The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between stress and self-esteem among prospective teachers. The research design for this study is descriptive research survey method. Data were collected by using random sampling technique. A total of 300 prospective teachers from Yangon University of Education in Myanmar were used as the sample. Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory Adult-form (CSEI-A), and University Students Stress Items (Burge, 2009) were used as the instruments for this study. Before data collection, content validity was taken from experts in respective fields and pilot study was conducted to confirm internal consistency for the questionnaires. It was found that majority of the prospective teachers had moderate self-esteem level and the intrapersonal/self stress was the most common among the prospective teachers. The prospective teachers in low self-esteem level felt more stress than those in moderate and high self-esteem levels. The self-esteem of the prospective teachers was negatively correlated with their stress.
Key words: Self-Esteem, Stress
Stress is everywhere. Stress affects all of us regardless of our gender, age, race, or class. Children are stressed. Some such as the typical 5- or 6-year-old, are stressed adjusting to the new world of school. Others are stressed from trying to cope with the pressures that accompany divorce, socioeconomic status, and blended families. College students are stressed. Some are trying to cope with the demands of adapting to a new living environment, new peers, academic pressure, and sexual concerns. College can also put financial stress on students and their families, and it seems that there is never enough time to attend class, study, and work enough hours to pay the bills. The elderly are stressed. Some are caught between the demands of forced retirement and the difficulty of meeting their financial needs. Others cope with the demands of frail health status and escalating health care costs. Still others are stressed by the loss of their spouses or the dissolution of their families as their adult children leave home.
Students may come to school under stress from events or circumstances at home. The stress a student brings to school can impact the climate of the school by influencing student behaviors and academic achievement. Common stressors in late adolescence, when students are beginning college, include transitioning from home to school and transitioning from dependence on family to oneself and one’s friends. In university classes, students contend with a series of new challenges while at the same time loosing the structure of the high school learning environment, family life and daily instrumental support of family. On their own, students must organize their schedules, do their own work, attend to their own requirements, physical health, work on time, and allocate sufficient time for studying. The new found responsibilities for their own lifestyle, work ethic, resource use and choice of professional courses, in addition to demands of the society is well managed by some and staggering to others (Arnett, 2004).
Prospective teachers today are faced with everyday stressful events such as overexposure to the media (war, extreme weather, terrorism, illness and death), family related issues (divorce, single parent families, addictions, illness and death), and school (the ever rising expectations, over scheduling, bullying, and peer pressure). As they are same age with other university students, they have the problems of adolescents such as their physical appearance, relationship problems and financial problems. We as a society need to begin to take a proactive approach to helping prospective teachers to deal with the everyday problems they are being faced with. Studies among college students suggest that higher stress level generally related to greater symptomatology, including anxiety, depression, lower levels of general well-being and low self-esteem. Self-esteem can be considered as an important one to normal psychological development. To understand a man psychologically, one must understand the nature and degree of one’s self-esteem, and the standards that one judges oneself. Self-esteem is subjective and enduring sense of realistic self-approval. It reflects how the individual views and values the self at the most fundamental level of psychological experiencing (Bednar & Peterson, 1995).
A favorable self-esteem is obviously essential for personal happiness and effective functioning, through one’s life. Self-esteem, how people tend to feel about themselves, is personality trait that is relevant to stress. Self-esteem is one factor that can influence the relation between daily hassles and emotional responses to stressors. Additionally, low self-esteem is associated with increased blood pressure in response to stressors and other physiological responses that often occur in response to stressors, such as trembling hands, pounding heart, pressures or pains in the head, sweating hands, and dizziness. Low self -esteem also has an important role in depression and stress.
2. Review of Related Literature
According to Coopersmith (1967), self-esteem is significantly associated with personal satisfaction and effective functioning. Maslow is probably best known with his hierarchy of needs. These needs began with physiological needs of hunger and thirst, proceed to safety needs, then to the need for love, to the need for esteem and finally to the need for self-actualization (Maslow, 1971). Positive self-esteem is characterized by feelings of self-respect and worthiness. Moreover, the individual recognizes his/her strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, the person with low self-esteem feels lack of respect for him/her and seeks him/herself as unworthy and inadequate or deficient person (Rosenberg, 1979).
