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The impact of ethgender on self-esteem among adolescents.

Inferior social status of "racial" minorities can result in negative self-concepts (Clark & Clark, 1939, 1940; Gordon, 1969; Horowitz, 1936), but most studies of global self-esteem have not found a significant difference between members of ethnic minority and dominant groups, (e.g., Jensen, White, & Galliher (1982); McCarthy & Yancey (1971); Verkuyten (1986, 1989); Yancey, Rigsby, & McCarthy (1972). Weight of evidence led reviewers, Wylie (1979), Rosenberg (1979) and Verkuyten (1988), to conclude that there is no difference in global self-esteem between minority and dominant group members.

Further, males may have higher global self-esteem than females (Alpert-Gillis & Connell, 1989; Harper & Marshall, 1991; Rosenberg & Simons, 1975; Steitz & Owen, 1992; Verkuyten, 1986; West, Fish, & Stevens, 1980), or there may be no difference between the genders (Kohr, Coldiron, Skiffington, Masters, & Blust, 1988; Mullis, A. K., Mullis, R. L., & Normandin, D., 1992; Lerner, Sorrell, & Brackney, 1981; Osborne & LeGette, 1982; Schwalbe & Staples, 1991).

Differences in theoretical frameworks and resultant differences in measures of self-esteem have produced inconsistencies that characterize the field (Dorgan, Goebel, & House, 1983; Gray-Little & Appelbaum, 1979; Wylie, 1979). This situation led Wylie (1989, p. 119) to lament that the measuring instruments are almost "idiosyncratic id·i·o·syn·cra·sy  
n. pl. id·i·o·syn·cra·sies
1. A structural or behavioral characteristic peculiar to an individual or group.

2. A physiological or temperamental peculiarity.

." Researchers have used different measures of self-esteem with the same group of respondents only to find that there is surprisingly little overlap in the aspects of self (Marsh & Smith, 1982; 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). Despite these problems, studies of self-esteem have led to an increased recognition of (if not appreciation for) its complexity.

Rosenberg's Legacy

Developed for use with adolescents, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale measures global self-esteem (for recent developments, see Rosenberg, Schooler, & Schoenbach, 1989). Using this scale to examine specific racial categories (black and white), Rosenberg and Simmons (1972), did not find any significant differences in the levels of global self-esteem. Yancey, Rigsby, & McCarthy (1972) made a similar finding. Others found that blacks had higher self-esteem levels (Hines & Berg-Cross, 1981; Richman, Clark, & Brown, 1985). The scale also has been used to examine differences between the genders. It was found that race and gender may interact to produce low levels of self-esteem among white adolescent girls (Richman, Clark, & Brown, 1985).

According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 Rosenberg (1979), the self-concept is comprised of parts organized in hierarchical and complex ways. Both the global self-concept and the parts "... exist within the individual's phenomenal field as separate and distinguishable entities, and each can and should be studied in their |sic~ own right." Marsh and Shavelson (1985) provide empirical support for the existence of both global and particular features of the self-concept. The global self-concept seems to predominate during childhood and adolescence, but it seems to grow weaker in adulthood as different facets become better defined, more distinct, and more salient. Marsh and Shavelson (1985) suggest the interesting possibility that "... the formation of general self-concept may take place independently of specific facets of self-concept". Empirical research Noun 1. empirical research - an empirical search for knowledge
inquiry, research, enquiry - a search for knowledge; "their pottery deserves more research than it has received"
 supports the multidimensional view of the self-concept and self-esteem (Fleming & Courtney, 1984; Long, 1991; Shavelson, Hubner, & Stanton, 1976). Van Tuinen and Ramanaiah (1979) found evidence that social self-esteem is a subconstruct of global self-esteem.

The self emerges as an entity that defines persons as distinct from others. As persons assume more statuses in society, the sources of self-esteem become more varied, and the self-concept becomes more differentiated. Also, these aspects become salient in different situations. Thus, persons can see themselves as less successful in some areas and more successful in others without feeling inferior on global self-esteem.

