Citation
The construction of adolescent self-esteem

Material Information

Title:
The construction of adolescent self-esteem investigating perceptions of the parental, peer, and academic domains
Creator:
Harris, Wendy Ann
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
54 leaves : ; 28 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Self-esteem in adolescence ( lcsh )
Self-esteem in adolescence ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 52-54).
General Note:
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Statement of Responsibility:
by Wendy Ann Harris.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
45117848 ( OCLC )
ocm45117848
Classification:
LD1190.L65 2000m .H37 ( lcc )

Full Text
THE CONSTRUCTION OF ADOLESCENT SELF-ESTEEM:
INVESTIGATING PERCEPTIONS OF THE PARENTAL,
PEER, AND ACADEMIC DOMAINS
Wendy Ann Harris
B.A., University of Denver, 1993
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Social Science
2000
by


2000 by Wendy Ann Harris
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Master of Social Science
degree by
Wendy Ann Harris
has been approved
by
Candan Duran-Aydinl


Harris, Wendy Ann (Master of Social Science)
The Construction of Adolescent Self-Esteem: Investigating Perceptions of the
Parental, Peer, and Academic Domains
Thesis directed by Professor Jana Everett
ABSTRACT
Investigating adolescents self-reported perceptions of meaningful areas in the
developing young persons life provides insight into the complex construction of
adolescent self-esteem. Indeed, perceptions of acceptance by significant others and
social success enhance self-esteem whereas perceptions of rejection and
underachievement undermine self-esteem. Assuming the role of interpersonal
relationships and social experiences as primary sources that provide adolescents with
information used for self-evaluation, the extent to which adolescents perceptions of
significant sources influence self-esteem requires investigation. The purpose of this
research is to examine relationships between adolescents overall self-esteem and
self-esteem related to home, peers, and school with the adolescents perceptions of
parenting behaviors, interpersonal interaction with peers, and academic achievement.
A survey of 84 high school students from a co-educational private high school in
the Denver suburbs was conducted in the spring of 1999. Of those students surveyed,
66% reported high peer self-esteem, 49% reported high home self-esteem, and 38%
reported high school self-esteem. Seventy four percent reported high global self-
esteem suggesting that the groups overall satisfaction was higher than the domain-
specific scores and that the individuals overall self-esteem remains unaffected by
perceptions from a particular domain. Crosstabulations showed correlation between
domain-specific variables and domain-specific self-esteem. Authoritative, nurturing
parenting was found to be associated with high adolescent home self-esteem; peer
group acceptance and membership was found to be associated with adolescent peer
self-esteem scores; and high grade point average was found to be related to school
self-esteem. The strongest relationships were between peer group acceptance and
membership and adolescent global self-esteem and peer group acceptance and
membership and peer self-esteem reinforcing the significance of the peer group
during adolescence.
Findings from this study suggest that the developing adolescent has the ability to
actively participate in the construction of his/her self-esteem by attending to sources
IV


that support the development of high self-esteem while perceptually diminishing the
sources that might undermine self-esteem.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.
Signed
v


CONTENTS
Abstract.............................................................iv
Contents............................................................ vi
Tables.............................................................viii
Foreward.............................................................ix
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION.......................................................1
2. LITERATURE REVIEW..................................................4
Overview of Adolescent Self-Esteem................................4
Operationalizing Self-Esteem......................................4
Parenting Behaviors and Adolescent Self-Esteem....................6
Peer Relationships and Adolescent Self-Esteem....................10
Academic Achievement and Adolescent Self-Esteem..................11
The Adolescent as Active Participant.............................12
The Directionality Debate........................................13
3. METHODS...........................................................15
Questionnaire Construction.......................................15
Sampling.........................................................19
Sample Characteristics...........................................20
vi


Procedure....................................................20
Data Preparation and Analysis................................21
Validity and Reliability.....................................21
Limitations of the Study.....................................23
4. FINDINGS.....................................................25
Conclusion...................................................25
Home Self-Esteem......................................25
Peer Self-Esteem......................................28
School Self-Esteem....................................30
Global Self-Esteem....................................32
5. APPLICATIONS.................................................38
APPENDIX
A. SCRIPTS..................................................42
B. CONSENT FORMS............................................44
C. QUESTIONNAIRE.......................................... 46
BIBLIOGRAPHY..................................................... 52
Vll


TABLES
Table
4.1 Mothers control style and home self-esteem crosstabulation..................26
4.2 Fathers control style and home self-esteem crosstabulation..................26
4.3 Mothers nurturance and home self-esteem crosstabulation.....................27
4.4 Fathers nurturance and home self-esteem crosstabulation.....................28
4.5 Peer group membership and acceptance and peer self-esteem....................29
4.6 DLS program participation and school self-esteem crosstabulation.............31
4.7 Grade point average and school self-esteem crosstabulation...................32
4.8 Mothers control style and global self-esteem crosstabulation................33
4.9 Fathers control style and global self-esteem crosstabulation................33
4.10 Mothers nurturance and global self-esteem crosstabulation..................34
4.11 Fathers nurturance and global self-esteem crosstabulation..................34
4.12 Peer group membership and acceptance and global self-esteem.................35
4.13 Extracurricular participation and global self-esteem crosstabulation........35
4.14 DLS program participation and global self-esteem crosstabulation............36
4.15 Grade point average and global self-esteem crosstabulation..................36
vm


FOREWARD
As an undergraduate student in psychology, I did an internship at the adolescent
psychiatric unit at Denver General Hospital. An internship as a probation officer with
Denver Juvenile Courts followed and was complemented by a full-time job working
at a secured residential treatment center for delinquent boys. During the course of
these eye-opening experiences, I started trying to identify the common thread that
runs through the maladies of Americas youth. After analyzing case histories in
adolescents files, supervising family meetings, and talking one-on-one with high
school drop-outs, gang-bangers, substance abusers, convicted sex offenders, and
dangerous criminals, I began formulating a hypothesis. I simply thought parents were
to blame until I observed that good parents can have bad kids. Wondering if the
underlying issue at the core of adolescent dysfunction was a lack of self-esteem, I
decided to conduct a quantitative research project to better understand the complex
construction of adolescent self-esteem. The purpose of this investigation is to gather
evidence to situate the adolescent as an active participant in the construction of self-
esteem to ultimately contribute to systems that empower the developing adolescent.
IX


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
The ability to evaluate the self positively and hold the self in high regard is a
fundamental task challenging the developing adolescent. Rosenberg (1989) identifies
self-esteem as a characteristic that plays a prominent role in defining human nature
and he believes high self-esteem is a requisite for healthy personal development.
McKay (1987) reports that young people equipped with the metaphoric protective
armor of self-esteem are shielded from drugs, alcohol, unhealthy relationships, and
delinquency, and they consequently have a better chance of being happy and
successful adults. Similarly, Buri et al (1988) find that adolescents with high self-
esteem scores tend to like themselves, feel that they are persons of value and worth,
have confidence in themselves, and act accordingly (p. 273).
In order to understand the complex process of constructing self-esteem in young
people, this study assumes that the individuals creation of a personal reality,
including underlying beliefs about self, is influenced by perceptions of external
sources and investigates the effects of perceived rejection and failure from influential
sources on attitudes toward the self along with perceived acceptance from significant
others and social success. It is necessary to analyze meaningful areas in the young
persons life to determine the factors that significantly contribute to the developing
1


sense of self. A review of current literature reveals that parenting behaviors,
interpersonal relationships with peers, and academic achievement are recognized as
the primary sources of information adolescents use for self-evaluation. The purpose
of this study is to investigate relationships between adolescent self-esteem and
adolescent perceptions of parents, peers, and of school in order to ultimately develop
systems to guide the adolescent toward the construction of a positive sense of self.
The theoretical foundation of this project relies upon Kaplans (1986) belief that
individuals organize their responses to social processes, motivated to defend and
promote personal well being. He describes the human self-protective-self-enhancing
capability to actively select social influences that contribute to a positive sense of self
stating the person needs to experience positive self-feelings and is disposed to
behave in ways that will approximate that goal (p. 48).
The study used a survey design with 84 high school students in a Denver suburb in
spring 1999. This research examines adolescents overall self-esteem and self-esteem
related to home, peers, and school and analyzes correlation between self-esteem and
(1) parental nurturance and control styles (2) peer group membership and acceptance
and extracurricular involvement and (3) academic achievement as determined by
grade point average and identification as a student in need of academic assistance.
The thesis project, The Construction of Adolescent Self-Esteem: Investigating
Perceptions of the Parental, Peer, and Academic Domains, begins with an
2


introduction in chapter one. In this chapter, the significance of developing self-
esteem during adolescence is emphasized. The variables and domains for the study
are introduced along with the sample used in the survey.
Chapter two is a review of the literature including a description of scales used in
the study of adolescent self-esteem. Along with describing significant factors
frequently investigated by researchers, this overview summarizes recent findings and
common definitions. In addition, the adolescents adaptive ability to actively
participate in the construction of his/her self-esteem is addressed followed by a brief
acknowledgement of the directionality debate.
Chapter three is the methods section of the project. This section includes a
detailed explanation of the instrument used in this project including how scores were
obtained and variables measured based on subjects self-reported perceptions. A
description of the sample and procedures are provided. The data preparation and
analysis program used in this study is identified, validity and reliability issues are
addressed, and limitations of the study are discussed in this chapter.
In chapter four, findings from the questionnaire are reported and presented in
tabular form. This chapter examines the relationships between sources of
adolescent self-esteem and adolescent self-esteem scores.
Chapter five presents conclusions and implications of this study.
3


CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW
Overview of Adolescent Self-Esteem
The relationship between establishing a positive sense of self during adolescence
and the young persons ongoing development and well being is documented in
literature that reveals a positive correlation between self-esteem and the individuals
perceptions of interpersonal acceptance and social success. Rosenberg (1989) and
Kaplan (1986) studied various domains in the emerging young adults life and agree
that protecting and enhancing self-esteem is desirable. Analyses of adolescents self-
reported perceptions across various domains of life experience provide insight
into the complex construction of adolescent self-esteem. This chapter reviews current
findings in adolescent self-esteem research on the relationship between self-esteem
and (1) parenting behavior (2) peer relationships and (3) academic achievement.
Operationalizing Self-Esteem
Researchers in the area of adolescent self-esteem frequently accept Rosenbergs
(1965) foundational definition of self-esteem as the evaluation which the individual
makes and customarily maintains with regard to himself, expressed as an attitude of
approval or disapproval (p. 5). He continues, when we speak of high self esteem ...
4


we ... simply mean that the individual respects himself, considers himself worthy ...
low self-esteem, on the other hand implies self-rejection, self-dissatisfaction, self-
contempt (p. 31).
To better understand the construction of adolescent self-esteem, researchers
investigate the impact of various factors and numerous methods are employed.
Researchers concentrate on the effects of parenting behaviors, peer relationships, and
academic achievement although they also have looked at other variables including
marital satisfaction of parents, parents self-esteem, family size, religious affiliation,
parental absence, and socioeconomic status. Self-report questionnaires are the
primary method of data collection in the study of adolescent self-esteem.
Numerous scales are used to measure self-esteem. Among the many, Shoemaker
(1980) discusses the Hare Self-Esteem Scale as an instrument used to measure area-
specific self-esteem using ten items per scale with a total score ranging from 10
(lowest self-esteem) to 50 (highest self-esteem). It has been used to examine the
relationship of self-esteem to various health-related behaviors and academic
achievement and separates school and home self-esteem. Buri et al (1987) use the
Tennessee Self-Concept Scale and claim that the Total Self-Esteem Score obtained
using this instrument is a valid measure of global self-esteem. This widely used
research tool consists of 100 self-descriptive statements to which subjects respond
using a 5-point scale ranging from (1) being completely false of me to (5) being
5


completely true of me. Rosenbergs (1989) Self-Esteem Scale is another widely used
research tool for measuring self-esteem that requires students to answer ten questions
on a scale that ranges from agree to disagree with higher scores corresponding to
higher self-esteem.
Coopersmiths (1989) Self-Esteem Inventory (SEI) is a reliable, valid measure of
self-esteem designed to yield separate scores for four subscales: Home-Parents,
Social Self-Peers, School-Academic, and General Self. Subjects respond to fifty
short statements checking Like Me if the statement describes how they usually feel
or Unlike Me if not. An additional eight lie scale questions are included to
identify subjects who provide socially desirable responses and potentially skew the
data.
Parenting Behaviors and Adolescent Self-Esteem
Although the adolescent is engaged in the developmental process of re-defining
the parent-child relationship and actively seeking autonomy, parents nevertheless do
have a significant role in the construction of the adolescents self-esteem. Researchers
exploring adolescent perceptions of parenting behaviors conclude that parents who
demonstrate positive regard with their validating behaviors will be perceived by the
adolescent in a way that contributes to the development of positive self-esteem.
Neilson and Metha (1994) study the relationship between adolescent self-esteem
6


and adolescent perceptions of parental behavior and conclude that adolescent
perceptions of parental discipline in the form of support and autonomy granting relate
to multiple dimensions of adolescent self-esteem and reflected appraisals. Several
parental characteristics are associated with high levels of adolescent self-esteem
including parental affection and support and parenting styles that avoid the use of
guilt, anxiety, and love withdrawal to control behavior because these parental
attributes instill a sense of inherent value in the adolescent. Lackovic-Grgin,
Dekovic, and Opacic (1994) linked excessive parental control to low self-esteem
although it has yet to be calculated how much control is too much and how much is
enough to allow sufficient individuation and guidance.
Although some researchers occasionally interview parents, most researchers rely
on adolescent self-reports for the collection of data. Gecas (1986) and Gecas and Seff
(1990) reinforce the significance in gathering data from adolescent subjects rather
than significant others with evidence that substantially independent realities exist
between parents reported behaviors and childrens perceptions of their parents
behaviors.
Buris (1991) Parental Authority Questionnaire (PAQ) and Buris (1989) Parental
Nurturance Scale (PNS) are two popular instruments used to determine adolescents
perceptions of their parents behaviors from the viewpoint of a child evaluating each
parents controlling and nurturing behaviors individually. Both studies require
7


subjects to respond to descriptive survey items using a 5-point format where subjects
responses are based on a scale ranging from strongly disagree (1) to strongly
agree (5) and yield separate scores for mother and father based on the adolescents
appraisals.
Based on concepts from Baumrinds (1971) parental authority prototypes, Buris
(1991) Parental Authority Questionnaire measures permissive, authoritative, and
authoritarian parenting styles. Buri et al (1988), Buri (1991), and Buri et al (1992)
analyze respondents perceptions of parenting behaviors and find that a nurturing,
respectful relationship provides a stable basis for the healthy emergence of positive
self-esteem.
Buri (1991) concludes that the positive correlation between adolescent self-esteem
and intimacy suggests that parental warmth and nurturance predicts healthy self-
esteem among adolescents. Likewise, authoritative parents who provide clear and
firm direction for their children, but disciplinary clarity is moderated by warmth,
reason, flexibility, and verbal give-and take (Buri, p. Ill) demonstrate respect for
their children and positively affect adolescent self-esteem. Researchers report that
children of authoritative parents report higher self-esteem than children of permissive
parents who tend to make fewer demands on their children .. .allowing them to
regulate their own activities as much as possible ... are relatively noncontrolling and
tend to use a minimum of punishment with their children (p. 110) or children with
8


authoritarian parents who tend to be highly directive with their children and value
unquestioning obedience in their exercise of authority over their children ...
discourage verbal give-and-take and favor punitive measures to control their
childrens behavior (Buri, pp. 110-111).
Researchers have similarly concluded that parental control and nurturance styles
communicate valuable messages to young people that contribute to their sense of
inherent worth. Coopersmith (1967) identifies correlations between a childs self-
esteem and the childs perceptions of his parents behaviors. Parents who are
perceived as accepting of their children, who clearly define and enforce behavioral
limits, and who demonstrate respect for their childrens actions within the defined
limits positively influence their childrens self-esteem.
Lackovic-Grgin, Dekovic, and Opacic (1994) support the association between
increased intimacy and nurturance and lower levels of control in the parent-
adolescent relationship with higher adolescent self-esteem. Likewise, they find that
parental punitiveness is negatively associated with adolescent self-esteem. In a study
of 218 non-parent college students McCormick and Kennedy (1994) find that
adolescent self-esteem is positively related to independence-encouraging, acceptance,
and a secure attachment to both parents. Subjects who classify their parent-child
attachment as secure rate their parents as high in independence-encouraging and
acceptance. Findings from this research indicate that positive long-term effects
9


