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This paper describes an alternative approach to measuring the self that directly accounts for the way individuals ruminate ru·mi·nate  
v. ru·mi·nat·ed, ru·mi·nat·ing, ru·mi·nates

1. To turn a matter over and over in the mind.

2. To chew cud.
 on their external actions in order to inform and maintain their self-image. This was achieved by designing the Relational Self-Concept Scale (RSCS), a measure that explores the role and impact that different social encounters within and around the school context have upon self-concept formation. Analysis of responses to this contextspecific self-report measure obtained from a large sample of adolescents (N = 978), confirmed that the scale is multidimensional, possesses appropriate psychometric psy·cho·met·rics  
n. (used with a sing. verb)
The branch of psychology that deals with the design, administration, and interpretation of quantitative tests for the measurement of psychological variables such as intelligence, aptitude, and
 properties, and contains a high degree of ecological validity
For the ecological validity of a cue in perception, see ecological validity (perception).
Ecological validity is a form of validity in an experiment.

Scholars who value individualism and atomism atomism, philosophic concept of the nature of the universe, holding that the universe is composed of invisible, indestructible material particles. The theory was first advanced in the 5th cent. B.C. by Leucippus and was elaborated by Democritus.  have come to dominate self-concept theory (Clarke, 1996), overshadowing those who have maintained an interest in the types of dialectical interplay that function to form the self. The contours of this inquiry have primarily been determined by the way scientific understanding of the self has largely been achieved by separating the self from its context. In order to consider the self as worldly rather than ethereal ethereal /ethe·re·al/ (e-ther´e-il)
1. pertaining to, prepared with, containing, or resembling ether.

2. evanescent; delicate.

, it is necessary to challenge internalist notions of the self as an entity in itself (Looren de Jong De Jong is the most common Dutch surname. Many people bear this name, including many important historical figures. Some of these people are mentioned below.

De Jong may mean:
  • Petrus de Jong, prime minister of the Netherlands from 1967 until 1971
, 1997), with the view that the self is an internal condition informed by the environment (Cooley, 1902; Goffiman, 1959; Gergen, 1971; Harre, 1983; Mead, 1934; Shotter, 1975, 1980).

Having stated the tradition, it should be noted that a theoretical orientation towards conceptualizing the self as something that occurs in "juxtaposition with others" (Seligman & Shanok, 1995, p. 560) has always existed. Contemporary scholars (e.g., Bracken bracken or brake, common name for a tall fern (Pteridium aquilinum) with large triangular fronds, widespread throughout the world, often as a weed. , 1992; Harter, 1998a) consistently pay intellectual homage to the work of symbolic interactionists (Cooley, 1902; Mead, 1934) for their explicit inclusion of social processes in their understanding of the self. As Harter (1988b) explains, symbolic interactionists highlight how "... significant others in one's life become social mirrors, as it were, and one gazes into these mirrors in order to determine others' opinions of oneself. One then adopts this opinion in forming one's self-definition" (p. 51).

Although there are acknowledgments of the social origins of the self within theoretical frameworks that constitute empirical expressions of the self, they play a minor role in the actual processes and techniques used to extract an individual's self-image. Indeed, just as researchers began to achieve success in measuring self-concept, Demo (1985) warned that there was a paucity pau·ci·ty  
1. Smallness of number; fewness.

2. Scarcity; dearth: a paucity of natural resources.
 of empirical measurement of the "impact of situational discrepancies in self-impressions" (p. 1491). Despite early attempts to explore interaction settings that foster self-feelings (e.g., Coopersmith, 1967), Franks and Marolla (1976) have argued that it was "left for the sociologist to identify the macro-structures that facilitate those interactional forms" (p. 324). Instead, psychological interest in the self-concept has served to project an individuated self-concept, one that differentiates the individual from others (Brewer & Gardner, 1996).


Similar to that for other psychological constructs, self-concept research has developed a strong tradition of self-report methodologies. Appropriate for individual or group administration and scored as interval data, there now exists a host of instruments with suitable psychometric properties (see Bracken, 1992; Fitts & Warren, 1996; Harter, 1988b; Marsh, 1991). Understanding of adolescent self-concept is achieved from participant responses to a range of denotative de·no·ta·tive  
1. Denoting or naming; designative.

2. Specific or direct: denotative and connotative meanings.
 statements, such as "I am a cheerful person" (Fitts & Warren, 1996) or "I have good muscles" (Marsh, 1991). Predefined response categories (e.g., ranging from unlike me to like me) permit participants to express how accurately the denotative statements reflect self-concept. The universal appeal of such instruments is primarily derived from the fact that they are simple to administer and complete, and are broadly applicable to all individuals within a target age range.

