The Relationship between Significant Others' Positive and Negative Statements, Self-Talk and Self-Esteem

Article excerpt

This study reports on a survey conducted with 269 primary school children in Grades 3 to 7 who completed self-report questionnaires measuring the frequency of positive and negative statements made by mother, father, teacher, and peers; their positive and negative self-talk; and their self-esteem. Class teachers also completed the Behavioral Indicators of Self-Esteem (BIOS) scale for each child. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to describe the relationships between these variables. A saturated model, which tested the mediating effect of self-talk between significant others' statements and self-esteem, was tested and modified.

Studies which have investigated the relationship between statements made by significant others and self-perceptions (Blake & Slate, 1993; Burnett, 1996a; Campbell, 1989; Elgin, 1980; Goodman & Ritini, 1991; Joubert, 1991) have found that positive interactions and statements made by significant others were related to high self-esteem and that negative interactions were associated with low self-esteem. Additionally, statements by significant others have also been found to be related to children's self-talk (Burnett, 1996b). Further, a number of studies (Burnett, 1994a; Kent & Gibbons, 1987; Lamke, Lujan & Showalter, 1988; Philpot, Holliman & Madonna, 1995) have reported associations between self-talk and self-perceptions. Collectively, the results of these studies suggest that self-talk may play a mediating role between statements made by significant others and self-concepts and self-esteem.

Statement by Significant Others and Self-Esteem

Four sources of significant others have been identified by Harter (1985) as being parents, teachers, classmates and close friends. Juhasz (1989) examined the importance of the type of significant other, using self-report to open questions and found that fifth and sixth graders' rank order of importance was mother, father, siblings, friends. However, in the seventh and eighth grade, friends become more important, and for university freshmen, teachers were high with friends and parents equal.

There is evidence that indicates that verbal abuse (negative statements by significant others) adversely affects self-esteem (Campbell, 1989), often resulting in the victim's self-degradation and blame (Elgin, 1980). Joubert (1991) investigated self-esteem of college students and mother and father treatment of self when younger and found that men with high self-esteem tended to have fair mothers, who were interested in their activities and less likely to engage in verbal abuse, while high self-esteem in women correlated with parental praise, interest, and less verbal put-downs. Verbal abuse was the only parental category influencing self-esteem for men and women, indicating the influence of positive and negative statements made by significant others. The effect of negative statements on self-perceptions is illustrated in the Goodman and Ritini (1991) study of the self-esteem of 8- to 10-year-old children whose mothers were diagnosed with depression. They classified the mothers' descriptions of their child with regards to school, peer relations, family relations, and sports using a positive/negative/neutral response format. Negative descriptions were classified as being critical/hostile, maternal over-involvement, self-blaming, or negative other statements. The results showed that the depressed mothers gave more negative emotional statements overall (specifically more critical/hostile and self-blame) and had children with lower self-esteem.

Blake and Slate (1993) developed the Verbal Interaction Questionnaire (VIQ) in response to lack of studies investigating the effects of parental verbal interactions on adolescents. They described four areas of verbal abuse: Belittling or berating; non-support; non-communication; and rejection and hostility. Their results showed that perceived parental verbal abuse was related to adolescent self-esteem (r = -. …