emerge from close relationships between parents and their children. Indeed,
researchers find evidence supporting the significant influence of the young persons
perceptions of parental behaviors on self-esteem.
Peer Relationships and Adolescent Self-Esteem
The developing adolescent grows increasingly independent from his parents and
seeks alternative sources of support and affirmation with increasing dependence on
peers. Asher et al (1996) recognize that during this time, positive relationships with
peers become important factors in determining self-esteem where perceptions of peer
acceptance or the extent to which a child is liked or accepted by other members of a
peer group strongly contribute to the emerging sense of self (p. 367).
Interested in how students perceptions of friendships relate to self-esteem, Bemdt
and Miller (1993a), Bemdt and Keefe (1993b), and Bemdt (1996) compare friendship
evaluations to self-esteem scores concluding that respondents who describe peer
relationships with more positive features show higher self-esteem than students who
report more negatively featured friendships. Young people without friends and who
are unaccepted by their peers tend to report less positive perceptions of self-worth
then children who enjoy more positive peer relationships. Bemdt, Laychak, and Park
(1990) and Bemdt and Keefe (1995) report that positive peer relationships, not only
influence self-esteem, but also appear to impact the individuals involvement in
10


school including decisions to spend time pursuing extracurricular activities.
Academic Achievement and Adolescent Self-Esteem
Although findings reinforce correlation between self-esteem and supportive
adolescent relationships, further review of adolescent self-esteem and peer acceptance
literature shows the importance the adolescent grants to peer approval affects the
significance of peer support on the adolescents self-esteem.
The relationship between achievement in the academic domain and adolescent
self-esteem is well documented in literature exploring the significance of this social
context for validation of worth and competency. Acknowledging the prominent role
of the educational institution in the lives of developing adolescents, Rosenberg (1989)
identifies school performance as an important arena of achievement and basis of
self-esteem (p. xxv). Supporting the relationship between academic achievement
and self-esteem, Coopersmith (1989) and Rosenberg (1989) argue that adolescents
with positive feelings toward themselves tend to be those who are most successful
and involved in school. Recognizing that students with high self-esteem perform
better in school than their peers with lower levels of self-esteem, Coopersmith
identifies self-esteem as an important, integral part of school performance suggesting
students who feel personally satisfied with their abilities to achieve and who expect to
do well actually perform best in school.
11


Filozof et al (1998) compare high school students self-esteem scores to academic
performance and conclude that academic variables predict self-esteem. The
statistically significant correlation between school self-esteem and students academic
achievement, including grade point average and perceived academic standing,
suggests that the adolescents experiences in the social context of academia influence
self-esteem.
The Adolescent as Active Participant
Hoffman et al (1993) view the adolescent as an active agent who selectively
embraces supportive sources and deflects negative others. They investigate then-
hypothesis that the greater the adolescents orientation to support from an agent, the
stronger the association will be between support offered and adolescents self-
esteem (p. 25). They examine the adolescent as an active agent who selectively
embraces supportive sources and deflects negative others. The adolescents adaptive
perceptual ability to orient himself/herself to esteem enhancing sources and not attend
to negative others exemplifies the potential for the active construction of self-esteem.
Harter et al (1998) investigate relational self-worth in adolescents exploring their
hypothesis that in addition to perceptions of ones global self-worth as a person,
individuals evaluate their self-worth differently across contexts (p. 756). After
comparing adolescents perceptions of self-worth with parents, teachers, and
12


classmates, she concludes that approximately three-fourths of the participants report
differences in self-worth across contexts correlating to the level of validation support
reported by the adolescents in each context. In their analysis of academic variables
and self-esteem, Filozof et al (1998) recognize the importance in obtaining separate
self-esteem scores for the home domain and the academic domain acknowledging the
potential for domain-specific self-esteem scores. This research suggests that
adolescent self-esteem can vary across contexts depending upon the feedback and
appraisals that adolescents perceive from the different sources.
The Directionality Debate
The reciprocal effects between adolescent self-esteem and the variables of
parenting behaviors, peer support, and academic achievement have begun to be
addressed at the conceptual level; however, Gecas and Seff (1990) note that rarely do
investigators attempt to empirically assess reciprocal relationships in self-esteem
studies. We would expect reciprocal effects between adolescent and parent in the
home, in the academic domain between student and teacher, and in the social domain
between adolescent and peer where esteem-enhancing experiences foster a positive
sense of self and reinforce the quantity and quality of positive interactions which in
turn further enhance self-esteem. For example, Chiu (1990) finds that self-esteem
relates not only to current academic achievement, but also to future educational plans
13


and career goals.
A summary of the adolescent self-esteem literature clearly supports the potentially
significant effect of success and acceptance in various social domains on the
development of adolescent self-esteem. Indeed, studies consistently show
perceptions of approval and validation from parents and peers, along with academic
achievement, powerfully predict self-esteem. Nevertheless, accepting the multiple
external factors impacting self-esteem, the extent to which young individuals select
and orient themselves toward particular domains and variables to actively construct
their self-esteem necessitates further investigation. Rather than situating adolescents
as passive recipients of external forces, discovering the extent to which adolescents
actively moderate the impact of specific variables and domains by perceptually
granting access to prioritized appraisals and feedback requires an analysis of specific
domains and domain specific self-esteem scores.
14


CHAPTER 3
METHODS
This chapter describes the methods used in this study. Given the variety of
domains offering opportunities for success and support and accepting self-esteem as a
consequence of individual perceptions, adolescent domain-specific self-esteem scores
were calculated in this study and correlated with adolescent perceptions of significant
domain-specific influences in order to find out whether and how these influences are
incorporated into the adolescents judgments of personal worth.
Questionnaire Construction
Global and domain-specific adolescent self-esteem scores for (a) home (b) peers
and (c) school were calculated based on responses to Coopersmiths Self-Esteem
Inventory (SEI) to identify variation in self-esteem scores across domains. Subjects
were asked to mark the column Like Me or Unlike Me after selecting the
appropriate choice for each of fifty eight descriptive statements. Home self-esteem
scores were based on responses to eight questions including I get upset easily at
home and My parents and I have a lot of fun together. Examples of eight
questions used to calculate peer self-esteem were Im popular with kids my age
and I dont like to be with other people. Responses to eight questions such as I
like to be called on in class and My teachers make me feel Im not good enough
15


were used to determine academic self-esteem. Twenty-six general statements like I
dont care what happens to me and Im pretty happy elicited responses used to
elicit an overall, global self-esteem score. In addition, eight lie scale questions
were scattered throughout the instrument. Responses were totaled for each category
with higher scores indicating higher self-esteem to arrive at domain-specific scores.
Based on trends in the questionnaires, cutoff points were established to separate
high and not high self-esteem scores.
Questions designed to measure subjects perceptions in the domains of home,
peers, and school were included in the survey. There were four multiple-choice
questions (two per parent) designed to measure the subjects perceptions of each
parents behaviors based on concepts and items derived from Buris instruments.
Although Buri uses a 5-point scale, in this project, subjects responses were not based
on a scale; they were instructed to think about the relationship they have with their
mother and father and to choose which description of the three best describe it. There
was a does not apply option provided in case none of the options were applicable.
Each item was stated from the point of view of an adolescent appraising authority or
nurturance demonstrated by each parent separately.
Parenting style was measured by having the subject choose one of three statements
that described (a) a permissive parent who seldom gives the adolescent behavioral
expectations and guidelines and generally allows the adolescent to decide most things
16


for himself/herself without a lot of direction (b) an authoritarian parent who tells the
adolescent exactly what to do and gets upset if he/she hesitates or tries to disagree and
(c) an authoritative parent who gives clear directions and has clear expectations for
the adolescent who also feels free to disagree and discuss those expectations.
Degree of parental nurturance was measured by having subjects choose statements
describing the minimal, moderate, and high nurturing mother and father. Subjects
were instructed to read the precise archetypes and check the option that most
accurately described each parents typical behavior individually. The statements
described the (a) minimally nurturing parent as generally cold and removed with a
tendency to withhold physical affection and rarely praise or show concern for the
adolescent, (b) moderately nurturing parent as occasionally showing physical
affection and concern and occasionally encouraging and showing support and
(c) highly nurturing parents as often expressing warmth and affection and frequently
showing approval for the adolescent with praise and encouragement.
Determination of adolescent perceptions of interpersonal success with peers was
based on responses to twelve descriptive statements and reported extracurricular
involvement. Drawing on literature addressing the significance of peer relationships
during adolescence, questions were designed to determine the extent to which the
subject believed he/she was an accepted member of a group. Brown (1989) describes
group membership as reflecting the individuals affiliation with a small, self-selected,
17


