Understanding the effects of soil intrinsic properties and extrinsic conditions on aggregate stability is essential for the development of effective soil and water conservation practices. Our objective was to evaluate the combined role of soil texture, aggregate size and application of a stabilizing agent on aggregate and structure stability indices (composite structure index [SI], the and n parameters of the VG model and the S-index) by employing the high energy (0-5.0 J kg(-1)) moisture characteristic (HEMC) method. We used aggregates of three sizes (0.25-0.5, 0.5-1.0 and 1.0-2.0 mm) from four semi-arid soils treated with polyacrylamide (PAM). An increase in SI was associated with the increase in clay content, aggregate size and PAM application. The value of increased with the increase in aggregate size and with PAM application but was not affected by soil texture. For each aggregate size, a unique exponential type relationship existed between SI and . The value of n and the S-index tended, generally, to decrease with the increase in PAM application; however, an increase in aggregate size had an inconsistent effect on these two indices. The relationship between SI and n or the S-index could not be generalized. Our results suggest that (i) the effects of PAM on aggregate stability are not trivial, and its application as a soil conservation tool should consider field soil condition, and (ii) , n and S-index cannot replace the SI as a solid measure for aggregate stability and soil structure firmness when assessing soil conservation practices. Copyright (C) 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.