Self-Concept and Self-Esteem

Heiss and Owens (1972) found a pattern of interactions among race, class, and self-evaluations which supported the notion that self-evaluations were made up of various "traits." However, they did not anticipate such "anomalies" as lower-strata black women having fairly positive views and lower-strata white women having negative views of their own intelligence (Turner & Turner, 1982; Martinez & Dukes, 1987).

Using the trait framework, Turner and Turner (1982) distinguished between two general categories of traits of self-esteem. Private-domain traits referred to "domestic-supportive characteristics relevant to intimate interactions," and public-domain traits referred to "characteristics especially operative in the public-productive sphere, including those pertinent to occupational competence and success". They found that lower-strata black women "have an emphatic view of self as competent in the public domain". They questioned the additive additive

In foods, any of various chemical substances added to produce desirable effects. Additives include such substances as artificial or natural colourings and flavourings; stabilizers, emulsifiers, and thickeners; preservatives and humectants (moisture-retainers); and
 view of the negative impacts of oppressive structures. Jeffries and Ransford (1980), called their technique the multiple hierarchy approach, and they developed the concept of ethgenders as the intersection of race and gender wherein where·in  
In what way; how: Wherein have we sinned?

1. In which location; where: the country wherein those people live.

 individuals occupying unique social spaces develop unique perceptions of self. Martinez and Dukes (1987, 1991) studied the effect of ethgender on self-esteem while controlling for confounding confounding

when the effects of two, or more, processes on results cannot be separated, the results are said to be confounded, a cause of bias in disease studies.

confounding factor
 factors of socioeconomic status, academic performance, and age. They found that Native American, Asian, and white American The term white American (often used interchangeably with "Caucasian American"[2] and within the United States simply "white"[3]) is an umbrella term that refers to people of European, Middle Eastern, and North African descent residing in the United States.  females had lower levels of perceived intelligence (public domain trait) than did their male counterparts, but black females did not. In terms of self-satisfaction (private domain trait) they found the highest levels of self-esteem among black males and Chicanos, and the lowest among Native American and Asian females.

The complexities of the self-concept and self-esteem are enormous. The impact of racism and sexism sex·ism  
1. Discrimination based on gender, especially discrimination against women.

2. Attitudes, conditions, or behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on gender.
 on the self-esteem of members of minority and dominant groups remains controversial. The present study examines the impact of race and gender on the self-esteem of adolescents, and it attempts to reconcile some contradictory findings.


The notion of "global" self-esteem, as measured by the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, connotes an overarching--even enveloping--scope. "Core" self-esteem is a preferable concept, since it conveys the notion of "centrality." Certainly, the Rosenberg scale can be conceptualized as measuring core self-esteem. Around this core are formed conceptions of efficacy and self-confidence (Hughes & Demo, 1989). These aspects of the self are more public. They deal with perceived ability to perform in institutional contexts. They are referred to as "public self-esteem."


Core self-esteem of minority adolescents generally is about as high as that of whites (based on "several thousand studies"; Rosenberg, 1981, p. 604). Rationale: Primary group relations support the notion of an "inact, and worthwhile self." Among ethnic minorities, core selves are "insulated in·su·late  
tr.v. in·su·lat·ed, in·su·lat·ing, in·su·lates
1. To cause to be in a detached or isolated position. See Synonyms at isolate.

" from the effects of institutional racism An editor has expressed concern that this article or section is .
Please help improve the article by adding information and sources on neglected viewpoints, or by summarizing and

Public self-esteem generally is lower for racial minority adolescents than for whites. Rationale: Since self-confidence and efficacy are farther from the core, insulation is more difficult, and the negative effect of institutional racism is greater.

Core self-esteem of female adolescents generally is lower than that of males (West, Fish, & Stevens, 1980; Rosenberg & Simmons, 1975: Verkuyten, 1986; Alpert-Gillis & Connell, 1989). Rationale: Primary group relations continue to support the notion of general female inferiority.

The difference in public self-esteem generally is less across adolescent males and females than across the "races." Rationale: Schools are the main public institutions with which adolescents come into contact. They are more even-handed in fostering efficacy and self-confidence in both males and females than they are for members of racial groups.

