Cross-Cultural Validity of a Model of Self-Worth: Application to Finnish Children

Article excerpt

This study investigated the cross-cultural validity of Harter's (1985, 1986a, 1986b, 1987b, 1987c) measures and model of self-worth in Finnish children. A total of 306 Finnish elementary school students participated in the study. Principal components analyses supported the original factor structures of Harter's (1985, 1986a) self-report questionnaires, the Self-Perception Profile for Children and the Social Support Scale for Children. Consistent with Harter's (1986b, 1987b, 1987c) model of the determinants of self-worth, multiple regression analysis indicated that both the competence-importance discrepancy and perceived social support explained the variability in self-worth. Implications of these findings for theory, research, and practice are discussed.

Since the rediscovery of the self as an object of scientific study over the past two decades (Hales, 1985), an explosion of theory and research has occurred among clinical, developmental, educational, and social psychologists as well as other social scientists (Bracken, 1996; Brinthaupt & Lipka, 1992; Marsh, Byrne, & Shavelson, 1992). Especially the evaluative component of the self-schema, selfesteem, has come to occupy a prominent role in numerous theories of human behavior (e.g., Covington, 1993; Epstein, 1991; Harter, 1988; Rosenberg, 1986). At a more applied level, practitioners have come to appreciate the fact that high self-esteem contributes to mental health, happiness, confidence, and high achievement (American Psychiatric Association, 1994; King, Naylor, Segal, Evans, & Shain, 1993; Pelham, 1993; Shirk & Harter, 1996; Strassburger, Rosen, Miller, & Chavez, 1990). According to Greenwald, Bellezza, and Banaji (1988), self-esteem is one of the central, most important, aspects of the self.

A theoretically-based program of research developed by Harter (1986b, 1987b, 1987c) has had a significant influence on the theories of self-esteem and on research in this area (Friedman, 1992;Hattie, 1992). Harter (1985, 1986b, 199Oa) defines self-esteem, or self-worth1, as the level of global regard that one has for the self as a person. According to Harter's (1986b, 1987b, 1987c) model of the determinants of self-worth, children who feel competent in domains of life which are important to them and who perceive support from significant others tend to have high self-worth. In contrast, children whose perceived competence in domains deemed important is low and who report the lack of support from significant others tend to have low self-worth. In other words, Harter's model proposes that the discrepancy between perceived competence and importance of competence in domains deemed important as well as the perceived support from significant others contribute to the global self-worth.

Harter's (1986b, 1987b, 1987c) model has proven useful for generating information about elementary and middle school children's self-perceptions and their determinants. The main limitation of the model stems from the fact that Harter's studies have drawn their subjects from the predominantly White, middle-class population in the United States (Friedman, 1992; Keith & Bracken, 1996). As a consequence, one must ask how valid her model of self-worth is in other cultural groups. Specifically, are the determinants of self-worth the same in different cultural contexts? The purpose of the present study was to investigate the cross-cultural validity of Harter's (1985, 1986a, 1986b, 1987b, 1987c) measures and model of self-worth in Finnish elementary school children. The study focused on the following two research questions.

First, is the factorial structure of Harter's (1985, 1986a) self-report questionnaires, the Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC) and the Social Support Scale for Children and Adolescents (SSSCA) found for a sample of Finnish elementary school children? Several studies have confirmed the factorial structure of the SPPC with Western children aged between 8 to 15 years living in Canada, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United States (Asendorpf & Van Aiken, 1993; Boivin, Vitaro, & Gagnon, 1992; Granleese & Joseph, 1993, 1994; Harter, 1985; Kwok, 1995; Van Dongen-Melman, Koot, & Verhulst, 1993;Veerman,Tjeerd ten Brink, Straathof, & Treffers, 1996; Worth-Gavin & Herry, 1996). …