Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Program Name/Specialization

Social Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Justin Cavallo

Advisor Role

Dr. Justin Cavallo


Establishing close bonds with others is more difficult for those with lower (vs. higher) self-esteem, especially when interpersonal risk is salient. The literature on risk regulation has focused predominantly on how self-esteem moderates responses to internal relationship concerns such as relationship insecurities and acute doubts about a romantic partner’s regard. However, little research has examined how people react when external forces, such as financial strain and health concerns, threaten to jeopardize their bonds with their romantic partners. The present research examines whether self-esteem affects how people regulate relational risk elicited by external stressors. I also examine whether self-protective responses differ as a function of the type of external threat. I hypothesized that people facing a health or financial threat would exhibit stronger relational self-protection goals than those who were not threatened at all, as well as that among those facing external threats, those lower in self-esteem would be more self-protective than those higher in self-esteem. Using hypothetical scenarios to manipulate threat, Study 1 (N = 580) found that self-protection was heightened among people who had experienced an external threat relative to control participants. However, self-esteem did not moderate this effect. Study 2 (N = 338) asked participants to recall a threatening experience to manipulate threat. Inconsistent with Study 1, Study 2 found that self-protection was not heightened among people who had experienced an external threat. However, self-esteem moderated the relationship between condition and self-protection, such that self-protection was higher for people lower in self-esteem in the control condition compared to the health threat condition. Self-protection was also heightened for people higher in self-esteem in the health threat condition compared to the control condition.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season