Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy of College Students with Disabilities

Article excerpt

The present study investigated the relationship between self-esteem and self-efficacy among college students with physical and learning disabilities. Participants included forty-four undergraduate students and four graduate students registered with a university's office for students with disabilities. Collective Self-esteem, Membership Self-esteem, Private Self-esteem, and Public Self-esteem were positively and significantly correlated with General and Social Self-efficacy. Scores were found to be similar to scores from the normative samples. Thus although self-esteem and self-efficacy were significantly related to each other, they were largely unrelated to disability status.


Psychologists have written extensively about the self for over 100 years (e.g., James, 1890). Markus (1977) added to our understanding of the self by developing the notion of self schema, the organized views of self, which we all have. Coopersmith (1967) and Bandura (1986) contributed by identifying self-esteem, the evaluative component of self, and self-efficacy, our perceived abilities.

For self-esteem and self-efficacy to be valid and useful, they ought to apply to all groups including those with disabilities, and they ought to be reliably measurable (Kerr & Bodman, 1994). Luhtanen and Crocker (1992) developed a reliable test for measuring self-esteem. Sherer, Maddux, Mercandante, Prentice-Dunn, Jacobs, and Rogers (1982) created a reliable scale to assess self-efficacy.

Although experiencing a disability has been shown to have an important impact on the sense of self (Toombs, 1994), Wright (1983) found that there are no general personality differences between people with disabilities compared to their peers. Likewise Kelly, Sedlacek, and Scales (1994) concluded that college students with physical and learning disabilities did not perceive themselves differently from students from the general population. However, Kelly et al. (1994) found that students from the general population rated their peers with disabilities as being lower in extraversion and in emotional stability compared to other peers. Also, Saracoglu, Minden, and Wilchesky (1989) surveyed college students with learning disabilities to determine perceptions of their college experience. The authors concluded that college students with learning disabilities exhibited poor self-esteem as well as poor emotional adjustment. Penn and Dudley (1980) questioned college students with physical disabilities to determine perceptions of their college experience. The researchers concluded that these students ranked self-confidence as one of the major obstacles confronted while attending college. Thus there is disagreement among studies regarding the sense of self of college students with disabilities. The present study attempted to further investigate the relationship between measures of self (self-esteem and self-efficacy) and disability status of college students with disabilities.

It was hypothesized that self-esteem and self-efficacy scores would be correlated. Additionally, it was hypothesized that these scores would be lower for students with disabilities compared to the normative sample. Further, it was hypothesized that self-esteem would be correlated with reported academic achievement in high school and college among students with disabilities.



Forty-four undergraduate students and four graduate students with disabilities enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) served as participants in this study. All of the participants were registered with the Disabled Student Services Office and had provided documentation of their disabilities to the director. Twenty-three females and 25 males participated. The numbers of students for each matriculation classification were as follows: freshman (8); sophomore (13); junior (10); senior (13); and graduate (4). …