cohesive group of friends who frequently interact in a reciprocal relationship.
The first section dealing with the subjects perceptions of peers followed
Coopersmiths Self-Esteem Inventory and was formatted to complement its
style. Respondents read short statements and appropriately checked Like me or
Unlike me. Example statements included I have a close group of friends I talk to
everyday and Its hard to find people my age who understand me.
Involvement with peers in extracurricular activities was investigated as a second
variable with potential correlation to peer self-esteem and was measured through
subjects responses to a question located in the demographic section of the
questionnaire. Students were expected to mark which school sponsored activities
they regularly participated in and give details in the space provided. Options included
(1) school athletic teams (2) student government (3) after school clubs (4) other
(5) none.
Grade point average (g.p.a.) and identification as a student in need of academic
assistance were the two independent variables investigated in this project for
correlation to academic and global self-esteem. Grade point average was measured
utilizing self-reports by students on the questionnaire.
The high school from which the sample for this project attended has implemented
a program (DLS) to provide academic assistance for underachieving students in the
lower tenth percentile of their class. Whether or not a subject participated in DLS
18


was used as a second indicator of academic achievement. Fifteen DLS students
participated in this project. Their questionnaires were identical to non-DLS student
questionnaires although they were administered and collected separately. All
questionnaires were hand-labeled DLS or non-DLS surveys according to the type of
classroom where they were distributed.
Sampling
The relationships between self-esteem and parental behavior, peer relationships,
and academic performance were examined in a sample of students (N=84) attending a
coeducational, private high school in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. The data were
obtained by means of a group administered questionnaire distributed in classrooms.
Despite difficulty in obtaining a large, diverse population given the potential
vulnerability in sampling a population under the age of 18, access to these students
was granted therefore providing a convenience sample.
To be included in the sample, each student needed to meet the following inclusion
criteria: (1) be present on the day the project was introduced and the consent forms
were distributed, (2) sign and submit parental and personal consent, (3) be present
on the day the questionnaire was distributed.
19


Sample Characteristics
Of the 84 students participating in the study, 52 were female (62%) and 32 were
male (38%). Subjects were predominately white (81%), and lived with their
biological mother and father (79%). Subjects ranged in age from 14 to 18 with the
majority of subjects 16 (54%) and 17 (24%) years old. Most respondents were
sophomores (54%) and juniors (35%) although freshmen and seniors were also
represented in the sample. Although more than half of the subjects (51%) who
completed questionnaires reported a family income of over $50,000, many of the
participants left this question unanswered (42%).
Procedure
During spring 1999, the protocol, instrument, scripts, and consent forms
were approved by the University of Colorado at Denvers Human Subjects
Committee. Following approval, the high school students were given the opportunity
to voluntarily participate in this thesis project described as a study of adolescent
perceptions of self, and variables from significant social domains including parents,
peers, and school. One week prior to data collection, the director of guidance and I
visited classrooms to distribute consent forms and read approved scripts emphasizing
the need for signed parent and student consent forms demonstrating a willingness to
voluntarily participate. Students were told that all of their answers were anonymous
20


and they could refuse to answer any or all of the questions without being penalized.
When I returned to administer the instrument, students who had returned signed
consent forms received questionnaires, and surveys were labeled DLS if they were
distributed to students who participated in a program for individuals in need of
academic assistance.
Data Preparation and Analysis
Analysis of data sets was performed using SPSS for Windows 95, Base 9.0 (SPSS
Inc., 1999). Crosstabulations and frequencies were run in this study of relationships
between self-esteem scores and responses designed to measure subjects perceptions
of approval and achievement for three significant domains. The distributions of
subjects responses to questionnaire items were analyzed to determine trends in the
data and cutoff points for collapsing categories. The data were coded so that higher
scores correspond to higher self-esteem, higher nurturance, and greater peer
acceptance.
Validity and Reliability
The following section addresses validity and reliability issues for this study.
Coopersmiths Self-Esteem Inventory was used in its entirety to increase the validity
and reliability of my results. This instrument has been administered to tens of
thousands of children and adults participating in research studies and used in well
21


over 100 studies (Coopersmith, 1989). Results of several studies (Buri et al, 1988;
Buri, 1991; Buri et al 1992) support this tool as a sound and valid measure useful in
investigating correlates of parental behaviors. Although Buris instruments were
adapted to keep the questionnaire completion time under 10 minutes, the consolidated
statements were carefully constructed to identify the overarching concepts from
Buris Parental Nurturance Scale and Buris Parental Authority Questionnaire.
Students were provided with a three-choice framework and an additional does not
apply option to increase reliability for this section of questions.
There are a number of ways to increase the validity of my results. Rather than
accessing student records or interviewing teachers regarding individual student
performance, I relied on the truthfulness of the information subjects provided
expecting anonymity would increase validity. Being able to assess student records
while protecting confidentiality would have increased validity. Although this was an
anonymous survey and students were instructed to not provide their identity, a way to
increase validity would be to return and distribute identical questionnaires to the
original subjects and compare their responses over time. Accepting that sudden or
drastic changes in the subjects family, peer, or school situation may temporarily
inflate or deflate self-esteem, subjects were informed I was interested in their most
immediate reaction to the questions and not to take too much time deciding how to
answer.
22


With the intention of collecting enough information to construct significant data
sets to better understand the construction of adolescent self-esteem, I designed a
questionnaire for subjects to complete during 10 minutes of class time. This is a
descriptive study that attempts to consciously measure multiple variables and
determine relationships by combining and adapting numerous instruments.
Limitations of the Study
This is an exploratory study with limitations, therefore, the findings from this
study must be interpreted cautiously and caution must be exercised when making
generalizations regarding the relationships. Due to convenience and availability, the
sample used were primarily white, affluent students attending private school.
Likewise, although I attempted to survey equal numbers of DLS and non-DLS
participants, there was a very low response rate in the DLS classrooms and
subsequent low representation in the sample. Similarly, the overall response rate was
lower than expected perhaps due to the need for students to provide signed parental
and personal consent and to be present on two separate occasions: the day the study
was introduced and the day the survey was administered. The sample size
(N= 84) prevented controlling for third variables to discover whether bivariate
relationships persisted.
Because this is a study based on adolescent perceptions, parent, peer, or teacher
23


feedback was not collected during the course of this project. The data rely upon
self-report that can be dependent on immediate relationships or contaminated by
memories and intervening history. Nevertheless, data were obtained by self-report.
Gecas and Schwalbe (1986) have reported there is little overlap between parental
reports of their behaviors and on the adolescents perceptions of his/her parents
behaviors. Similarly, the relationship between parental behavior and adolescent self-
esteem is much stronger for the adolescents perceptions of parental behavior and
adolescent self-esteem than for actual parental behavior or parental reports of their
behavior. My assumption is that similar relationships exist in other domains, i.e., that
there is a stronger relationship between an adolescents perceptions of peer and
teacher approval and the adolescents self-esteem than between actual levels of peer
and teacher approval and the adolescents self-esteem. Regardless, the lack of
information on the actual attitudes of parents, peers, and teachers is a limitation of
this study.
24


CHAPTER 4
FINDINGS
This chapter describes the findings from this investigation of adolescent self-
esteem. Analyses of the data indicate the extent to which various contexts effect the
construction of self-esteem. By comparing relationships between domain-specific
and global self-esteem scores and adolescents perceptions of significant factors, the
multi-dimensional process of constructing adolescent self-esteem is better
understood.
Conclusion
Home Self-Esteem
Subjects self-reported perceptions of their parents control styles and nurturing
behaviors were compared to subjects home self-esteem scores. Home self-esteem
scores were almost equally split with half of the respondents reporting high home
self-esteem (49%) and the other half reporting lower home self-esteem (51%).
Subjects home self-esteem scores were crosstabulated with subjects self-reported
perceptions of their parents control style. Analyses indicate that the majority of
mothers (70%) and fathers (59%) are perceived as authoritative. There are more
authoritarian mothers (21 %) than fathers (17%) and more permissive fathers (24 %)
25