Although these instruments have made significant contributions to our understanding of the structure and organization of the self, little information has been obtained on the types of relationships and situations that cause adolescents to report either a positive or negative self-image. Current methods do not seek to identify relations between external actions and internal identity. Thus, conventional measures are unable to determine whether adolescents, when evaluating response categories, are drawing from their experience in a range of contexts or the context in which they are responding to the test.

Furthermore, the non-context-specific nature of self-concept measurement can be seen as limiting when the self-esteem of particular groups is a concern. In particular, the expansion of educational objectives to include a concern for social and affective outcomes, in addition to cognitive outcomes, increases the importance of self-concept (Shavelson, Hubner, & Stanton, 1976). Once researchers began to establish a relationship between self-concept and academic ability (see Hansford & Hattie, 1982), educators started focusing upon the enhancement of self-concept as both a "goal in itself, and a means of achieving educational objectives" (Brookover & Passalacqua, 1981, p. 283). It is therefore accepted that the manner in which students go about constructing their self-concept holds the power to help or hinder their scholastic progress (Entwisle, Alexander, Pallas, & Cadigan, 1987).

Despite the recognition that self-concept plays a significant role in scholastic achievement, the continued use of psychometric instruments that lack ecological validity means that the nature and utility of the relationship forged between psychology and the context of education remains unclear (Francis, 1994). It can be strongly argued that when anchoring the vocabulary of the mind in real-world practices such as education, knowledge of the self must be directly derived from, and applicable to, matters of schooling. As William James Noun 1. William James - United States pragmatic philosopher and psychologist (1842-1910)
 (1905) famously warned, "to know psychology is absolutely no guarantee that we shall be good teachers" (p. 9). For knowledge of the self to be useful for educators and educational research, the manner in which the adolescent's psychological interior is directly formed by the school environment needs to be understood.

The "decidedly asocial a·so·cial
1. Avoiding or averse to the society of others; not sociable.

2. Unable or unwilling to conform to normal standards of social behavior; antisocial.
" nature of self-concept research (Qyserman, Gant, & Ager, 1995) has been questioned by researchers who seek more emphasis on the impact of the social context on what is self-defining (Taylor & Dube, 1986; Turner, Hogg hogg

castrated male sheep usually 10 to 14 months old. Also used to describe an uncastrated male pig.
, Oakes, Reicher, & Wetherell, 1987; Turner, Oakes, Haslam, & McGarty, 1994). As Gergen (1994a) notes, "at present we possess a staggering vocabulary for characterizing individual selves but stand virtually mute in the discourse of relatedness" (p. 214). In order to achieve a social account of the self, emphasis needs to be placed upon the more malleable malleable /mal·le·a·ble/ (mal´e-ah-b'l) susceptible of being beaten out into a thin plate.

1. Capable of being shaped or formed, as by hammering or pressure.
 and socially constructed components of the self, rather than its enduring features. Given that human existence has been described as a "web of shifting relationships" (Clarke, 1996, p. 13), the self should not continue to be perceived as a static object. Thus, a need has emerged for a means of expressing the way we fashion a reality of relatedness.


"Relational" refers to the way the self has definition and meaning through the context of other people (Stein & Markus, 1994). Bakhurst and Sypnowich (1995) state:

We are beings situated in a cultural environment...with other such beings. We are things which think, to be sure, but our intellectual powers are nurtured and sustained in that cultural environment and derive their character from it. We are beings who live and act in consort with others and whose lives are structured by our ties to each other. (p. 4)

Proposing a relational view of the self is not, however, the same as a shift in focus towards collective identities. On the other extreme from an individuated perspective of the self, a focus upon collective identities is governed by the requirement of simultaneous descriptions and a need for inclusion (Brewer, 1991, 1993). The term relational self-concept, on the other hand, is used to describe a dynamic mental structure that assists individual functioning by mediating and regulating interpersonal behaviors and processes. In this conception, the self is not merely a social construction or looking-glass reflection, but a psychological manifestation of the way social contact is organized and given meaning by individuals (Ryan, 1991).

It must not be forgotten that "self" is used in Western culture as the most common signifier sig·ni·fi·er  
1. One that signifies.

2. Linguistics A linguistic unit or pattern, such as a succession of speech sounds, written symbols, or gestures, that conveys meaning; a linguistic sign.
 of an individual's innermost in·ner·most  
1. Situated or occurring farthest within: the innermost chamber.

