INTRODUCTION Self-esteem, a person’s positive or negative evaluation of him- or herself, has been recognized as a predictor of social problems in the recent research of psychological and social development (Donahue & Benson, 1995; Mecca, Smelser, & Vasconcellos, 1989; Mruk, 1995). Past research studies have found direct links between low self-esteem and substance abuse, unprotected sex, criminal behaviors, particular personality disorders, depression, and suicide. Self-esteem can be used to predict possible occurrences of depression (Mruk, 1995; Nunley, 1996). In view of the fact that the link between self-esteem and depression/suicide could have fatal consequences, this research study wished to further investigate self-esteem. Researchers who study suicide assert that when the protective shield of self-esteem is low, depression is more likely to sneak in (Mruk, 1995). Extreme cases of low self-esteem can be deadly because depressed adolescents are especially prone to considering the option of suicide and following through with it (Mruk, 1995; Nunley, 1996). Some research that estimates that up to 5% of adolescents experience the symptoms of depression and severe depression occurs in “one in fifty school children” (Nunley, 1996). Currently suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents between the ages of 15-24, four times what it was twenty-five years ago (Donahue & Benson, 1995; Nunley, 1996).Because of the high correlation between low self-esteem and depression and the resulting risk of suicide among today’s adolescents, more research needs to be done on self-esteem and other factors that might correlate to it. Because social identity and social context have been linked to self-esteem, the current study considered the relationship religiosity and family support have with self-esteem (Mecca et al., 1989; Mruk, 1995). Past research on the relationship between religiosity and self-esteem has come up with a variety of results. Some research studies, such as that of Bahr and Martin who tested high-school students, indicate that only a very slight relationship exists between religiosity and self-esteem (Hyde, 1990). Donahue and Benson (1995) reviewed recent religiosity research literature such as The Troubled Journey report, which based the conclusions of its correlational study on a nationally representative sample of 34,129 participants. The Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behaviors survey was given to students in public schools in 32 states to assess such variables as their family support, internal motivation, stress, self-esteem, prosocial behaviors, and risky behaviors. The religiosity of the students was evaluated by a three-question survey that asked how many hours per week they spent at religious services/groups, what was the frequency of their attendance, and how important religion was in their lives. The researchers concluded that religiosity had a negative correlation with drug abuse, premarital sex, suicide ideation, suicide attempts, and criminal behavior but it had only a very small positive correlation (.08) with self-esteem. It seems surprising that a stronger correlation between religiosity and self-esteem was not found since other research has reported conclusions that a negative correlation exists between self-esteem and drug abuse, unprotected sex, depression, suicide, and criminal behaviors (Mruk, 1995; Nunley, 1996), which are the same behaviors that have a negative correlation with religiosity according to Donahue and Benson. It seems logical to conclude that since both religiosity and self-esteem are related to the same behaviors there would be a relationship between religiosity and self-esteem. Therefore, the current study proposed to study the correlation between religiosity and self-esteem. Still other studies indicate a significant relationship between religiosity and self-esteem. In a book by Hyde (1990) the conclusions of the following research studies were cited. The juniors in high school that participated in the research study of Moore and Stoner presented data that demonstrated that self-esteem and religiosity are considerably connected for males but not for females. Habib found that the more religious students in Cairo universities also had higher self-esteem compared to the less religious students. A meaningful correlation also existed between self-esteem and Jewish identity in a study by Tabachnik. Because of the inconsistency of these conclusions, this research study attempts to provide more data and results to better evaluate the accuracy of past conclusions. There exists a great deal of research that concludes that family support is also a major influence on self-esteem. One study analyzed group data of the family structure, function, and support of 913 mothers and their 1-year-old children and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale scores of the children at 24 years of age. They concluded that children have higher self-esteem when their parents are loving, supportive, and deeply involved in their lives (Yabiku, Axinn, and