Date of Award

1-1-1999

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Psychology

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Lisbeth Pike

Abstract

A 1997 West Australian Child Health Survey (Zubrick et al., 1997) highlighted the need to explore issues regarding problems leading to emotional distress in adolescents. Adolescent self-esteem and suicidal ideation emerged as issues that required further research. The need to understand adolescent issues from a developmental perspective was also evident, due to the difficulties teenagers typically face during their adolescent years. This study builds on previous research by S. Harter and her colleagues, which identified different domains of self-esteem in young adolescents from a general population. Domains of self-esteem according to Harter's Self perception Profile for Adolescents (1988) and Social Support Scale for Children (1985) are explored in this study, comparing three different groups of older adolescents. The purposive sample included 78 participants aged 16 to 18 years, including 53 from the general population, 33 non-depressed and 20 depressed and, 25 adolescents who are receiving therapy after being diagnosed with recent experiences of suicidal ideation. Four research questions are posed to explore comparisons between the three groups in different domains of self-esteem. Self-perception is explored in nine domains, scholastic competence, social acceptance, athletic competence, physical appearance, job competence, romantic appeal, behavioural conduct, close friendship and global self-worth. Discrepancy scores, where perceived importance is greater than perceived competence in different domains are also explored. The discrepancy scores identify perceived inadequacies in different domains, indicating specific areas where self-esteem is threatened in the suicide-ideated group. Perceived parental and peer support are also compared between the three groups to ascertain how teenagers view themselves through the eyes of significant people in their lives. It was expected that perceived physical appearance, social acceptance, athletic competence, scholastic competence and behavioural conduct would be higher in the non-depressed teenagers than in the depressed and suicidal ideated samples. Larger discrepancy scores were expected in the suicidal ideated adolescents than those in the general population, indicating greater perceived inadequacies in domains of self-esteem. It was also expected that the clinical group would score lower perceived parental support and lower perceived peer support than the other groups. Results provided differences between the three groups, with global self-worth, physical appearance and scholastic competence emerging as being of most concern for suicide ideated adolescents. Implications for clinicians working with depressed and suicidal adolescents are discussed within the context of current literature. Suggestions for further research are proposed and practical implications regarding clinical assessment for suicidal adolescents are discussed.

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