The Effect of Self-Esteem, Family Structure, Locus of Control, and Career Goals on Adolescent Leadership Behavior

Article excerpt


Adolescents who distinguish themselves as leaders in high school reveal a combination of intellectual and social adjustment. Seeing students become leaders is usually the culmination of years of effort on the part of parents, teachers, and the student. The student's leadership activity could simultaneously be viewed as a measure of past success and a predictor of future success, but perhaps most importantly, a sign of psychological and social adjustment. Such adjustment has been extensively researched. Some of the variables considered important have included self-esteem, self-concept, locus of control, family structure and career aspirations.

One study by Leung, Salili, and Baber (1986) found an intercorrelation among Chinese adolescents' self-esteem, locus of control, intelligence, family environment and common adolescent problems. Anxiety over performance and improper social conduct were related to self-perceived problems such as low self-esteem, external locus of control, and family cohesion (degree of commitment, help and support family members give one another), organization (degree of importance given to clear organization and structure in planning family activities and responsibilities), and conflict (amount of openly expressed anger, aggression, and conflict among family members.

In another study concerned with social adjustment, Rosenberg, Schooler, and Schoenbach (1989) found that high self-esteem adolescents were more likely to perform well in school, not be depressed, and not be socially delinquent. Teasing out the cause and effect relationships between self-esteem and other variables, Rosenberg et al. concluded that (1) low self-esteem fosters delinquency and that particularly in lower socioeconomic groups delinquency fosters higher self-esteem, (2) self-esteem is largely attributable to the effect of school performance, (3) the relationship between self-esteem and depression seems to be bidirectional. The results of a study by De Man and De-Visse (1987) showed that alienation--withdrawal due to maladjustment to society--is related to low self-esteem and an external locus of control.

Holman and Woodroffe-Patrick (1988) found that children from single-parent homes were less happy than those from two-parent homes even when controlling for amount of conflict. Amato (1986) found a weak negative relationship between marital conflict and self-esteem in adolescents. The negative effects of conflict tended to be strongest when relationships with both parents were poor.

The aforementioned studies have focused primarily on determining which variables are related to alienation, delinquency, and other signs of maladjustment. However, a few studies have focused on the variables associated with signs of adjustment, such as leadership and career focus. Anderson and Schneier (1978) studying a sample of college students with a mean age of 21.7, found internal locus of control to be related to leadership performance. Leaders were more likely to be internal in LOC than nonleaders. Superior group performance occurred under the direction of an internal LOC leader. Another study by Chiu (1990) found that high school students who had a career goal had higher self-esteem.

From these studies it seems reasonable to suggest that adolescent adjustment is related to high self-esteem, an internal locus of control, and family structure. It also seems reasonable to believe that leadership behavior and career goals are signs of adjustment. In fact, it stands to reason that students who are leaders among their high school peers might aspire to more prestigious careers, further testifying to their psychological and social adjustment.

The purpose of the present study was to further address the question of which variables are related to leadership behavior--behavior that seems to clearly signify adjustment. In particular, this study assessed the independent and combined effects of self-esteem, locus of control, family structure, and career goals on leadership behavior among adolescents. …


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