2004, Number 4
Salud Mental 2004; 27 (4)
La influencia de la autoestima en la percepción del estrés y el afrontamiento en niños de edad escolar
Verduzco-Alvarez-Icaza MA, LucioGómez-Maqueo E, Durán PC
PDF size: 156.95 Kb.
ABSTRACTSelf-esteem is related to the perception of reality and behaviour. The concept that each person has of him is unique and greatly determines his interpretation of reality and the actions resulting from this. Self-esteem is considered an important factor in the mitigation of stress. It has been found that children who are resistant to stress possess self-esteem among other protective factors and self-esteem also is considered the first protective factor against victimization and intimidation if is well-established in childhood. Self-esteem levels, therefore, seem to affect essentially the way in which each individual interacts both with himself and the external world. People with high self-esteem tend to control their own lives, whereas those with low self-esteem tend to have their behaviour dominated by doubt, fear and a defensive position, since self approval tends to extend to approval of our own actions.
Some of the most important advances in the study of stress lie in the recognition of the importance of a person’s interaction with the environment. It is in childhood when we develop patterns to face stressful factors and when a child learns to control his environment with these. His development will depend on how well this task is carried out. In research on stress and coping, children are considered to interact with the environment and not to be passive receptors of the environmental forces leading to certain events. Since their responses are so similar, they support the idea they have a culture that is commonly shared, no matter where or how these children are raised. Nevertheless, individual differences are taken into account when the process is evaluated. In research on coping, children’s opinions are being taken increasingly into account when compiling information on their reactions in stressful situations. This is achieved by semi-structured or open questions which are later categorized according to different criteria. Several types of classification have been developed to measure children’s control in stressful situations. Among these, this study includes: direct control coping, indirect control coping and abandon of control.
According to these issues, the objective of this study is to discover whether self-esteem is a variable influencing the perception of stress and the type of coping.
Method: This was a correlate study. Individuals: The sample group was formed by 339 boys and girls from the fourth, fifth and sixth grades of elementary private and public schools in different areas of Mexico City and the metropolitan area, in the areas of Venustiano Carranza, Tlalpan and Ciudad Netzahualcoyotl.
Tools: Self-esteem Inventory: We applied the Coopersmith Inventory, which was previously validated. New elements were added to this questionnaire, leaving a total of 50. The answers to the self-esteem questionnaire were given a score of one or zero and a total score was obtained. An internal consistency analysis with high results (α= .83) was obtained.
Stress Questionnaire: This questionnaire was comprised of 28 elements aimed at discovering just how much children care about some daily situations related to family, school and social areas. The children were asked to evaluate from 0 to 10 how much a specific situation affected them, according to the intensity of negative reaction that the children felt towards the questions. Ten was the highest score and zero was given when no negative reaction was experienced. The answers were added to find the final score. For this questionnaire, an internal consistency analysis, with a high consistency result (α= .89), was obtained.
In order to evaluate coping, children were asked to answer frankly what they did when they faced each situation enumerated in the stress questionnaire. Once the answers were obtained, they were classified as direct control, indirect control and control abandon answers.
Procedure: Originally, the questionnaires were applied to 408 children, but later on we eliminated all cases where children left more than five unanswered questions in the questionnaires or when they wrote down that they did not face a specific stressful situation. In this way, 13% of the population was eliminated, leaving 87%, with a total of 339 children, which constituted the final total sample.
Application: The questionnaires were applied by a psychologist and the time of application ranged from 20 to 40 minutes.
Results: A lineal regression analysis was made to find the relationship between the stress and self-esteem variables. This analysis had self-esteem as the independent variable and stress as the dependent variable. A lineal regression analysis was also made to recognize the relationship between self-esteem and coping variables, with self-esteem as an independent variable and each one of the coping styles as dependent variables: a) direct control coping, b) indirect control coping and c) abandon of control coping.
1. Predictor dimensions of stress as a dependent variable and self-esteem as an independent variable. The regression sample showed R=.410 and R2=.168. The R2aj was .166 and the EE was 59.94. F= 82.107 (p=‹.001) and B= -5.295 (p=‹.001) was obtained globally.
2a) Predictor dimensions of self-esteem as an independent variable and direct control coping as a dependent variable. The regression sample showed R=.229 and a R2=.052. The R2aj was .050 and the EE was 4.67. F= 22.405 (p=‹.001) and B=.215 (p=‹.001) was obtained globally.
2b) Predictor dimensions of self-esteem as an independent variable, and of indirect control coping as a dependent variable. The regression sample showed R= .215 and R2= .046. The R2aj was .044 and the EE was 3.11. Globally F= 19.594 (p=‹.001) and B= -.134 (p=‹.001) was obtained.
2c) Predictor dimensions of self-esteem as an independent variable and coping of control abandon as a dependent variable. The sample of regression showed R= .213 and R2=.045. The R2aj was .043 and the EE was 5.62. F= 19.318 (p=‹.001) and B= -.241 (p=‹.001) was obtained globally.
When self-esteem was analyzed in relation to situations causing stress in children, it was found, as expected, that the stress children perceived increases as self-esteem levels decrease and decreases with high self-esteem levels. Nevertheless, it was shown that selfesteem is not the only variable that affects stress levels. The probability that this fact is due to chance is less than 1%, so a high level of certainty that self-esteem affects stress perception is obtained.
It was also found that self-esteem is related to coping. It was found, as expected, that both indirect coping and abandon of control coping increase with low self-esteem levels and decrease with high self-esteem levels. These data are considered to be important results since they indicate there is a high certainty that stress as well as coping will be affected by self-esteem. This is limited to 5% in the case of coping and to 16% in the case of stress, showing there are other variables affecting the sample which are responsible for behaviour. This is related to the idea that psychological variables such as selfesteem influence the meaning of environmental events when perceiving daily stress and when efforts are made to face stressful events successfully.
The results obtained, which indicate that high self-esteem increases direct coping and decreases indirect coping and loss of control, confirm what was expected: a person with high selfesteem has more control over his life and copes with problems directly. Conversely, if a person has low self-esteem his behaviour is determined by doubt and fear, because he constantly confronts problems through other people or simply relinquishes any kind of control over his environment.
The information on self-esteem confirms that boys and girls are active from an early age when they select and evaluate the intensity of events in their environment. Those effects result both from previous experiences and an active interaction with the environment and the way in which this occurred.
People develop coping strategies to avoid an unbalance in environmental demands in an attempt to establish harmony between internal and external environments. These actions are developed in the first stages of life. In coping, as with stress, selfesteem affects problem facing, and personal long-term emotional balance will depend on the fact that successful coping had occurred during childhood. So, research into emotional aspects can establish an adequate understanding of how individual differences arise vis-á-vis risk exposure. Therefore, the process of self-comprehension, through thought and personal reflection, bears a relation to external events and the actions applied in coping with problems.
As stated, self-esteem is related to perceived stress levels in children as well as to coping, and so it becomes essential to study these phenomena and try to influence them. The central feature is that if self-esteem is developed from the first years of childhood, it can be said we are working to prevent future problems.