Loyola University Maryland

Emerging Scholars

Heather Dark, Alison A. Papadakis, Ph.D., Carolyn M. Barry, Ph.D., Matthew W. Kirkhart, Ph.D.

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The Impact of Religious Coping and Sexual Attitudes on Sense of Coherence and Self-Actualization

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Depression is a significant problem among college students (Lindsey et al., 2009; Schulenberg & Zarrett, 2006), occurring at rates of up to 40% (Leino & Kisch, 2005). It is associated with increased risk for substance use (Allgöwer et al., 2001), suicide (Mackenzie et al., 2011) and lower self-esteem (Gonzalez et al., 2011). Additionally, college is a time when self-esteem is particularly salient as it is a time of self-exploration and changing views about oneself (Arnett, 2001). Given that depression is common in college students, it is important to investigate its association with factors like self-esteem in order to identify potential intervention targets to decrease college students’ risk of depression.

There is a robust negative relation between explicit (self-reported) self-esteem and depression (Beck, 1967; Orth et al., 2008). However, there are problems with measuring self-esteem explicitly. Specifically, explicit methods can be influenced by external stressors and may capture only state fluctuations and not trait levels of self-esteem. Additionally, there are concerns about self-presentation effects and socially desirable responding (Baumeister, 1982; Baumeister et al., 1989). These concerns may be addressed by measuring self-esteem implicitly (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995), by capturing an automatic evaluation of the self (Bosson et al., 2000). Implicit self-esteem is the tendency to associate oneself with positive and negative stimuli. Individuals with high implicit self-esteem are more likely to associate themselves with positive versus negative stimuli, while the reverse is true of individuals with low implicit self-esteem. By assessing the combination of implicit and explicit self-esteem, one can determine which type of self-esteem an individual has: secure (high explicit-high implicit), defensive (high explicit-low implicit), damaged (low explicit-high implicit), or congruent-low (low explicit-low implicit) self-esteem. Discrepancies between implicit and explicit self-esteem are associated with maladaptive behaviors including distrust, defensiveness, and narcissism (Jordan et al., 2003; Schröder-Abé et al., 2007; Spencer et al., 2005), whereas healthier functioning is associated with secure self-esteem.

Further, due to the college environment, interpersonal relationships are important (Swenson et al., 2008). Peer-related stress is also associated with increased depression (Bosacki et al., 2007; DuongTran, 1996). Failure to acquire strong peer relationships and peer conflict have been linked to poor adjustment (Swenson et al., 2008).

We hypothesize that the relation between peer-related stress and depressive symptoms will be moderated by type of self-esteem. Specifically, the relation between peer stress and depressive symptoms will be stronger for individuals with defensive, damaged, and congruent-low self-esteem than for those with secure self-esteem. Presently, the sample consists of 66 undergraduate students from the Loyola participant pool. Participants completed three paper-and-pencil questionnaires measuring depressive symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory-II; BDI-II; Beck et al., 1996), explicit self-esteem (Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale; RSES; Rosenberg, 1965), and peer stress (Adolescent Perceived Events Scale—APES; (Compas et al., 1987) and an implicit association task (IAT) measuring implicit self-esteem (Greenwald et al., 1998).



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