Thornton, 1999). In a web article expressing the need for concern about low self-esteem and depression in adolescence, Nunley (1996) reported that children with high self-esteem typically have parents who are receptive to new ideas, promote their children to create their own views and ideas, and provide their children with the support they need to explore their views and ideas. Self-esteem has been found to have a direct correlation with the quality and strength of parent-child relationships. Children from families with poor communication methods or dysfunctional families tend to have low self-esteem and trouble founding their own identity (Nunley, 1996). Niolon (1999), in reviewing research on the effects of being in a dysfunctional family on children, stated that because dysfunctional families have elevated amounts of stress and conflict children in these families demonstrate low self-esteem and are at a particular risk of suffering from depression.A study done in Australia on the correlation between children’s perspective of family cohesion and their self-esteem involved 467 fifth and sixth graders from six private schools. The Coppersmith Self-Esteem Inventory and the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale were used to measure the children’s self-esteem. The researchers designed and used a Child and Family Questionnaire to evaluate the children’s happiness in the family and perception of family conflict. The Family Cohesion Index was also designed and used to determine the children’s perception of family closeness, which could be used to infer family support. This study found that the amount of perceived family conflict and self-esteem were negatively correlated. The children who felt that their families were unsupportive had the lowest self-esteem (Copper, Holman, & Braithwaite, 1983). This study did not investigate this relationship in adolescents who are especially at risk for the social problems connected to low self-esteem (Mruk, 1995; Nunley, 1996). The current study seeks to research the correlation of family support and self-esteem in adolescents.In a recent study, Mandara and Murrey (2000) measured family functioning using the Family Environment Scale (FES), which includes a Moral-Religious subscale and other subscales such as Cohesion and Conflict, which are associated with family support. The participants of this study were fifteen-year old African American high school students (N=116) from Southern California. It was found that family functioning 90% of the time predicted self-esteem, which was measured by the Multi-Dimensional Self-Esteem Inventory (MDSEI). This study supports the theory that the quality of family functioning/support is directly related to the children’s self-esteem. Even though one’s self forms according to experiences and relationships with family, school, work, etc, it is really a person’s perception of these experiences and relationships that have a greater impact on one’s self-esteem (Mecca et al., 1989). Although most of this research clearly stated that family support is directly related to self-esteem, many of these studies were not done on perceived family support. The study done by Mandara and Murrey that examined perceived family support had a major limitation: all the participants were fifteen-year-old African Americans (Mandara & Murrey, 2000). This research study investigates perceived family support in a multiracial, multiethnic population.Research on self-esteem’s correlation to religiosity and to family support has produced some important findings but still leaves some conclusions open to more research. This study endeavored to provide more data and information to clarify and modify preexisting conclusions. The purpose of this study was to determine the correlation religiosity and perceived family support have with self-esteem in adolescents. It was hypothesized that if an individual’s level of religiosity was high then his or her self-esteem would also be higher than those individuals with low levels of religiosity. It was also hypothesized that if an individual’s level of perceived family support was high then his or her self-esteem would also be higher than those individuals with low levels of perceived family support.
There were 94 participants, including 32 males and 62 females. The participants were adolescent high school students ranging from age 14-18. The sample consisted of 2 fourteen-year-olds, 9 fifteen-year-olds, 32 sixteen-year-olds, 32 seventeen-year-olds, and 19 eighteen-year-olds. The participants represented all racial/ethnic groups. Convenience sampling was used. The participants were recruited from one private high school, two public high schools, and one non-denominational church youth group in Louisiana. Some participants volunteered to be in the study. Others received extra credit in the class in which the study was conducted. Because participants were minors and the study was conducted in the schools and a church, written parental consent and written principal consent was obtained prior to participation in the research study.
