Charting self‐esteem during marital dissolution

W. Bleidorn*, Ted Schwaba, Jaap Denissen, Christopher J. Hopwood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The purpose of this study was to chart changes in self‐esteem before and after marital dissolution to identify the factors that shape individuals’ self‐esteem during this life transition.

We analyzed 10 annual waves of self‐esteem data from 291 divorcees from a nationally representative panel study of the Netherlands (N ~ 13,000). We charted the course of self‐esteem before and after marital dissolution and tested a broad set of moderator variables that may shape individuals’ self‐esteem trajectories.

The average divorcee experienced significant decreases in self‐esteem preceding marital dissolution and remained stable afterwards. There were substantial individual differences in self‐esteem trajectories, both before and after marital separation. Divorcees who experienced financial hardship, were affiliated with a church or religion, or scored low in conscientiousness showed the most pronounced decreases in self‐esteem during the years approaching marital dissolution.

This study highlights the importance of assessing people multiple times before and after marital dissolution to dissect how people approach and respond to this life event. Results are consistent with perspectives that view divorce as an opportunity to abate the strains of an unhappy marriage.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Personality
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020


  • divorce
  • life events
  • longitudinal
  • marital dissolution
  • self-esteem

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    Bleidorn, W., Schwaba, T., Denissen, J., & Hopwood , C. J. (Accepted/In press). Charting self‐esteem during marital dissolution. Journal of Personality.