than mothers (8 %).
TABLE 4.1
MOTHERS CONTROL STYLE AND HOME SELF-ESTEEM CROSSTABULATION
Mother's
control style
Permissive Authoritative Authoritarian Total
Not high Count 5 24 14 43
Home % 71.4% 40.7% 77.8% 51.2%
Self-esteem High Count 2 35 4 41
% 28.6% 59.3% 22.2% 48.8%
Total Count 7 59 18 84
% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
TABLE 4.2
FATHERS CONTROL STYLE AND HOME SELF-ESTEEM CROSSTABULATION
Fathers
Control style
Permissive Authoritative Authoritarian Total
Not high Count 13 18 11 42
Home Self-esteem % 68.4% 37.5% 78.6% 51.9%
High Count % 6 31.6% 30 62.5% 3 21.4% 39 48.1%
Total Count % 19 100.0% 48 100.0% 14 100.0% 81 100.0%
Table 4.1 shows that subjects who rated their mothers control style as
authoritative were more likely to have high home self-esteem (59 %) than those who
rated their mothers as permissive (29 %) or authoritarian (22 %). Table 4.2 shows
that subjects who rated their fathers control style as authoritative were similarly more
likely to have higher home self-esteem (62 %) than those who rated their fathers as
26


permissive (32 %) or authoritarian (21 %).
The largest percentage difference in home self-esteem that appeared in
crosstabulations was between subjects with authoritative fathers and subjects with
authoritarian fathers. There is a curvilinear relationship between both mothers and
fathers control style and adolescent home self-esteem with subjects who perceived
their parents as authoritative having higher self-esteem than subjects that perceived
their parents as either authoritarian or permissive.
Subjects home self-esteem scores were crosstabulated with subjects self-reported
perceptions of their parents nurturing behaviors. Analyses indicate the majority of
mothers were perceived as high in nurturing behavior (74 %) whereas fathers were
almost equally divided between high (47 %) and lower (53 %) nurturance.
TABLE 4.3
MOTHERS NURTURANCE AND HOME SELF-ESTEEM CROSSTABULATION
Not high Count
Home Self-esteem %
High Count %
Total Count %
Mother's nurturance
Not high High Total
17 77.3% 26 41.9% 43 51.2%
5 22.7% 36 58.1% 41 48.8%
22 100.0% 62 100.0% 84 100.0%
27


TABLE 4.4
FATHERS NURTURANCE AND HOME SELF-ESTEEM CROSSTABULATION
Home
Self-esteem
Fathers
Nurturance
Not high High Total
Not high Count % 29 67.4% 13 34.2% 42 51.9%
High Count % 14 32.6% 25 65.8% 39 48.1%
Total Count % 43 100.0% 38 100.0% 81 100.0%
Cross-tabulations show positive correlation between parental nurturance and home
self-esteem. As shown in Table 4.3, adolescents who rated their mothers nurturance
as high were more likely to have high home self-esteem (58 %) compared to
adolescents who rated their mothers nurturance as not high (23 %). Likewise, as
Table 4.4 shows, adolescents who rated their fathers as high in nurturance were more
likely to have higher home self-esteem (66 %) than adolescents who rated their
fathers nurturance as not high (33 %). Among the adolescents sampled, there is a
strong relationship between mothers nurturing behavior and adolescent home self-
esteem (Gamma = .650) and between fathers nurturing behavior and adolescent
home self-esteem (Gamma = .599).
Peer Self-Esteem
Peer self-esteem scores were examined in terms of subjects self-reported
28


perceptions of acceptance and membership with their peers and participation in
extracurricular activities. There are more subjects in this sample with high peer self-
esteem (65.5%) than with lower peer self-esteem (34.5%). Subjects peer self-
esteem scores were crosstabulated with subjects self-reported perceptions of peer
group acceptance and membership. The majority of respondents in the sample
reported perceptions of high (86 %) acceptance and membership with their peer
group.
TABLE 4.5
PEER GROUP ACCEPTANCE AND MEMBERSHIP AND PEER SELF-ESTEEM CROSSTABULATION
Not high Count
Peer Self-esteem %
High Count %
Total Count %
Peer group
acceptance and
membership
Not high High Total
11 18 29
91.7% 25.0% 34.5%
1 54 55
8.3% 75.0% 65.5%
12 72 84
100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
As shown in Table 4.5, 75 % of subjects who reported high peer group acceptance
and membership had high peer self-esteem while only 8 % of subjects who reported
not high peer group acceptance and membership have high peer self-esteem. In this
study, there was a strong relationship between subjects perceptions of peer group
acceptance and membership and peer self-esteem (Gamma = .941).
29


Analysis of relationships between subjects peer self-esteem scores and subjects
participation in extracurricular activities showed most adolescents in this sample
participated in extracurricular activities (94 %). Of the students who participate in
extracurricular activities, more than half participated in athletics only (53 %) followed
by students who participate in both athletic and non-athletic activities (38 %) and
non-athletic only (9 %). As expected, those who participate in extracurricular
activities have high peer self-esteem. A very small proportion of students do not
participate in any form of extracurricular activities (6 %). Knowing the extent to
which subjects are involved in extracurricular activities does not increase the chances
of accurately predicting their peer Self-esteem scores (Cramers V = .083).
School Self-Esteem
Subjects grade point averages and whether or not students participated in a
program for individuals in need of academic assistance were variables analyzed in
relation to school self-esteem. In comparison to other domains in the study, school
self-esteem was the category in which the most students reported low self-esteem
(62%) and the least students reported high self-esteem (38%).
Subjects school self-esteem scores were crosstabulated to compare students who
participated in the DLS program to non-program participants. In this sample, DLS
program participants are under-represented (18 %) with the majority of subjects non-
30


DLS participants (82 %).
TABLE 4.6
DLS PROGRAM PARTICIPATION AND SCHOOL SELF-ESTEEM CROSSTABULATION
Not high Count
School Self-esteem %
High Count %
Total Count %
DLS program participant
No Yes Total
40 58.0% 12 80.0% 52 61.9%
29 42.0% 3 20.0% 32 38.1%
69 100.0% 15 100.0% 84 100.0%
Table 4.6 shows that fewer DLS students report high school self-esteem (20%)
than students who are not in the DLS program (42 %).
Subjects school self-esteem scores were crosstabulated with subjects self-
reported grade point averages. Fifty eight percent of the students reported that their
grade point average was between 3.0-3.9. The proportion of students reporting grade
point average of less than 3.0 (20 %) and 4.0 and above (22 %) was nearly equal.
TABLE 4.7
GRADE POINT AVERAGE AND SCHOOL SELF-ESTEEM CROSSTABULATION
School
Self-esteem
G.P.A. Less than 3.0 3.0-3.9 4.0 and above Total
Not high Count % 14 87.5% 32 66.7% 5 27.8% 51 62.2%
High Count % 2 12.5% 16 33.3% 13 72.2% 31 37.8%
Total Count % 16 100.0% 48 100.0% 18 100.0% 82 100.0%
31


There is a relationship between grade point average and school self-esteem scores
(Gamma = .684). The percentage of students with high school self-esteem increases
from 12.5 % among those with a grade point average of under 3.0, to 33.3 % among
those with a grade point average in the 3.0 to 3.9 range, and to 72.2 % among those
with a grade point average of 4.0 and above.
Global Self-Esteem
Subjects self-reported perceptions of their parents behaviors, peer group success,
and academic achievement were compared to subjects global self-esteem scores.
The majority of adolescents (74 %) in this sample report high global self-esteem.
Subjects global self-esteem scores were crosstabulated with subjects self-
reported perceptions of their parents control style. Having either a permissive or
authoritative mother appears to be related to high global self-esteem (Gamma = .783).
Table 4.8 shows that the percentage of subjects with high global self-esteem
increased from 28 % among those with authoritarian mothers to approximately 86 %
among those with authoritative or permissive mothers. Table 4.9 shows that the
relationship between adolescents global self-esteem scores and their fathers control
style is curvilinear. Eighty one percent of subjects with authoritative fathers have
high global self-esteem compared to 64 % of subjects with authoritarian fathers and
58 % of subjects with permissive fathers who have high global self-esteem.
32


