 411 participants (Study 2) enrolled in undergraduate psychology courses at a university in the United States.

Method: We administered a number of scales, including the SWPS and scales assessing a fear of negative evaluation, academic self-esteem, uncertain global self-evaluations, self-handicapping, and causal uncertainty.

Results: Exploratory factor analysis indicated a three-factor solution (ability doubts, the importance of ability as a criterion of self-worth, and an avoidance orientation) utilising 33 of the original 44 items. A confirmatory factor analysis indicated that this three-factor solution was a poor fit of the data. After modifying the model, a confirmatory factor analysis indicated that a three-factor solution with 26 of the original items and a higher order factor of self-worth protection was an adequate fit of the data. Reliability measures were acceptable for the three subscales and total score. The total score of the SWPS was positively correlated with theoretically related constructs, demonstrating construct validity.

Conclusions: The SWPS appears to be a psychometrically sound scale to assist in identifying individuals who manifest self-worth protection in achievement situations.