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Self Esteem In Adolescents And Gender Differences

The purpose of this study was to investigate the levels of self esteem in Indian adolescents. The study sample was 60 participants that were selected by the random selection method. They were taken from various educational institutions from Hyderabad. Participants completed a Rosenberg self esteem scale that had ten questions about evaluating their overall self and the choices ranged from strong agree to strongly disagree. T-test was calculated between the two groups which were males and females. The results showed insignificant results, which showed that there was no difference in the levels of self esteem between the two groups. Although when the individual means of the genders were found, it turned out that females had higher levels of self esteem then males. Unlike other studies which showed that boys have higher self esteem then girls, this study revealed that there are no differences in the level of self esteem between them.

Self Esteem In Adolescents and Gender Differences

The way one looks at oneself plays a very important role in an individual life, everybody has a humanistic characteristic which is self esteem. Self Esteem can be defined as an individual’s attitude about himself or herself, involving self evaluation along a positive, negative dimension (Baron & Byrne).Generally self esteem is referred as a positive evaluation of ones self in all aspects, overall (Rosenberg, 1990; Rosenberg, carmie & Carrie, 1995). Self-concept and self-esteem are the most widely used words; there are other ways to think about the self too. Self generally refers to ones conscious reflection of identity or ones own being, as an object separate from others or from the environment. Self concept being a cognitive or thinking aspect of self is mostly referred to totality of a complex, organized, and dynamic system of learned beliefs, attitudes and opinions that each individual hold to be true about his or her personal existence (Purkey,1988). Self-esteem is commonly defined as an individual’s sense of self-worth (Baumeister, 1993; Bolognini, Plancherel, Bettschart, & Halfon, 1996; Ponsoda, Abad, Francis, & Hills, 2008) This perception of the self can include evaluations that are both positive and negative, and can also incorporate specific aspects of the self as well as a global sense of well-being (Quatman & Watson, 2001; Wilgenbusch & Merrell, 1999).

Harter (1990a) defined self-esteem as "how much a person likes, accepts, and respects himself [sic] overall as a person" (p. 255). He presented two different views on self esteem: the first one is from William James who viewed self esteem as a ratio of a persons perceived success in a particular area to the importance that the person attaches to that area. The second is that Horton Cooley, he considered self esteem as an originating with the persons perception as to how significant others viewed the self. Two under self esteem there are two types: High self esteem and low self esteem. Low self esteem usually leads to little positive and ambivalent feelings, whereas high self esteem leads to love for one self and fondness. In extreme cases people with low esteem hate themselves, which is very rare. It occurs in clinical populations not in normal people (Baumeister, Tice, Hutton, 1989).

Research conducted in Indian context suggests that problems like socio emotional problems like loneliness, adjustment difficulties with parents and interpersonal conflicts are very common in adolescence which may lead to impaired feelings of Self esteem (Parmar P et al 2008). In cultures that tend to be more individualistic, for example the United States, the whole process surrounding self-esteem in popular and academic areas is that all individuals possess a self, and therefore, self-esteem. In nations with individuated cultural values, "the individual has a right and responsibility, in fact a moral obligation, to become separate, autonomous, efficacious, and in control" (Heine 760). When compared to individualist nations, collectivist cultures, such as Japan, appreciate and honor the interdependent self. The interdependent self is considered to be most complete when the individual is seen as functioning in smooth manner within a larger, more encompassing collective (Heine 1999).

Adolescence

A period of development marked by the onset of puberty and the stage where one attains physiological or biological maturity is Adolescence. However the term adolescence Is less precise because the onset of puberty and the attainment of physiological or biological maturity are impossible to define or specify exactly (Reber, 1995). Adolescence was not perceived as such a unique stage in the previous stages of life in the earlier centuries. distinct; individuals simply moved from childhood into young adulthood. Middle class arises then through the industrial revolution allowed many teens to remain out of work, labor force; therefore education became very important (Henslin 1973). As a result of all the changes that surrounded those times, the term adolescence was created to indicate the gap between childhood and young adulthood (Henslin 1973).

