The Relationship of Self-Esteem to Selected Personal and Environmental Resources of Adolescents

By Holland, Alyce; Andre, Thomas | Adolescence, Summer 1994 | Go to article overview

The Relationship of Self-Esteem to Selected Personal and Environmental Resources of Adolescents


Holland, Alyce, Andre, Thomas, Adolescence


Theoretically, self-esteem can be conceptualized as a component of the overall self-concept (McCandless, 1970). Self-concept refers to the complex of beliefs about one's self; self-esteem refers to the value or sense of worth one perceives about one's self. Although the term self-concept has often been used synonymously with self-esteem, in the present study the more restrictive definition (self-esteem) is used.

There are conflicting findings concerning the relationship between self-esteem and sex role orientations among college males and females. Higher levels of both masculinity and femininity were associated with higher levels of self-esteem in studies by Bem (1974, 1975) and Spence, Helmreich, & Stapp (1974, 1975). In contrast, Wetter (1975) reported a negative correlation between femininity scores and self-esteem for college females. Similarly, Orlofsky (1977) found that among college females, femininity was positively related only to self-evaluation of attractiveness, and was negatively related to self-perceived intellectual ability.

A relationship between sex role orientation and self-esteem has also been reported among high school students (Marsh, 1987; Marsh, Antill, & Cunningham, 1987; Purkey, 1970). Marsh et al. (1987) found that the contribution of masculinity to self-esteem was stronger than that of femininity for both male and female high school students.

Additional factors, such as parental socioeconomic and marital status, and employment habits of students, have been investigated as potential predictors of adolescents' self-esteem (Greenberger & Steinberg, 1986; Leonardson, 1986; Marsh, 1990, 1991; Waters & Sroufe, 1983). Waters and Sroufe theorized that the development of self and social competence in adolescents depends on both personal resources within the adolescent and environmental resources. They concluded that the important environmental resources among adolescents were parents and the home environment, peer relations, and the overall school environment.

While parents may represent an important environmental resource, the specific configuration of the family (two-parent, stepparent, or single parent) was not related to either attitudes or behaviors of adolescents in a recent study by Marsh (1990). Similarly, Leonardson (1986) studied the predictors of self-esteem and found that marital status of parents did not significantly predict esteem among high school students. In Leonardson's study, the four variables that did significantly predict students' self-esteem were grade point average, perception of their personal health, rating of their overall home life, and participation in extracurricular activities. Variables that did not significantly predict self-esteem included gender, birth order, number of siblings, intelligence, and a combined measure of intelligence and grade point average. Sex role orientation of subjects was not included as a predictor variable, and the subjects were not differentiated by school size.

Work experiences were negatively related to the academic and developmental progress of high school students in two separate investigations (Greenberger & Steinberg, 1986; Marsh, 1991). Of particular interest, Marsh found that working during the school year, especially during the senior year, was negatively related to social self-esteem. In contrast, working during summer vacation was positively related to self-esteem for all age groups.

Keith (1988) reported that self-esteem evaluations correlated positively with more nontraditional attitudes toward women for college females but not for college males. Keith speculated that higher levels of self-esteem may provide young women with the necessary psychological strength to maintain newer, more deviant attitudes toward women's roles in society.

Most investigations of self-esteem did not consider school size. However, previous research has shown consistently that attendance at smaller schools lead to increased high school extracurricular activity participation (Barker & Gump, 1964; Grabe, 1976, 1981; Holland & Andre, 1987; Lindsay, 1982; Morgan & Alwin, 1980; Schoggen & Schoggen, 1988), and that high school activity participation and self-esteem are positively correlated (Dowell, Badgett, & Hunkler, 1972; Grabe, 1976, 1981; Leonardson, 1986; Phillips, 1969; Yarworth & Gauthier, 1978). …

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