Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Area Specific Self-Esteem Scales and Substance Use among Elementary and Middle School Children

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

Area Specific Self-Esteem Scales and Substance Use among Elementary and Middle School Children

Article excerpt

Area Specific Self-Esteem Scales and Substance Use among Elementary and Middle School Children

Problems associated with the use and misuse of legal and illegal drugs constitute a major threat to public health. Drug abuse levels are believed to be higher in the U.S. than any other industrialized country in the world. [1] Data from National Institute on Drug Abuse studies of high school students [2] indicate the use of legal and illegal drugs by American students remains at one of the highest levels in history. The severity of the problem led President Reagan to declare a "War on Drugs," and prompted the U.S. Congress to enact legislation which provided federal funding through the U.S. Dept. of Education for drug education efforts. [3]

Drug education programs, especially those directed toward school-age hildren, often seek to assist children in developing positive self-esteem and improving decision-making skills. The literature indicates at least some aspects of self-esteem are related to drug use. [4,5] However, whether this relationship exists for all aspects of self-esteem remains unclear. In addition, it is unknown whether self-esteem correlates with differing drug use behavior across a range of ages and subpopulations.

In a small sample, Yarnish and Battle [6] found significant correlations between consumption of alcohol and what they termed academic and parental aspects of self-esteem. Social self-esteem was not a factor in this study. In a related study of self-esteem and alcohol use among seventh and eighth grade students, Butler [7] found abstainers had more positive perceptions of their behavior, state of health, physical appearance, skills, and sexuality than infrequent drinkers. Furthermore, infrequent drinkers scored higher on these self-concept measures than did frequent drinkers.

In a contrasting study, Perez [8] found certain self-concept factors were significant predictors for the use of marijuana, inhalants, and PCP among Spanish-American adolescents. However, alcohol use was not related to any self-concept factors. In summarizing work relating alcohol use to self-esteem, Windle and Barnes [9] reported that findings in previous studies were inconsistent. Several researchers [10,11] found low self-esteem linked to initiation of cigarette smoking. Murphy and Price [12] called for intervention to promote self-esteem as one of several approaches to prevent smoking. Guglielmo, Polak, and Sullivan [13] argued that low self-esteem and familial environment are linked causally to substance use and abuse. When self-esteem is low, it becomes a "background of pain" in a person's life, with substance abuse becoming a frequently observed mal-adaptive means of coping.

Among the studies reviewed, no consensus existed as to the conceptualization and operational definition of self-esteem. Few researchers have offered any type of concrete operational definition for self-esteem. As Wells [14] indicated, "Because both writers and readers have some intuitive common sense idea of what self-esteem is and what it does, it often seems unnecessary to spell out its nature and theprocess by which it operates . . . Such an oversight can be fairly serious." Most researchers investigating the relationship of self-esteem and substance use used a generalized self-esteem scale to determine participants' self-esteem. [3,15] A few studies used area specific sales [16,17] such as those for peer, school, and home self-esteem. Still others measured variables such as "attitudes toward success in school" [18] which, though not termed self-esteem, addressed variables similar to those measured by area specific scales.

METHOD

Each summer since 1981, the Health Education Program at the University of Arkansas, under contract with the Arkansas Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, has conducted a one-week drug education workshop for elementary teachers. Teachers attend the workshop as part of a funded school team, receiving support for tuition, lodging, meals, travel, and materials. …

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