- 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
... 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
... 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
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.