Self-Esteem and Health-Risk Behaviors among Turkish Late Adolescents

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Self-esteem has been shown to be a significant personality variable in determining human behavior (Sanford & Donovan, 1984). It was viewed as a vital component of an adolescent's healthy development and successful transition to adulthood (Chubb, Fertman, & Ross, 1997). Self-esteem refers to self-judgments of personal worth and global feelings of competence and self-acceptance (Rosenberg, 1965). Recently, Guindon (2002) integrated the several definitions of self-esteem and defined it as "the attitudinal, evaluative component of the self; the affective judgments placed on the self-concept consisting of feelings of worth and acceptance, which are developed and maintained as a consequence of awareness of competence, sense of achievement, and feedback from the external world" (p. 207).

According to Rosenberg (1965), high self-esteem indicates a personal sense of self-respect and self-worth, whereas low self-esteem implies self-dissatisfaction and self-rejection. While high self-esteem may be associated with an overall sense of well-being, low self-esteem may be related to risk behaviors and negative developmental outcomes (Connor, Poyrazli, Ferrer-Wreder, & Grahame, 2004). Several theorists have argued that individuals with low self-esteem are more predisposed to adopt risky behaviors (Wild, Flisher, Bhana, & Lombard 2004). Previous studies have also demonstrated a link between low self-esteem and health-risk behaviors such as smoking cigarettes (Kawabata, Cross, Nishioka, & Shimai, 1999), drinking alcohol (Young, Werch, & Bakema, 1989), and using illicit drugs (Gordon & Caltabiano, 1996).

There has been a significant increase in the prevalence of cigarette smoking globally. Smoking is an important public health problem in Turkey because it seems to be widely practiced and socially accepted (Korkut, 1996). Recent studies have shown that the prevalence of daily smoking among university students was approximately 50%, with male predominance in Turkey (Demirel & Sezer, 2005; Kaya & Cilli, 2002; Oksuz & Malhan, 2005; Saatci, Inan, Bozdemir, Akpmar, & Ergun, 2004; Yildrim, 1997). Although some of the literature is inconsistent as to the exact nature of the relationship between self-esteem and smoking cigarettes (Byrne & Mazanov, 2001; Greenberg, Lewis, & Dodd, 1999), several studies have demonstrated a link between low self-esteem and increased cigarette use in adolescents (Carvajal, Wiatrek, Evans, Knee, & Nash, 2000; Kawabata, Cross, Nishioka, & Shimai, 1999; Penny & Robinson, 1986; Wild, Flisher, Bhana, & Lombard, 2004).

A number of studies have indicated that adolescents who refrain from drinking alcohol have higher self-esteem than do adolescents who drink (Young, Werch, & Bakema, 1989). For instance; Scheier, Botvin, Griffin, and Diaz, (2000) reported a significant association between low self-esteem and alcohol use. On the other hand, Steffenhagen and Steffenhagen (1985) did not find any significant correlation between self-esteem and drinking alcohol.

The first encounter with substance use often takes place in adolescence (Schwartz & Miller, 1997). Studies conducted in industrialized western countries in particular indicate an ever-increasing trend for illicit drug use. Findings of research that examined the self-esteem and drug-use relationship has been mixed. Some studies have reported a statistically significant relationship between these two variables (Dielman, Leech, Lorenger, & Hovart, 1984; Wright & Moore, 1982), whereas others failed to find such a relationship (McGee & Williams, 2000). Schroeder, Laflin, and Weis (1993) reviewed the literature on the relationship between self-esteem and drug use and concluded that the association between low self-esteem and drug use is too small to be of practical value for explanation or prevention. Dielman et al. (1984) also concluded that the relationship between self-esteem and drug use was statistically significant, but not large enough to suggest that intervention programs be directed toward the enhancement of self-esteem. …