Self-esteem change during the transition from university to work

Anne K. Reitz, Patrick E. Shrout, Jaap J.A. Denissen, Michael Dufner, Niall Bolger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: 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. Method: 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 the full-time job beginners and a comparison group without a full-time job with regard to their mean-level change, rank-order stability and correlated change of self-esteem and daily experiences. Results: 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. Conclusions: 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 (US)
Pages (from-to)689-702
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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