Question B:Discuss the chapters from the McCullough book on revenge. Include at least two outside references on the ideas presented. Extend the results to other areas.
Read the original research article below and describe the researchers’ questions and methods. Do you have confidence in the research findings? What does the study mean in the big picture and how does it apply to society in general?
Donnellan, M. B., Trzesniewski, K. H., Robins, R. W., Moffitt, T. E., & Caspi, A. (2005). Low self-esteem is related to aggression, antisocial behavior, and delinquency. Psychological Science, 16(4), 328–335. doi:10.1111/j.0956-7976.2005.01535.x Donnellan, M. B., Trzesniewski, K. H., Robins, R. W., Moffitt, T. E., & Caspi, A. (2005). Low self-esteem is related to aggression, antisocial behavior, and delinquency. Psychological Science, 16(4), 328–335. doi:10.1111/j.0956-7976.2005.01535.x – Alternative Formats
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Low Self-Esteem Is Related to Aggression, Antisocial Behavior, and Delinquency M. Brent Donnellan, Kali H. Trzesniewski, Richard W. Robins, Terrie E. Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi
Psychological Science 2005 16: 328 DOI: 10.1111/j.0956-7976.2005.01535.x
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Low Self-Esteem Is Related to Aggression, Antisocial Behavior, and Delinquency M. Brent Donnellan,1 Kali H. Trzesniewski,2,3 Richard W. Robins,4 Terrie E. Moffitt,2,3 and Avshalom Caspi2,3
1Michigan State University; 2Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom; 3University of Wisconsin-Madison; and 4University of California, Davis
ABSTRACT—The present research explored the controver- sial link between global self-esteem and externalizing problems such as aggression, antisocial behavior, and delinquency. In three studies, we found a robust relation between low self-esteem and externalizing problems. This relation held for measures of self-esteem and externalizing problems based on self-report, teachers’ ratings, and parents’ ratings, and for participants from different na- tionalities (United States and New Zealand) and age groups (adolescents and college students). Moreover, this relation held both cross-sectionally and longitudinally and after controlling for potential confounding variables such as supportive parenting, parent-child and peer relation- ships, achievement-test scores, socioeconomic status, and IQ. In addition, the effect of self-esteem on aggression was independent of narcissism, an important finding given recent claims that individuals who are narcissistic, not low in self-esteem, are aggressive. Discussion focuses on clar- ifying the relations among self-esteem, narcissism, and externalizing problems.
The link between global self-esteem and aggression is currently being debated by researchers (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, & Vohs, 2003; DuBois & Tevendale, 1999) and in the popular media (e.g., Slater, 2002). Researchers on one side of the debate have argued that individuals with low self-esteem are prone to real-world externalizing problems such as delinquency and antisocial behavior (e.g., Fergusson & Horwood, 2002;
Address correspondence to M. Brent Donnellan, Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48823; e-mail: [email protected]
Rosenberg, Schooler, & Schoenbach, 1989; Sprott & Doob, 2000). However, others have questioned this claim, noting that several studies have failed to find a relation between low self- esteem and externalizing problems (e.g., Bynner, O’Malley, & Bachman, 1981; Jang & Thornberry, 1998; McCarthy & Hoge, 1984) or between low global self-esteem and laboratory mea- sures of aggression (Bushman & Baumeister, 1998; Kirkpatrick, Waugh, Valencia, & Webster, 2002; Twenge & Campbell, 2003). On the basis of this research, Baumeister, Bushman, and Campbell (2000) suggested that ‘‘future research can benefit from discarding the obsolete view that low self-esteem causes violence’’ (p. 29). Instead, Baumeister and his colleagues have posited that any link between self-esteem and aggression probably occurs at the high end of the self-esteem continuum; that is, unrealistically high self-esteem (best captured by measures of narcissism), not low self-esteem, contributes to aggression and crime (e.g., Baumeister, Smart, & Boden, 1996). At least three distinct traditions in the social sciences posit a
link between low self-esteem and externalizing problems. Rosenberg (1965) suggested that low self-esteem weakens ties to society; according to social-bonding theory, weaker ties to society decrease conformity to social norms and increase de- linquency (Hirschi, 1969). Humanistic psychologists such as Rogers (e.g., 1961) have argued that a lack of unconditional positive self-regard is linked to psychological problems, in- cluding aggression. Finally, neo-Freudians also posit that low self-regard motivates aggression. For example, Horney (1950) and Adler (1956) theorized that aggression and antisocial be- havior are motivated by feelings of inferiority rooted in early childhood experiences of rejection and humiliation. More spe- cifically, Tracy and Robins (2003) suggested that individuals protect themselves against feelings of inferiority and shame by externalizing blame for their failures, which leads to feelings of hostility and anger toward other people. Thus, three separate
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M.B. Donnellan et al.