Sociologists like Charles Cooley (1902) and Herbert Mead (1934) expanded upon earlier studies in the psychosocial development of the self. These scholars and other symbolic interaction theorists stressed the way the self is socially constructed in result to interaction, based on people's shared understandings of social roles, rules, symbols, and categories. Following this symbolic integrationist’s line of reasoning, the social construction of self, then, for immigrant adolescent girls and boys, is based on people's shared understandings of social roles, rules, symbols, and categories. These roles are played by parents, peers and teachers.

According to Arnett there are many factors in an adolescences life that can have an impact on their self esteem for example school, peer, and family (Arnett, 2004). In his view adolescents self esteem is when their capacity to evaluate their fundamentals as a person (Arnett, 2007). There are various factors that affect the various levels of self esteem in adolescents such as gender, ethnicity, social class etc. as all human beings are different it can also vary from person to person ; in different domains like social, scholastic, athletics’, appearance, and general conduct an adolescent may have different levels of self esteem (Actforyouth, 2003).

The ages which are considered to be part of adolescents vary by culture, geography and other variables. According to the World Health Organization adolescence covers a period of 10-19 years. The values of the large social structure are intrinsically transmitted into adolescents and are derived from it; therefore it is important to study adolescent self esteem (Greenberg et al, 1913). Although previous studies have investigated the role of self esteem in adolescents, little has been to examine whether there are differences between various cultures. Self esteem has been considered to be one of the most common concepts of research in Social Psychology (Buamester, 1993; Wells & Marwell, 1976; W Ylie, 1979). Much of the research and theory conducted on self esteem and self concept is based on western cultures and populations and studies on various other cultures is expanding. . Everybody is different individually and personality wise, so does this even imply on various cultures, different population? There have been numerous studies conducted to discover just that: is there a gender difference in self-esteem during adolescence among various populations?

Gender and Self Esteem

Being in India one understands how important gender plays in their daily lives. Usually men are considered to be the higher authority and most of the time they are being obeyed. Even when a child is born , gender is the first thing that is looked at. If it’s a boy everyone is usually elated, but if it’s a girl then a little disappointed. But in today’s context a lot of Indians are opening up and trying to get rid of the evil gender differences.

Gilbert (1992) states, "Gender refers not only to biological sex but also to the psychological, social, and cultural features and characteristics that have become strongly associated with the biological categories of female and male" (p. 385).

Erik H. Erikson believed that adolescence represents a crucial turning point in the development of an individual in the sense of an identity. The three physical, social and cognitive changes lead to certain questions, for example “who am I”. These types of questions lead to frequent soul searching. This type of behavior leads to insecurity and uncertainty which indirectly promotes conformity into ones “gender Intensification” or gender role. In the early adolescent period, boys may try to enact the macho role models and they can be quite homophobic, on the other hand girls may be more the fashion side, sticking to strict dress codes and playing with their intellectual abilities. The timing of puberty can also play a significant factor for adolescent gender development. For girls they are more prone to encounter social difficulties when they mature early, but for the boys it’s the opposite. According to research a large component of self esteem is satisfaction with psychical appearance; girls seem to have greater dissatisfaction with physical appearance than doo boys (Harter, 1990, 1999).

Albert Bandura developed the Social learning theory which emphasizes the importance of children's imitation of the behavior of others (models). His theory highlight on how children learn from their parents by observing them, boys especially from their fathers and girls learn from imitating female, their mothers. When children imitate same-sex behaviors, they are rewarded, but imitating the other sex may carry the threat of punishment. Although the research indicates that most parents value the same behaviors for their sons and daughters, some rewards or punishments are given on the basis of gender typing, particularly during play. This is even more true for boys than for girls, with fathers being the most strict if, for example, they observe their sons playing with Barbie dolls or sporting red fingernail polish. Research in the Theories of gender differences are still in the early stages of development and empirical research is only limited. Bem states that Gender is culturally and socially constructed in the society. Socialization is the lifelong process for an individual by a society's made values and norms, including those referring to gender, are taught and learned (Renzetti & Curran, 1958). Gender schema theory by Bem argues that as children learn appropriate cultural definitions of gender, those definitions becomes the key structure for them around which all other information is organized (Bem, 1981).

