The transition from primary to secondary school challenges children's psychological well-being. A cross-transitional longitudinal study (N = 306; mean age = 12.2 years) examined why some children's self-esteem decreases across the transition whereas other children's self-esteem does not. Children's expected social acceptance in secondary school was measured before the transition; their actually perceived social acceptance was measured after the transition. Self-esteem and Big Five personality traits were measured both pre- and posttransition. Self-esteem changed as a function of the discrepancy between children's expected and actually perceived social acceptance. Furthermore, neuroticism magnified self-esteem decreases when children's ‘hopes were dashed'—when they experienced disappointing levels of social acceptance. These findings provide longitudinal support for sociometer theory across the critical transition to secondary school.
Poorthuis, A., Thomaes, S., van Aken, M. A. G., Denissen, J. J. A., & Orobio de Castro, B. (2014). Dashed hopes, dashed selves? A sociometer perspective on self-esteem change across the transition to secondary school. Social Development, 23(4), 770–783. https://doi.org/10.1111/sode.12075