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Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale

The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale is perhaps the most widely-used self-esteem measure in social science research. Dr. Rosenberg was professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland from 1975 until his death in 1992. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1953, and held a variety of positions, including at Cornell University and the National Institute of Mental Health, prior to coming to Maryland. Dr. Rosenberg is the author or editor of numerous books and articles, and his work on the self-concept, particularly the dimension of self-esteem, is world-renowned.

Dr. Florence Rosenberg, Manny's wife, has given permission to use the Self-Esteem Scale for educational and professional research. There is no charge associated with the use of this scale in your professional research. However, please be sure to give credit to Dr. Rosenberg when you use the scale by citing his work in publications, papers and reports. We would also appreciate receiving copies of any published works resulting from your research at the University of Maryland address listed below.

SELF-ESTEEM: WHAT IS IT?

Self-esteem is a positive or negative orientation toward oneself; an overall evaluation of one's worth or value. People are motivated to have high self-esteem, and having it indicates positive self-regard, not egotism. Self-esteem is only one component of the self-concept, which Rosenberg defines as "totality of the individual's thoughts and feelings with reference to himself as an object." Besides self-esteem, self-efficacy or mastery, and self-identities are important parts of the self-concept.

Because of its widespread popularity in everyday parlance and in popular psychology, the concept of self-esteem may be subject to distortion and misuse. Thus, it is recommended that that those using the scale be familiar with the scientific study of this concept and its complexities. Rosenberg's books are a good starting point. Note that there are other definitions and measures of self-esteem in the social sciences, as well as thousands of empirical studies and theoretical analyses of this concept in the academic literature.

Much  of Rosenberg's work examined how social structural positions like racial or ethnic statuses and institutional contexts like schools or families relate to self-esteem. Here, patterned social forces provide a characteristic set of experiences which are actively interpreted by individuals as the self-concept is shaped. At least four key theoretical principles -- reflected appraisals, social comparisons, self-attributions, and psychological centrality -- underlie the process of self-concept formation.

In addition to examining self-esteem as an outcome of social forces, self-esteem is often analyzed as an independent or intervening variable. Note that self-esteem is generally a stable characteristic of adults, so it is not easily manipulated as an outcome in experimental designs. Blascovich and Tomaka (1993) indicate that "experimentally manipulated success or failure is unlikely to have any measurable impact when assessed against a lifetime of self-evaluative experiences" (p. 117). It is also unrealistic to think that self-esteem can be "taught"; rather, it is developed through an individual's life experiences.

USING THE ROSENBERG SELF-ESTEEM SCALE

Below you will find a copy of the scale, along with brief instructions for scoring it. A full description of the original scale may be found in the Appendix of Rosenberg's Society and the Adolescent Self-Image (see below for full citation). PLEASE NOTE: The Department of Sociology does not have the resources to answer individual queries about the scale and its use. However, the information below, including the references, should address your questions.

General Information for Using the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (SES):

  1. While designed as a Guttman scale, the SES is now commonly scored as a Likert scale. The 10 items are answered on a four point scale ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

  2. The original sample for which the scale was developed in the 1960s consisted of 5,024 high school juniors and seniors from 10 randomly selected schools in New York State and was scored as a Guttman scale. The scale generally has high reliability: test-retest correlations are typically in the range of .82 to .88, and Cronbach's alpha for various samples are in the range of .77 to .88 (see Blascovich and Tomaka, 1993 and Rosenberg, 1986 for further detail). Studies have demonstrated both a unidimensional and a two-factor (self-confidence and self-deprecation)structure to the scale. To obtain norms for a sample similar to your own, you must search the academic literature to find research using similar samples.

  3. To score the items, assign a value to each of the 10 items as follows:

    • For items 1,2,4,6,7: Strongly Agree=3, Agree=2, Disagree=1, and Strongly Disagree=0.

    • For items 3,5,8,9,10 (which are reversed in valence, and noted with the asterisks** below): Strongly Agree=0, Agree=1, Disagree=2, and Strongly Disagree=3.

  4. The scale ranges from 0-30, with 30 indicating the highest score possible. Other scoring options are possible. For example, you can assign values 1-4 rather than 0-3; then scores will range from 10-40. Some researchers use 5- or 7-point Likert scales, and again, scale ranges would vary based on the addition of "middle" categories of agreement.