In sum, due to institutional racism, schools are more coercive co·er·cive  
Characterized by or inclined to coercion.

co·ercive·ly adv.
 of racial minorities, and the result is lower public self-esteem. They are less coercive of females, and the result is public self-esteem that is more on a par with males.

Families are more coercive of females, and the result is lower core self-esteem. Minority families insulate in·su·late  
tr.v. in·su·lat·ed, in·su·lat·ing, in·su·lates
1. To cause to be in a detached or isolated position. See Synonyms at isolate.

 youth from institutional racism, and the result is core self-esteem that is more on a par with that of whites.


Core self-esteem was measured with the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale (RSE), an instrument containing 10 items that can either be summed up or set up as a Guttman scale A Guttman scale is a measurement instrument used in psychological and sociological research developed using the scaling technique developed by Louis Guttman in 1944 called Guttman scaling or scalogram analysis.  (see Wylie, 1989). Here they were summed up. The scale is internally consistent, and it is regarded as among the best scales for measuring global self-esteem among adolescents.

Public self-esteem was measured using an index that was made up of three Likert-type items: (1) I am as intelligent as others my age, (2) I have the ability to perform in school just as well as others my age, and (3) I have as much potential as others my age to succeed in a challenging career if I'm given a chance. All responses (including those on the RSE) were scored on a four-point scale having anchors of "Strongly Disagree" and "Strongly Agree." The three public self-esteem items were intercorrelated .49 to .61.

Ethgenders were measured by combining responses to separate questions on "race/ethnic" group membership and being male or female.

Age, grade, parental education, and average grade on the last nine-week report card were based on self-reports. Socioeconomic status was measured indirectly by asking the level of education of the parent who had achieved the higher level. Finally, the occupational prestige of the head of the household was measured by asking respondents to describe it via one of the following categories: professional, business owner, business person, clerk, manual worker, and protective or service worker.


The data were collected from students attending all junior high and high schools in Colorado This is a list of high schools in the state of Colorado. Adams County
  • Bennett High School, Bennett
  • Horizon High School, Thornton
  • Iver C. Ranum High School, Westminster
  • Thornton High School, Thornton
  • Westminster High School, Westminster
 Springs, Colorado. The instrument took about 20 minutes to complete. It was administered by teachers in November, 1989. Usable questionnaires were returned by 18,612 students. The study was conducted as part of a larger youth lifestyle survey.


Findings on Core Self-esteem

The theory predicted that differences on the RSE (core self-esteem) would be greater for gender than for ethnicity. The mean score on the RSE was 31.51 for males and 29.83 for females. This difference generated an F-ratio (1, 18612) of 533.81 (p |is less than~ .001). The mean score for whites was 30.78 and for minorities, it was 30.39. This much smaller difference in mean scores generated a smaller F-ratio (1, 18612) of 28.17 (p |is less than~ .001). While both of these differences are statistically significant, gender had by far the stronger effect, as predicted.

Findings on Public Self-Esteem

The theory predicted that differences in public self-esteem would be greater for ethnicity than for gender. The mean for whites on the public self-esteem index was 10.20, and the mean for minorities was 9.87. This difference generated an F-ratio (1, 18612) of 134.24 (p |is less than~ .001). The mean score for males was 10.20, and the mean for females was 10.00. Males had higher public self-esteem, but the gap narrowed. The difference produced an F-ratio (1, 18612) of 28.17 (p |is less than~ .001). As predicted, differences in public self-esteem were greater for ethnicity than for gender.
Table 1

Means and z-scores (with covariates) for Rosenberg and Public Self-Esteem
Scales by Ethgender


Ethgender                Mean       z-score

Black males              32.44       (.33)
Hispanic Males           31.96       (.24)
White Males              31.78       (.20)
Native Males             31.47       (.14)
Black Females            31.10       (.07)
Asian Males              30.91       (.03)
Hispanic Females         30.03      (-.14)
White Females            29.59      (-.26)
Native Females           29.41      (-.26)
Asian Females            28.82      (-.38)

GM                       30.75
SD                        5.06

Public Self-Esteem

White Males              10.36       (.12)
Hispanic Males           10.30       (.09)
Black Males              10.29       (.08)
Black Females            10.28       (.08)
Asian Males              10.16       (.01)
Native Males             10.14       (.00)
Hispanic Females          9.95      (-.10)
White Females             9.95      (-.10)
Native Females            9.97      (-.10)
Asian Females             9.72      (-.23)

GM                       10.14
SD                        1.80

Could these findings be replicated with another population? Separate analyses were performed on 1,700 students in the Denver, Colorado area. These students were of slightly lower socioeconomic status, and were more ethnically mixed than were the students in Colorado Springs. Findings supported the theory slightly more strongly than those reported above.