2. Most intimate: one's innermost feelings.

 nature (Lowenstein, 1994). As Glass (1993) notes, it is possible for "one to live with a healthy ... skepticism toward truth, absolutes, causality causality, in philosophy, the relationship between cause and effect. A distinction is often made between a cause that produces something new (e.g., a moth from a caterpillar) and one that produces a change in an existing substance (e.g. , and rationality yet at the same time acknowledge and recognize how critical a core sense of self is to the project of life itself" (p. 13). This is not an argument for a unified, monolithic self, but a recognition of the psychological significance of the concept of the self in the face of social complexities. A relational concept of the self, therefore, aims to represent individuals not as "bounded entities leading separate lives on independent trajectories" (Gergen, 1994a, p. 212), but as beings whose self-image is "better understood as depending on ongoing feedback from within the context of relationships" (Seligman & Shanok, 1995, p. 543).

Proposing that the self is the result or by-product of social interchange makes it necessary to examine not only the "systems of communication and relationships that become built into the self" (Gergen, 1994b, p. 21), but also the context in which such communication is situated. The social context has an important effect upon the dynamics of any relationship--individuals may act differently towards one another depending on the situation and the context in which the behavior occurs. Thus, to know a person well, information should be gathered from the most salient environments that make up the ecology of his or her life (McAdams, 1995). This includes the "circumstances in which behaviour is more or less heavily constrained, [and] more or less open to creative constructions" (Stryker, 1987, p. 93). If one accepts a model of the individual as an interlocutor in·ter·loc·u·tor  
1. Someone who takes part in a conversation, often formally or officially.

2. The performer in a minstrel show who is placed midway between the end men and engages in banter with them.
, access to the relational self will come from an exploration of self-conceptions associated with particular social contexts. As Combs (1981) states:

If we are interested in a teacher's self-concept, we might observe the teacher in his or her classroom; if we are interested in a politician's self-concept, we might structure an interview around the problems in your job; or if we are interested in the pastoral counsellor's conceptions, we might construct hypothetical problems we would then ask him or her to solve. (p. 8)

Thus, a relational concept of the self seeks to defy the "social repressive" nature of self theory (Finlay-de Monchy, 1995) by placing emphasis upon a self that is embedded in a network or ensemble of relations (Griffin, Chassin, & Young, 1981; Gecas, 1972; Kvale, 1994; Rosenberg, 1986; Strube & Roemmele, 1985). The intention is to create a bridge between the public and private aspects of the self; so that it may be viewed as both "separate and connected, individuated and integrated at the same time" (McAdams, 1995, p. 381).

From this theoretical background, the present study was conducted to examine whether contemporary knowledge of the self, derived from empirical investigations, could accommodate theories that explore the social processes that impact construction of the self. The objective was to give greater priority to understanding the role of these social processes.


Although the current study placed strong emphasis upon a theoretical departure from asocial expressions of the self, the methodology chosen to articulate the relational nature of adolescent self-concept aimed to provide continuity with contemporary empirical expressions of the self (Bracken, 1992; Harter, 1988b; Marsh, 1991; Fitts & Warren, 1996). As already noted, the most prominent means of investigating the structure and organization of the self over the last two decades has involved psychometric self-report instrumentation. In order to extend the scope of psychological accounts of adolescent self-concept, a decision was made to broaden the self-report technique to include a method of questioning connected to both the school context and the significant others associated with that context. The scale sought to answer the question "When I am with X in Y situations, I am?" rather than the more abstract "Who am I?" In doing so, participants were required to consider the impact others have upon the process of self-conceptualization.


The sample for this study was drawn from a contrasting range of schools in England The schools in England are organised into nine lists, one for each region of England.
  • List of schools in the East of England
  • List of schools in the East Midlands
  • List of schools in London
  • List of schools in the North East of England
 and Wales Wales, Welsh Cymru, western peninsula and political division (principality) of Great Britain (1991 pop. 2,798,200), 8,016 sq mi (20,761 sq km), west of England; politically united with England since 1536. The capital is Cardiff. . In practice, this involved selecting schools on the basis of relational-focused comments by Her Majesty's Inspectorate (HMI (Human Machine Interface) The user interface in a manufacturing or process control system. It provides a graphics-based visualization of an industrial control and monitoring system. ) documented during the school inspection period of 1994-1995, as well as each school's ranking according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 National League Tables. The aim was to locate schools in which students', parents', and teachers' attitudes vary from one another when compared on relational components of the self. Using this criterion, eight schools were selected for inclusion in the study.

Students were administered the Relational Self-Concept Scale (RSCS). Scale items were pretested on 200 students prior to administration to 1,002 students aged 13-16 years (mean age 15.3). Data from 24 of the 1,002 were unsuitable for analysis, leaving a total of 978. The gender distribution of the sample was 48% male and 48% female (4% did not provide this information).

