The Impact of Ethgender on Self-Esteem among Adolescents

Article excerpt

Inferior social status of "racial" minorities can result in negative self-concepts (Clark & Clark, 1939, 1940; Gordon, 1969; Horowitz, 1936), but most studies of global self-esteem have not found a significant difference between members of ethnic minority and dominant groups, (e.g., Jensen, White, & Galliher (1982); McCarthy & Yancey (1971); Verkuyten (1986, 1989); Yancey, Rigsby, & McCarthy (1972). Weight of evidence led reviewers, Wylie (1979), Rosenberg (1979) and Verkuyten (1988), to conclude that there is no difference in global self-esteem between minority and dominant group members.

Further, males may have higher global self-esteem than females (Alpert-Gillis & Connell, 1989; Harper & Marshall, 1991; Rosenberg & Simons, 1975; Steitz & Owen, 1992; Verkuyten, 1986; West, Fish, & Stevens, 1980), or there may be no difference between the genders (Kohr, Coldiron, Skiffington, Masters, & Blust, 1988; Mullis, A. K., Mullis, R. L., & Normandin, D., 1992; Lerner, Sorrell, & Brackney, 1981; Osborne & LeGette, 1982; Schwalbe & Staples, 1991).

Differences in theoretical frameworks and resultant differences in measures of self-esteem have produced inconsistencies that characterize the field (Dorgan, Goebel, & House, 1983; Gray-Little & Appelbaum, 1979; Wylie, 1979). This situation led Wylie (1989, p. 119) to lament that the measuring instruments are almost "idiosyncratic." Researchers have used different measures of self-esteem with the same group of respondents only to find that there is surprisingly little overlap in the aspects of self (Marsh & Smith, 1982; Shavelson & Bolus, 1982). Despite these problems, studies of self-esteem have led to an increased recognition of (if not appreciation for) its complexity.

Rosenberg's Legacy

Developed for use with adolescents, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale measures global self-esteem (for recent developments, see Rosenberg, Schooler, & Schoenbach, 1989). Using this scale to examine specific racial categories (black and white), Rosenberg and Simmons (1972), did not find any significant differences in the levels of global self-esteem. Yancey, Rigsby, & McCarthy (1972) made a similar finding. Others found that blacks had higher self-esteem levels (Hines & Berg-Cross, 1981; Richman, Clark, & Brown, 1985). The scale also has been used to examine differences between the genders. It was found that race and gender may interact to produce low levels of self-esteem among white adolescent girls (Richman, Clark, & Brown, 1985).

According to Rosenberg (1979), the self-concept is comprised of parts organized in hierarchical and complex ways. Both the global self-concept and the parts "... exist within the individual's phenomenal field as separate and distinguishable entities, and each can and should be studied in their |sic~ own right." Marsh and Shavelson (1985) provide empirical support for the existence of both global and particular features of the self-concept. The global self-concept seems to predominate during childhood and adolescence, but it seems to grow weaker in adulthood as different facets become better defined, more distinct, and more salient. Marsh and Shavelson (1985) suggest the interesting possibility that "... the formation of general self-concept may take place independently of specific facets of self-concept". Empirical research supports the multidimensional view of the self-concept and self-esteem (Fleming & Courtney, 1984; Long, 1991; Shavelson, Hubner, & Stanton, 1976). Van Tuinen and Ramanaiah (1979) found evidence that social self-esteem is a subconstruct of global self-esteem.

The self emerges as an entity that defines persons as distinct from others. As persons assume more statuses in society, the sources of self-esteem become more varied, and the self-concept becomes more differentiated. Also, these aspects become salient in different situations. …