Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Sociability, constraints, network involvement, and the self-esteem of older women

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  • The major purpose of this exploratory study was to develop an explanatory model of self-esteem and to interpret the model using the Social Exchange framework. To this end, a main effects and an interaction model emerged which offer promise toward understanding the components of self-esteem. This study examined 325 individual variables which served validity and/or descriptive purposes or joined together to form the main variables under investigation. The study extensively interviewed 70 unmarried, white older women who lived alone in age-peer homogeneous residences within the same Northwestern community. Stepwise regression analysis explained 65 percent of the variance in the self-esteem of these older women. In descending order of explained variance, the main effects model revealed that those respondents who felt of little worth -- ... Less often strove to express themselves in meaningful projects ... Were more reluctant to mobilize needed social support in times of undue stress ... Were more intensely involved in family activities, especially advice, than with friends ... Expressed less over-all satisfaction with their network activities, and ... Felt more depressed than those who reported higher self-esteem. The interaction model further disclosed that"when being without a meaningful project" joined with either "family advice" or "reluctance to seek needed help", either combination more negatively correlated with self-esteem than did each variable separately. Three variables, financial adequacy, physical health capacity, and sociability, positively correlated with self-esteem as hypothesized but did not enter the final models. Apparently, the lack of variability of financial adequacy and physical health capacity and the close association between being without a project and sociability prevented these three variables from entering the final equations. However, the respondents' degree of sociability was instrumental in interpreting the results. Specifically, those respondents endowed with a more gregarious nature evidenced higher financial adequacy, greater physical health capacity, more satisfying network activities, and felt less depressed than did the more reserved isolates. Even when constrained by financial, physical health, or relationship losses, the constrained gregarious still maintained higher self-esteem than did the unconstrained isolates. Finally, by being more self-initiating than the isolates, the gregarious respondents sustained their self-esteem by expressing themselves in meaningful projects and by being willing to seek others out for help when their own efforts were insufficient. By more readily substituting feasible opportunities for those they could no longer pursue successfully, the gregarious, more than the isolates, appeared better able to transcend their losses. The isolates, on the other hand, lacked sufficient access to these resources to mobilize the corrective processes that might have enabled them to cope more effectively, and through the process, maintain a positive self-esteem. The study discussed possible implications of this research for influencing the self-esteem of older women and suggested potential directions for future research which might more fully develop the model and expand its application.
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