Intercultural and cross-cultural assessment of self-esteem among youth in Twenty-first Century South Africa

  • Adebowale Akande


The perceptions of self may differ from one cultural context to another. I explored this possibility in 191 South African children between 12 and 13 years of age. This paper is an extension of research on the appropriateness of Marsh/Shavelson model of self-concept for the nonWestern subjects. Responses to a standard Self-Description Questionnaire-1 (SDQ-1) revealed, the item-scale correlations and reliability coefficients obtained were encouraging. Factor analysis generally supported both the specific facets of the SDQ-1 and the existence of an underlying general self-concept factor. These results are then considered in relation to other evidence of the cross-cultural validity of both the SDQ-1 and the Shavelson model of the self. Comparisons of the South African means to those of previously reported Australian, Kenyan, Nigerian, Nepalese and Zimbabwean children of the same age indicated that there was a tendency for the South Africans to have relatively higher opinions of their personal appearance (non-academic self-esteem) than youngsters from other countries. Alternative interpretations appeared to be useful in gaining better understanding of implications of the results for the school counsellor's role in helping students and teachers build self-esteem. The need to belong, or to feel a sense of self-worth, inclusion and significance virtually affect the learning process. The self-descriptions of Black youth provide evidence that young people are important, vital, and active in nation-building. Recognition should be given to culture and racial-specific views people bring to the counselling relationship.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Akande, A (1990). The meaning of self in the African mind. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Psychology, Obafemi Awolowo University.Google Scholar
  2. Biesheuel, S. (1943). African Intelligence. Johannesburg: South African Institute of Race Relations.Google Scholar
  3. Bond, M. H. & Tak-Sing, C. (1983). College students' spontaneous self-concept. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 14: 153–171.Google Scholar
  4. Briggs, S. R. & Cheek, J. M. (1986). The role of factor analysis in the development and evaluation of personality scales. Journal of Personality 54: 106–147.Google Scholar
  5. Bright, J. A. & Williams, C. (1996). Child rearing and education in urban environments. Urban Education 31: 245–260.Google Scholar
  6. Brislin, R. (1993). Understanding Culture's Influence on Behaviour.New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.Google Scholar
  7. Byrne, B. (1996). Measuring Self-Concept Across the Life Span.Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  8. Byrne, B. M. & Shavelson, R. J. (1986). On the structure of adolescent self-concept. Journal of Educational Psychology 78: 474–481.Google Scholar
  9. Chikane, F. (1993). Children in turmoil: The effects of unrest on township children. In A. Burman and B. Reynolds (eds.), Growing Up in a Divided Society (pp. 333–344). Johannesburg: Ravan PressGoogle Scholar
  10. Cousins, S. D. (1989). Culture and self-perception in Japan and the United States. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 56: 124–131.Google Scholar
  11. Davis-Zinner, N. (1990). Source differences in male and female self-esteem. Unpublished PhD thesis. California School of Professional Psychology, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  12. Everatt, D. (1995). Creating a Future: Youth Policy for South Africa.Johannesburg: Ravan Press.Google Scholar
  13. Edwards, D. (1995). The school counselor's role in helping teachers and students belong. Elementary School Guidance & Counseling 29: 191–210.Google Scholar
  14. Elovson, A. C. & Fleming, J. S. (1989). Rationale for multidimensional self-esteem scale scoring and weighting. Unpublished manuscript, California State University.Google Scholar
  15. Fleming, J. S. & Courtney, B. E. (1984). The dimensionality of self-esteem: II. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 46: 404–421.Google Scholar
  16. Hale-Benson, J. (1996). Achieving equal educational outcomes for Black children. In A. Barone & E. Garcia (eds.), Children at risk: Poverty, minority status, and other issues in educational equity. Washington DC: National Association of School Psychologists.Google Scholar
  17. Hattie, J. & Marsh, H. W. (1995). Future directions in self-concept research. In J. Hattie & H. W. Marsh (eds.), The hierarchical nature of self-concept research (pp. 423–461). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  18. Hull, C. H. & Nie, N. H. (1984). SPSS-X. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  19. Jahoda, G. (1993). Crossroads Between Culture and Mind: Continuities and Change in Theories of Human Nature.Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Jahoda, G. (1989). Our forgotten ancestors. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation 55: 1–40.Google Scholar
  21. Jahoda, G. (1993). The color of a chamelon. Cultural Dynamics 6: 277–287.Google Scholar
  22. Josephs, R. A., Markus, H. R., & Tafarodi, R. W. (1992). Gender and self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 63: 391–402.Google Scholar
  23. Kagitcibasi, C. (1984). Socialization in a traditional society: A challenge to psychology. International Journal of Psychology 19: 145–157.Google Scholar
  24. Kagitcibasi, C. (1985). Culture of separateness - culture of relatedness: Vision and reality. Comparative Studies 4: 91–99.Google Scholar
  25. Kuhn, M. H. & McPartland, T. S. (1954). An empirical investigation of self-attitudes. American Sociological Review 19: 68–76.Google Scholar
