Academic journal article College Student Journal

Assessing Self-Perceptions of College Students across Life Domains: Development and Validation of the Self-Theory Scale

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Assessing Self-Perceptions of College Students across Life Domains: Development and Validation of the Self-Theory Scale

Article excerpt

Problem: The self-theory is an important construct related to mental health and adaptive functioning and is distinct from self-esteem or self-efficacy. However. no instrument exists to assess one's self-theory. Thus, the purpose of the present research was to develop the Self-Theory Scale assessing positive and negative self-theories across 10 life domains--physical appearance, physical health, intelligence, academic performance, occupational performance, leisure activities, personality, family, intimate relationships, and friendships.

Methods: Two studies were conducted among college students attending a Midwestern university to develop the Self-Theory Scale. Study 1 aimed to develop the scale, establish internal consistency, test-retest reliability and convergent and discriminant validity. Study 2 aimed to confirm the demonstrated reliability and validity and address construct and criterion validity.

Results: The resulting Self-Theory Scale contained 40 items assessing positive and negative self-theories across the ten life domains. The scale demonstrated internal consistency, test-retest reliability, and convergent, discriminant, construct, and criterion validity.

Conclusions: In summary, the Self-Theory Scale may be an important tool for college campus personnel for promoting the strengths of college students. It may also be a useful resource for researchers interested in examining long-term impact of specific strengths on adaptive functioning, particularly during the college years.

Keywords: assessment, self-theory, self-esteem, scale development

Introduction

Snyder (1989) defined self-concept as a set of images that one holds about oneself across a variety of situations, emphasizing that the self-concept may vary from one context to the next. These multiple self-images are components of a more complex self-theory, which tend to be relatively unchanging (Janoff-Bulman & Schwartzberg, 1991). In appraising one's self concept and, thus, the self-theory, at least two crucial dimensions are involved. First, one must assess the valence of an event or outcome (i.e., the degree to which the event is positive or negative). Second, one must assess one's own causal linkage to that event or outcome. Often, it is difficult to view either valence or linkage in isolation because these events are so yoked to each other (Snyder, 1991).

Snyder (1991 ) suggests that, at an early age, people develop an idea of their personal capabilities and values. As time passes, children gain an understanding of their causal impact on the surrounding environment and learn that being associated with good behavior is followed by desirable outcomes and being associated with bad behavior is followed by undesirable outcomes. This often results in the tendency to attribute good outcomes to oneself and to attribute bad outcomes to outside factors (Snyder, Higgins, & Stucky, 1983). In some instances, however, individuals may develop negative self-theories in which they see themselves as being linked to negative outcomes and lacking control of the events in their lives, which may be due to a number of developmental, environmental, and genetic factors. Snyder and colleagues (Snyder, Higgins, & Stucky, 1983; Snyder, 1985; Snyder & Higgins, 1988a, 1988b; Snyder, 1989) describe reality negotiation as a cognitive activity aimed at interpreting situations in ways that validate, preserve, or amplify one's self-theory. Positive self-schemas or self-theories result in a feeling of well-being and good mental health (Segal & Blatt, 1993), whereas negative self-theories may produce emotional distress (Segal & Blatt, 1993) and lead to cognitive distortions resulting in depression (Beck & Rush, 1978) and other chronic psychological problems (Snyder, 1991). Thus, the self-theory could play an important role in conceptualizing individuals and identifying strengths upon which to capitalize. …

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