theoretical perspectives posit that externalizing behaviors are motivated, in part, by low self-esteem. Despite these theoretical arguments, research on the link
between low self-esteem and externalizing problems has failed to produce consistent results. An understanding of the precise nature of this relation has important theoretical implications, as well as practical implications given the media attention sur- rounding the issue. To bring new data to bear on this contro- versy, we report results from three studies that extend previous research in several ways. First, we used a multimethod ap- proach to assessing self-esteem and externalizing problems. Previous research has relied almost exclusively on self-report measures, so it is possible that the relations that have been observed are due to shared method variance. Second, we ex- amined several theoretically relevant variables that might ac- count for the effects of self-esteem on externalizing problems, including IQ, academic achievement, socioeconomic status (SES), and the quality of parent-child relationships. Third, we used longitudinal data to test the hypothesis that low self-es- teem is related to future externalizing problems (Study 2). Fi- nally, we assessed narcissism to examine the possibility that unrealistically high self-esteem is related to aggression and to determine whether self-esteem and narcissism have inde- pendent effects (Study 3).
Study 1 investigated the relation between self-reports and teacher ratings of self-esteem and self-reports of delinquency in a sample of 11- and 14-year-olds. We also controlled for two theoretically relevant variables—supportive parenting and ac- ademic achievement—that might account for the effects of self- esteem on delinquency.
Participants The sample included 292 (78% response rate) 11- and 14-year- old participants (mean age 5 12.66 years, SD 5 1.57; 55% female; 56.5% European American, 4.8% Asian American or Pacific Islander, 20.5% Hispanic American, 9.2% African American, and 9.0% ‘‘other’’ or not reported) from two schools in northern California.
Measures Self-esteem was measured with the 10-item Rosenberg (1965) Self-Esteem Scale (RSE; a 5 .81) and the 6-item Global sub- scale of the Harter (1985) Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC; a 5 .75). Teachers completed a modified teacher ver- sion of the SPPC (a 5 .88). Delinquency was measured using a 12-item delinquent-be-
haviors scale adapted from Elliott, Huizinga, and Ageton (1985; a 5 .85).
Supportive parenting (warmth, monitoring, use of inductive reasoning, and consistent discipline) was measured using a modified scale from the Iowa Youth and Families Project (e.g., Conger et al., 1992; a 5 .89). Academic achievement was measured by a composite of the
Math and Reading percentile scores from the Stanford Achieve- ment Test Battery.
Results and Discussion Self-esteem was consistently negatively correlated with delin- quency, regardless of whether self-esteem was assessed by the RSE (r 5�.35), the self-report version of the SPPC (r 5�.39), or the teacher version of the SPPC (r 5�.29; all ps < .05).1 To explore these effects further, we compared the self-esteem scores of individuals who reported at least one delinquent act (76% of the sample) and those who reported no delinquent acts. The delinquent group had lower self-esteem than the nonde- linquent group on all three self-esteem measures (Cohen’s d 5 0.48, 0.63, and 0.35 for the RSE, self-report SPPC, and teacher SPPC, respectively; all ps < .05). Baumeister et al. (1996) focused their critique of the low-self-
esteem hypothesis on aggression, and it was possible that our results were due to delinquent behaviors not involving aggres- sion. To address this issue, we divided the delinquency scale into a 2-item aggression scale (‘‘got into a fight,’’ ‘‘beat someone up’’) and a 10-item nonaggression scale (e.g., ‘‘lied to parents or teachers,’’ ‘‘used drugs or alcohol’’). All the effects of self-es- teem remained significant for both the aggression scale (rs ranged from �.17 to �.26, ps < .05) and the nonaggression scale (rs ranged from �.28 to �.39, ps < .05). To test whether supportive parenting and academic
achievement could account for the relation between low self- esteem and delinquency, we used structural equation modeling with latent variables defined by item parcels rather than indi- vidual items (Kishton & Widaman, 1994). Supportive parenting was defined by three parcels of eight items; self-esteem was defined by the RSE and the self- and teacher-based SPPC scales; delinquency was defined by three parcels of four items; and academic achievement was modeled as a manifest variable. An initial base model that included only self-esteem and de- linquency had good fit, w 2(8) 5 9.09, n.s. (comparative fit index, CFI 5 1.00; root mean square error of approximation, RMSEA 5 .02, p close fit 5 .76), and the path linking self-esteem to delinquency was negative (b 5 �.52, p < .05). Figure 1 shows a model controlling for both supportive parenting and academic achievement. This model also had acceptable fit, w 2(30) 5 60.07, p < .05 (CFI 5 .996; RMSEA 5 .06, p close fit 5 .24), and the relation between self-esteem and delinquency remained
1Age and gender did not moderate the relation between self-esteem and de- linquency.