TABLE 4.8
MOTHERS CONTROL STYLE AND GLOBAL SELF-ESTEEM CROSSTABULATION
Mother's
control style
Permissive Authoritative Authoritarian Total
Not high Count 1 8 13 22
Global % 14.3% 13.6% 72.2% 26.2%
Self-esteem High Count 6 51 5 62
% 85.7% 86.4% 27.8% 73.8%
Total Count 7 59 18 84
% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
TABLE 4.9
FATHERS CONTROL STYLE AND GLOBAL SELF-ESTEEM CROSSTABULATION
Fathers Control Style
Permissive Authoritative Authoritarian Total
Not high Count 8 9 5 22
Global % 42.1% 18.8% 35.7% 27.2%
Self-esteem High Count 11 39 9 59
% 57.9% 81.3% 64.3% 72.8%
Total Count 19 48 14 81
% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Subjects global self-esteem scores were crosstabulated with subjects self-
reported perceptions of their parents nurturing behavior. The relationship between
parental nurturance and global self-esteem is very weak. Table 4.10 shows that
subjects that rated their mothers nurturance as high have high self-esteem (77 %)
compared to subjects that rated their mothers nurturance as low (64 %). Similarly,
Table 4.11 shows that adolescents who rated their fathers as high in nurturance
(76 %) have high global self-esteem compared to subjects who rated their fathers as
33


low in nurturance (70 %).
TABLE 4.10
MOTHERS NURTURANCE AND GLOBAL SELF-ESTEEM CROSSTABULATION
Mother's
nurturance
Not high High Total
Not high Count 8 14 22
Global % 36.4% 22.6% 26.2%
Self-esteem High Count 14 48 62
% 63.6% 77.4% 73.8%
Total Count 22 62 84
% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
TABLE4.il
FATHERS NURTURANCE AND GLOBAL SELF-ESTEEM CROSSTABULATION
Fathers nurturance
Not high High Total
Not high Count 13 9 22
Global Self- % 30.2% 23.7% 27.2%
esteem High Count 30 29 59
% 69.8% 76.3% 72.8%
Total Count 43 38 81
% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Subjects global self-esteem scores were crosstabulated with subjects perceptions
of acceptance and membership with their peer group. One of the strongest
relationships in the survey appears between global self-esteem and adolescent
perceptions of peer group acceptance and membership (Gamma = .863). Table 4.12
shows that subjects who report perceptions of high peer group acceptance and
34


membership have high global self-esteem (82 %) compared to subjects who report
low peer group acceptance and membership (25 %).
TABLE 4.12
PEER GROUP ACCEPTANCE AND MEMBERSHIP AND GLOBAL SELF-ESTEEM CROSSTABULATION
Peer group
membership
and acceptance
Not high High Total
Not high Count 9 13 22
Global Self- esteem % 75.0% 18.1% 26.2%
High Count % 3 25.0% 59 81.9% 62 73.8%
Total Count % 12 100.0% 72 100.0% 84 100.0%
TABLE 4.13
EXTRACURRICULAR PARTICIPATION AND GLOBAL SELF-ESTEEM CROSSTABULATION
Extracurricular
participation
Athletic
Not high Count 8
Global % 19.0%
Self-esteem High Count 34
% 81.0%
Total Count 42
% 100.0%
Non-athletic Athletic and non-athletic Does not participate Total
4 6 4 22
57.1% 20.0% 80.0% 26.2%
3 24 1 62
42.9% 80.0% 20.0% 73.8%
7 30 5 84
100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Subjects global self-esteem scores were compared to subjects participation in
extracurricular activities. As Table 4.13 shows, students who participate in
extracurricular activities are more likely to have high global self-esteem (43 %-
35


81 % depending on the activity) than students who do not participate in
extracurricular activities (20 %).
Subjects global self-esteem scores were crosstabulated with DLS participation.
Table 4.14 shows that relatively similar percentages of DLS participants (72.5 %) and
non-DLS participants (80 %) had high global self-esteem.
TABLE 4.14
DLS PROGRAM PARTICIPATION AND GLOBAL SELF-ESTEEM CROSSTABULATION
Global
Self-esteem
DLS participant
No Yes Total
Not high Count % 19 27.5% 3 20.0% 22 26.2%
High Count % 50 72.5% 12 80.0% 62 73.8%
Total Count % 69 100.0% 15 100.0% 84 100.0%
TABLE 4.15
GRADE POINT AVERAGE AND GLOBAL SELF-ESTEEM CROSSTABULATION
G.P.A.
Global
Self-esteem
Not high Count %
High Count %
Count %
less than 3.0 3.0-3.9
4 14
25.0% 29.2%
12 34
75.0% 70.8%
16 48
100.0% 100.0%
4.0 and above Total
4 22
22.2% 26.8%
14 60
77.8% 73.2%
18 82
100.0% 100.0%
Subjects global self-esteem scores were crosstabulated with subjects self-
reported grade point averages. As Table 4.15 indicates, there is no relationship
36


between high global self-esteem and a subjects grade point average. Students with
high global self-esteem are found in similar numbers among those with grade point
averages under 3.0 (75 %), 3.0-3.9 (71 %) and 4.0 and above (78 %).
37


CHAPTER FIVE
APPLICATIONS
My findings provide evidence supporting the construction of adolescent self-
esteem as a complex process. Having investigated relationships between variables
identified as significant in the life of the developing adolescent, a number of
conclusions can be drawn.
First, comparative analysis of self-esteem scores from three separate domains
indicate self-esteem scores vary across domains. In this sample, the majority of
students report high peer self-esteem (65.5 %) followed by home self-esteem
(49 %) and school self-esteem (38 %). Since students can have higher domain-
specific self-esteem scores in one domain and lower domain-specific scores in
another domain, this supports Kaplans (1986) theory of the individual as self-
protecting and self-enhancing. The variation in self-esteem scores across domains
suggests that the individual can like himself/herself more in some situations than in
others depending on whether the source contributes to a positive or negative
evaluation of the self.
Next, when global self-esteem scores are compared to domain-specific self-
esteem scores, it becomes clear that the individuals general satisfaction with
himself/herself can remain unaffected by his/her self-satisfaction in a specific
38


domain. This sample reports high global self-esteem scores (74 %) whereas domain-
specific scores are lower. These findings support Kaplans (1986) theory of the self-
protecting-self-enhancing individual. It appears that adolescents have the ability to
shift their attention and diminish the potentially negative effects of undermining
sources of self-esteem while attending to esteem enhancing domains reflected in
overall high global self-esteem.
Gecas (1982) describes the existence of two separate sources of self-esteem that
function as independent processes in the formation of the thoughts and feelings the
adolescent has about himself/herself. One source of self-evaluation is based on
competency and ties self-esteem to performance i.e. academic achievement. The
second source is based on self-worth and is concerned with personal and interpersonal
conduct where self-concept reflects the responses and appraisals of others i.e. the
parent-child relationship and interactions with peers. Because different domains
satisfy different aspects of self-esteem, adolescents high global self-esteem scores
can be maintained while domain-specific self-esteem scores fluctuate and are lower.
Finally, cross-tabulations show that certain variables have stronger relationships to
adolescents domain-specific self-esteem and global self-esteem than other variables
do. Authoritarian parenting styles are associated with lower self-esteem for the
adolescent. Seventy eight percent of subjects with lower home self-esteem have
authoritarian mothers and 79 % have authoritarian fathers. Similarly, subjects with
39


less nurturing parents have lower home self-esteem. Seventy seven percent of
subjects with lower home self-esteem have less nurturing mothers and 67 % have less
nurturing fathers. Indeed, adolescents with higher self-esteem have authoritative,
nurturing parents who demonstrate respect for their children and acknowledgment for
them as worthy members of the family compared to other parenting types who restrict
the adolescents sense of importance with controlling and punitive behaviors that
undermine the adolescents self-esteem.
Additional variables associated with domain-specific self-esteem scores include
peer group acceptance and membership and grade point average. Subjects with lower
perceptions of peer group acceptance and membership have lower peer self-esteem
scores (92 %). Likewise, there was a strong association between grade point average
and school self-esteem. Eighty seven percent of subjects with grade point averages
less than 3.0 had lower school self-esteem and 72 % of subjects with grade point
averages of 4.0 and above had high school self-esteem.
The findings from this project provide few answers to the directionality debate.
Although I can speculate about possible explanations using data collected during the
course of this project, at the very least, I accept the construction of adolescent self-
esteem as a highly reciprocal process. For a more complete understanding beyond the
scope of this project, researchers may investigate how (1) adolescent behaviors
toward parents give rise to supportive parental behaviors in the home domain (2)
40


positive adolescent attitudes and supportive behaviors toward peers invokes accepting
peer responses in the social domain and (3) students create a self-fulfilling prophesy
in the classroom and elicit cooperative, encouraging attitudes from teachers. If the
adolescent displays self-esteem more clearly, openly, or forcefully to significant
others, will the young individual experience more positive responses and subsequent
self-esteem? The influence of adolescents behaviors and attitudes upon parents,
peers, and teachers interactions with them cannot be ignored.
Among the variables investigated in this study, there are factors with a stronger
relationship to adolescents global self-esteem scores compared to other factors.
The strongest relationships are between peer group acceptance and membership and
peer self-esteem and peer group acceptance and membership and global self-esteem.
This is not surprising since the adolescent is theoretically decreasing his dependence
on his parents while shifting his focus to his peers.
Indeed, the construction of adolescent self-esteem is a complex process that is
affected by many variables. This project has been an investigation of the parental,
peer, and academic domains to study how variables within these contexts influence
the adolescents self-esteem. Having identified significant relationships, it is clear the
adolescent has the ability to actively participate in the construction of his self-esteem
by attending to sources of high self-esteem.
41


