Self-esteem change during the transition from university to work

Anne Reitz, Patrick Shrout, Jaap Denissen, Michael Dufner, Niall Bolger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The current study examined whether the transition from university to work, a major developmental milestone in young adulthood, was related to stability and change in self-esteem.
Self-esteem was assessed in the last year of their master’s program (T1) of 163 27-year old students and 14 months later, when they had graduated and half of them had started a full-time job (T2). Daily diaries were used to assess the occurrence of achievement- and affiliation-related experiences on 14 consecutive days at T1 and T2. We compared mean-level change, rank-order stability and correlated change of self-esteem and daily experiences of full-time job beginners and a comparison group without a full-time job.
First, job beginners increased in self-esteem, but the difference to the mean-level change of the comparison group was only small. Second, self-esteem was less stable among job beginners than among the comparison group. Third, the changes in achievement-related daily experiences and self-esteem correlated positively in the job-beginner group but not in the comparison group.
The findings underline the role of daily experiences during life transitions for individual differences in self-esteem change. The discussion calls for accounting for unique transition experiences to advance theory and research on self-esteem development.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Personality
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020


  • self-esteem development
  • transition from university to work
  • life transitions
  • young adulthood

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