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Differences in Self-esteem of University Students with and without Disability.

Byline: Humara Bano, Nyla Anjum and Shaheen Pasha


The study is aimed to assess the self -esteem level of university students. Comparison on two variables, disability and gender, has also been investigated. A purposive sample comprised of 93 students (42 students with disability and 51 without disability). The sample is drawn from 19 departments of the University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan. The Self -Esteem Scale developed by Rifai (1999) was individually administered to all research participants. Research data indicates no significant difference in self-esteem of students with and without disability (t =.28, df = 91, p >.05). Findings also suggest no significant gender differences in self-esteem of students with and without disability (t =.20, df = 91, p >.05). The findings of the research support that education is a key factor in the development of self- esteem of students. If students with disability have an opportunity to get education, it will help them to enhance their self-esteem.

Key Words: Self Esteem, Gender, Disability


Self-esteem as a personality construct is just an estimation of one's self, therefore, is usually considered as private and personal. Generally it means a person's over all worth about him or herself. The construct of self- esteem consists of many beliefs such as the appraisal of one's own appearance, emotions, cognition and behavior. Self- esteem is an essential human need for survival and normal healthy development. It arises automatically based upon a person's beliefs and consciousness and has conjunction with a person's thoughts, behavior, feelings and actions.

Self- esteem as a component of personality has its own significance, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, race and disability. Persons with disabilities (PWDs) also need positive self -esteem as their normal peers possess. In Pakistan, the ratio of disability in the total population is 2.49% (Census, 1998). Ministry of Health, Special Education and Social Welfare deals with this population. Many national and international NGOs are working to empower and rehabilitate people with special need in all sectors of life. The major focus of all these organizations and institutions in special education is to provide them with the best educational, psychological and other allied services like, medical facilities, financial assistance, provision of aids (like wheel chairs, hearing aids, etc). Researches in these fields also concentrate on just surveying available services, like schools, books, teachers and transport as well as other hubs including symptoms, causes and prevalence of disability.

These are related to physiological needs of human beings. However, needs like self-esteem are still not focused upon. So this scenario demands to muse on psychological aspects of persons with disabilities or special needs.

Gender has a great magnitude in the formation of self-esteem at any age. Generally females have lower self-perception than males at the time of adolescence and early adult years especially in male dominating societies like Pakistan. So this factor also calls for examination.

Literature Review

Self- esteem is based on appraisal concern to oneself and is a belief in one's capacity to change one's own situation. It helps a person to realize his/her good and bad qualities, and can alleviate lack of self-esteem, lack of satisfaction and the sense of unhappiness. Self-acceptance is the recognition of one self. It is just good feelings of within and does not depend on what is going outside or external achievements. It is necessary for human beings to learn to accept and love oneself with all ones flaws and imperfections as well as weakness and strengths, without any feelings of shame and embarrassment (Gerrard, Gibbons, Reis-Bergan, and Russell, 2000; Phelps, 2010). Factors like economic status, education, social support and awareness hold principal positions in development, expansion and enhancement of Self-esteem (Leary, 2004; Logel, Holmes, Anthony, Wood, and Cameron, 2006; Mruk, 2006; Robins, Tracy, Trzesniewski, Potter, and Gosling, 2001; Rogers, 1980).

According to MacDonald and Leary (2005), evaluation by others also has a significant part in developing self-esteem. Self-perceptions and actual competence have traditionally been divided into four smaller categories. These include academic, social, emotional, and behavioral perceptions. Based on these categories, four common dimensions of self- esteem are drawn such as self- acceptance, self- competence, social and physical self- acceptance, and academic self-competence (Anthony, Wood, and Holmes, 2007; Antle, 2004; Cash, and Annis, 2004; Harter, 2003; Watson, Suls, and Haig, 2002).

Academic self-competence is a term that generally refers to perceptions of ability in broad academic areas, such as how good a student is in general. Academic self-competence may also refer to perceived ability in subject areas as a whole. This makes the definition very similar to self-concept. However, while self-concept also addresses students' beliefs about academic difficulties and student affect, self- competence refers only to their perceptions related to success (Ismail, and Majeed, 2011; Mar, DeYoung, Higgins and Peterson, 2005; Partington, and Kimberly, 2004, Rendall, Wesson, Anderson, and Bould, 2009).