In tradition self esteem has been viewed as global, unidirectional and independent of source influence like individuals and contextual factors, specifically the impact which arises due to relationships with significant others (Du Bois DL. Hirsch BJ, 2000). Erik H. Erikson divided the development of personality into eight stages over the lifespan; each stage is characterized by its own possible outcomes and its own crisis. (1) trust vs. mistrust; (2) autonomy vs. shame and doubt; (3) initiative vs. guilt; (4) industry vs. inferiority; (5) identity vs. role confusion; (6) intimacy vs. isolation; (7) generativity vs. stagnation; and (8) integrity vs. despair. According to Erikson all these conflicts in the stages arise because of two factors which are societal and maturational: these factors make new demands on an individual and each conflict or crisis must be sorted out before an individual is prepared to proceed to the next stage. He believed that these stages were the psychosocial stages of development emphasizing that social and cultural factor play an important role in personality development. This was different from Freud, he emphasized psychosexual development. Erickson stressed on the point that that the sequence of the psychosocial stages were the same Invariant across all the cultures, but the ways all the individuals from different cultures met each of the conflict was different. He also highlighted the fact that historical factors, the unique time of the larger societies affected the formation of an individuals personality, formation which is across lifespan.

Everyone from parents to teachers are concerned about students self esteem, its significance is often viewed as low self esteem being bad which causes all evil and high self esteem is the cause of all good (Manning, Bear & Minke, 2006) Adolescents are prone to experimenting; therefore they become a good sample to measure. This study also examines the gender differences in self esteem. Some theorists have supported the idea that adolescence is a difficult and stressful period (Bios, 1962; Erikson, 1950). Studies have shown that adolescent girls tend to have lower self-esteem and more negative assessments of their physical characteristics and intellectual abilities than boys have. These findings may explain why the incidence of suicide attempts, depression, and eating disorders is substantially higher in girls.

The relationships between self-esteem and other variables have been researched extensively. self esteem is often related to anxiety, depression, general satisfaction and motivation with ones life (Harter, 1986; Rosenberg, 1986) Low self-esteem has been correlated with low life satisfaction, loneliness, anxiety, resentment, irritability, and depression (Rosenberg, 1985). Past researches found s correlation between high self esteem and perceived intimacy with parents (Blyth & Traeger, 1988). Others show that high self esteem has been correlated with academic success in high school (O'Malley & Bachman, 1979), internal locus of control, higher family income, and positive sense of self-attractiveness (Griffore, Kallen, Popovich, & Powell, 1990). Another variable which has been studied with self esteem is Exercising.

Self esteem among children and adolescents is a constant topic discussed in both professional and personal spheres of life. In fact, gender differences in teenager years in self esteem are avery widely featured stereotypes and they are popular to and for some time, accepted without actual support from empirical evidence. Such an ambiguous which is so extensively talked about leads to an unclear picture of how adolescents view themselves. Self esteem remains to be the most researched topic in psychology, receives a lot of attention. The most heard and common stereotype is that boys have higher self-esteem then girls (Wilgenbusch & Merrell, 1999). Girls are generally seen as a weak link, which is insecure and easily swayed by the mass media and peers.

