Happens to the Whole Family
A child, as a part of a family, collects feedback about his
image and personality through "family mirror" that
provides information about his personal status and value inside
the family circle. Family members become role models for him.
What feeling dominates
the child-adult relationship is more important for the identification
process than positive/negative characteristic of role model
person (Bajer and Kljajic, 1970; Hirsch and Gottfredson, 1988;
Lackovic-Grgin, 1994). The closer relationship, the more intensive
and positive is the identification.
The child develops
positive attitude to himself, as well as to the others if
the relations with the role model is mostly supportive confidentiality
and close. If anxiety, lack of confidence, and competence
dominate the relationship, the child is often in opposition
with his environment. The identification process then goes
in a negative direction and it is very likely the child will
build up a positive self-image of himself.
Lack of a positive
self-image is manifest as a lack of discipline in postponing
realization of wishes, lack of responsibility in meeting needs,
inability to integrate past experiences and take advantage
of them for a future benefits.
A very painful
point (for the adolescent and for the parent) is when a young
person begins to act, think and feel in a "critical way"
about the adults from his/her social environment. For an adolescent,
it is painful to find out that his/her parent are not perfect,
that they have their own fears, doubts and problems. That
pain is usually followed by a fear of loosing "his own
personality" (Tadic, 1992).
This is also a
painful period for a parent followed by a fear of losing contact
with a child ("Where did we make a mistake?") and
fear of letting the child make hi/her own decisions.
But, no matter
how strong and stressed the adolescent's need to criticize
parents (Burgess 1935, Hurlock 1949) the family stays in focus
and is still very important in meeting needs. A young person
needs family support, help, protections, even more, because
in this period of growing up he/she often feels the lack of
security, competence and confidence (he/she would still like
to think about his/her family as a perfect and strong community
where he/she feels perfectly safe).
If a family relationship
and atmosphere is flexible so that they can adjust to an adolescent's
temporary need to criticize and not return criticism, anger,
punishment and fight for power, it is very likely that the
adolescent's criticism period will be short and unwanted incidents
(such as running away from home, interrupting the education
process, "jumping to an adolescent's marriage" etc.)
will be prevented.
found that the level of adolescent's criticism is lower where
family relationships are satisfying, and where the family's
ability to adapt to the numerous changes at early adolescence
is large. It is important that the young person get sincere
message from his/her family (no matter of his/her criticism):
"It is true we are not perfect, and our relations may
be far from perfect. We do make mistakes, but we love you,
and we are going to be here for you, whenever you need us,
to give you love, protection and support." Through the
message the adolescent learns that the picture of his/her
family has changed with years (as well as the picture of himself),
but it is still a place where he belongs and it does not have
to influence the quality of the communication and relationship
That family message
lets him know that even an unperfected family like his/hers,
is able to love him, to like him and to support him/her. In
that case adolescent's feeling of security and self concept
will not be damaged permanently and significantly, and he/she
will be able to consider himself/herself as a lovable and
likable person, worthy enough to start creating a vision of
AS AN ADOLESCENT
Cohn, Cowan, and Cowan, (1992), confirmed the significance
of social support of a child's significant others for the
self-concept developing, as well as the intimacy and the quality
of relationship between child and significant parent. The
quality of parent-child relations can be used as a predictor
of eventual behavioural disorders in adolescence (Le Croy,
1988). According o Erikson (Fulgosi, 1987) two major influences
in self-concept are the child's significant others (parents,
teachers, relatives) and feed-back from child's social environment.
creates his self-concept by inputting his opinion about himself
and what he thinks the others thinks of him. The Adolescent's
reflection in his social mirror will depend (Mandic, 1984)
on physical appearance, intellectual qualities, special gifts,
interests, abilities to be a good athlete, school success,
socially wanted or unwanted personal characteristics, communication
skills, expressed or not expressed attitudes, behaviour at
school and behaviour at home.
According to Hurlock
(1949) failures (as well as permanent being success) support
developing unrealistic self-concepts. Adult's trust in child's
potentials, acceptable status in the family, adequate support
and help in the periods of crises, are social and economical
status of the family creating realistic and positive oriented
A poor self-concept
is influenced by lack of love and security. This is manifested
as being unhappy and miserable, having poor self-esteem, communication
problems, and not being able to adjust to a new social situations.