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Self-Esteem and Externalizing Problems
Fig. 1. Model linking global self-esteem and delinquency in Study 1 (N 5 292). Standardized coefficients are reported, and asterisks indicate structural coefficients significant at the .05 level. Self-esteem was measured with the Rosenberg (1965) Self-Esteem Scale, the Global subscale from Harter’s (1985) Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC), and a modified teacher report version of the Global subscale from the SPPC. The four-item parcels of delinquency items are labeled D1 through D3. Supportive parenting is a latent construct indexed by three eight-item parcels.
significant (b 5 �.28, p < .05). Thus, supportive parenting and academic achievement could not explain the relation between self-esteem and delinquency.
The results of Study 1 provided support for the low-self-esteem hypothesis. In Study 2, we extended Study 1 in several ways. First, we used a longitudinal design to examine the prospective relation between self-esteem and externalizing problems. Sec- ond, Study 2 included non-self-report measures of externalizing problems, specifically, teacher- and parent-rated antisocial behavior. Third, Study 2 examined additional control variables, including the quality of parent-child and peer relationships, SES, and IQ. Finally, Study 2 was based on data from a repre- sentative birth cohort of New Zealanders, so the range of ex- ternalizing problems in the sample reflects the variation found in the general population.
Sample Participants were members of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (for details, see Moffitt, Caspi, Rutter, & Silva, 2001), a longitudinal investigation of a com- plete cohort of consecutive births between April 1, 1972, and March 31, 1973, in Dunedin, New Zealand. The present study
included participants who completed a measure of self-esteem at age 11 (n 5 812; 48% female; 78% of the initial cohort) or age 13 (n 5 736; 48% female; 71% of the initial cohort).2
Measures Self-esteem was measured at age 11 and age 13 with the RSE. The use of a yes/no response format resulted in reliabilities that were somewhat lower than usual for the RSE (a 5 .64 at age 11 and .60 at age 13). Externalizing problems were assessed using the Rutter Child
Scale (RCS; Rutter, Tizard, & Whitmore, 1970) and the Revised Behavior Problem Checklist (RBPC; Quay & Peterson, 1987). Teachers completed the RCS when the participants were ages 11 and 13; parents completed the RCS when the participants were age 11 and the RBPC when they were age 13. Information about the reliability and validity of these measures is provided by Moffitt et al. (2001). Relationship with parents and peers was assessed at age 13
using the Inventory of Parent Attachment (a 5 .77) and the Inventory of Peer Attachment (Armsden & Greenberg, 1987; a 5 .80). These scales measure the degree to which adolescents
2Missing data do not appear to be a major cause for concern given the few differences between participants with and without self-esteem scores: Partici- pants without self-esteem scores at age 11 were rated as more antisocial by their parents than participants with self-esteem scores (d 5 0.23, p < .05), and participants without self-esteem scores at age 13 were rated as more antisocial by their parents and teachers than participants with self-esteem scores (ds 5 0.17 and 0.20, respectively, ps < .05).
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Fig. 2. Model linking self-esteem and externalizing problems in Study 2 (N 5 830). Standardized coefficients are reported, and asterisks indicate structural coefficients significant at the .05 level.
feel they can trust, communicate with, and are not alienated from their parents or peers. IQ was assessed using the mean of each participant’s scores
on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children–Revised (Wechsler, 1974) at ages 7, 9, 11, and 13. SES was calculated as the average social class of each par-
ticipant’s family from birth to age 15. Scores at each assessment ranged from 1 (parents are unskilled laborers) to 6 (parents are professionals).