Looking at the past researches, higher levels of self-esteem have been associated with better coping skills, emotional stability, positive affect, and an increased improvement in quality of life perceptions. On the other hand, lower levels of self-esteem have been known to encourage anxiety, depression and criminal behavior which are all emotional and behavioral disorders. (Quatman & Watson, 2001)

Past researches suggested that an African American adolescent is comparable to if not greater than that of ethnic majority peers (Harter, 1999). For instance, white girls appeared to be most vulnerable to a fall in low self esteem in adolescence when compared to any other group (Harter, 1999). A study conducted by Donahue and Benson (1995) revealed that, self esteem as a predictor of social problems in the researches psychological and social development. According to Holly (1987), self esteem is influenced by child rearing practices, culture, achievement related attributions, various interactions with teachers and parents. Adolescent is a period of turmoil in which childrens self esteem increases and is highly influenced by surroundings, environment. women are always conditioned in a way to suffer low self esteem and inferior status, in Indian culture women had always been held high in self esteem throughout many ages and they have also been worshipped. With these fast changing times gender perceptions seem to be a societal construct, these are dependent upon socio-cultural practices in which the children, youth and adult grow up (NIHFW, 2005).

The results of research in the past by Yabiku et al 1999 found that children have higher self esteem when their parents are loving, supportive and deeply involved in their lives. Self esteem has also been found to have a direct correlation with, quality and strength of a parent-child relationship. Children with families who have poor communication tend to have low self esteem and trouble finding their own identity (Nunley, 1996).

There have also been studies that show in the past that address the question whether self esteem changes over time, they have produced conflicting results. Some research has shown that self-esteem rises during adolescence and early adulthood (Bachman, O'Malley, & Johnston, 1978; Cairns, McWhirter, Duffy, & Barry, 1990; Chiam, 1987; Labouvie, Pandina, White, & Johnson, 1990; McCarthy & Hoge, 1982; O'Malley & Bachman, 1983).

Cindy Carlson et al (2000) conducted a study in America on Ethnic differences, the mean levels and sources of global self-esteem for Hispanic, African American, and White early adolescent girls were examined. The data was from survey administered to students in attendance at three public middle schools. The techniques used were Path analytic to assess processes that contribute to self-esteem. High self esteem was predicted for all ethnic groups by authoritative parenting and perceived teacher support and related inversely to family stress. The significant predictor in the study was the Ethnic identity among the minority girls. Hispanic girls reported significantly lower self-esteem, which appeared to be related to lower overall scores on the predictor variables. Results are discussed in terms of the theoretical importance of ethnic identity and reflected appraisals from teachers as factors contributing to self-esteem among minority youth, along with the need for additional research on Hispanic girls.

Past research in Nigeria, investigates the influence of gender differences on the expression on self esteem among Youruba adolescents. Their sample consisted of 120 adolescents, 60 males and 60 females, with a mean age of 16.02 years (S.D.=1.63), the results reveal that male adolescents express higher self-esteem than female adolescents. This finding is attributed to the differing socialization processes for males and females in Yoruba societies.

Kearney-Cooke A. presented a study in which they sought to understand gender differences in adolescent self-esteem in terms of its component parts. As predicted by them boys attained slightly higher global self-esteem scores that girls did, by a difference of 22 standard deviation units. A study performed in Puerto Rico by Sumru Erkut et al on Puerto Rican girls and boys their mean levels of self-esteem were generally similar to those found among Harter's sample of predominantly Anglo middle school students from the suburbs of Denver except that Puerto Rican youth did not show gender differences in overall self-esteem. . Gender differences in mean levels of self-esteem in different domains were similar to those of Anglo youth, regardless of the Puerto Rican youth's individual level of psychological or behavioral acculturation. When differences by acculturation emerged, psychological acculturation appeared to play a more protective role for girls (Hispanic- or Latino-oriented girls reported being better behaved and having greater confidence in their scholastic abilities) and behavioral acculturation operated as a risk factor for boys (boys with preference for English reported low Behavioral Conduct and Scholastic Competence scores). On the other hand, greater acculturation (both psychological and behavioral) was associated with girls' lower confidence in their physical attractiveness. Finally, the structure of self-esteem varied by gender, and psychological and behavioral acculturation.

