Gender and SES effects on multidimensional self-concept development during adolescence
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Orr, Patricia Meredith
Dublin Institute of Technology
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The present study constitutes an integral part of the Dublin Child Development Study, a longitudinal study which began in 1986 and which has had eight waves of data collection since its inception. Using data collected during two of these waves, multidimensional self-concept status of 72 participants (F = 40, M = 32) was examined at 10 (T1) and 17 (T2) years of age. Longitudinal changes in multidimensional self-concept between T1 and T2 were also examined. The Shavelson Hubner and Stanton Structural Model (1976) was used as the theoretical basis for this research; this model emphasises the multidimensionality of the self-concept construct. The Piers-Harris 2 measure used was consistent with the multidimensional conceptualisation. The study also examined the influences of gender. The rationale for examining gender differences in multidimensional self-concept status and change over time was to redress the weaknesses of earlier research alluded to by Wiley (1979), Marsh (1990) and Crain (1996). Apart from a Canadian study by Shapka and Keating (2005), which used the Harter Self Perception Profile as its measure of self-concept, no previous research has included both age and gender in the one study. The influence of maternal socioeconomic status (SES) on self-concept at T1 and T2 was also examined. With regard to the effects of gender, an interesting pattern of findings emerged. Of the seven self-concept variables examined at T1, females scored higher than males on six of the seven sub-domains, with gender differences reaching or approaching significance on four of the self-concept variables. The pattern was somewhat reversed at T2 where males scored higher than females on five of the sub-domains with significant or nearly significant gender differences being found for four of these. Further interesting patterns emerged when gender differences in self-concept change between T1 and T2 were examined. For females, Total SC, Freedom from Anxiety and Happiness and Satisfaction self-concepts decreased significantly between 10 and 17 years of age whereas for the males, Total Self-concept, Physical Appearance and Attributes and Popularity self-concepts increased significantly during the same period of time. Analyses of SES effects at T1 found a main effect of SES on Physical Appearance and Attributes with 10-year-olds from a lower/working-class background having higher self-perceptions on this domain than their middle/upper middle-class peers. By 17 years of age (T2) any SES differences had dissipated. The implications of these findings are discussed and recommendations are made with regard to further research and some possible intervention strategies.