Previous to conducting the study, the principals and youth group leader signed approval letters allowing data to be collected from their students and youth group members. Before participating in the study, students were given a letter and a consent form for their parents. Both parents and students signed the consent form. On the day of the actual study, the consent forms were collected. Then the researcher handed out a packet of surveys to each participant. The packet included a demographic questionnaire that asked for the participant’s age and gender, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Appendix A), an investigator designed Religiosity Scale (Appendix B), and the Perceived Social Support Family Scale (Appendix C) which were used to measure the participants’ levels of self-esteem, religiosity, and perceived family support, respectively. The demographic questionnaire asked for the participant’s age and gender. The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, which was initially created to measure self-esteem of high school students (Mecca et al., 1989), is a ten item survey with a four option Likert scale that ranges from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree” (University of Maryland, 2000). A high score on this survey indicates that the participant feels he or she a person of value who is worthy of self-respect (Mecca et al., 1989; Mruk, 1995). A low score on this survey indicates the feelings of “self-rejection, self-dissatisfaction, and self-contempt” (Mruk, 1995). The primary investigators of this study developed a Religiosity Scale, which consisted of five questions with a six option Likert scale. The survey asks questions concerning the level of the participant’s religious beliefs, religious activity, and religious service attendance. (See Appendix B for complete survey.) Our religiosity scale was modeled after the one used in a 1977 study done by Gladding, who later went on to develop the Gladding, Lewis, Adkins Scale of Religiosity (GLASR) (Gladding, 1977; Gladding, Lewis, & Adkins, 1981). The survey Gladding used in his study had only two questions: (1) I attend church at least once a month; (2) I am a religious person. Gladding cited a validity study done by Spilka, Read, Allen, and Dailey in 1968 that showed that these questions measured the religiosity just as well as a more complex survey. From this information, it was reasoned that this religiosity scale would also accurately measure the participants’ levels of religiosity (Gladding, 1977). Procidano and Heller (1983) developed the Perceived Social Support Family Scale (PSS-Fa). It is a twenty item survey with the response options of “Yes”, “No”, and “ Don’t Know”. The answers that signify perceived social support were scored as one point each so that the highest possible score was 20.
This study was a non-experimental correlational study that looked at the relationship between self-esteem, religiosity, and perceived family support. Self-esteem in this study was defined according to Rosenberg as “a positive or negative attitude toward a particular object, namely, the self” (Mruk, 1995). Self-esteem was operationalized as the score from 10 to 40 on Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale with 40 signifying the highest self-esteem score (University of Maryland, 2000). Religiosity was defined as an individual’s level of religious beliefs, religious activity, and religious service attendance. Religiosity was operationalized as the score from 5 to 30 on the Religiosity Scale with 30 signifying the highest level of religiosity. Perceived family support was defined as “the extent to which an individual believes that his/her needs for support, information, and feedback are fulfilled” by his/her family. Perceived family support was operationalized as the score from 0 to 20 on the Perceived Social Support Family Scale with 20 signifying the highest level of perceived family support (Procidano & Heller, 1983).Participants were tested in their high school classrooms or their youth group classroom. All of the participants were tested in classroom-like settings in order to control for any differences resulting from varied environments. The study took place at times convenient for the teachers or youth group leaders on weekdays and weekends between 7:00 am and 9:00 pm during Spring 2001. The primary investigators obtained written approval from the principals of the high schools and from the teachers whose students were the participants. The investigators also obtained written consent from the high school counselors and the youth pastor to inform the participants that they might contact these counselors if they feel they need to after participating in this study. The investigators requested the teachers/youth leader to announce to their classes/youth group that a project that wished to research the relationship between religiosity, family support, and self-esteem needed volunteers to participate in a study. Consent forms and information sheets providing details about the study were distributed to participants for them and their parents to read and sign. At the scheduled test time and before the tests were given, these forms were collected. Once consent had been obtained, the participants were handed a testing packet. They were asked to not put their names anywhere on the packet or the papers inside. The papers and packets were assigned code numbers. The participants were asked to provide information about their age and gender, and fill out 3 surveys: the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, a Religiosity Scale, and the Perceived Social Support Family Scale (Appendixes A-C). The surveys were administered in this same order to all participants so as to control for a possible carry over effect. Participants were allowed as much time as they needed to complete the surveys. Once all the participants were finished, the investigator debriefed them. The investigator reminded the participants that if for any reason they felt a need to talk about any feelings, which may have surfaced during their participation in this study, they could talk to their school counselor or youth pastor whose contact information was written on a paper that was handed out to them. The investigator also answered any questions they had and thanked them for participating in the study.