Question Format

Similar to the structured alternative format used by Harter (1985, 1988b) for the Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents (SPPA SPPA Sunbelt Promotional Products Association (Mobile, AL)
SPPA Scottish Public Pensions Agency
SPPA Sociedade Psicanalítica de Porto Alegre (Brazil)
SPPA Survey of Public Participation in the Arts
), the RSCS requires adolescent respondents to evaluate the extent to which qualities describing other adolescents are indicative of their own qualities. However, unlike the SPPA (Harter, 1988b), the RSCS does not ask respondents to choose between two statements that describe different types of adolescents. This strategy was considered inappropriate primarily because it places pressure on respondents to select one statement as most like them, rather than allowing them to be "both/and" (Lyotard, 1984). An example of an RSCS item is as follows: "Some adolescents feel they do well in their school exams compared to others their age. These adolescents are... always like me, mostly like me, sometimes like me / sometimes unlike me, mostly unlike me, always unlike me. This is something that is ... important to me, not important to me, don't know."

Individuals may feel ill at ease representing themselves with only one side of an extreme. Thus, unlike Harter's scale, the RSCS offers a midpoint mid·point  
1. Mathematics The point of a line segment or curvilinear arc that divides it into two parts of the same length.

2. A position midway between two extremes.
 response option. Adolescents reveal their self-image by responding to each statement on a five-point Likert scale Likert scale A subjective scoring system that allows a person being surveyed to quantify likes and preferences on a 5-point scale, with 1 being the least important, relevant, interesting, most ho-hum, or other, and 5 being most excellent, yeehah important, etc , similar to the one used by Marsh (1991) for the Self-Description Questionnaire. The utilization of Likert scaling (1970) provides respondents with a familiar means of completing the RSCS. Furthermore, literature on the measurement of attitudes has noted that reliability is highest when five-point scales are used (Jenkins & Taber, 1977; Lissitz & Green, 1975).

Two versions of the RSCS were used in the present study. Both versions possessed the same content, but differed in the presentation of the items (i.e., positively worded items in one version appeared negatively worded in the other version, and vice versa VICE VERSA. On the contrary; on opposite sides. ). Any item that had a tendency to induce socially desirable responses could thus be highlighted and compared with its counterpart in the other version.


This study investigated the context-specific items of the RSCS and their ability to provide meaningful insight into the link between external actions and internal identity. Responses to both versions of the scale were analyzed in order to establish whether it is possible to measure the self via adolescents' social encounters.

Scale Construction

In line with traditional methods of scale construction, exploratory factor analysis was used to examine the homogeneity Homogeneity

The degree to which items are similar.
 of the RSCS. Oblique rotation was used because it provides optimum freedom in determining the factor structure (orthogonal rotation requires the factors to be uncorrelated, which was not the case).

Exploratory factor analysis was conducted for each version of the RSCS separately in order to test whether the wording of items (either negatively or positively) had an effect on responses. Second, exploratory factor analysis was conducted separately for males and females (for each version of the RSCS) in order to investigate possible gender effects. Using this procedure, 44 variables were rejected from an original set of 99. This occurred either because item loadings were low (less than .30) or because they loaded in an inconsistent fashion across both versions of the RSCS or by gender. All loadings for the retained variables ranged between .30, which is considered moderately high (Kline, 1996), and .76. The resulting factor pattern was consistent across both versions of the scale and by gender. Table 1 presents the factor solutions for both males and females on version 1 and version 2 of the RSCS.

The root-greater-than-one principle (Kaiser, 1960) was combined with the scree test (Cattell, 1966) to determine how many factors should be extracted from the analysis. The following six factors were identified.

1. Social Scholastic--items represent adolescents' competence to perform scholastic tasks in the context of the classroom.

2. Scholastic Performance--items represent perceptions of academic performance (e.g., tests).

3. Peers--taps adolescents' interactions and feelings of social acceptance and competence within the school context.

4. Physical Appearance--taps bodily self both privately and in the presence of others.

5. Parents--reflects the level and nature of adolescents' relationship with parents or guardians.

6. Possible Selves--whether adolescents wish to see a change in the nature of the relationship with peers and teachers. This factor makes a temporal distinction between self-evaluations that reflect the here-and-now and what Markus and Nurius (1986) term "possible selves."

The relationships between the factors identified by the exploratory analysis were modest to low. Pairwise correlations between factors all failed to reach statistical significance, confirming that the emerging subscales were independent rather than interdependent.