APPENDIX A
SCRIPTS
SCRIPT DESCRIBING STUDY TO POTENTIAL SUBJECTS
My name is Wendy Harris and I am conducting a research study to find out how
you evaluate yourself, your parents, your relationship with your peers, and your
academic achievement. I am interested in finding out how you perceive these social
domains and how your external environment affects you.
You and your parent(s)/ guardian(s) will have the opportunity to give permission
for you to participate in my project by signing the consent forms I am about to pass
out. Only students who return these consent forms will be allowed to receive a
questionnaire. I will return next week to hand out the questionnaire. The
questionnaire I'm asking you to fill out is a simple pencil and paper survey that takes
about 10 minutes to complete during class time. There are no right or wrong answers
and I am interested in your first reaction to the questions.
Because this is an anonymous project, there is no place for you to write your name
and no attempt will be made to identity you. I am only interested in gathering a
collection of data about adolescent lives. Nobody else will see your questionnaire
except for me and after I enter the data into my computer, I will destroy the
questionnaire. Participation in this project is voluntary. You have the choice whether
to participate or not and there is no penalty for not volunteering. You may refuse to
answer any or all questions and terminate your participation at any time.
If you are interested in learning about the findings from this project or more details
about my thesis subject, I will mail you results at a summary level at the completion
of the project if you bring me a self addressed stamped envelope when you turn in
your consent forms.
You are all important to this study so I encourage you to return signed consent
forms as soon as possible. Thank you for your attention and cooperation. If you have
any questions about what I have said, please raise your hand.
42


INSTRUCTIONS SCRIPT FOR PROJECT PARTICIPANTS
Thank you for returning the signed consent forms and agreeing to participate in
this project. Before I hand out the questionnaire I want to repeat what I said last time.
The questionnaire I'm asking you to fill out is a simple pencil and paper survey
that takes about 10 minutes to complete during class time. There are no right or
wrong answers and I am interested in your first reaction to the questions. Because this
is an anonymous project, there is no place for you to write your name and no attempt
will be made to identify you. I am only interested in gathering a collection of data
about adolescent lives. Nobody else will see your questionnaire except for me and
after I enter the data into my computer, I will destroy the questionnaire. Participation
in this project is voluntary. You have the choice whether to participate or not and
there is no penalty for not volunteering. You may refuse to answer any or all
questions and terminate your participation at any time and there is no penalty.
If you are interested in learning about the findings from this project or more details
about my thesis subject, I will mail you results at a summary level at the completion
of the project if you turn in a self addressed stamped envelope with your consent
forms.
You are all important to this study so I encourage you to answer all of the
questions. Thank you for your attention and cooperation. If you have any questions
about what I have said, please raise your hand. If there are no questions, please begin
completing the questionnaire provided for you. If you have any questions as you
complete the questionnaire, please raise your hand. When you are finished, bring
your questionnaire to the front of the room and put it in this envelope.
43


APPENDIX B
CONSENT FORMS
PARENT/GUARDIAN CONSENT FORM
Dear Parent(s) / Guardian(s):
Your son/daughter has been asked to voluntarily participate in a graduate student's research project.
This study is an investigation of adolescent perceptions of self, family, school, and peer relations and
uses Coopersmith's popular survey tool to measure evaluative attitudes. Participation requires your
child to complete a simple pencil and paper questionnaire that will take approximately 10 minutes.
Every safeguard has been made to protect the identity of your child and minimize risks to research
participants. All responses are anonymous therefore, the identity of your child will never be revealed.
Participants may choose not to answer some questions or withdraw from the study at any time with no
penalty.
If you have any questions regarding this research project, please do not hesitate to contact the
Office of Academic Affairs, CU Denver Building suite 700, (303) 556-2550 with questions about your
child's rights as a research subject.
At the end of this letter is a consent form I would like you to sign. The signed form will grant
permission for your child to participate in the study. He/she will be given a copy of this consent form
to keep. If you are interested in learning about the findings from this research project, please return a
self-addressed stamped envelope with this consent form so a brief summary of the results can be sent
to you at the completion of the project expected May, 2000. Thank you for your cooperation and
consent.
Wendy Harris
PLEASE SIGN AND HAVE YOUR CHILD RETURN HIS / HER TEACHER
I,_______________________________________
Parent/guardian signature and date
Name of child
give permission for my child
to participate in this study.
L ____________________________________
Parent/guardian signature and date
Name of child
do not give permission for my child
to participate in this study.
44


STUDENT CONSENT FORM
Dear Student:
You have been asked to voluntarily participate in a graduate student's research project. This study is
an investigation of adolescent perceptions of self, family, school, and peer relations and uses
Coopersmith's popular survey tool to measure evaluative attitudes. Participation requires you to
complete a simple pencil and paper questionnaire that will take approximately 10 minutes. Every
safeguard has been made to protect your identity and minimize risks to research participants. All
responses are anonymous therefore, your identity will never be revealed. You may choose not to
answer some questions or withdraw from the study at any time with no penalty.
If you have any questions regarding this research project, please do not hesitate to contact the Office of
Academic Affairs, CU Denver Building suite 700, (303) 556-2550 with questions about your rights as
a research subject.
At the end of this letter is a consent form I would like you to sign. The signed form will grant
permission for you to participate in the study. You will be given a copy of this consent form to keep.
If you are interested in learning about the findings from this research project, please return a
self-addressed stamped envelope with this consent form so a brief summary of the results can be sent
to you at the completion of the project expected May, 2000. Thank you for your cooperation and
consent.
Wendy Harris
PLEASE SIGN AND RETURN TO YOUR TEACHER
I,___________________________________, agree to participate in this study.
Name and date
I,___________________________________, do not agree to participate in this study.
Name and date
45


APPENDIX C
QUESTIONNAIRE
Thank you for agreeing to participate in this research project. Remember all of your
answers are anonymous (nobody will see your questionnaire except for the
researcher). Do not put your name anywhere on these pages. You may refuse to
answer any or all of the questions and not be penalized. You may terminate your
participation in this project at anytime and not be penalized. If you have any
questions, raise your hand at anytime. I am interested in your most immediate
reaction to a question so do not take too much time deciding how to answer. There
are no right or wrong answers. Please read the statements carefully and mark the
choices that describe you best.
QUESTIONNAIRE
Think about your relationship with your mother as you read the choices below. For
questions #1 and #2 mark the option that best describes your relationship with your
mother.
1. My mother seldom gives me expectations and guidelines for my behavior.
She generally allows me to decide most things for myself without a lot of
direction from her.
____My mother tells me exactly what she wants me to do and she gets upset if I try
to disagree with her. When she tells me to do something, she expects me to
do it immediately without asking any questions.
____My mother gives me clear directions for my behaviors and activities. I know
what she expects of me in my family, but I also feel free to disagree and
discuss those expectations with her.
____Does not apply.
46


2. My mother is generally cold and removed when I am with her. She tends to
withhold physical affection and rarely praises me or shows concern for the
things I do.
___My mother occasionally shows physical affection and concern for me.
Sometimes she praises and encourages me to show she supports me and the
things I do.
___My mother often expresses warmth and affection for me. She frequently
shows her approval for me and the things I do by praising and encouraging
me.
___Does not apply.
Think about your relationship with your father as you read the choices below. For
questions #3 and #4 mark the option that best describes your relationship with your
father.
3. My father seldom gives me expectations and guidelines for my behavior. He
generally allows me to decide most things for myself without a lot of
direction from him.
___My father tells me exactly what he wants me to do and he gets upset if I try
to disagree with him. When he tells me to do something, he expects me to do
it immediately without asking any questions.
___My father gives me clear directions for my behaviors and activities. I know
what he expects of me in my family, but I also feel free to disagree and
discuss those expectations with him.
___Does not apply.
47


4. My father is generally cold and removed when I am with him. He tends to
withhold physical affection and rarely praises me or shows concern for the
things I do.
____My father occasionally shows physical affection and concern for me.
Sometimes he praises and encourages me to show he supports me and the
things I do.
____My father often expresses warmth and affection for me. He frequently shows
his approval for me and the things I do by praising and encouraging me.
____Does not apply.
48