RESULTS The means and standard deviations of the variables: age, religiosity, self-esteem, and perceived family support are presented in Table 1. The Pearson correlations between each pair of variables are also displayed in Table 1. The first hypothesis, which predicted that religiosity and self-esteem would be positively related, was not supported by the correlation analysis. However, the correlation analysis did support the second hypothesis that perceived family support and self-esteem would have a positive correlation. This correlation (r(92) = .360, p = .000) was found to be statistically significant. It was also found that perceived family support and religiosity had a statistically significant correlation, (r(91) = .265, p = .010), indicating that these two variables have a strong positive relationship. An independent samples t-test was performed comparing the means of males and the means of females for religiosity, self-esteem, and family support. The variation between males’ religiosity mean (21.31) and females’ religiosity mean (24.69) was found to be statistically significant, (t(91) = -2.796, p = .006). This signified that generally females have higher levels of religiosity than do males. The difference between males’ self-esteem mean (33.22) and females’ self-esteem mean (31.26) was found to be close to being statistically significant, (t(92) = 1.865, p = .065), revealing that males typically have more self-esteem than females. The discrepancy between males’ perceived family support mean (13.66) and females’ perceived family support mean (13.90) was found to be nonsignificant, (t(92) = -0.205, p = .838). Overall, there is no difference between males’ and females’ levels of perceived family support.A regression analysis was done to find out how much variability in self-esteem scores could be accounted for by sex and perceived family support and if the amount of explained variability would significantly increase when including religiosity as one of the predictors. The regression analysis for sex and perceived family support predicting self-esteem provided an R2 = .182 indicating that that 18.2% of self-esteem variability was explained by those two variables. The regression analysis that included religiosity as one of the predictors gave an R2 = .188 and a F change(1,89) = .406 indicating that religiosity does not explain a significant amount of variability not already accounted for by sex and perceived family support.
Means, Standard Deviations, and Intercorrelations for Four Variables
Variable M SD SES Relig PSS-Fa Age
SES 31.93 4.89 Relig 23.53 5.73 .124 PSS-Fa 13.82 5.51 .360** .265* Age 16.61 .99 -.053 .016 -.055
Note. * p < .05. **p < .01. SES = Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale; Relig = Religiosity Scale; PSS-Fa = Perceived Social Support Family Scale.
DISCUSSION No significant correlation was found between religiosity and self-esteem thus the first hypothesis was not supported. These results were unlike those of The Troubled Journey report in which the correlation between religiousness and self-esteem was significant yet very small. One reason for the difference in correlation significance in these two studies was that The Trouble Journey study’s sample size was much larger than the one in the present study (Donahue & Benson, 1995). There is reason to believe that in actuality there may be a statistically significant correlation between religiosity and self-esteem, but it would be too small to consider practically significant.A possible explanation for this lack of correlation between religiosity and self-esteem might be that adolescents do not perceive their religion or spiritual beliefs to be an important part of their self-identity. Consequently, their views on religiosity and self-esteem do not influence each other. Another possibility is that adolescents with equal levels of religiosity may have different particular religious or spiritual beliefs that affect their self-esteem. Therefore, an adolescent’s level of religiosity alone is not enough to predict their self-esteem. The second hypothesis was supported by the significant positive correlation between perceived family support and self-esteem. These results are consistent with those of previous studies such as the one done by Copper, Holman, & Braithwaite (1983) that concluded that fifth and sixth grade children’s self-esteem was positively related to perceived family cohesion/support. The current study provides support for extending these conclusions about elementary school children to adolescents. The current research is also consistent with Mandara and Murrey’s (2000) study on the relationship between family functioning and self-esteem of fifteen-year-old African Americans. The current study’s results suggest that the conclusions about the fifteen-year-old African American students should be extended to all ages and all races of adolescents. There are several possible explanations for this relationship between perceived family support and self-esteem in adolescents. Because most adolescents must spend time daily in their family environment it is one of the most fundamental and central environments in their lives. One explanation might be that high family support provides adolescents with a sense of stability and security, which is very important during a time that can be very turbulent for some individuals. This sense of stability and security allows them to have