In order to ascertain the internal consistency In statistics and research, internal consistency is a measure based on the correlations between different items on the same test (or the same subscale on a larger test). It measures whether several items that propose to measure the same general construct produce similar scores.  of the RSCS, alpha coefficients were computed for each set of items loading on a factor. Values ranged between .72 and .76 for version 1, and between .69 and .77 for version 2. These alpha levels were considered acceptable.

Construct Validity construct validity,
n the degree to which an experimentally-determined definition matches the theoretical definition.

The next step was to verify the items constituting the six specific constructs that emerged from the exploratory factor analysis. The results of confirmatory data analysis--"hypothesis-testing mode" (Fitts & Warren, 1996)--established the construct validity of the factors identified in the exploratory analysis. All items were assigned to their hypothesized categories: the structure that was found with the confirmatory procedure (for both versions of the RSCS) was the same as that for the exploratory analysis conducted on the initial RSCS item pool.

A principal-axis factor extraction (constrained to a two-factor solution) was also applied to data from both versions of the RSCS. The purpose was to examine whether positively and negatively worded items would make unique contributions. Bolton (1976), applying a similar technique to data obtained using the Tennessee Self-Concept Scale, claimed that with a two-factor solution there was a tendency for positive and negative items to load on separate factors. Unlike Bolton's findings, the positive and negative wording of the item statements in the two versions of the RSCS did not define separate dimensions of self-concept. Both negative and positive items from the same construct loaded on the same factor, with Parents, Social Scholastic, and Scholastic Performance subsumed within one factor, and Peers, Possible Selves, and Physical Appearance within the other (Table 2).

To confirm the conclusion that item content was more salient than item presentation, a MANOVA MANOVA Multivariate Analysis of the Variance  was conducted, with scale version and school as between-subjects factors and the six subscales as the within-subjects factor. The F ratio for the multilevel test of version effect was low (F = 0.48, df = 1, 6). Thus, both the factor structure of the two-factor solution and the multilevel comparison of the different versions of the scale confirmed that item content outweighed any presentation differences.

Convergent and Discriminant dis·crim·i·nant  
An expression used to distinguish or separate other expressions in a quantity or equation.

The inclusion of contextual dimensions when devising items was intended to enable the RSCS to distinguish between various environmental/school contexts that underlie the sense of self developed by the individual in different locations. A MANOVA including planned comparisons was conducted, with school and sex as between-subjects factors and the six subscales as the within-subjects factor. One of the schools selected for the study had received comments from the HMI inspection team relating to relating to relate prepconcernant

relating to relate prepbezüglich +gen, mit Bezug auf +acc 
 the low self-esteem of its students, and the MANOVA therefore also included a planned comparison of that particular school with all the other schools used in the study. General school effects (F = 4.76, df = 7, 908) and sex effects (F = 19.71, df = 1, 908) were found to be significant at the .0001 level. The comparison of the overall mean for the "low self-esteem" school with that for the other schools was significant at the .01 level (F 6.92, df = 1, 908). The Scholastic Performance (F 4.23, p [less than] .001), Parents (F = 3.87, p [less than] .05) and Peers (F = 4.23, p [less than] .05) subscales were identified as significant in the univariate planned comparisons.

The within-subjects factor (the subscales) was significant at the .0001 level (F = 105.16, df = 5,904). A planned comparison of the Peers and Possible Selves subscales was conducted to see if a temporal distinction was being measured by the RSCS. The Peers subscale reflects present self-image, while the Possible Selves subscale measures deviations from present image, in the sense that it challenges individuals to think about whether they would like to see a change in their peer relationships in the future. The difference between adolescents' responses to future-oriented items and items devised to measure self-image in the present context was significant at the .0001 level (F = 122.07, df = 1,908).


The present study explored the Relational Self-Concept Scale as an alternative approach to measuring adolescents' self-concept that directly accounts for the school environment and peer frame-of-reference. The strength of RSCS content was ascertained, and the constructs measured by the scale were found to be robust. The composition of items included in the six factors was consistent across separate analyses. First, factors with the same item content were produced from two principal versions of the scale. Second, separate factor analyses were performed for males' and females' responses to both versions of the scale, yielding similar factor structures.

The Two Versions of the RSCS

The use of two versions of the scale permitted an exploration of the salience sa·li·ence   also sa·li·en·cy
n. pl. sa·li·en·ces also sa·li·en·cies
1. The quality or condition of being salient.

