Academic journal article Studies in Sociology of Science

Person-Centered Therapy and Older Adults' Self-Esteem: A Pilot Study with Follow-Up

Academic journal article Studies in Sociology of Science

Person-Centered Therapy and Older Adults' Self-Esteem: A Pilot Study with Follow-Up

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The aging of the world population is a phenomenon with biomedical, social, political and psychological implications. Europe is the oldest continent in the world. In 2004, Europeans over 65 were 75 million (Fernandez-Ballesteros, 2007). Moreover, the Portuguese elderly constitute 18.1% of the total population, surpassing the amount of young people (16%). The expected percentage of old people in Portugal in 2050 is 31% of the population. (Instituto Nacional Estatistica, 2005; World Health Organization Quality of Life Assessment Group, 2011). Worldwide, it is estimated by the United Nations that, by 2050, 16.5% of the total population will be 65 years old and older (Gavrilov & Heuveline, 2003). Thus, increasing life expectancy has led to higher expectations amongst people in the world to live longer with lower levels of morbidity and with a high well-being and adjustment to aging (Fernandez-Ballesteros, 2007; von Humboldt, Leal, & Pimenta, 2012).

The psychological literature abounds in studies of self-esteem (SE) (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, & Vohs, 2003; Branden, 1969; Crocker & Park, 2004; Mecca, Smelser, & Vasconcellos, 1989; Mruk, 2006; Rodewalt & Tragakis, 2003; Rosenberg, 1965, Sedikides & Gregg, 2003). SE refers to an individual's sense of his or her value or worth, or the extent to which a person values, approves of, appreciates, prizes, or likes him or herself (Blascovich & Tomaka, 1991; Campbell, 1981; Diener & Diener, 1995; Greenberg, 2008; Rogers, 1959). Moreover, it is generally considered the evaluative component of the self-concept, a broader representation of the self that includes cognitive and behavioral aspects as well as evaluative or affective ones (Blascovich & Tomaka, 1991; Swann, Chang-Schneider, & McClarty, 2007). Early research in this area demonstrated that the correspondence between a person's ideal and actual self-concepts is positively linked to psychological well-being, specifically, SE (Rogers & Dymond, 1954). Likewise, discrepancies between actual-self characteristics and ideal-self characteristics have been linked to feelings of dejection and disappointment (Higgins, 1987, 1989). In the context of the person-centered approach, Rogers and Dymond (1954) proposed the discrepancy between ideal self and real self as an indicator of SE. Thus, a person who has high SE, experiences a reduced difference between real self and ideal self and a state of congruence exists (Rogers, 1959, 1980). Furthermore, this person has confidence and positive feelings about his or her self, faces challenges in life, accepts failure and unhappiness at times. Conversely, a person is said to be in a state of incongruence if some of the totality of their experience is unacceptable to her or him and is denied or distorted in the real self (Rogers, 1959, 1980). SE of aging individuals is threatened in a culture that strongly values youthfulness at the expense of old age (Gana, Alaphilippe, & Bailly, 2004; Staats, 1996; Westerhof, Barrett, & Steverink, 2003). Moreover, older adults often feel they are seen as asexual and useless, which can deeply affect their SE (Hamarat, Thompson, Steele, Matheny, & Simons, 2002). Nevertheless, they often perceive themselves as being still able to contribute, which is related to psychosocial characteristics including SE (World Health Organization, 2008). Furthermore, identifying with younger ages and maintaining a positive experience of one's own aging process can, thus, contribute to SE in this context (Westerhof, Whitbourne, & Freeman, 2012).

Previous studies analyzed the correlation between low SE and the low self-worth element of major depression (Burwell, & Shirk, 2006; Emler, 2001; Sedikides & Gregg, 2003; Kuster, Orth, & Meier, 2012; Orth, Robins, & Roberts, 2008). Moreover, some specific treatment programs for low SE have been described (Fennell, 1998; Hall & Tarrier, 2003). …

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