Researches (Cash, Theriault, and Annis, 2004; Shapiro and Martin, 2010) show that physical self-concept of an individual is developed under somatic, psychological and social components. Physical self-concept is very critical during adolescence and youth. Development of positive self- concept is very important to promote an individual's well- being (Fletecher and Hattie, 2005; Harter, 2003; Maiano, Ninot, and Bilard, 2004; MacDonald, Saltzman, and Leary, 2003).

People with high Self-esteem or positive Self-esteem have a sense of worthiness, value and significance. They show an optimistic attitude and constructive behavior and shape their lives in an acceptable manner. Maslow (1954) regarded positive self- esteem as an immune system of spirit. Opposite to this is a group of people with low or negative self- esteem. Low self- esteem comes from a poor self- image and fed negative thinking that leads towards low confidence, self-criticism and self- deception (Baumeister, et al., 2003; Larson and Buss, 2008).

Self-esteem with reference to disability can be defined as a disabled person appraising which leads towards poor body image (Antle, 2004; Bunmi, 2009; Hunt, and Marshall, 2002; Phelps, 2010; Scarpa, 2011; Watson, Suls and Haig, 2002). However, Bowen (2010) has presented results with normal or high level of Self-esteem in people with disabilities. Tuttle and Tuttle (2004) described two sources for the development of self-esteem: externally oriented and internally oriented. They reported that people with visual impairment (VI) views himself first, as a person of dignity and worth, and second as a person who, among many other attributes, happens also to be blind. Thus self-esteem is not static, but dynamic and changing with variable in people's lives (Griffin-Shirly and Nes, 2005; Lopez-Justicia, Pichardo, Amezcua, and Fernandez, 2001).

Researches about people with hearing impairment yield inconsistent results. However, factors like means of communication at home and severity of hearing loss and coping styles in daily life affect their self-esteem. Deaf students with higher degree of hearing loss and with bicultural skills help them to function both in hearing and deaf communities, and generally have a higher Self-esteem (Jambor and Elliot, 2005).

Studies of young people with physical disabilities present a diverse collection of findings. Four studies in this regard revealed no significant gender difference on either self- esteem or body image (Hansen, 1994; Kling, Hyde, Showers, and Buswell, 1999; King, Schultz, Steel, Gilpin, and Cathers, 1993; Naderi, Abdullah, Aizan, Sharir, and Kumar, 2009).

Positive self-esteem elevates a student's academic performance. Rendall (2009), Larson and Buss (2008), Ismail and Majeed (2011) reported that positive self- esteem excel individuals in other areas also. They found that there are significant differences among high academic achievers and low academic achievers on self - esteem. So it is pertinent to measure the self -esteem of students. Generally self-report measures are used to measure self-esteem. The procedure to asking individuals to introspect or hold in self- report is considered valid. But the data has issues of truthfulness, and willingness of respondents.

In the present study efforts have been made to assess the level of self- esteem of students with and without disabilities of the University of the Punjab. The study is further designed to explore differences in studying self-esteem on the basis of gender and disability.

Research Methodology

This study has used a survey research design in which gender and disability are independent variables while self-esteem is the dependent variable. This study is carried out with reference to hearing impairment, visual impairment and physical impairments.

Level of self-esteem is determined according to measuring criteria given in Rifai (1999). The cutoff point for low self-esteem is the 30th percentile and for high Self- esteem is the 70th percentile. The measuring criteria provide separate percentiles for boys and girls. So participants of the study have evaluated accordingly.

Non-probability purposive sampling technique is used to collect data for this research. Research sample is selected from 19 different departments of the University of the Punjab. The sample is comprised of 93 participants. Out of the sample, 42 participants are disabled (26 male and 16 female) and 51 participants are non-disabled (29 male and female 22). Inclusion criteria for participants are: 1) Students are selected from those departments where both disabled and non-disabled students are studying. 2) Only those students are selected who are willing to participate in the study. 3) Age range between 18-25 years. 4) Students studying at post-graduate level. 5) Students with disability are having only one disability at the time of data collection.

The study has used two research instruments: i) Demographic Information Form; ii) Self- esteem Scale. The Demographic Information Form is used to collect information regarding, gender, age, monthly income, academic achievement and type, severity and nature of disability. Whereas, the Self-esteem scale presented in Rifai (1999) is used to find the level of self-esteem. The Scale is an indigenous scale developed in Urdu language. The Scale is internally consistent and reliable with alpha-coefficient,.83 and split-half reliability.72. Its convergent validity with Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale (1965) is.62. The scale is a self-report measure consisting on 29 items with four dimensions, self- acceptance, self- competence, social and physical self- acceptance, and academic self -competence. There are 11 items under self-acceptance, 6 items under self -competence, 7 items under social and physical self-acceptance and five items under self-competence domain.

