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The purpose of this scale is to assess the user’s self esteem level by measuring global self esteem. The scale has been adapted, and can be used to assess not only overall self worth, but also one’s self esteem in the moment. It does so by having the individual take a 10 question assessment about how they feel about themselves, ranging from positive to negative (for example, “I feel that I have a number of good qualities” or “All in all, I’m inclined to feel that I’m a failure”).
They then select from options that are “strongly agree”, “agree”, “disagree”, and “strongly disagree”. The individual is then given a score from 1-30, with scores below 15 indicating low self esteem.
Test development and theory underlying its development: The test was originally developed to measure the self image or self esteem of adolescence. Self esteem is the underlying theory here, and is defined as a negative or positive feeling about something, but namely, about the self (Rosenberg 1965, p.
30). When one is indicated to have high self esteem on this 10 question scale, it means that the individual feels themselves to be good enough, or worthy, and not necessarily that they see themselves as superior to others (Rosenberg, 1965, p. 31). One who is found to have low self esteem on this scale indicates one who lacks respect for themselves, and wishes that they could be better than what they are. In constructing this scale, several concepts were taken into account.
First, the ease of administration became a factor. The instrument was made intentionally easy, only requiring that the individual look over their 10 items. Next, economy of time was considered. In order to get the school’s cooperation, a measure that could be completed within the class period was necessary to obtain all the information Rosenberg and his team needed, which is why the measure only takes about 2-3 minutes to complete.
Next, it was determined that the scale would be unidimensional. It was selected to be a Guttman-styled instrument because he wanted the answers to be viewed on a continuum ranging from those who had very high self esteem, to those who had very low (Rosenberg, 1965, p. 16). This is ensured by the Guttman scale because a pattern must be established before the scale was to be accepted. Each item’s adequacy was determined by its relationship to the other items on the scale, rather than by a total score, with the reproducibility of the scale being 92%, and the scalability being at 72% (Rosenberg, 1965, p. 17). These were acceptable conditions that were established by Guttman and Menzel. Finally, in order to consider face validity, items that were openly and directly related to the dimension being measured were selected (Rosenberg, 1965 p. 17). The sample was taken from 10 randomly selected high schools, and consisted of 5,024 junior and senior students. Teachers were given 3 questionnaires to give to their students. From this, things like social groups, race, religious groups, neighborhood contexts, family, and inner states associated with self esteem (which may lead to things like anxiety or depression) were taken into account when considering an individual’s self esteem level (Rosenberg, 1965, p. 35). The scale was also used to deduce self esteem in relation to one’s socially significant attitudes, behavior in adolescence, participation and leadership in high school, occupational aspirations, and self values (Rosenberg, 1965, p. 35).
The scale shows a Guttman coefficient reproducibility level of .92 (as well as .72 for scalability), indicating great internal consistency. The test- retest reliability over the course of 2 weeks showed correlations of .85 and .88, indicating excellent stability (Ciarrochi & Bilich, 2006, p. 61).
According to Ciarrochi and Bilich (2006), the test demonstrates concurrent, predictive, and construct validity, and correlates significantly with other measures of self esteem such as the Coopersmith Self Esteem Inventory. It also correlates with predictive directions measuring anxiety and depression (p. 61).
Blascovich and Tamaka (1991) say that the Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale’s easy to understand format makes it a go to, when concerning adolescence. “Its ease of administration, scoring, and brevity, underlie our recommendation for its use as a straight forward estimate of positive or negative feelings about the self” (as cited in Bagley, Bolitho, & Bertrand, 1997). It was found that low scores on the self esteem scale were strong predictors of delinquency, drug use, pregnancy out of wedlock, and suicidal tendencies, so Bagley et al. (1997) suggest that if the negative self esteem can be dealt with in earlier years such as elementary or junior high, then these negative tendencies can be avoided (p. 83). Bagley et al found the test to be reliable and valid to use in counseling in schools for children or all ages, after taking a random sample of 1,084 males and 1,024 females in Alberta Canada. These implications suggest that the test could be good for use cross culturally.
Since the scale has been adapted into several languages, a few problems have arisen. One of those problems is related to cultural differences. For example, according to Chen, Lee, and Stevenson (1995), students from Japan and china are more likely to use midpoint answers than North American groups, and may be more likely to be modest in their self evaluations. Individualism was found to be positively correlated with extreme answers (“agree”, but in this case, “Strongly agree”), and negatively related to midpoint answers (“somewhat agree”, but in this case, “agree”) (p.170). People from Japan or other collectivistic countries may also be more likely to focus on self critique, rather than positive self evaluation. This leads to response bias, and exaggerative responses. It has also been found that people from different cultures tend to respond differently to negatively coded questions (Schmitt & Allik 2005). They seem to interpret them differently.
The differences in culture also result in differences of self competence and self liking. In more individualistic cultures like the U.S., independence, self confidence, and one’s self take priority over other things, causing higher self competence (which is defined here as the sense that one is efficacious, confident, and capable), but lower self liking (Schmitt & Allik, 2005, p. 625). In more collectivistic cultures like Japan or china, the opposite is true (higher in self liking, lower in self competence). It has also been shown that girls and boys can differ in this aspect. Girls tend to care more about collective notions of self than boys do, and their self esteem also tends to rely more on inclusion and acceptance (Carpenter & Johnson, 2001). Rosenberg also acknowledges the differences between boys and girls when it comes to self values (p.254). All of this could lead to response bias, and thus, not a completely accurate assessment for everyone in general. These differences should be taken into account.
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