  26. Lambley, P. (1973). Psychology and socio-political reality: Apartheid psychology and its links with trends in humanistic psychology and behaviour theory. International Journal of Psychology 8: 73–79.Google Scholar
  27. Lo, M. F. (1989). Self-concept: Interpretations as a psychological construct and relations with sex and achievement. In S. Winter (ed.), The Hong Kong Adolescent.Education Department, University of Hong Kong.Google Scholar
  28. Mar'l, S. K. (1982). Cultural and socio-political influences on counselling and career guidance: The case of Arabs in the Jewish state. International Journal for Advancement of Counselling 5: 247–263.Google Scholar
  29. Markus, H. R. & Kitayama, S. (1991). Cultural variation in the self-concept. In J. Strauss & G. R. Goethals (eds.), The Self: Interdisciplinary Approaches. New York: Springer-Kerlag.Google Scholar
  30. Marsh, H. W. (1988). The Self Description Questionnaire I: SDQ Manual and Research Monograph.San Antonio: The Psychologist Corporation.Google Scholar
  31. Marsh, H. W. & Shavelson, R. J. (1985). Self-concept: Its multifaceted, hierarchical structure. Educational Psychologist 20: 107–125.Google Scholar
  32. McKendrick, H. & Thorpe, M. (1996). The mental health of Aboriginal communities. NHMRC Three year Project Grant 1993–1996.Google Scholar
  33. Nsamenang, A. B. (1995). Theories of developmental psychology. Poster presents at the ARTS seminar of the IACCP, Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey.Google Scholar
  34. Nsamenang, A. B. (1992). Human development in cultural context: A third world perspective. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  35. Olowu, A. A. (1985). Sex differences in the self-concepts in English and Nigerian adolescents. The Journal of Social Psychology 125: 129–130.Google Scholar
  36. Olowu, A. A. (1990). Contemporary Issues in Self-Concept Studies. Ibadan Nigeria: Shaneson.Google Scholar
  37. Rong, X. L. (1996). Effects of race and gender on teachers' perception of the social behavior of elementary students. Urban Education 31: 261–290.Google Scholar
  38. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the Adolescent Self-Image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Rosenberg, M. (1979). Conceiving the Self.New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  40. Shavelson, R. J., Hubner, J. J. & Stanton, G. C. (1976). Self-concept: validation of construct interpretation. Review of Educational Research 46: 407–441.Google Scholar
  41. Song, I. S. & Hattie, J. A. (1984). Home environments, self-concept, and academic achievement: A causal modeling approach. Journal of Educational Psychology 76: 1269–1281.Google Scholar
  42. Smith, I. D. (1978). Sex differences in self-concept revisited. Australian Psychologist 13: 161–166.Google Scholar
  43. Triandis, H. C. (1989). The self and social behaviour in differing cultural contexts. Psychological Review 96: 506–520.Google Scholar
  44. Triandis, H. C., McCusker, C. & Hui, C. H. (1990). Multimethod probes of individualism and collectivism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 59: 1006–1020.Google Scholar
  45. Watkins, D. & Akande, A. (1996). Assessing the approaches to learning of African students. Assessment 17: 11–20.Google Scholar
  46. Watkins, D. & Akande, A. (1994). Approaches to learning of secondary school children: Emic and etic perspectives. International Journal of Psychology 29: 165–182.Google Scholar
  47. Watkins, D., & Akande, A.(1992). The internal structure of the self-description questionnaire. British Journal of Educational Psychology 62: 120–125.Google Scholar
  48. Watkins, D., Akande, A. & Mpofu, E. (1996). Assessing self-esteem: An African perspective. Personality and Individual Differences, 20, 163–169.Google Scholar
  49. Watkins, D. & Gutierrez, M. (1989). The structure of self-concept: Some Filipino evidence. Australian Psychologist 24: 401–410.Google Scholar
  50. Watkins, D., Fleming, J. S. & Alfon, M. C. A. (1989). A test of Shavelson's hierarchical multifaceted self-concept model in a Filipino College sample. International Journal of Psychology 24: 367–379.Google Scholar
  51. Watkins, D., Lam, M. K. & Regmi, M. (1991). Cross-cultural assessment of self-esteem: A Nepalese investigation. Psychologia XXXIV, 128–153.Google Scholar
  52. Watkins, D., Regmi, M. & Alfon, M. (1990). Antecedents of self-esteem of Nepalese and Filipino college students. The Journal of Genetic Psychology 151: 341–347.Google Scholar
  53. Watkins, D. (1989). Perceived personal control for academic achievement: Findings from a Filipino research program. Psychologia XXXII: 236–243.Google Scholar
  54. Williams, J. E. & Best, D. L. (1990). Sex and Psyche. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  55. Williams, J. E., Saiz, J. L., Duval, D., Munick, M. L., Fogle, E. E., Adom, A., Haque, A., Neto, F. & Yu, J. (1995). Cross-cultural variation in the importance of psychological characteristics: A seven-country study. International Journal of Psychology 30: 529–550.Google Scholar
  56. Wylie, R. (1974). The Self-concept, Vol. 1. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  57. Wylie, R. C. (1989). The Measurement of Self-concept. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  58. Young, R. A. (1982). Accompanying the adolescent on the career journey: A cognitive developmental approach. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling 5: 115–120.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adebowale Akande
    • 1
  1. 1.Department BedryfsosiologiePotchefstroomse UniversiteitPotchefstroomSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations