Frane Francis Santic



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Contingent self-esteem occurs when an individual’s self-esteem is affected by a specific outcome or situation. This form of self-esteem can occur within different domains, with one specific domain being relationships. Relationship-Contingent Self-Esteem (RCSE) “involves having one’s self-regard hooked on the nature, process, and outcome of one’s relationship” (Knee, Canevello, Bush, & Cook, 2008). RCSE is said to occur from a thwarting of basic psychological needs, including competence, relatedness, and autonomy. When these needs are not fulfilled, issues such as feelings of incompetence, a lack of feeling of control, and issues with connecting with other individuals can occur. Further, those high in RCSE can have lower relationship satisfaction and experience higher levels of negative emotion felt. The objective of the study is to examine how certain personality risk and protective factors that are correlates of the basic psychological needs influence the relationship between RCSE and relationship and the experience of negative emotion (i.e., depression). The study draws from a large sample of married alumni from a private Midwestern US university. Participants were asked to complete a survey containing a range of measures for basic psychological needs, relationship satisfaction, depression, RCSE, authenticity, anxious attachment, and self-compassion. The study examines how individuals with RCSE are impacted by attachment style, feelings of self-compassion, and other personality factors, as well as what level of depression and satisfaction they currently feel in their lives. If one’s basic psychological needs are being met then it’s possible that the negative impact of RCSE on relationship satisfaction and depression could be reduced, or possibly eliminated. Understanding what constructs act as risk or protective factors can inform either the creation of or mending of current interventions that are meant to specifically target these constructs. These interventions could in turn, diminish the negative impact of RCSE.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Lee J. Dixon

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium project

Personality Risk and Protective Factors Moderate Associations of Relationship-Contingent Self-Esteem with Mental Health and Relationship Outcomes