The relationship between self-esteem, depression and anger

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Many researchers like Kaplan, (1982); Rosenberg et al., (1989); Ross & Broh, (2000) cited that, the level of self-esteem is widely recognized as a central aspect of psychological functioning and well-being and is strongly related to many other variables. White (2002) stated that “If a problem is not biological in origin, then it will almost always be traceable to poor self-esteem”. In fact, many psychotherapists have noted a direct relationship between self-esteem and mental health (Rogers, 1961; Coopersmith, 1967).

Research has also shown that low self-esteem is associated with various psychological and behavioral problems. For e.g. Leary, (1999) suggests that, “low self-esteem is related to a variety of psychological difficulties and personal problems, such as substance abuse, loneliness, academic failure, teenage pregnancy, and criminal behavior.” People with low self-esteem tend to attribute any successes they have to luck rather than to their own abilities. Those with high self-esteem will tend to attribute their successes to qualities within themselves (Covey, 1989). Baumeister & his colleagues (e.g., Baumeister, 1993; Baumeister, Smart, & Boden, 1996) found that behaviors and outcomes are often more variable for people high in self-esteem than for people low in self-esteem.

Previous literature suggests that low self-esteem is associated with possible risk factor like depression, low self-esteem, anger, and anxiety. Self- esteem is a complex, multi-dimensional construct with multiple sources, and has other facets as potential risk factors for depression (Kwan et al., 2009). Researchers such as, Carlson, Uppal, & Prosser (2000) reported that “low self-esteem, in general, is of concern because of its association with depression, suicide, delinquency, substance use, and lower academic achievement. Carpenito-Moyet (2008) suggests that low self-esteem may be an indicator of susceptibility to depression, which is an important predictor of suicidal tendencies. Harter & Marold, (1994) suggests that low self-esteem has been associated with depression and suicidal ideas.

Roberts & Monroe (1994) proposed a general theoretical account of the role of self-esteem in depression. They acknowledged that low self-esteem has often been proposed as a risk factor that creates a vulnerability to depression, but concluded that in research, level of self-esteem has failed to emerge as a robust predictor of the onset of depression. They proposed that vulnerability to depression accompanies unstable self-esteem (i.e., self-esteem that is prone to fluctuate across time), as well as self-esteem based on relatively few and unreliable sources.

It is well-established that high self-esteem is related to positive adjustment, general well-being and mental health in adolescence and also to fewer internalizing and externalizing problems (e.g. Ouvinen- Birgerstam, 1999; Steinhausen and Winkler Metzke, 2001; Ybrandt, 2008). Further literature suggests that, mental health problems of adolescents may be caused by a negative psychological trait, such as low self-esteem (Hurrelmann & Losel, 1990). A Correlational data implicate low self-esteem in a host of social and academic problems, including poor school achievement, aggression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and teenage pregnancy (Dawes, 1994; Mecca, Smelser, & Vasconcellos, 1989; Scheff, Retzinger, & Ryan, 1989).

Rosenberg (1985) pointed out that there is a relationship between self-esteem and depression. Adolescents with low self-esteem report more depression than those with a higher self-esteem. The evidence of the relationship between low self-esteem and a higher rate of depression in adolescents was further supported in subsequent studies (Byrne, 2000; Kim, 2003). Self-esteem is related to numerous emotional states. It has been linked to anxiety and depression in the clinical literature (Mineka,Watson, & Clark, 1998), to pride and shame in the developmental literature (Tangney & Fischer, 1995), to happiness and contentment in personality psychology (Diener & Diener, 1995), and to anger and hostility in social psychology (Bushman & Baumeister, 1998; Kernis, Grannemann, & Barclay, 1989).

Self-esteem provides a fundamental role in the behavior and mental health of adolescents. There is some evidence that the mental health problems of adolescents may be caused by a negative psychological trait, such as low self-esteem (Hurrelmann & Losel, 1990). According to Bandura (1986) social adjustment, activity engagement, goal direction and self-confidence, and the presence of anxiety are all elements in a child’s development and functioning that are influenced by his/her self-esteem.

Many other researchers like Bolognini, et al., (1996); Harter (1999); Hoffmann, Baldwin, & Cerbone, (2003); Kaplan, (1996); Stacy, et al., (1992) also emphasized self-esteem is an important indicator of general well-being and adolescents with lower levels of self-esteem often experience negative outcomes, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and dissatisfaction with life. According to Piko & Fitzpatrick (2003) consistent with a resilience framework, scholars suggest that self-esteem serves as a protective factor by insulating youth from stress that stems from negative life events, and specifically, protecting against depression. Melnyk et al. (2006) found that adolescents with high self-esteem have a strong belief in their ability to engage in a healthy lifestyle. People with high but unstable self-esteem score higher on measures of hostility than do people with low self-esteem (whether stable or unstable), whereas people with high but stable self- esteem are the least hostile (Kernis, Grannemann, & Barclay, 1989). It may be important to emphasize that apart from General Well-Being, personality constructs, like high self-esteem have been shown to act as protective factors against psychopathology in adolescents (McDonald & O’Hara, 2003). Dew & Huebner (1994) found that well-being forms significant positive associations with self-esteem measures.

In Pakistan, Riaz, Bilal & Rizwan, (2007) found that self-esteem is significant predictor of aggression and specifically physical aggression and anger were significantly predicted by low self-esteem. With respect to emotional and social consequences, anger has been associated with increased anxiety, reduced self-esteem, damage to social relationships (Deffenbacher et al. 1996), and depression (Picardi et al., 2004). Many researchers have explored ways that socially structured inequality shapes an array of emotional/mental health outcomes, usually depression or anxiety (McLeod and Nonnemaker 1999; Turner et al. 1995) and, more recently, anger (Ross and Van Willigen 1997; Schieman 1999).

One of the major reasons of psychological problems like low self-esteem, depression, and anger among adolescents of minority status is due to prejudice and discrimination of the society. Sociologists who study emotions have sought to document and describe the emotional correlates and consequences of social stratification (Smith-Lovin 1995). Adolescents of minority status are subjected to an array of derogatory and unpleasant experiences. All these experiences result in negative self-evaluation. According to Jacques & Chason, (1977) minority or low status groups judge themselves as a group less positively than the member of the majority or high status group.

All the researches cited in the literature review of the study, however, indicate that a Western evaluation of adolescent’s self-esteem, depression, and anger is hard to replicate for the indigenous adolescents minority population of Pakistan. Research on minority adolescents in Pakistan is negligible and hardly provides any basis for valid assertion about the state of affairs and the remedies, if ever adapted by authority figures, to improve the mental well-being of the target population. This study will highlight issues related to minority adolescents self-esteem, depression, anger, and will shed light on the ways mental well-being of the target group can be improved.

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