2. A pronounced feature or part; a highlight.

Noun 1.
 of item content over presentation (positive versus negative wording). A two-factor solution confirmed that item content was predominant in determining the factor solution. This made the merging of the two versions of the scale a viable option, as the selection of either the positive or negative mode of presentation for any item could be done with the assurance that it would not affect the outcome. However, retaining the two versions of the RSCS may be advantageous for longitudinal studies longitudinal studies, the epidemiologic studies that record data from a respresentative sample at repeated intervals over an extended span of time rather than at a single or limited number over a short period.
 of the self, which require a test-retest design. Research would benefit from the differences between the two versions of the RSCS, as well as the knowledge that the same test is essentially being presented to participants on both occasions.

Organization of the Self

The multifaceted model of the self is generally accepted today as the most accurate representation of how self-knowledge is organized. However, there continues to be some discrepancy with reference to the content of the different facets of the self and exactly how they are structured (Marsh & Shavelson, 1985). Given the clarity with which factors emerged from analysis of the initial relational item pool, it was important to evaluate whether the ensuing constructs resembled constituent features of the hierarchical/multifaceted structural models that dominate self-concept research (Bracken, 1992; Harter, 1982; Marsh, Smith, & Barnes, 1983; Piers & Harris, 1964; Shavelson & Bolus bolus /bo·lus/ (bo´lus)
1. a rounded mass of food or pharmaceutical preparation ready to swallow, or such a mass passing through the gastrointestinal tract.

2. a concentrated mass of pharmaceutical preparation, e.
, 1982; Shavelson, Hubner, & Stanton, 1976).

No significant relationships were found between RSCS subscales. This finding--that there was a high level of distinction between the six self-concept subscales--does not stand in isolation from existing research. For example, the outcome of research on adolescents with the Self-Description Questionnaire (SDQ SDQ Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic - Las Americas (Airport Code)
SDQ Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires
SDQ Sexual Disaster Quartet (band)
SDQ Service Delivery & Quality
) led Marsh (1991) to conclude that the size of correlations between different facets of the self diminishes with age. A study by Marsh and Shavelson (1985) using the SDQ III with a sample of females (mean age = 16.2 years) found little relationship between the different self-concept scales. According to Marsh and Shavelson, "although self-concept is multifaceted, the hierarchical structure See hierarchical.  found in preadolescent self-concept has nearly vanished. Instead the SDQ III appears to measure relatively distinct facets of the self-concept" (p. 115). Therefore, it can be argued that the notion of a multidimensional self-concept that is structured hierarchically must take chronology into account.

Despite recognizing that, from childhood to adolescence, individuals generally move from a univalent univalent /uni·va·lent/ (u?ni-va´lent) having a valence of one.

1. Having valence 1.

2. Having only one valence.

 mode to a multivalent mode of conceptualization con·cep·tu·al·ize  
v. con·cep·tu·al·ized, con·cep·tu·al·iz·ing, con·cep·tu·al·iz·es
To form a concept or concepts of, and especially to interpret in a conceptual way:
 (Livesley & Bromley, 1973), self-concept theorists persist in Verb 1. persist in - do something repeatedly and showing no intention to stop; "We continued our research into the cause of the illness"; "The landlord persists in asking us to move"
 creating self-report instruments that adhere to adhere to
verb 1. follow, keep, maintain, respect, observe, be true, fulfil, obey, heed, keep to, abide by, be loyal, mind, be constant, be faithful

 the belief that "individuals will recognize complexity and [attempt to] connect the general and the specific" (Rosenberg, 1986, p. 116). The level of independence between RSCS subscales found in the present study disputes the notion that adolescents seek to unify various elements of the self to form a coherent picture of self-worth. Similar to the efforts of Rosenberg (1979), Harter (1985, 1988b), and Marsh (1991), item statements that implied a general sense of self-worth were constructed for the initial pool. They included judgments concerning the possession of a number of good qualities, satisfaction with oneself, liking oneself, and feelings concerning whether one has much to be proud of. Unlike the factor analytic Adj. 1. factor analytic - of or relating to or the product of factor analysis
factor analytical
 studies conducted by Harter (1985, 1988b) and Marsh (1986) on their respective instruments, the results with RSCS data did not produce a factor that could be distinguished from the others as being global.

In light of the failure to establish a distinct global self-concept factor within the RSCS, it is possible to find instances where global self failed to register as a separate factor in other measures. For example, in a study that compared a revised version Revised Version
A British and American revision of the King James Version of the Bible, completed in 1885.