Results and Discussion
Relation Between Self-Esteem and Externalizing Problems Results were consistent with those of Study 1: Self-esteem was negatively correlated with parent reports of externalizing prob- lems (r 5�.18 at age 11 and r 5�.27 at age 13, ps < .05) and with teacher reports of externalizing problems (r 5�.16 at age 11 and r 5�.18 at age 13, ps < .05). Moreover, self-esteem at age 11 was prospectively related to both parent and teacher reports of externalizing problems at age 13 (both rs 5�.20, ps < .05). As in Study 1, the cross-method effects were significant; individuals with low self-esteem were more likely to engage in antisocial behaviors as reported by their parents and teachers. We divided the items on the antisocial-behavior scales according to whether they involved aggressive (e.g., fighting, bullying) or nonaggres- sive (e.g., lying, disobedient) behaviors, and the effects of self- esteem remained significant for both the aggression items (rs ranged from �.13 to �.26, ps < .05) and the nonaggression items (rs ranged from �.18 to �.21, ps < .05).
We next tested whether theoretically relevant third variables could account for the relation between low self-esteem and delinquency. The base model of self-esteem and externalizing problems had good fit, w 2(1) 5 3.61, n.s. (CFI 5 .99; RMSEA 5 .06, p close fit 5 .32), and the path linking self-esteem to ex- ternalizing problems was negative (b 5�.49, p < .05). Figure 2 shows a model linking self-esteem and externalizing problems, controlling for parent and peer relationships, IQ, and SES. This model had good fit, w 2(9) 5 19.81, p < .05 (CFI 5 .99; RMSEA 5 .04, p close fit 5 .78), and the relation between self-esteem and externalizing problems remained significant (b 5�.32, p < .05). Thus, parent and peer relationships, IQ, and SES could not explain the relation between self-esteem and delinquency.3
Cross-Lagged Relations Between Self-Esteem and Externalizing Problems To examine the effect of self-esteem at age 11 on externalizing problems at age 13, we conducted cross-lagged analyses con- trolling for prior levels of externalizing problems. Although these analyses do not establish causal direction, they help rule out alternative causal interpretations related to temporal se- quence. We created latent measures of self-esteem at ages 11 and 13 using five two-item parcels of RSE items, and latent measures of externalizing problems at ages 11 and 13 using an indicator of aggressive behaviors (a standardized composite of
3There was no evidence that gender, IQ, or SES moderated the relation be- tween self-esteem and externalizing problems.
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Self-Esteem and Externalizing Problems
Fig. 3. Cross-lagged model linking self-esteem and externalizing problems in Study 2 (N 5 830). Standardized coefficients are reported, and asterisks indicate structural coefficients significant at the .05 level. The five two-item parcels of self-esteem items are labeled SE1 through SE5.
parent and teacher reports) and an indicator of nonaggressive behaviors (a standardized composite of parent and teacher re- ports). To improve model fit, we allowed the errors for the in- dicators at age 11 to correlate with the same errors at age 13. Figure 3 shows the cross-lagged model. This model had good
fit, w 2(64) 5 116.06, p < .05 (CFI 5 .99; RMSEA 5 .03, p close fit 5 1.00), and self-esteem was concurrently related to exter- nalizing problems at age 11 (r 5�.31, p < .05) and age 13 (r 5�.25, p < .05). The path linking self-esteem at age 11 to externalizing problems at age 13 was negative and significant (b 5�.15, p < .05), whereas the path linking externalizing problems at age 11 to self-esteem at age 13 was negative but not statistically significant (b 5�.08, p 5 .11). These results are consistent with the claim that low self-esteem leads to increases in externalizing problems. However, given the magnitude of the effect and the nonexperimental design, we are hesitant to con- clude that self-esteem causes future externalizing problems.
The results of Studies 1 and 2 support the low-self-esteem hy- pothesis. In Study 3, we tested the hypothesis (Baumeister et al., 1996, 2003) that unrealistically high, not low, self-esteem predicts aggression by assessing both self-esteem and narcis- sism and examining their relations with reports of real-world aggression. Previous research on narcissism has used laboratory measures of aggression, and it is not clear whether the findings generalize to real-world aggression.
Sample The sample consisted of 3,143 undergraduate students (68.3% female; mean age 5 19.6 years, SD 5 1.6) from a large research university in northern California. They participated in exchange for course credit.
