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Essay: Review of study on self-esteem, stress, coping, and depression

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  • Published: 15 October 2019*
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  • Words: 743 (approx)
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The transition to and journey through college has often been found to be a period that creates considerable stress in the lives of students. There are many factors that could help mitigate stress. In this study researcher, Chris Eisenbarth, is curious about the protective role self-esteem plays in the relationship between stress and depressive symptoms. Specifically, this study examines the relationship between perceived stress, coping, and depression in college students.

The study employs a cross-sectional, self-report survey format to collect data from 713 college students, 296 males and 417 females, enrolled in a ‘large university in Northwest United States’. Approximately 70% of this sample identified themselves as White, European American, 11% as Asian, no other ethnic groups were represented as a significant quantity. Also, the study passed all IRB requirements to ensure that none of the participants would be distressed. The Perceived Stress Scale was used to evaluate the nonspecific stress and . Carver’s Brief COPE was used to assess how participants typically respond when under stress. The researcher identifies 3 particular coping variables: problem-focused coping (e.g., planning, active coping), avoidance (e.g., denial, behavioral disengagement), and support seeking (e.g., emotional and instrumental support). Self-esteem was measured using Rosenberg’s (1965) Self-Esteem Scale and Lovibond and Lovibond’s (1995) Depression Scale was used to measure symptoms of low positive affect, loss of self-esteem, and a sense of helplessness. A hierarchical, multiple-regression analysis is performed to evaluate the relative effects of perceived stress, self-esteem, and coping in predicting symptoms of depression. In order to measure the whether and how self-esteem interacts with the other variables second-order variables were estimated using a mathematical equation.

The results of the study suggested that self-esteem plays an important role in the development of depressive symptoms in college students when it interacts with effects of perceived stress and how they usual cope. If an individual does not believe he or she is competent, significant or worthy, heightened appraised stress can be expected to occur. While self-esteem in isolation did not predict depression on its own, it did interact significantly with perceived stress to predict depression. Specifically, in instances of high stress, greater levels of self-esteem buffered students against symptoms of depression. The results also suggest that self-esteem plays a role with students’ ability to cope with stress and depression. Students with a poorer sense of self-esteem may be more  likely to prefer, and engage in more avoidance coping than students with stronger self-esteem.

The purpose of this study was to examine whether self-esteem buffered the relations among perceived stress, coping, and depression. The results of the study suggest that self-esteem may play an important role in the development of depressive symptoms in college students through interactions with perceived stress and coping. If an individual does not believe he or she is competent, significant or worthy, heightened appraised stress can be expected to occur. Similarly, people low in self-esteem may turn to avoidance behaviors as a way to escape or cope with the negative feelings associated with low self-worth.

The author does do a good job of operationally defining what the term “stress” means and identifying scales to measure self-esteem, depressive symptoms and coping. Also, it does a good job of describing the sample’s size, characteristics, and selection process, which give readers a good sense of who the sample as well as target population are. The study also makes valid conclusions that are justified by the data. The researcher does a good job of describing the survey and its scoring, but the actual content of the content of the survey is left to one’s imagination. However, their generalizations while true to a ‘large university in Northwest United States’, may not be true to college students as a whole as their sample came from a single university. Also, the actual situational or environmental differences in stress were not accounted for. Moreover, the results were based on cross-sectional, self-report data that are susceptible to response bias. The sample was not randomly assigned therefore we can not know whether the participants were biased. Their sample size racially/ethnically was not significantly representative of college students as there were more women than men and no other ethnicities other than Caucasians and asians. The recommendations for future action are not explicitly stated, but can be inferred based on the author’s statements of the study’s limitations.


Does Self-Esteem Moderate the Relations among Perceived Stress, Coping, and Depression?
Eisenbarth, Chris
College Student Journal, v46 n1 p149-157 Mar 2012

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