Present the items with these instructions. Do not print the asterisks on the sheet you provide to respondents.

 

BELOW IS A LIST OF STATEMENTS DEALING WITH YOUR GENERAL FEELINGS ABOUT YOURSELF. IF YOU STRONGLY AGREE, CIRCLE SA. IF YOU AGREE WITH THE STATEMENT, CIRCLE A. IF YOU DISAGREE, CIRCLE D. IF YOU STRONGLY DISAGREE, CIRCLE SD.

 

 

 

1.

STRONGLY

AGREE

2



AGREE

3.



DISAGREE

4.

STRONGLY

DISAGREE

1.

I feel that I'm a person of worth, at least on an equal plane with others.

SA

A

D

SD

2.

I feel that I have a number of good qualities.

SA

A

D

SD

3.

All in all, I am inclined to feel that I am a failure.**

SA

A

D

SD

4.

I am able to do things as well as most other people.

SA

A

D

SD

5.

I feel I do not have much to be proud of.**

SA

A

D

SD

6.

I take a positive attitude toward myself.

SA

A

D

SD

7.

On the whole, I am satisfied with myself.

SA

A

D

SD

8.

I wish I could have more respect for myself.**

SA

A

D

SD

9.

I certainly feel useless at times.**

SA

A

D

SD

10.

At times I think I am no good at all.**

SA

A

D

SD

 

References with further characteristics or discussion of the scale and its derivatives:
Blascovich, Jim and Joseph Tomaka. 1993. "Measures of Self-Esteem." Pp. 115-160 in J.P. Robinson, P.R. Shaver, and L.S. Wrightsman (eds.), Measures of Personality and Social Psychological Attitudes. Third Edition. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research.
Owens, Timothy J. 1994. "Two Dimensions of Self-Esteem: Reciprocal Effects of Positive Self-Worth and Self-Deprecation on Adolescent Problems." American Sociological Review. 59:391-407.
Owens, Timothy J. 1993. "Accentuate the Positive - and the Negative: Rethinking the Use of Self-Esteem, Self-Deprecation, and Self-Confidence." Social Psychology Quarterly. 56:288-99.
Owens, Timothy J. 2001. Extending Self-Esteem Theory and Research. Cambridge: University Press. 
Rosenberg, Morris. 1965. Society and the Adolescent Self-Image. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. (Chapter 2 discusses construct validity.)
Rosenberg, Morris. 1986. Conceiving the Self. Krieger: Malabar, FL.
Silber, E. and Tippett, Jean 1965. "Self-esteem: Clinical assessment and measurement validation." Psychological Reports, 16, 1017-1071. (Discusses multitrait-multimethod investigation using RSE).
Wells, L. Edward and Gerald Marwell. 1976. Self-Esteem: Its Conceptualization and Measurement. Beverly Hills: Sage.
Wylie, Ruth C. 1974. The Self-Concept (especially pp. 180-189.) Revised Edition. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

May I have permission to use the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale in my research?
Dr. Florence Rosenberg, Manny's wife, has given permission to use the Self-Esteem Scale for educational and professional research. There is no charge associated with the use of this scale in your professional research. However, please be sure to give credit to Dr. Rosenberg when you use the scale by citing his work in publications, papers and reports. We would also appreciate receiving copies of any published works resulting from your research at the University of Maryland address listed below.

How do I cite the scale?
You should cite the scale according to the standards of your discipline. The most appropriate citation is: "Rosenberg, Morris. 1989. Society and the Adolescent Self-Image.  Revised edition. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press."

Are there foreign language versions of the scale available?
The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale is perhaps the most widely-used self-esteem measure in social science research. The scale has been translated into many languages; unfortunately, the University of Maryland is not a repository for such scales. Please refer to the scholarly literature in the language which you are using.

Can you tell me what the scale cut-offs are for high and low self-esteem?
There are no discrete cut-off points to delineate high and low self-esteem. It is recommended that you consult the literature relevant to the population you are interested in studying. By examining this literature you should be able learn more about the norms of a specific population.

The Rosenberg SES may be used without explicit permission. The author's family, however, would like to be kept informed of its use. Send information about how you have used the scale, or send published research resulting from its use, to the address below:

The Morris Rosenberg Foundation
c/o Sociology Dept.
2112 Art-Sociology Building
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742-1315