A major goal of our previous research has been the development of a theoretiCally-driven model of the causes, correlates, and consequences of self-esteem. Competence in domains of importance and approval from significant others impact self-esteem and its correlates, e.g., depressed affect which in turn predict suicidal thinking. Although gender differences were not an initial focus, findings have consistently identified areas of the self-system where females are at risk. Females consistently report lower self-esteem, greater depressed affect, and more negative evaluations of their appearance than do males. Moreover, adolescent females who base their self-esteem on their appearance are at even greater risk for low self-esteem, dressed affect, and perceived unattractiveness. In studies of false self behavior, those girls reporting a feminine gender orientation are most likely to report low levels of """"""""voice"""""""", where one suppresses one's true opinions. In a study of adult relationship styles, we found that other-focused overly, connected women with self-focused autonomous male partners reported the least validation and the highest levels of false self behavior. While for many females there are clearly threats to the self-system, there are notable individual differences within gender and similar processes appear to underlie these phenomena in males. Thus, the present proposal addresses the processes underlying many of these effects. In the first study we will longitudinally examine Gilligan's Contention that girls lose their voice in adolescence, focusing on predictors of individual difference, as well, namely gender orientation, support for voice, across a number of relational contexts. In a follow-up study we will focus on level of voice and self-esteem with parents, building upon Cooper & Grotevant's model in which parental displays of individuality (expressing one's views clearly) and connectedness (showing respect for the adolescent's views) lead to the most positive outcomes. In another study, we will examine the effects of coeducational vs. an all-girls high school on level of voice in the classroom, self-esteem, confidence, math/science competence and mastery motivation. In another study, we will pursue potential ethnic differences, examining the buses and correlates of level of voice and self-esteem in Hispanic and European- American youth. In a final study, we will broaden our range of true/false self behaviors, depressed affect, and self-esteem within the relationship. We feel that these studies will enhance our understanding of those processes that threaten the self-system of certain females as well as males.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Human Development and Aging Subcommittee 3 (HUD)
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Feerick, Margaret M
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University of Denver
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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