Secure versus fragile high self-esteem and verbal defensiveness
Lakey, Chad Eric
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In this research, I sought to examine defensiveness as a potential consequence of fragile, as opposed to secure, high self-esteem. Participants completed measures of Self-Esteem Level, Self-Esteem Stability, Contingent Self-Esteem, and Implicit Self-Esteem, all of which are purported markers of the secure versus fragile self-esteem distinction (Kernis, 2003). Participants then completed a structured interview in which responses to self-threatening questions were rated for verbal defensiveness along the dimensions of awareness and distortion (Feldman Barrett, 2002). I hypothesized that defensiveness would be markedly high among individuals with fragile high self-esteem, while especially low among individuals with secure high self-esteem. A series of hierarchical regression analyses reveled significant Level x Stability, Level x Contingent, and Level x Implicit self-esteem interactions. As hypothesized, among individuals possessing high self-esteem, unstable, contingent, and low implicit self-esteem was associated with especially high defensiveness, whereas stable, low contingent and high implicit self-esteem related to particularly low defensiveness.