Effects of Contingent Self-Esteem on Depressive Symptoms and Suicidal Behavior

Document Type


Publication Date



Contingent self-esteem, or self-worth hinged upon successfully meeting standards or attaining goals, requires continual maintenance and validation. Despite the inherent instability that accompanies contingent self-esteem, relatively little is known about how it relates to markers of mental health. A sample of 371 college students completed measures of self-esteem, contingent self-esteem, suicidal behaviors, and depression. Individuals with fragile low self-esteem, described as highly contingent, reported greater depressive symptoms and suicidal behavior. Among those with secure high self-esteem, or high yet noncontingent, depression and suicide risk were markedly lower. Therapeutically promoting positive but noncontingent self-worth may reduce poor mental health outcomes.