Stress is a negative emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological, cognitive, and behavioral changes that are directed either toward altering the stressful event or accommodating to its effects. The stressful events that produce threats to our well-being are called stressors.
Moreover, stress can increase the risk of developing health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and anxiety disorders. This bad kind of stress is called distress, the kind of stress that people usually are referring to when they use the word stress. A convenient way to think about stress is in terms of stressors and stress responses. Stressors are events that threaten or challenge people. They are the sources of stress, such as having to make decisions, getting married and natural disasters. Stress responses are psychological, physiological, and behavioral reactions to stressors. Anxiety, depression, concentration difficulties, and muscle tension are all examples of stress responses.
Studies about Self-Esteem and Stressful Life Events
The literature about stressful life events and self-esteem revealed a significant relationship. The study in which 675 second-year undergraduate students were included, showed a significant negative correlation between self-esteem both academic and life stress emerged indicating that students with high self-esteem are less stressed than those are low (Abouserie, 1994). A total of 2154 North Dakota high school students between the ages 14 and 19 participated by completing the Life Experiences Survey and the Self-Esteem Inventory. The findings indicated that as the number of life events increased, the level of self-esteem decreased (Youngs & Rathge, 1990).
Sample of the Study
The study selected 300 first year prospective teachers from Yangon University of Education by using random sampling technique.
1. Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory-Adult form (CSEI-A)
Self-esteem was examined by Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory-Adult form (CSEI-A). The CSEI-A is a self-report questionnaire intended to measure “the evaluation a person makes and customarily maintains with regard to him or herself” (Coopersmith, 1989). It is a 25 item inventory that concerned with the student’s perception in four areas: general self-esteem, social self-esteem, home-parents, school-academic.
2. University Students Stress Items (USS) (Burge, 2009)
The USS was used to explore the stressors of university students. This draft set of items has been developed from Burge (2009). The original USS item consists of altogether 86 items. In USS, there are five proposed factors: (1) Academic including teaching quality, relations with teachers and support from teachers (2) Intrapersonal/Self including time balance, work and financial (3) Family (4) Interpersonal/Social and (5) Environmental/ Campus/ Administrative/ Transition. These themes were derived from content analysis of 282 open-ended responses from USS (Burge, 2007) including three factors Academic, Time and Environmental/Social. The USS is a 4-point Likert scale including always stressful, sometimes stressful, rarely stressful and no stressful.
The content validity and face validity were taken from 9 experts from educational psychology and psychology field. According to the valuable advices of the experts, irrelevant and overlapped items were removed. Some questions are added to get demographic data of prospective teachers. After that, preliminary test administration was conducted with 50 first year prospective teachers from Yangon University of Education. Based on the pilot study, internal consistencies for whole scale and sub-scales are expressed as follows:
Table 3.1: Reliability Statistics for Whole Scales
4.1 Findings for Self-Esteem of Prospective Teachers
Descriptive analyses revealed that the mean and standard deviation of prospective teachers’ self-esteem were 51.29 and 16.58 respectively. According to the norms of Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory (CSEI-A) Adult Form, the scores for all respondents were calculated on their responses for 25 measures on the CSEI-A. The maximum possible score is 100 and the minimum possible score is 0. The respondents’ scores ranged from a low of 4 to a high of 100. Respondents with scores in the range of 0 to 40 were considered to have low self-esteem. Scores in the range of 41 to 70 represented moderate self-esteem in respondents. The respondents with high self-esteem scores ranged from 71 to 100 (Coopersmith, 1967).
Results revealed that 14.7% of the prospective teachers have low level of self-esteem and 29.6% of the prospective teachers have high level of self-esteem. The majority of respondents were scored as possessing moderate self-esteem (n = 167, 55.7%). Table (4.2) illustrates the distribution of respondents’ CSEI-A scores in ranges of low, moderate, and high according to gender.
Table 4.1: Descriptive Statistics of Prospective Teachers’ Self-Esteem
Table 4.2: Frequencies and Percentages of Prospective Teachers’ Self-Esteem Level by Gender
It was found that the number and percentage of female students in high self-esteem level is slightly more than the number and percentage of male students in high self-esteem level (see Table 4.2).