It is necessary to be aware of the distinctions between Western and Eastern cultures because they are instructive for understanding the self-processes, but it should also be pointed out that there is considerable variation within each culture regarding self-processes. For example, within the United States and other Western countries women are more likely to have an interdependent self-concept and they consider themselves at a certain being and men are more likely to emphasize an independent self-concept (Markus and Oyserman 1989).

It is important to acknowledge that most of the theories of adolescent development are based on research with a limited population: primarily white, male subjects (Gilbert, 1992; Gilligan, 1988; Hare-Mustin & Marecek, 1990; Kaschak, 1992; Richardson & Johnson, 1984).

In a study by Emda Orr and Batia Dinur (1993) in Israel on the effect of two multidimensional systems—namely, social setting and the self—upon adolescents' growth and development. They hypothesized that gender differences in adult social status are greater in the kibbutz than in the Israeli urban setting, and that this gap is associated with gender differences in global self-esteem among kibbutz youth. Kibbutz mothers were found to have significantly lower social status than fathers, while kibbutz girls had significantly lower self-esteem than kibbutz boys and urban adolescents of both sexes. The organization of the self-concept of kibbutz females differed from the other groups: self-esteem was predicted not only from self-concepts in the domains of scholastic achievement and peer support, but also from the domain of parental support, from academic achievement, and from father's occupational status. Literature on the subject of self esteem in adolescents and gender differences has revealed different results for adolescents belonging to different cultures and backgrounds. These results show different dimensions as they are culturally different. For the current study based on previous literature we hypothesized that there boys have higher levels of self esteem then girls.

Method

Participants

The sample comprised of 60 respondents (males=30 females=30) from various educational institutions from Hyderabad aged 13-19 (adolescents), 16 percent of the sample were 13 &14 year olds, 11 percent were 15years old, 28percent were 16 year olds, 25percent were17years old, 20 percent were 18 years old. The subjects were from various economics statuses but it was not as diverse, 30 percent belonged to the upper class, 25 percent were from the Upper middle class and 46.6 percent from the middle class. The sample also consisted of adolescents from various different religions such as Hindus which consisted of 31 percent, Jains were 5 percent, Sikh were 1 percent and subjects belonging to Christianity were 6 percent. The majority out of the sample were Muslims who constituted 53 percent.

Measures

Self-esteem is defined as “a positive or negative orientation toward oneself; an overall evaluation of one’s worth or value” (University of Maryland, 2004). The instrument used for the study was Rosenberg’s Self Esteem Scale (1965). The Rosenberg self esteem scale consists of ten questions that address questions which pertain to ones feelings about him/her. The Rosenberg self esteem scale takes approximately 8 minutes to complete. The scale consists ten questions which is a form of the likert scale. The questions require the subjects to respond with one choice out of four, ranging from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’. The scores on Rosenberg’s self esteem scale range from 10 to 40. A high score on the scale for the survey points out that the participant feels that he or she is a person of value and is worthy of self-respect. A low score on this scale indicates the feelings of self-rejection, self-dissatisfaction, and self-contempt (James, n.d.) Rosenberg has not specifically mentioned any cutoff for the scores to distinguish between high and low self esteem. Generally, researchers considered 15-25 to be the normal.

This scale is known to generally have high reliability and test-retest correlation in the range of .82 to.88, and Cronbach’s alpha for various samples are in the range of .77 to .88 (Owens, 2001;University of Maryland, 2004; Wells & Marwell, 1976). This scale was developed mostly to test adolescents (Rosenberg, 1965). The Rosenberg Self Esteem scale is the most widely used scale in research and practice due to its administration ease, brief properties, good reliability and validity.

