Adolescent Self-Esteem, Problem Behaviors, and Perceived Social Support in Turkey

Article excerpt

Adolescence may be defined as the period within the life span when most of people's biological, cognitive, psychological, and social characteristics are changing from what is typically considered childlike to what is considered adult. For adolescents, this period is a dramatic challenge, one requiring adjustment to changes in themselves, in their families and in their peer group (Lerner & Galambos, 1998). For this period one of the most important developmental tasks is identity development. Erikson conceptualized sense of identity as a self-constructed dynamic organization of drives, abilities, beliefs, and personal history into a coherent and autonomous self that guides the unfolding of one's adult life course (Montgomery, 2005). There are many factors that impact on the adolescent's developing sense of self. For example maturation, school environment, parental influences, social class and peer relations may impact on self-esteem (Dusek & Guay-McIntyre, 2005).

Self-esteem is an important component of adolescent identity related to psychosocial adjustment, mental health and psychopathology (Swenson & Prelow, 2005). According to Rosenberg (1965), self-esteem is a positive or negative attitude toward the self. Positive self-esteem or "high" self-esteem, implies that an individual feels that he/she is a person of worth, respected for what he/she is, but does not necessarily consider himself/herself superior to others. Negative or "low" self-esteem implies self-rejection, self-dissatisfaction, or self-contempt. Thus one's self-esteem may influence certain behaviors including problem behaviors--particularly during the developmental confusion of adolescence (Butler, 1995).

The socialization of children is primarily accomplished by their parents. Children depend on their parents for food, shelter, a feeling of belonging, and emotional support. With the onset of puberty the parent-child relationship begins to change and may lead to conflict. In this period peers begin to play an increasingly larger role in the socialization process and aid the individual in the quest for self-definition (Dunphy, 1979). The importance of adolescents having positive interpersonal relationships with parents and friends is documented by substantial research (Collins & Repinski, 1994). The presence of social support has consistently been found to contribute to greater well-being among adolescents (Wills, Vaccaro, & McNamara, 1992). On the other hand, poor social relations and conflict within families may contribute to the onset and maintenance of internalizing behaviors and problem behaviors (Buehler & Gerard, 2002; Peterson, 2005).

Problem behavior is defined as behavior that departs from the norms--both social and legal--of society in general. It is behavior that is socially disapproved by the institutions of authority and that tends to elicit some form of social control response, whether mild reproof, social rejection, or even incarceration (Jessor, 1987). Five separate areas of adolescent problem behavior are specified: smoking, drinking alcohol, use of marijuana and other illicit drugs, general deviant behavior (such as lying, stealing, and physical aggression), and precocious sexual intercourse (Jessor, Donovan, & Costa, 1991). Previous research has demonstrated that engagement in any problem behavior increases one's susceptibility to engaging in others (Jessor, 1998). Also, problem behaviors are related to internalizing problems such as depression and anxiety (Steinberg, 1993). Documented evidence has shown that problem behaviors of adolescence often continue beyond adolescence (Kandel & Davis, 1996). It is therefore important to explore risk and protective factors that may act as vulnerability factors in predicting problem behaviors among adolescents.

The present study was an attempt to identify some of the contextual variables (family conflict, parent and peer support) associated with adolescent self-esteem, depression, and problem behaviors (psychological variables). …