a positive self-perception. Another possible explanation is that because of adolescents’ egocentric nature and tendency to internalize everything around them, those adolescents who do not perceive much support from their families interpret this to mean that they do not deserve this support because of their faults. There is also the possibility that optimistic adolescents perceive both their family support and their self-esteem positively and likewise pessimistic adolescents perceive both their family support and their self-esteem negatively. In addition to these findings, it was also found that male adolescents had higher self-esteem than their female counterparts. American society puts more pressure on females than on males to be perfect, especially in their much-focused on physical appearance. This might be an explanation for the unequal levels of self-esteem between the sexes. However, female adolescents had higher levels of religiosity than the males. Further research needs to be done to find out the explanation for this finding.A strength of this research study that is important to point out is that the sample used in the study included members of all major races/ethnicities and various religions. However, the fact that all of the adolescents were from Louisiana might have been a limitation in generalizing these conclusions to all adolescents in the United States. It was assumed that these variables would not be extremely different from one part of the country to another. The sample was not representative enough to generalize these conclusions to adolescents around the world. Another possible limitation is that study’s sample consisted of only 94 participants. These conclusions would be more generalizable if the sample size were larger.For further research, it is suggested that the sample be larger and include adolescents from various locations across the country so as to be more nationally representative. Perceived peer support, academic achievement, perceived physical security, socioeconomic status, and maturity are other possible variables to correlate with adolescent self-esteem in future research. It would also be suggested that future research investigate the reasons behind the correlations of these variables and self-esteem. This research study adds to the body of knowledge on the predictors of adolescent self-esteem. An individual adolescent’s level of self-esteem can be predicted if their sex and level of perceived family support is known. This is a correlational study and could not have been done as an experiment. However, if the explanation for the significant correlation between perceived family support and self-esteem happened to be that perceived family support influences self-esteem in some way, then increasing the amount of family support an adolescent receives and perceives will increase their self-esteem. If this is true then parents should be encouraged to provide their children with a large amount of support in order to raise their children’s self-esteems and lessen the likelihood that their children will fall prey to the antisocial behaviors associated with low self-esteem. Being able to predict which adolescents are at risk of having low self-esteem can also help school counselors, teachers, and others to be better able to anticipate and take preventive action against the possible problems that adolescents with low self-esteem are likely to have.
REFERENCES Cooper, J.E., Holman, J. & Braithwaite, V. A. (1983). Self-esteem and family cohesion: The child’s perspective. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 45, 153-159.Donahue, M. J., & Benson, P. L. (1995). Religion and the Well-Being of Adolescents. Journal of Social Issues, 51, 145-160.Hyde, K. E. (1990). Religion in Childhood & Adolescence. Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press, Inc.Gladding, S. T. (1977). Psychological Anomie and Religious Identity in Two Adolescent Populations. Psychological Reports, 41, 419-429.Gladding, S. T., Lewis, E. L., & Adkins, L. (1981). Religious Beliefs and Positive Mental Health: The GLA Scale and Counseling. Counseling and Values, 25, 206-215. Mandara, J. & Murrey, C. B. (2000). Effects of Parental Marital Status, Income, and Family Functioning on African American Adolescent Self-Esteem. Journal of Family Psychology, 14, 475-490.Mecca, A. M., Smelser, N. J., & Vasconcellos, J. (Eds.). (1989). The Social Importance of Self-Esteem. Berkeley: University of California Press.Murk, C. (1995). Self-Esteem: Research, Theory, and Practice. New York: Springer Publishing Company.Niolon, R. (1999). Dysfunctional Families. Retrieved February 15, 2001, from the World Wide Web: http://www.psychpage.com/family/library/dsyfunparents.htmlNunley, K. F. (1996). The Relationship of Self-Esteem and Depression in Adolescence. Retrieved February 8, 2001, from the World Wide Web: http://www.drnunley.com/depressi.htmProcidano, M. E., & Heller, K. (1983). Measures of Perceived Social Support From Friends and From Family: Three Validation Studies. American Journal of Community Psychology, 11, 1-24.University of Maryland, Department of Sociology. (2000). The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. Retrieved February 7, 2001, from the World Wide Web: http://www.bsos.umd.edu/socy/rosenberg.htmYabiku, S. T, Axinn, W. G., & Thornton, A. (1999). Family Integration and Children’s Self-Esteem. The American Journal of Sociology, 104, 1494.