Put an X in the column "Like Me" if the statement describes how you usually feel. If
the statement does not describe how you usually feel, put an X in the column marked
"Unlike Me." There are no right or wrong answers.
Like Unlike
Me Me
____ ____ Things usually dont bother me.
____ ____ I find it very hard to talk in front of the class.
____ ____ There are many things about myself Id change if I could.
____ _____ I can make up my mind without too much trouble.
____ ____ Im a lot of fun to be with.
____ ____ I get upset easily at home.
____ ____ It takes me a long time to get used to anything new.
____ ____ Im popular with kids my age.
____ ____ My parents usually consider my feelings.
____ ____ I give in very easily.
____ ____ My parents expect too much of me.
____ ____ Its pretty tough to be me.
____ ____ Things are all mixed up in my life.
____ ____ Kids usually follow my ideas.
_________ I have a low opinion of myself.
____ ____ There are many times when Id like to leave home.
____ ____ I often feel upset at school.
____ ____ Im not as nice looking as most people.
____ ____ If I have something to say, I usually say it.
____ ____ My parents understand me.
____ ____ Most people are better liked than I am.
____ ____ I usually feel as if my parents are pushing me.
____ ____ I often get discouraged in school.
____ ____ I often wish I were someone else.
____ ____ I cant be depended on.
____ ____ I never worry about anything.
____ ____ Im pretty sure of myself.
____ ____ Im easy to like.
____ ____ My parents and I have a lot of fun together.
_____ ___ I spend a lot of time daydreaming.
____ ____ I wish I were younger.
____ ____ I always do the right thing.
49


Im proud of my school work.
Someone always has to tell me what to do.
Im often sorry for the things I do.
Im never happy.
Im doing the best work that I can.
I can usually take care of myself.
Im pretty happy.
I would rather play with children younger than I am.
I like everyone I know
I like to be called on in class.
I understand myself.
No one pays much attention to me at home.
I never get scolded.
I'm not doing as well in school as I'd like to.
I can make up my mind and stick to it.
I really don't like being male/female.
I don't like to be with other people.
I'm never shy.
I often feel ashamed of myself.
Kids pick on me very often.
I always tell the truth.
My teachers make me feel I'm not good enough.
I don't care what happens to me.
Im a failure.
I get upset easily when I'm scolded.
I always know what to say to people.
I have a close group of friends I talk to everyday.
I'm afraid of making my friends mad at me.
I would rather spend time alone than with my peers.
I can turn to my friends for support.
It's hard to find people my age who understand me.
I can trust my friends to keep a secret.
I wish I had more friends.
I can't be myself around my peers.
People think I am a good listener.
I don't like the person I am when I am with my peers.
Most of my friends are my age and in my grade.
I like to talk and make suggestions around my friends.
50


1. Gender: ___female
___male
2. Age: ___
3. Grade:
4. What is your grade point average (G.P.A.):_
5. Which of the following options describes your racial/ethnic group as generally
recognized by your family and friends?
__Afro-American/Black
__Mexican American/Chicano
__Asian American/Pacific Islander
__Caucasian American/White
__Other (Please specify)_____________________________________
6. Which category best describes your family's income?
__Less than $25,000 ___Between $75,001 and $100,000
__Between $25,001 and $50,000 ___More than $100,000
__Between $50,001 and $75,000 ___I do not know
7. Which school sponsored activities do you regularly participate in:
_____School athletic team(s)
_____Student government
_____After school club(s)
_____Other (please describe)
None of the above.
8. Who do you live with most often:
_____biological mother and biological father
_____biological mother and step-father
_____step-mother and biological father
_____mother only
_____father only
_____other (briefly describe)
51


BIBLIOGRAPHY
Asher, S.R., Parker, J.G., & Walker, D.L. (1996). Distinguishing friendship from
acceptance: Implications for the intervention and assessment. In W.M.
Bukowski, A.F. Newcomb, & W.W. Hartup (Eds.) The Company They Keep.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Babbie, E., & Halley, F. (1998). Adventures in Social Research: Data Analysis Using
SPSS for Windows 95. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press.
Baumrind, D. (1971). Current patterns of parental authority. Developmental
Psychology Monographs, (4)(2, Pt. 2).
Bemdt, T.J. (1996). Exploring the effects of friendship quality on social
development. In W.M. Bukowski, A.F. Newcomb, & W.W. Hartup (Eds.)
The Company They Keep. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bemdt, T.J., & Keefe, K. (1995). Friends influence on adolescents adjustment to
school. Child Development, 66,1312-1329.
Bemdt, T.J., Laychak, A.E., & Park, K. (1990). Friends influence on adolescents
academic motivation: An experimental study. Journal of Educational
Psychology, 82, 664-670.
Brown, B.B. (1989). The role of peer groups in adolescents adjustment to secondary
school. In T.J. Bemdt & G.W. Ladd (Eds.) Peer Relationships in Child
Development, (pp. 188-215). New York: Wiley.
Buri, J.R. (1991). Parental Authority Questionnaire. Journal of Personality
Assessment, 57,110-119.
Buri, J.R., Kirchner, P.A., & Walsh, J.M. (1987). Familial correlates of self-esteem
in American young adults. Journal of Social Psychology, 127, 583-588.
Buri, J.R., Louiselle, P.A., Misukkanis, T.M., & Mueller, R.A. (1988). Effects of
parental authoritarianism and authoritativeness on self-esteem. Personality,
and Social Psychology Bulletin, 14, 271-282.
52


Buri, J.R., Murphy, P., Richtsmeier, L.M., & Komar, K.K. (1992). Stability of
parental nurturance as a salient predictor of self-esteem. Psychological
Reports, 71, 535-543.
Chiu, L.H. (1990). The relationship of career goal and self-esteem among
adolescents. Adolescence, 25 (99), 593-597.
Coopersmith, S. (1967). The Antecedents of Self-Esteem. San Francisco: Freeman.
Coopersmith, S. (1989). Self-Esteem Inventories. Palo Alto: Consulting
Psychologists Press, Inc.
Filozof, E.M., Albertin, H.K., Jones, C.R., Sterne, S.S., Myers, L., & McDermott, RJ.
(1998). Relationship of adolescent self-esteem to selected academic variables.
Journal of School Health, 68 (2), 68-72.
Fitts, W.H. (1965). Tennessee Self-Concept Scale. Los Angeles: Western
Psychological Services.
Gecas, V. (1982). The Self-Concept. Annual Review of Sociology, 8,1-33.
Gecas, V., & Schwalbe, M.L. (1986). Parental behavior and adolescent self-esteem.
Journal of Marriage and the Family, 48,37-46.
Gecas, V., & Seff, M. (1990). Families and Adolescents: A review of the 1980s.
Journal of Marriage and the Family, (52), 941-958.
Hare, B. (1977). Racial and socioeconomical variation in pre-adolescent area-
specific and general self-esteem. International Journal of Intercultural
Relations, 3,
31-51.
Harter, S. (1990). Self and identity development. In S.S. Feldman & G.R. Elliott
(Eds.) At the Threshold: The Developing Adolescent, (pp. 352-387).
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Harter, S., Walter, P., & Whitesell, N.R. (1998). Relational self-worth: Differences in
perceived worth as a person across interpersonal contexts among adolescents.
Child Development, 69 (3), 756-766.
53


Hoffman, M.A., Levy-Shiff, R., & Ushpiz, V. (1993). Moderating effects of
adolescent social orientation on the relation between social support and self-
esteem. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 22 (1) 23-31.
Kaplan, H.B. (1986). Social Psychology of Self-Referent Behavior. New York:
Plenum Press.
Lackovic-Grgin, K., & Dekovic, M. (1990). The contribution of significant others to
adolescents self-esteem. Adolescence, 25, 839-846.
Lackovic-Grgin, K., Dekovic, M., & Opacic, G. (1994). Pubertal status, interaction
with significant others, and self-esteem of adolescent girls. Adolescence, 29,
691-700.
McCormick, C., & Kennedy, J. (1994). Parent-Child attachment working models and
self-esteem in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 23,1-18.
McKay, M., & Fanning, P. (1987). Self-Esteem. Oakland: New Harbinger.
Nielsen, D., & Metha, A. (1994). Parental behavior and adolescent self-esteem in
clinical and non-clinical samples. Adolescence, 29, 525-542.
Rosenberg, M. (1989). Society and the Adolescent Self-Image. Middletown:
Wesleyan University Press.
Shoemaker, A.L. (1980). Construct validity of area-specific self-esteem: the Hare
self-esteem scale. Educational Psychology Measurement, 40,495-501.
54