Each item has five optional responses as follows: Absolutely right, To some extent right, Do not know, To some extent wrong, and Absolutely wrong. Each option is assigned numerical value 4, 3, 2, 1 and 0 respectively however there is reverse scoring for negative items.

Score range for the Scale is from 0-116. High and low scores were described on the basis of percentiles; score 73 and less is found at the 30th percentiles while score 90 and above is found at the 70th percentiles. High scores on scale are an indicator of high Self-esteem and low scores are an indicator of low self-esteem. The Scale also provides a separate percentiles score for four dimensions with cut off scores of the 30th percentile or below for low Self-esteem and the 70th percentile or above for high self-esteem.

The instruments were individually administered to the selected students with and without disabilities after getting their willingness to participate in the study. Non- disabled students and students with physical disabilities were advised to read instructions and the statement as stated in the instrument carefully. For students with visual impairment material is read by the researchers and for students with hearing impairment it is conveyed by the use of sign language. All participants were asked to feel free to ask any queries.

Data Analysis

Descriptive statistics were performed to describe frequencies of different groups.

T-test is applied to measure the gender differences and differences between students with and without disability. Descriptive statistics of gender and types of disability are presented in Table 1.

Table 1: Descriptive Statics of Sample by Gender and Disability

Hearing Impairment###Visual Impairment###Physical Disability###Non-disabled




Frequency distribution of percentiles of participant of the study is presented in Table 2.

Table 2: Percentiles of Participants on Self-Esteem Scale







The analysis results, using t-test, are given in table 3 and 4 respectively.

Table 3: Differences in Self-Esteem of Disabled and Nondisabled Students

Nature of participants###N###Mean###SD###t###df###p-value



Table 4: Differences in Self -Esteem of Male and Female




The results given in Table 3 and 4 indicate that there is no statistically significant difference in self-esteem of students with disability (M=90.51, SD= 12.11) and students without disability (M=89.63, SD=17.13) conditions; t (91) =.28, p=0.111). The results described in Table 4 indicate that there is no statistically significant difference in self- esteem of male (M=89.83;SD=14.02) and female students (M=90.47;SD15.64) conditions, t (91) =.20, p=0.83).


The study is carried out to compare the self-esteem of students with and without disability. The findings of the study reveal that both groups of the study (students with disability and without disability) have the same level of self-esteem. These findings are consistent with the findings of others studies of people with physical disabilities, e.g. Antle, 2004; Hansen, 1994 and King et al, 1993, that people with physical disability have a positive self-esteem. These findings are also consistent with Bowen (2010) that reported no difference in self- esteem of disabled and normal individuals.

The finding of the study also shows that there is no gender difference with regard to self-esteem. The findings are inconsistent with the trends in the general population and also with the findings of Kling, Hyde, Showers, and Buswell (1999) which suggest that males have a high self-esteem as compared to females. However findings are consistent with the findings of Anlte (2004).


The results of this study reveal that the participants of this study (university students) have high self-esteem. Disability and gender do not significantly affect their level of self-esteem. The study concludes that education has an important role in increasing the level of students' self-esteem and eliminating the stigma related to gender. The study also concludes that the provision of education can make students with disability to recognize, accept and utilize their abilities. It will also enhance their worth in their own appraisal.

The study is limited to only one institution (University of the Punjab) of one city (Lahore). So the results cannot be generalized. The self-esteem scale is based on self-report measures which have its own biases. For students with Hearing Impairment and students with Visual Impairment, statements were read out and were interpreted in sign language that may affect participants' responses.


It is recommended that further research should be carried out in different institutions of different cities of Pakistan. However, based on the results of this study, it is recommended that educational facilities should aim to improve self-esteem of both disabled and non-disabled students. Aiming so will assist them to bringing out their best side and help them to cope better with everyday situation; especially, in frustrating and discouraging situations. It will also assist them in realizing their individual strengths, skills and weaknesses and to improve upon them. This focus will also encourage them in self-motivation to achieve their individual vision and set objectives.


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Author:Bano, Humara; Anjum, Nyla; Pasha, Shaheen
Publication:Journal of Educational Research
Article Type:Report
Date:Jun 30, 2015
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