Measures Self-esteem was measured with the RSE (a 5 .90). Narcissism was measured by the 40-item Narcissistic Personality Inventory (Raskin & Terry, 1988; a 5 .84). Aggression was assessed using the 29-item Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire (AQ; Buss & Perry, 1992). The AQ includes a Total Aggression scale (a 5 .90) and four subscales: Physical Aggression (a 5 .83), Verbal Aggression (a 5 .76), Anger (a 5 .81), and Hostility (a 5 .84).
Results and Discussion Table 1 shows correlations of self-esteem and narcissism with aggression.4 Results were consistent with the findings of Studies 1 and 2: Self-esteem was negatively correlated with the Total Aggression scale of the AQ (r 5�.30, p < .05) and with all of the subscales except Verbal Aggression. Note that self-esteem was related to the Physical Aggression subscale, which has been linked to real-world displays of violence (Bushman & Wells, 1998). In contrast, narcissism was positively correlated
4Gender did not moderate any of these relations.
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TABLE 1 Results of Correlational and Regression Analyses Predicting Aggression From Self-Esteem and Narcissism (Study 3)
Total Aggression Physical Aggression Verbal Aggression Anger Hostility
Predictor Zero-order correlation b
Zero-order correlation b
Zero-order correlation b
Zero-order correlation b
Zero-order correlation b
Self-esteem Narcissism Multiple R
Note. N 5 3,143. np < .05.
with the Total Aggression scale (r 5 .18, p < .05) and with all of the subscales except Hostility. Thus, we found support for the claim that narcissistic individuals are prone to aggression. Self-esteem and narcissism were moderately related (r 5 .32,
p < .05), so we conducted multiple regression analyses to test whether they had independent effects on aggression (Table 1). In general, the effect sizes increased in the multiple regression analyses (e.g., the zero-order relation between self-esteem and Total Aggression was �.30, whereas the regression coefficient controlling for narcissism was �.39). We conducted Sobel tests to determine if these apparent suppression effects were statis- tically significant (MacKinnon, Krull, & Lockwood, 2000). For the total AQ scale and all four subscales, the effects of self- esteem were significantly stronger when narcissism was in- cluded in the equation than when it was not included (all zs > �4.90, ps < .05), and, similarly, all of the effects of narcissism were significantly stronger when self-esteem was included in the equations (all zs > 6.28, ps < .05). Thus, low self-esteem and narcissism contribute independently to aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and in fact serve as mutual
In three studies, we found a robust relation between low self- esteem and externalizing problems. This relation held for dif- ferent age groups, different nationalities, and multiple methods of assessing self-esteem and externalizing problems; after controlling for potential confounding variables; and when we delved beneath the broad construct of externalizing problems and examined specific aggressive thoughts, feelings, and be- haviors. Moreover, our results indicate that self-esteem may foretell future externalizing problems; 11-year-olds with low
5To address the concern that self-esteem lacks predictive validity after con- trolling for neuroticism (e.g., Judge, Erez, Thoresen, & Bono, 2002), we repeated the analyses reported in Table 1 for the subsample of participants (n 5 2,516) who completed the Big Five Inventory Neuroticism scale (John & Srivastava, 1999). Controlling for neuroticism reduced the size of the coefficients for self- esteem in Table 1, but they remained statistically significant in all cases (e.g., for predictions of Total Aggression, b for self-esteem 5 �.27 and b for narcissism 5 .30, ps < .05).
self-esteem tended to increase in aggression by age 13. Finally, the effect of low self-esteem on aggression was independent of narcissism; in fact, when healthy self-regard was disentangled from narcissistic self-perceptions, the relation between low self- esteem and aggression became even stronger. Thus, our results support the concern (Baumeister et al., 1996) about the dangers of narcissism but do not support the conclusion that low self- esteem is unrelated to externalizing problems. In this section, we discuss conceptual and methodological issues that may help explain the inconsistencies in the literature on the association between low self-esteem and externalizing problems. Baumeister et al. (1996) suggested that inflated high self-
esteem (as captured by measures of narcissism) is a better predictor of aggression than low self-esteem. This suggestion seems to be based on the assumption that low self-esteem and narcissism are opposite ends of the same continuum (self-hate vs. self-love). For example, Baumeister et al. noted that ‘‘an effective and valid [self-esteem] scale would identify the arro- gant, conceited narcissist just as well as the person who holds an unbiased a
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