TASKS OF THE
In the world literature the beginning and ending of the adolescence
is defined in different ways. Also, the expectations of the
adolescent are different and depend on cultural, social, and
biological, and individual backgrounds (Vincent, 1988; Nikolic,
1988). What is common is the order of the phenomena's (physiological
and psycho-social) and tasks that must be done within that
period of adolescence. These tasks (and roles) are (Kapor-Stanulovic,
- the role of
male and female sex in the society
- emotional separation
from the parents
- financial independence
for marriage and parenting
- accepting the
values according to the real and scientific world
According to the
psychodynamic approach (Tadic, 1992) the main tasks of adolescence
are separation and individuation. Successfully ended separation
is basic condition for successfully ended individuation. If
these tasks are not accomplished any other attempt to build
a new relationship will be
troubled, and will be a potential
obstacle for self concept development.
of family environment is the longest and the most intensive
experience in a young person's life. The experience either
stimulating or delaying in creating self concept and learning
the content of social roles.
OF THE STUDY
The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between
an adolescent's self-concept and his social environment and
The quality of
family relationship is a very complicated dimension, if we
consider ambivalent feelings of the adolescent. Often he/she
is fighting against parents' social control, but at the same
time is longing for protection and security that the family
is able to provide. Parents usually don no know how to respond
to the ambivalent message and feel confused. Confusion, followed
by aggression and lack of communication, will bring a new
quality to family relations (even to those that we would consider
caring and understanding). At this point adolescence becomes
a family problem rather than an individual problem-it changes
the family atmosphere and happens to the whole family, not
only to a young person.
This study tested
- There is statistically
significant correlation between a child's self-esteem and
the quality of family relations (the higher the self-esteem
is correlated to a better quality of family relations).
- There is statistically
significant correlation between child's self-esteem ant
the quality of parent's attitude toward a child (the higher
self-esteem is correlated to a better quality of parent's
Participants for the study were sixth grade primary school
students (ages 12-13) who are at the beginning of adolescence
and their parents (one of them). The research was carried
out in 1995, in 6 primary schools of Zagreb (2 downtown area
schools, 2 broad city area schools, and 2 suburb schools).
The grades were selected randomly and included 120 youth plus
one parent for each.
instruments (W. Hudson, 1977; Bloom and Fisher; 1982) were
- Index of self
esteem, consisting of 25 variables in domain of child's
- Index of family
relations, consisting of 25 variables in domain of family
atmosphere, communication and relations
- Index of parent's
attitude toward child, containing 25 variables in domain
of parent's perception of a child.
of using these measuring instruments are their reliability
(which is 0.90). They can easily be used and understood by
children in primary school, and they can be simply interpreted.
The subjects were
told to asses themselves: pupils were using "Index of
family relations" and "Index of self-esteem"
during the school lesson, while parents were using "Index
of parent's attitude toward child" during parent's meeting.
The research was done anonymously.
All scales were
submitted to factorial analysis and canonical correlation
analysis in order to examine the relationship of family relations
quality and parental attitudes to child's self-esteem.
The factor analysis identified two factors in the space of
child's assessment of his own self-esteem and family relations,
and one factor was extracted in the space of child's assessment
of his own self-esteem and parent's assessment of their attitude
toward a child.
IN THE SPACE OF CHILD'S SELF ESTEEM AND FAMILY RELATIONS
There are two pairs of canonical factors extracted in this
space (their structure is disclosed in table 1a).
According to high
coefficient of correlation of the first extracted pair of
factors (0.79), there is statistically significant correlation
between quality of family relationship and quality of adolescent's
self-esteem. It deals with "type" of family relationship,
according to the adolescents assessment, where mutual feelings
of being content within own family are dominant. Family was
percepted as a source of comfort ability, pleasure, acceptance
and help. The family atmosphere was described as supportive,
stimulating and caring. Adolescent is proud on his family
and protection they provides him. he experiences that his
needs are met adequately in his family.
of family relationship is correlated to a quality of self-esteem
which includes following characteristics: ability for asking
and receiving other people's help without feeling incompetent,
ability to relax, to feel taken care of, to feel pleasure
and to have general vision of "nice future". In
general, feelings of being tent, hopeless and depressed are
not dominant, and self-esteem is based on adolescent's seeing
himself as a loveable and respectful person with bright future.
pair of factors has also rather high coefficient of correlation
(0.75) and describes space of family relations where there
are not much disagreements, dislikes, isolation or alienation,
but also not much mutuals care confidence and respect. In
general, there are no intensive emotions (positive or negative)
or conflicts, but neither mutuals support. We can presume
that it deals with kind of "surface" communication,
where family members communicate occasionally (weekends or
evenings) with no intention to meet their needs or to solve
their problems within the family (so there is no chance to
be seriously emotionally involved).
