Self-esteem, according to Introduction to Psychology by Dennis Coon, is defined as regarding oneself as a worthwhile person or a positive evaluation of oneself1. This study focuses on the examination of African American adolescent self-esteem based on the independent variables of parental marital status, income, and family structure. Is it possible that these variables could affect a confidence that is supposed to come from oneself? According to Mandara and Murray, these variables greatly affect the self-esteem in African American boys and girls in different but significant ways.
It was important for me to choose an article that I could relate with and also that interested me. I found this article to have both these qualities and also be the most accurate with several tables and outside references to make it as comprehensive as it could be. I found the material easy to read and understand as well. It also stood out because it was narrowly focused on a specific topic with specific factors. I found other articles that were so broad, I could hardly imagine them having accurate results.
Once I chose this topic, the articles available to me were few and far between, which I feel is too bad because it is an important topic and before we can begin helping those adolescents who are lacking self-esteem, we must first find out where the problem originates. Having grown up in a single parent, middle class income family and being the oldest of two children, I feel that I can now understand why I sometimes felt inadequate with myself. The unspoken pressure to make my mom proud and be a good big sister created this inadequacy. This study definitely helped me understand this pressure and proved that unlike my thought at the time, I was not the only teenager going through this enormous drop in self-esteem.
Mandura and Murray predicted four outcomes based on the three perspectives formed by Amato & Keith (1991) and Heiss (1996) 2; the family structure, the family income and the family functioning perspectives. First, that the self-esteem of boys not girls would be affected by their parents marital status. Second, that both genders would have higher quality of family functioning than single parent households. The third prediction concluded that the effects of marital status on self-esteem would be less if family income was statistically matched with other families. The last hypothesis predicted that family functioning had a greater effect on self-esteem than family structure.
The sample consisted of 116 fifteen year old African American children from Southern California with 74 being girls and the remainder boys. Parents were only included in study to provide income and marital status information. Half of the parents were married, 38% were divorced and 12% were single mothers (no single fathers were used). The average household income was $27,500, 20% of the sample had an income less than 20,000 and 35% made over 35,000 a year.
The tests that were used to measure the self-esteem and the family functioning measurement of the students were the Multi-Dimensional Self Esteem Inventory3 (MDSEI; OBrien & Epstein, 1998) and the Family Environment Scale4 (FES; Moos & Moos, 1990). The MDSEI is a 116 question test used to assess the individual aspects of self-esteem in each child. These aspects are feelings of competence, personal power, lovability, likeability, self-control, moral self-approval, and body functioning.
The FES consists of 90 true or false type questions to determine the environment within the family and its functioning. This test has proven accurate many times with African American families even though the norms were determined from 285 predominately middle and upper class European American families. Each child was given $10 to partake in the tests and took them whenever was convenient.
The results showed that boys with parents who are divorced are mainly at risk of developing a low self-esteem. It also showed that family functioning was directly related to self-esteem in both boys and girls.
I believe that this experiment was set up and conducted very well. The experimenters used a sample that was proven to be representative of the population they sought to test, and used testing methods that were tried and true. Testing conditions were not kept controlled but this probably had a minimal effect on the childrens responses. There were no noticeable errors in the experimentation other than the small sample used and its limited application one locale.