Revised Version
 of the Harter SPPA with the original version, global self-worth failed to emerge as a separate factor in either version of the scale (Wichstrom, 1995). When separate global factors do emerge, the strength of the relationship with domain-specific factors can be considered questionable. For example, Marsh and Shavelson (1985) have reported that adolescents' responses to the SDQ III global scale produce "surprisingly low correlations" with other, more specific facets of the self. Alternative explanations infer the existence of a general, or global, self, instead of tying it to a specific set of items. According to Marsh (1991), it remains an unobserved construct that is itself defined by unobserved constructs (Marsh, 1991).

Thus, interpretation of the results of the relational approach to measuring the self, with reference to the Shavelson et al. (1976) hierarchical model In a hierarchical data model, data are organized into a tree-like structure. The structure allows repeating information using parent/child relationships: each parent can have many children but each child only has one parent.  of the self, finds the relational constructs residing most comfortably at the base of the hierarchy. At this level of the hierarchy, the self is thought to be "increasingly situation specific and as a consequence less stable" (Marsh & Shavelson, 1985, p. 107).

Possible Selves

Unique to the RSCS, the Possible Selves subscale extends the temporal dimension of self-concept measurement. In devising future-oriented item statements for this subscale, references to cultural conventions associated with adult life were avoided. It was suspected that adolescents' awareness of social norms and social roles would demonstrate little more than an ability to entertain the possibility of experiencing university, marriage, parenthood, and so on. Instead, adolescents were provided with an opportunity to evaluate whether they would like to alter aspects of their current status. The Possible Selves subscale successfully demonstrated its ability to measure adolescents' self-evaluations concerning how content they were with different aspects of their current school life.

It is proposed that the Possible Selves subscale could provide educators with information that will help them achieve optimal student outcomes. It may assist in the identification of adolescents who not only have a negative picture of the future, but also require a means of conceptualizing a plausible path towards academic achievement. Indeed, Possible Selves may be more accurate than global measures of self-esteem in establishing the importance and motivational processes of a particular domain (Oyserman & Markus, 1990). Oyserman and Markus argue that "self-esteem has relatively little impact on future behavior unless it can be translated into believable, possible selves by the individual" (p. 113). Thus, Possible Selves may act as a useful predictor of future behavior by providing a link between self-concept and motivation associated with academic tasks.


Although self-concept research has succeeded in motivating educators to monitor and enhance levels of self-worth within schools, the methods of measuring the self have been found to be in need of modification in order to increase the applicability of psychological knowledge to education. Underlying the last two decades of self-concept research is a consistent tendency to measure the self in abstract, context-free terms. Specifically, existing psychometric instruments give little weight to the school context when measuring the self. It is argued here that to be truly effective for education, measurement of the self needs to be linked directly to the social processes of the school environment.

Questions raised by alternative accounts of the self prompted a reappraisal of the methods used to measure the self. In particular, the low levels of context-based knowledge generated by psychometric instruments exemplified the limitations of conventional approaches to understanding the relationship between students' scholastic progress and self-concept. The present study sought to describe an approach to measuring the self in which the structure of the self was not examined independently of the contextual whole that gives it meaning. Thus, the situationalist challenge to modernist accounts of the self was met by representing the reality of individuals' relatedness with psychometric techniques.

The Relational Self-Concept Scale was designed to meet several criteria for psychometric testing of the self, that is, to be an instrument that respondents could complete with ease and that would be broadly applicable and multidimensional in its description of the self. In addition, this expansion of current psychometric techniques offers the opportunity to improve baseline knowledge relating to who or what (within a particular context) is responsible for adolescents' present state of mind. The RSCS thus serves to elaborate and extend the application of scientific discourse on the self to include self-with-others.

It is hoped that adolescents' articulation of their self-image in relation to others can be used to inform education (and society) about what they feel they can or cannot do, any limits that are being placed on their functioning, and the hopes they nurture for the future. The ultimate goal is to provide researchers with the ability to assess the extent to which the environment created by educators is conducive to the well-being of students.

Wynford Bellin, Lecturer of Psychology, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University Cardiff University (Welsh: Prifysgol Caerdydd) is a leading university located in the Cathays Park area of Cardiff, Wales. It received its Royal charter in 1883 and is a member of the Russell Group of Universities. It has an annual turnover of £315 million. , Cardiff; United Kingdom.

Reprint requests to Gareth R. Schott, Lecturer of Psychology of Education, Psychology and Special Needs, Institute of Education, University of London For most practical purposes, ranging from admission of students to negotiating funding from the government, the 19 constituent colleges are treated as individual universities. Within the university federation they are known as Recognised Bodies , 25 Woburn Square Coordinates:  Woburn Square is the smallest of the Bloomsbury Squares and owned by the University of London. Designed by Thomas Cubitt in 1829, it is named after Woburn Abbey, the main country seat of the Dukes of Bedford, who developed much of , London, WC1H 0AA, United Kingdom.