APPENDIX A Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem ScaleCircle whether you Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree with each of these statements. Please answer all questions.
1. I feel that I’m a person of worth at least on an equal plane with others.Strongly Disagree Disagree Agree Strongly Agree 1 2 3 42. On the whole, I am satisfied with myself.Strongly Disagree Disagree Agree Strongly Agree 1 2 3 43. I wish I could have more respect for myself.Strongly Disagree Disagree Agree Strongly Agree 4 3 2 14. I certainly feel useless at times.Strongly Disagree Disagree Agree Strongly Agree 4 3 2 15. At times I think I am no good at all.Strongly Disagree Disagree Agree Strongly Agree 4 3 2 16. I feel that I have a number of good qualities.Strongly Disagree Disagree Agree Strongly Agree 1 2 3 47. All in all, I am inclined to feel that I am a failure.Strongly Disagree Disagree Agree Strongly Agree 4 3 2 18. I am able to do things as well as most other people.Strongly Disagree Disagree Agree Strongly Agree 1 2 3 49. I feel that I do not have much to be proud of.Strongly Disagree Disagree Agree Strongly Agree 4 3 2 110. I take a positive attitude toward myself.Strongly Disagree Disagree Agree Strongly Agree 1 2 3 4
APPENDIX B Religiosity ScaleCircle which answer best fits your religious beliefs and behavior. Please answer all questions.11. I go to religious service(s) once a ... never day week month 6 months year 1 2 3 4 5 612. I would consider myself religious.Strongly Slightly Slightly StronglyDisagree Disagree Disagree Agree Agree Agree 1 2 3 4 5 613. I believe in a higher power. Strongly Slightly Slightly StronglyDisagree Disagree Disagree Agree Agree Agree 1 2 3 4 5 614. I speak/pray to my higher power once a ... never day week month 6 months year 1 2 3 4 5 615. To what extent do you live your life according to your spiritual beliefs.never seldom some often most always 1 2 3 4 5 6
APPENDIX C Perceived Social Support – Family ScaleThese statements which follow refer to feelings and experiences which occur to most people at one time or another in their relationships with their families. For each statement there are 3 possible answers. Please answer all questions.16. My family gives me the moral support I need.Yes No Don’t K now17. I get good ideas about how to do things or make things from my family. Yes No Don’t Know18. Most other people are closer to their family than I am. Yes No Don’t Know19. When I confide in the members of my family who are closest to me, I get the idea that it makes them uncomfortable. Yes No Don’t Know20. My family enjoys hearing about what I think. Yes No Don’t Know21. Members of my family share many of my interests. Yes No Don’t Know22. Certain members of my family come to me when they have problems or need advice. Yes No Don’t Know23. I rely on my family for emotional support. Yes No Don’t Know24. There is a member of my family I could go to if I were just feeling down, without feeling funny about it later. Yes No Don’t Know25. My family and I are very open about what we think about things. Yes No Don’t Know26. My family is sensitive to my personal needs. Yes No Don’t Know27. Members of my family come to me for emotional support. Yes No Don’t Know28. Members of my family are good at helping me solve problems. Yes No Don’t Know29. I have a deep sharing relationship with a number of members of my family. Yes No Don’t Know30. Members of my family get good ideas about how to do things or make things from me. Yes No Don’t Know31. When I confide in members of my family, it makes me uncomfortable. Yes No Don’t Know32. Members of my family seek me out for companionship. Yes No Don’t Know33. I think that my family feels that I’m good at helping them solve problems. Yes No Don’t Know 34. I don’t have a relationship with a member of my family that is as close as other people’s relationships with family members. Yes No Don’t Know 35. I wish my family were much different. Yes No Don’t Know