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Psychology Issues: Self-Esteem and Violence Essay

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Updated: Mar 18th, 2020

The article “Self-esteem and violence: testing links between adolescent self-esteem and later hostility and violent behavior” is authored by Boden J.M., Fergusson D. M., and Horwood L. J.

It is an eleven page article published in November 2007 in the Journal of Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology Volume 2 Issue number 11 from page 881 to page 891. The research study was conducted in New Zealand, and it covers key subjects such as psychiatry, pathological psychology, self-esteem, violence, aggression, adolescence, and physiological aspects.

As an experienced researcher and lecturer in health and developmental study, I must say I find the Boden’s argument and experiment obliging, intelligent and above all, well worth paying close attention to. In my opinion, the argument by Boden, Fergusson, and Horwood is sociological since its main aim is to test the link between our self-esteem and later hostility and violent behavior.

By putting forward this line of reasoning, Boden and his colleagues sought to establish a relationship between the self-esteem variable and the violence variable. These two variables are not only closely related but also presumably measurable. In a bid to clearly state the problem under investigation, the authors begin by reviewing recent voluminous literature linking self-esteem and violence.

The review begins from the research studies that contain the specific evidence linking self-esteem and violence and ends at research studies that have questioned this link.

Basing on the argument by Boden, Fergusson, and Horwood, there is no clear evidence linking self-esteem and violent behavior since the existing studies show a contradictory pattern of findings. This is true, though I would argue that the contradictory pattern results from studies conducted in different settings using different variables.

The authors’ repeated use of facts, figures, and interview data of other researchers in supporting their arguments shows the logical nature of a scientific argument that can be relied upon.

For instance in their argument on the existence of a link between self-esteem and violence, Boden, Fergusson, and Horwood concur with views from researchers like Corwyn and Benda, Lindstrom, Ellickson, and McGuigan among others who contend that self-esteem is directly linked to violence and hostility.

Also, in a manner typical of scientific studies, the authors adopt views of other researchers such as Kernis et al. and Baumeister et al. who are of contrary opinions. I find this systematic way of argument logical and comprehensible because it allows quick comparisons and comprehensibility.

Concerning the adopted research design, I agree with Boden, Fergusson and Horwood’s claim that most studies that use a cross-sectional design or non-representative and selected sample to examine the relationship between self-esteem and violence raise issues of directionality between self-esteem and violence (Boden, Fergusson and Horwood, 882).

By adopting a prospective design with a longitudinal birth cohort, the researchers reliably address the methodological shortcomings that most studies have faced. With this design, Boden, Fergusson, and Horwood claim that “many issues of confounding, sampling, measurement and external validity” (882) are addressed.

The authors further acknowledge previous studies by Donnellan et al. and Trzesniewski et al. that used the longitudinal birth cohort design in examining similar variables.

However, Boden, Fergusson, and Horwood differ with these studies because they both “controlled a limited range of covariate factors that were confounded with adolescent self-esteem, and each studied a limited range of aggressive or violent outcomes” (Boden, Fergusson and Horwood, 882).

The study by Boden, Fergusson, and Horwood studied approximately 1000 children from birth to age 25, a sample I find too large that if not carefully controlled, other intervening factors may affect the outcome. Thus the researchers may perhaps lose focus as they conduct their experiment and end up investigating a different phenomenon.

The adopted method of data collection entails the use of items from the Self-Report Delinquency Inventory (SRDI) to get the participants’ report on their behavior. This method, according to the authors, is the most convenient way of getting the participants’ self-assessment of their past and current violent behavior.

However, I take issue with this method of obtaining self-report data since it is bound to bias. The participants will hardly report on their violent behavior since they would always portray themselves as well-behaved individuals. To verify the self-report data, the researchers allow the participants to choose a “significant other” to monitor and report on the participants’ behavior.

In as much as the verification of the self-report data is important, I would argue that the participants will tend to choose the people who would report their positive behavior rather than reporting their violent behavior. This will also result in biases hence interfering with the verification. I would argue that by using an independent person chosen by the researcher, business is greatly reduced to insignificant levels.

The researchers also do not underestimate the influence of the confounding factors that may have a profound effect on the results of the experiment. Key developmental stages from birth to the age of 25 are marked, and data is collected during these intervals. This way, the authors can capture and tabulate relevant data that includes these confounding factors and their influence on the results.

For instance Table 2 (Boden, Fergusson and Horwood, 886) and Table 3 (Boden, Fergusson and Horwood, 887) display how confounding factors such as socio-economic status of a family, education, gender among others are linked to the self-esteem of the participant.

Boden, Fergusson, and Horwood also present the limitations that were encountered during their study in a clear manner since a scientific study is bound to have limitations (889). I agree with the authors’ justified claim that the “interpretation and generalization” of findings “should take into consideration in which these outcomes were observed” (889).

The authors can prove that there is a significant relationship between self-esteem and violent behavior, as evidenced by the modest effects of participants’ self-esteem on violent offending and hostility. Basing on the experimental evidence shown by the study, one of the key suggestions that I concur with is that there is a need for a reconceptualization of self-esteem away from the view that violent behavior is as a result of low self-esteem.

The experiment, coupled with the similar studies cited by the author, portrays a real-life picture of how and to what extent self-esteem is linked to later violence and hostility. Therefore based on the authors’ argument, the sociological angle initially presumed is sustained throughout the study since he succeeds in establishing a modest link between self-esteem and violence.

In conclusion, the main aim of any sociological argument, as we all know, is to help us understand an individual’s behavior about other people in society. The study by Boden, Fergusson, and Horwood underscore the impact of self-esteem on the behavior of an individual. It helps me understand how self-esteem relates to the violent behavior and hostility that appear in later stages of development of human beings.

Works cited

Boden, J. M., Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, L. J. “Self-esteem and violence: testing links between adolescent self-esteem and later hostility and violent behavior.” Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology 42.11 (2007): 881-891. Print.

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