Self-in-relation theory: the relationship of self-esteem and perceived social support
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AbstractAccording to the traditional "androcentric" model, women have failed to achieve the developmental ideals of independence and autonomy from others and, thus, are considered developmentally deficient compared to their male counterparts. Contemporary feminist theorists have recognized that it is not women that have failed to develop, but rather that traditional theories of human development have failed to recognize and acknowledge women's experience as unique from that of men’s. The self-in-relation theory has been proposed in response to the call for a new psychology of women. The purpose of this study is to investigate a fundamental tenet of the self-in-relation theory that women's sense of self, or self-esteem, develops through connection with, rather than separation from, other people in their lives. Eighty-six men and one-hundred and thirty-eight women, from a range of 400 and 500 level courses offered at the University of Calgary, completed self report measures of self-esteem and perceived social support from family and friends. A demographic questionnaire assessing age, sex, relationship status, year of study, and length of time as resident or Calgary was also completed. Pearson correlation analysis revealed a consistently stronger relationship between self-esteem and perceived social support from friends, family, and overall for women compared to men. Furthermore, multiple analysis of variance found scores on family, friend, and overall perceived social support for high self-esteem males to be comparatively similar to those of low self-esteem females. These results support for the tenet of the self-in-relation provide theory that women's sense of self is influenced to greater extent by their perceptions of connectedness with others than men's sense of self. From this perspective, women's core sense of self is a relational one, and their goal is not to separate but to remain connected to others throughout their lives. These findings support the self-in-relation theory as a viable framework for explaining the unique psychological development of women. Multiple analysis of variance also found some of the demographic variables to influence perceptions of social support. Such results are discussed in terms of the self-in-relation theory and differential life stages of the participants.
Bibliography: p. 85-95.