When grades determine self-worth: consequences of contingent self-worth for male and female engineering and psychology majors

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003 Sep;85(3):507-16. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.85.3.507.


The impact of grades on daily self-esteem, affect, and identification with major was examined in a sample of 122 male and female students majoring in engineering and psychology. Self-esteem, affect, and identification with major increased on days students received good grades and decreased on days they received poor grades; basing self-esteem on academic competence moderated the effect of bad grades. Bad grades led to greater drops in self-esteem but not more disidentification with the major for women in engineering. Instability of self-esteem predicted increases in depressive symptoms for students initially more depressed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Educational Measurement
  • Educational Status
  • Engineering / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Identification, Psychological
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Psychology / statistics & numerical data*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Self Concept*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Students / psychology*
  • Students / statistics & numerical data