Could the findings have been produced by factors such as age, academic achievement, or socioeconomic status? Separate analyses were performed using analysis of co-variance. Results parallelled those reported above.


The analyses revealed some evidence of statistical interaction between ethnicity and gender that parallelled those of Richman, Clark, and Brown (1985). These findings as well as theoretical notions suggested the analysis of core and public self-esteem by ethgender.

Upon examining scores (without controls for age, GPA GPA
grade point average

Noun 1. GPA - a measure of a student's academic achievement at a college or university; calculated by dividing the total number of grade points received by the total number attempted
, SES) on the RSE by ethgender, males of all ethnic groups appeared above the grand mean. Black females were the only ethgender to score above the grand mean, and their mean ranked them about in the middle of the males. These findings support the previous theoretical premises.

Looking at scores on public self-esteem by ethgender, two female groups (whites and blacks) were in the top five groups. Comparing z-scores, generally the male groups did not score as well on public self-esteem as they did on the RSE. Female groups, however, scored at least as well on public self-esteem as on the RSE.


Race and gender interact to produce different levels of core and specific (public domain) self-esteem among youth. These findings parallel those of Richman et al. (1985). In general, "race" (as a function of racism) does not have a significant negative impact on the global self-concept of racial minority males, but it seems to have a negative impact on public domain components of self-esteem. In contrast, discrimination (both sexist sex·ism  
1. Discrimination based on gender, especially discrimination against women.

2. Attitudes, conditions, or behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on gender.
 and racist) "attacks" both global and specific aspects of self-esteem among females, but less so public domain self-esteem.
Table 2

Means and z-scores for Rosenberg and Public Self-Esteem Scales by Ethgender


Ethgender                            Mean             z-score

White Males                          31.80             (.21)
Black Males                          31.75             (.20)
Hispanic Males                       31.15             (.08)
Black Females                        30.84             (.02)
Asian Males                          30.83             (.02)
Native Males                         30.76             (.00)
White Females                        29.93            (-.16)
Hispanic Females                     29.63            (-.22)
Native Females                       29.10            (-.33)
Asian Females                        29.04            (-.34)

GM                                   30.75
SD                                    5.06

Public Self-Esteem

White Males                          10.36             (.12)
Black Females                        10.18             (.02)
Asian Males                          10.13             (.00)
White Females                        10.09            (-.03)
Black Males                           9.98            (-.09)
Hispanic Males                        9.95            (-.11)
Native Males                          9.85            (-.16)
Asian Females                         9.82            (-.18)
Hispanic Females                      9.79            (-.19)
Native Females                        9.68            (-.26)

Mean                                 10.14
SD                                    1.80

Males had lower public domain self-esteem than global self-esteem, but females showed the reverse. Could this be due to socialization socialization /so·cial·iza·tion/ (so?shal-i-za´shun) the process by which society integrates the individual and the individual learns to behave in socially acceptable ways.

 practices within families? If so, is the family the primary vehicle for the production of sexism? Something gives females a relatively more positive outlook on public domain traits related to institutions than on core self-esteem. Do adolescent females believe the rhetoric of "having it all"? Schools have tended to reward the conformity of females, so perhaps the measures on intelligence and school performance reflect this process. Greater perceived equality in the workplace and emphasis in schools on performance may account for the observed differences.

Despite decades of emphasis on race and gender in the study of self-esteem, surprisingly little of this research has focused on the systematic investigation of the interactive effects of these variables. This avenue of research has promise of locating individuals in unique social spaces and allowing for investigation of the mechanisms by which discrimination has an impact on the self. In order for this line of investigation to prove fruitful, a stronger theory on the core and public aspects of the self is needed, as is a more thorough measure of public self-esteem.


