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Two Dimensions of Self-Esteem: Reciprocal Effects of Positive Self-Worth and Self-Deprecation on Adolescent Problems

Timothy J. Owens
American Sociological Review
Vol. 59, No. 3 (Jun., 1994), pp. 391-407
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095940
Page Count: 17
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Two Dimensions of Self-Esteem: Reciprocal Effects of Positive Self-Worth and Self-Deprecation on Adolescent Problems
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Abstract

The presumed relationship between adolescent's self-esteem and the occurrence of social problems is a recurring theme in academic and public discourse. Evidence for this relationship is limited by an overreliance on global measures of self-esteem that combine positive and negative self-evaluations in a single measure. My study uses this prior research on the relationship of global measures of self-esteem to adolescent social problems as a comparative reference point for an analysis of the link between negative and positive self-worth and youth problems. Using nonrecursive linear structural equation models and data from the Youth in Transition study, I compare the reciprocal interrelations of self-deprecation (negative self-evaluations), positive self-worth (positive self-evaluations), and global self-esteem (which includes both positive and negative evaluations) on high school grades, depression, and delinquency. I find that when self-deprecation and positive self-worth measures are employed, nuances are revealed that were previously overlooked in studies relying exclusively on global self-esteem. For example, I find a powerful reciprocal causal relationship between self-deprecation and depression and an effect of self-deprecation and positive self-worth on grades in school. These findings encourage theoretical developments of a bidimensional construct to measure self-esteem that includes, in particular, self-deprecation.

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