Self-Esteem and Locus of Causality as Vulnerability Factors for the Development of Actual/Ideal Self-Discrepancies in Late Childhood


  • Lisa Di Blas Department of Life Sciences, Unit of Psychology "G. Kanizsa", University of Trieste
  • Annunziata Cepollaro Department of Life Sciences, Unit of Psychology "G. Kanizsa", University of Trieste


personality development, self-discrepancies, self-esteem, locus of causality, child/parent correlations


Self-discrepancies influence psychological well-being and self-acceptance across several domains. Middle to late childhood is a critical age for the development of self-discrepancies (SD). The present study was aimed at investigating antecedents of actual/ideal self-discrepancies in 9- to 11-year-old children by adopting a repeated measure design, with two measurement occasions. At the baseline (T1), children (N=261) completed a self-esteem questionnaire, a measure of actual/ideal SDs we developed around the Five Factor Model domains, and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire; 4 months later (T2) a subsample (N=96) provided self-ratings again. Children's parents (N=195) referred on their own feelings towards their children along the Profile of Mood States as well as on their perceived locus of control of their children's undesirable behaviors; a subsample of parents (N=80) provided ratings again 4 months later. Principal component analyses from children's self-discrepancies at T1 yielded four domains: Intellect, Emotional Stability, Impulse Control, and Sociability. Self-rated discrepancies across time were moderately stable. Concurrently, higher SDs in Intellect were associated with lower children's self-esteem. Cross-lagged pattern analyses showed that lower self-esteem predicted increases in children's SDs, but not vice versa; in addition, change levels in SDs were correlated with change levels in self-esteem. Parents' perceived internal locus of causality of their children's undesirable behaviors also accounted for changes in children's SDs. Parents' feelings of depression accounted for increases in girls' SDs. The present findings further support the association between self-esteem and SDs, indicate the direction of association across time, and suggest possible mechanisms by which parents affect the development of the children's self-views.