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Clark, K. B., & Clark, M. P. (1939). Development of consciousness of self and the emergence of racial identification in Negro preschool children. Journal of Social Psychology, 10, 591-599

Clark, K. B., & Clark, M. P. (1940). Skin color as a factor in racial identification of Negro preschool children. Journal of Social Psychology, 11, 159-169.

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Fleming, J. S., & Courtney, B. E. (1984). The dimensionality of self-esteem: II. Hierarchical facet model for revised measurement scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (often referred to as JPSP) is a monthly psychology journal of the American Psychological Association. It is considered one of the top journals in the fields of social and personality psychology. , 46, 404-421.

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Gray-Little, B., & Appelbaum, M. I. (1979). Instrumentality Instrumentality

Notes issued by a federal agency whose obligations are guaranteed by the full-faith-and-credit of the government, even though the agency's responsibilities are not necessarily those of the US government.
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Jeffries, V., & Ransford, H. E. (1980). Social stratification Noun 1. social stratification - the condition of being arranged in social strata or classes within a group

condition - a mode of being or form of existence of a person or thing; "the human condition"
: A multiple hierarchy approach. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Kohr, R. L., Coldiron, J. R., Skiffington, E. W., Master, J. R., & Blust, R. S. (1988). The influence of race, class, and gender on self-esteem for fifth, eighth, and eleventh grade This article or section deals primarily with the United States and Canada and does not represent a worldwide view of the subject.
Please [ improve this article] or discuss the issue on the talk page.
 students in Pennsylvania schools. Journal of Negro Education The Journal of Negro Education (JNE) is a refereed scholarly periodical founded at Howard University in 1932 to fill the need for a scholarly journal that would identify and define the problems that characterized the education of Black people in the United States and elsewhere, , 57, 467-481.

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Long, V. O. (1991). Masculinity masculinity /mas·cu·lin·i·ty/ (mas?ku-lin´i-te) virility; the possession of masculine qualities.

1. The quality or condition of being masculine.

, femininity Femininity

perfect maidenhood; epithet of Elizabeth I. [Br. Lit.: Faerie Queene]

Darnel, Aurelia

personification of femininity. [Br. Lit.
, and women scientists' self-esteem and self-acceptance. The Journal of Psychology, 125(3), 263-270.

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A scientific discipline, such as sociology, anthropology, or psychology, in which the actions and reactions of humans and animals are studied through observational and experimental methods.
, 9, 427-443.

McCarthy, J., & Yancey, W. (1971). Uncle Tom and Mr. Charlie Mr. Char·lie  
n. Offensive Slang
A white person or white people considered as a group.

[From the name Charlie, nickname for Charles.]
: Metaphysical met·a·phys·i·cal  
1. Of or relating to metaphysics.

2. Based on speculative or abstract reasoning.

3. Highly abstract or theoretical; abstruse.

a. Immaterial; incorporeal.
 pathos in the study of racism and personal disorganization disorganization /dis·or·gan·iza·tion/ (-or?gan-i-za´shun) the process of destruction of any organic tissue; any profound change in the tissues of an organ or structure which causes the loss of most or all of its proper characters. . American Journal of Sociology, 76, 648-672.

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New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
: Basic Books.

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Ruben Martinez Ruben Martinez is a journalist, author, and musician. Professional Career
From 1986 until 1993 he was a writer and editor at LA Weekly; becoming the first Latino on staff there.
, Ph.D., Chair and Associate Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology Noun 1. department of sociology - the academic department responsible for teaching and research in sociology
sociology department

academic department - a division of a school that is responsible for a given subject
, University of Colorado University of Colorado may refer to:
  • University of Colorado at Boulder (flagship campus)
  • University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
  • University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center
  • University of Colorado system
 at Colorado Springs.

Reprint reprint An individually bound copy of an article in a journal or science communication  requests to Richard L. Dukes, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology and Director of the Social Science Research Center, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80933-7150.
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Author:Dukes, Richard L.; Martinez, Ruben
Date:Mar 22, 1994
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