Table 4.3: Mean Comparison of Prospective Teachers’ Self-Esteem by Gender
According to Table 4.3, the mean score of male was more than that of female. This means that male prospective teachers are high in self-esteem than female prospective teachers. To confirm the result, the independent sample t test was used. The results revealed that gender difference was not found to be on self-esteem.
4.2 Findings for Stress of Prospective Teachers
According to the result, most of the prospective teachers in this study felt stress in the first year prospective teacher life. To investigate in details, mean percentage of five components of stress: academic stress, intrapersonal/self, family stress, interpersonal/social stress and environmental stress were examined.
Table 4.4: Descriptive Statistics of Prospective Teachers’ Stress
Table 4.5: Descriptive Statistics of Prospective Teachers’ Stress Components
According to Table 4.5, the mean percentage value of intrapersonal/self stress was higher than other four stress components. This confirmed that this component was the most stressful one among five components. The followings are some stressful events in intrapersonal/self that most students felt.
Table 4.6: Mean Comparison of Prospective Teachers’ Stress by Gender
The result revealed that gender difference was found to be on stress. The mean score of female prospective teachers (274.50) was significantly higher than that of male (269.66).
Table 4.7: Results of Independent Sample t-test of Stress Components by Gender
Table 4.7 revealed that the mean differences between stress components on gender. Among five components, the mean scores of female prospective teachers were higher than that of male prospective teachers in intrapersonal/self stress.
Table 4.8: Mean Comparison of Prospective Teachers’ Stress by Self-Esteem Level
It was found that the significant mean difference was found among self-esteem level on stress. The prospective teachers in low self-esteem level have stress more than those in moderate self-esteem level and high self-esteem level. To investigate the highly significant differences, Post-Hoc Test was executed by Tukey HSD method.
Table 4.9: Post-Hoc Analysis of Prospective Teachers’ Stress by Self-Esteem Levels by Tukey HSD Method
According to Table 4.9, there was a significant difference between low self-esteem level and moderate self-esteem level and also high self-esteem level while there was no significant difference between moderate self-esteem level and high self-esteem level. This means that the prospective teachers in low self-esteem feel stress more than those from other two levels.
4.3 Relationship between Self-Esteem and Stress
Table 4.10: Correlation between Self-Esteem and Stress
The result can be predicted that self-esteem would be negatively correlated with stress. It can be predicted that prospective teachers who have low self-esteem have more stressful life events.
Table 4.11: Correlation between Self-Esteem and Stress Components
The Pearson product-moment correlation was used to examine the relationships between the variables. Results revealed that the self-esteem of prospective teachers was negatively correlated with intrapersonal/self stress, family stress and interpersonal/social stress.
In the present study, self-esteem of prospective teachers was negatively correlated with stress.
In the present study, it was seen that having high self-esteem has a supporting effect on coping with stressful life events that one experiences in daily life. As a consequence, teacher educators, counselors or professionals should take into consideration this effect and they could develop programs for prospective teachers in order to enhance self-esteem. According to Branden (1994), there are several approaches to build self-esteem. First one is cognitive approach that places the emphasis on developing positive mental attitudes, helping prospective teachers to think about their feelings, and adopt healthier ways of interpreting or relating to the events that occur in their lives. Second one is behavioural approach which endeavors to develop specific functional behaviours in prospective teachers so that they can display behaviours that command greater respect from others and self-esteem in selves. Such behaviours may relate to voice control, posture, eye contact, or expression of feelings. Another one is experimental approach that provides positive experiences for prospective teachers to build up feelings of self-respect and self-esteem. Environmental approach is more holistic approach that structures the environment and the activities students engage in to develop particular attitudes and skills that lead to self-esteem. It tends to address such aspects as discipline, social activities, goal setting, responsibility, and how adults interact with prospective teachers (Branden, 1994). With respect to self-esteem and also stressful life events, environmental approach could be beneficial because it is a holistic approach, which needs to study about prospective teachers’ inside world and his/her environment. Therefore, counselor should have such a holistic approach to be beneficial and effective in that area.
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Youngs Jr., & Rathge, R. (1990). Adolescent stress and self-esteem. Adolescence, 25(98), 333-339.
Dr. Ei Mon Mon Aung
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