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Table 1. Factor Structure of Both Versions of the RSCS
                        Factor Loadings
                        Factor 1              Factor 2       Factor 3
                        V1               V2   V1        V2   V1
Physical Appearance
  Item 100              .57              .62
  Item 2                .66              .65
  Item 3                .62              .63
  Item 4                .45              .63
  Item 5                .54              .45
  Item 6                .61              .50
Social Scholastic
  Item 1                                      .49       .32
  Item 2                                      .42       .30
  Item 3                                      .54       .63
  Item 4                                      .39       .44
  Item 5                                      .62       .52
  Item 6                                      .36       .49
Scholastic Performance
  Item 1                                                     .34
  Item 2                                                     .45
  Item 3                                                     .42
  Item 4                                                     .54
  Item 5                                                     .43
  Item 6                                                     .58
Possible Selves
  Item 1
  Item 2
  Item 3
  Item 4
  Item 5
  Item 1
  Item 2
  Item 3
  Item 4
  Item 5
  Item 6
  Item 1
  Item 2
  Item 3
  Item 4
  Item 5
  Item 6
                             Factor 4       Factor 5       Factor 6
                        V2   V1        V2   V1        V2   V1
Physical Appearance
  Item 100
  Item 2
  Item 3
  Item 4
  Item 5
  Item 6
Social Scholastic
  Item 1
  Item 2
  Item 3
  Item 4
  Item 5
  Item 6
Scholastic Performance
  Item 1                .60
  Item 2                .50
  Item 3                .38
  Item 4                .44
  Item 5                .41
  Item 6                .47
Possible Selves
  Item 1                     .54       .51
  Item 2                     .61       .30
  Item 3                     .48       .57
  Item 4                     .76       .61
  Item 5                     .59       .60
  Item 1                                              .59  .35
  Item 2                                              .46  .46
  Item 3                                              .83  .84
  Item 4                                              .62  .56
  Item 5                                              .63  .59
  Item 6                                              .52  .42
  Item 1                                    .54
  Item 2                                    .30
  Item 3                                    .55
  Item 4                                    .53
  Item 5                                    .54
  Item 6                                    .48
Physical Appearance
  Item 100
  Item 2
  Item 3
  Item 4
  Item 5
  Item 6
Social Scholastic
  Item 1
  Item 2
  Item 3
  Item 4
  Item 5
  Item 6
Scholastic Performance
  Item 1
  Item 2
  Item 3
  Item 4
  Item 5
  Item 6
Possible Selves
  Item 1
  Item 2
  Item 3
  Item 4
  Item 5
  Item 1
  Item 2
  Item 3
  Item 4
  Item 5
  Item 6
  Item 1                .38
  Item 2                .51
  Item 3                .59
  Item 4                .47
  Item 5                .50
  Item 6                .47
Note. V1 = Version 1, V2 = Version 2
Table 2. Factor Structure of Both Versions of the RSCS
                        Factor Loadings
                           Version 1               Version 2
                           Factor 1      Factor 2  Factor 1   Factor 2
  Item 1                      .46                     .29
  Item 2                      .49                     .32
  Item 3                      .45                     .32
  Item 4                      .48                     .56
  Item 5                      .27                     .34
  Item 6                      .38                     .42
  Item 1                      .22                               .48
  Item 2                                   .30                  .58
  Item 3                      .27          .28                  .48
  Item 4                      .29          .21                  .44
  Item 5                                   .50                  .24
  Item 6                                   .39        .23
Possible Selves
  Item 1                                   .43                  .48
  Item 2                                   .54                  .21
  Item 3                                   .43                  .57
  Item 4                                   .64                  .62
  Item 5                                   .55                  .64
Social Scholastic
  Item 1                      .22                     .59
  Item 2                                   .22        .43
  Item 3                      .24          .25        .44
  Item 4                      .24          .25        .46
  Item 5                      .32                     .58
  Item 6                      .20                     .32
Scholastic Performance
  Item 1                      .55                     .59
  Item 2                      .28                     .40
  Item 3                      .32                     .48
  Item 4                      .33                     .46
  Item 5                      .46          .31        .56       .31
  Item 6                      .51                     .45
Physical Appearance
  Item 1                                   .28                  .39
  Item 2                      .21          .25                  .39
  Item 3                                   .30        .32       .27
  Item 4                                   .28                  .33
  Item 5                      .23                               .56
  Item 6                                   .46                  .29
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Author:Schott, Gareth R.; Bellin, Wynford
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Date:Mar 22, 2001

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