Self-Affirmation and Coping with Rejection

Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2013

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



The current study examined the influence of self-affirmation on coping with a belonging threat. Participants (207 undergraduate students) recalled a past rejection experience (threat) or the events of their day (control). Participants who self-affirmed then ranked a list of values or traits in order of their personal importance and wrote about the most important one. Participants who did not self-affirm performed the same task, but with reference to a previously chosen television character. Participants then completed questionnaires assessing adaptive coping. Analyses showed that participants who self-affirmed believed the cause of their rejection to be more stable, perceived the person who rejected them as less important, reported more positive affect, and held fewer avoidance goals for their relationships with others than participants who did not self-affirm. The analyses also revealed that the effectiveness of self-affirmation was not contingent upon the type of self-affirmation (value or trait affirmation) or upon the relevance of the affirmed value or trait to the belonging threat, but that it was contingent upon an individual’s level of rejection sensitivity. Self-affirmation was less effective for those with higher rejection sensitivity. The results suggest that self-affirmation can promote adaptive coping with rejection in some ways but not others and for some individuals more than others. Additional research will be necessary to examine other types of belonging threat (e.g. being ignored), to determine if timing of self-affirmation is important (i.e., before or after the threat), and to further examine the moderating influence of rejection sensitivity.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Michael J Strube

Committee Members

Randall Larsen, Joshua J. Jackson


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