Quality & Quantity 38: 735–751, 2004.
© 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
The Dynamics of Self-Esteem and Physical Self:
Between Preservation and Adaptation
, DIDIER DELIGNIÈRES and GRÉGORY NINOT
Laboratory Sport, Performance and Health, University of Montpellier I, 700 avenue du Pic
St-Loup, 34090 Montpellier, France
Abstract. The aim of this study was to model and characterize the psychological processes that
underlie the dynamics of global self-esteem and physical self over time. Twice a day for 228 consec-
utive days, seven participants completed a short inventory (PSI-6, Ninot et al., 2001) measuring six
subjective dimensions: global self-esteem, physical self-worth, physical condition, sport competence,
physical strength, and attractive body. Each series was modeled by means of ARIMA procedures. The
results showed that a simple moving average model provided a satisfactory account for the dynamics
of all series. This model suggests that a combination of two opposite processes underlies the dynam-
ics of self-concept: preservation, which tends to restore the previous value after a disturbance, and
adaptation, which tends to inﬂect the series in the direction of the perturbation.
Key words: time series analyses, self-concept dynamics, variability
Self-esteem has classically been considered to be a personality trait, strongly re-
lated to emotional and mental well-being, and an initiator and mediator of human
behavior (Brown, 1998; Campbell, 1984). From this point of view, self-esteem is
thus an inherent property that is particularly stable over time (Cheek and Hogan,
1983; Swann et al., 1987; Demo, 1992).
This conception, however, has been challenged by a number of theoretical and
empirical arguments (for a review, see Caspi and Roberts, 2001). For example,
Rosenberg (1986) ﬁrst suggested that self-esteem presents long-term ﬂuctuations,
and Schafer and Keith (1999) went on to report a signiﬁcant decrease in self-esteem
over a period of 13 years in an adult population.
Rosenberg (1986) also suggested the presence of short-term instabilities tied
to speciﬁc external events such as success or failure. In a series of experiments,
Kernis and his collaborators evidenced such short-term ﬂuctuations in self-esteem
ratings (Kernis, 1993; Kernis and Waschull, 1995; Greenier et al., 1999; see also
Amorose, 2001). Self-esteem appears to be sensitive to daily (bad or good) events
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