There is statistically
significant correlation between given description of family
relations and assessment of self-esteem where adolescent does
not precept himself as accepted person, significant for his
family, and he does not experience pleasure and joy in his
family. Important characteristic is "enjoying in being
active and busy" (probably at school and in the peer
group). Adolescent does not see himself as an important part
of the family, and he probably compensates that lack of "belonging"
at school or elsewhere, being "active and busy".
communication (or, it is better to say lack of communication
where child does not experience belonging and support, and
is most of a time on his own), according to the other studies
(Lackovic-Grgin, 1994) is simply not sufficient to provide
"basic potentials" relevant for positive oriented
self-concept. From the aspects of prevention, this would mean
a "signal for intervention" (raising the quality
of family relations and child's self-esteem by getting better
insight to mutual significance and developing communication
IN THE SPACE OF CHILD SELF-ESTEEM AND PARENT'S ATTITUDE
There is one pair of canonical factors extracted by canonical
correlation analysis, with coefficient of correlation 0.79
(see table 1b).
A space of parent's
attitude is defined by one parent's assessment of a child
as an "uneasy", over demanding, and difficult to
control. Basic feelings in this relation are anger, impatience,
being nervous, lack of love, mutual pleasure understanding
and confidence, but also, no violence.
A child is percepted
as unwanted, or at least, he does not meet parent's expectations
with his behaviour, and parent does not spend much time with
his child. As there is no violence in the relation, we can
assume that "lack of love" actually mean "dislike"
child's appearance and behaviour, rather than "not loving
him" (what is not so surprising if we consider numerous
psychosomatic changes in the adolescents period: on the emotional
level - often and sudden mood changes and emotional "eruptions";
on the level of physical appearance - clothes, hair style;
on the level of behavior - going out in the evening, sudden
A quality of adolescent's
self-esteem correlated with given parent's attitude includes
basic feelings of helplessness and lack of self-confidence.
Still, there is ability to make decisions to "be important",
to have a good fun and, if needed to ask for a help. however,
dominant feeling is "being looser", self-accusing,
defeated, helpless and "not deserving anything better".
According to some
authors (Bigras, 1968, to Nikolic 1988) here deals with period
of "mourning:. Adolescent, being disappointed by his
parents who are "not being perfect" is acting violently,
trying to find a solution by expressing quite the opposite
feelings (for instance: his love for parents he turns to hate
and respect to despise, what is actually addressed to himself).
In order to finish successfully period of forming the identity
it is essential to came over this phase and its different
manifestation of grief (in this case it is being defeated,
self criticism, sadness).
are also part of the whole story: adolescent does not feel
accepted by the environment, but he would accept help, or
he feels "there is always somebody to rely on".
Assessing a child
as unsuccessful, unpleased and incompetent, parent actually
expresses own feelings of incompetence in the role of parent
(specially parent of an adolescent, what he does not feel
ready for). This could be a result of temporarily confusion
in the period of numerous changes that brings adolescence.
If parent-child relations in preadolescent period provided
mutual satisfaction and intimacy, these "confused relationship
and disliking" in the period of adolescence will be only
temporarily, and formal intimacy experience would be of a
great help to both, parent and adolescent, to overcome the
The results have supported the hypotheses and according to
the extracted factors the following conclusions were made:
1) In the family
where general atmosphere provides possibilities for basic
psychological needs to be met and mutually taken care of,
and where child has experienced security, joy, being important
to his family, he will develop a self-esteem of a person who
is content with himself and with his significant others.
2) In the family where interpersonal communication is deficient,
with lack of contacts and no intensive emotions (so to say
an "bedroom family", with "instant" weekend
or evening contacts), child develops poor self-concept and
lower self-esteem, tending to compensate needs of "being
important" and "being accepted" elsewhere (school,
3) There is also
statistically significant correlation between parent's attitude
and child's self-esteem: where parents perceive their child
as a source of frustration, irritation and are generally discontent
with him, child develops "loser's" self-concept
and very poor self-esteem (feels defeated, hopeless and not
worthy for anything better).
1a: Significance of canonical correlation in the space of
self-esteem and family relations
*no table function
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