Procedure

The participants were selected on the basis of random sampling method. An informed consent was taken from all the participants who agreed to participate in the survey. On the consent form clear description of the study was stated. At the same time they were allowed to quit the any time if they wanted to. The participation was completely voluntary and not forced in any way. However the participants could not be compensated due to the economic constraints of the researcher

Results

The hypothesis was that boys have higher levels of self esteem, the results are insignificant. Therefore the hypothesis stated has been rejected. The analysis failed to confirm our hypothesis, showing that there was no significant difference in the levels of self esteem between the genders. Although the results show that there are no differences in the levels of means between the genders in adolescents. The mean is used to compute the average; it is basically the sum of all the values of the items in a series divided by the items. of the two groups are -1.73. A t-test is any statistical hypothesis test in which the test statistic follows a Student's t distribution if the null hypothesis is true. To find the result T-test was applied. The t-value, t = 1.7148 and df = 58 and the Standard error of difference is 1.011.

Showing the statistical value of the two genders.

Figure 1

Group

Male

Female

Mean

20.13

21.87

SD

3.76

4.07

SEM

0.69

0.74

N

30

30

Discussion

The results show that the difference in the levels of self esteem in Indian adolescents is quite insignificant. There is no difference in both the genders level of self esteem. There is not Much research done on this. Interestingly if one looks at the individual results of both the groups of genders then the mean of female is 21.87 where as the mean of male adolescents is 20.13. This implies that the mean of the level of self esteem in girls is higher then that of boys. Out of 60 subjects who participated in the study only 6 percent had low self esteem and 92 percent of the subjects had high self esteem. In most of the researches conducted on the gender differences in self esteem, the results have shown that female adolescents have lower self esteem when compared to males.

The study clearly specifies that there is no difference even though the results are insignificant. Since one is trying to find out whether there are differences in the level of self esteem in various adolescents around the world: looking at the research which has been conducted in the Nigerian adolescents, the results show that females have lower self esteem levels, here there could be pointed out that Indian adolescents showed no difference in their levels of self esteem. Another study by Kearney-Cooke A in America showed that that adolescent girls tend to have lower self-esteem and more negative assessments of their physical characteristics and intellectual abilities than boys have.

There is a general assumption that where one lives has an impact on the individuals overall development, this is leading to say that everyone is different and unique and that when looking at adolescents and self esteem it is varied. Meaning that the study is trying to prove that Indian adolescents are different. Their levels of self esteem, and that the levels of self esteem between boys an girls is not much different. One can see the results of Quatman & Watsons research in which they sought to understand the gender differences in adolescents self esteem with other components, their results showed that boys attained slightly higher global self-esteem scores that girls did, by a difference of 22 standard deviation units.

Implications

Even though we did not find a significant result for the study, we could see the individual group results of the genders showed girls having higher levels of self esteem. The so hyped stereotype that boys have higher levels of self esteem has been proved wrong in this study. It could also be implied that adolescents from various cultures, populations are different. Perhaps the society needs to be less strict on gender related self esteem. However if people keep a less biased environment for their children then there wont be any differences. Wide population, limited research on Indian adolescents.

Limitations

The sample just included 60 adolescents (30=males 30=female) using random sampling selection. If there could be a larger sample number maybe the study would of showed significant results. Another aspect of this study is, as the researcher is trying to show that there are no differences in adolescent’s level of self esteem between genders, and then when comparing with the other researches should be very detailed. For example the type of scale used the instruments and etc. Even though our study was a good representation from the adolescent population, it did not show a good representation of the socio-economic status. Since religion also plays an important part in a individuals life other researches could take a equal distribution of subjects.

Suggestions for further research include a careful collection of sample and also a more detailed study regarding self esteem on a Global Stage.

Conclusions

The present study focused on whether there is a difference in the levels of self esteem in adolescents in genders and also whether the general stereotype that males have higher level of self esteem then girls. The study is contrary to findings in literature. There was no significant association between the levels of self esteem between the genders. many factors must be discussed. Firstly, clear definitions must be made in order to integrate multiple viewpoints on the topic.

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