Method Introduction Results Discussion The Effect of Self-Esteem, Marital Status, and Gender on Trait Anxiety and Stress Emily B Gale University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
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Method Introduction Results Discussion The Effect of Self-Esteem, Marital Status, and Gender on Trait Anxiety and Stress Emily B Gale University of Nebraska-Lincoln Stress and anxiety are a part of nearly every college student’s life. They seem to be unavoidable and integral to the college experience. Married and single people often experience separate kinds of stress, as do men and women. Stress has been a topic of research for long periods of time because of its implications. There is often prolonged damage done to people who experience high stress levels, such as cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal problems, as well as decreased productivity (Kohn & Frazer, 1986). It is also important to keep in mind self-esteem when dealing with stress and anxiety, as it can be a mitigating or detrimental factor. Abouserie (1994) found students with high self-esteem are less stressed than those with low self-esteem. Self-esteem seemed to have an effect on stress, and conversely, stress seems to have an effect on self-esteem. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship of stress and trait anxiety to three other factors: marital category, gender, and self-esteem. Long (1988) found women scored higher on measures of stress and anxiety than men. Long (1988) also found trait anxiety to be highly correlated with depression. For the purposes of our study, trait anxiety is defined as “the tendency for an individual to react anxiously to a stressful situation” (Spielberger, Gorsuch, Lushene, Vagg, & Jacobs, 1983). Heines, Fahey, and Leiden (1984) note there are two major areas in which college students feel the most stress and anxiety: academic expectations and maintaining interpersonal relationships. We will examine stress dealing with interpersonal relationships, namely the marital relationship. There are also gender differences in dealing with stress. Abouserie (1994) found significant gender differences in levels of stress, namely women had significantly higher stress scores than men. Stress and anxiety seemingly go hand in hand in research. Both are integral factors in depression (Rawson, Bloomer, & Kendall, 1994). Rawson, Bloomer, and Kendall (1994) conducted a study looking at the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression on physical illness among college students. They found significant differences across school year, with sophomores having the highest mean anxiety scores (Rawson, Bloomer, & Kendall, 1994). They are also co-occuring in most cases. Considering previous research, the purpose of this study is to examine the relationship of stress and trait anxiety as they relate to self-esteem, gender, and marital status. It was expected that women would report more trait anxiety and stress than men. It was also expected that single people would report more stress and trait anxiety than married. There was an expected three way pattern of interaction for stress, with those with high self-esteem having lower stress than those with low self-esteem. Participants Participants in this study were University students taking an introductory psychology class. These students ranged in ages from 16 to 20 years old. There were 102 males, 102 females with the mean age 18.7 years old. There was also a population of non-traditional students who were represented in this study (78 males, 123 females, mean age 38.4). The majority of the participants were Caucasian (94.1%), but also with 1.5% African American (1.5%), Asian (1%), Native American(1%), Latino (.7%), and 1.7% defined themselves as other. Refer to Table 1 for univariate statistics and demographic information. Materials The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965) is one of the most widely used measures of self-esteem in the social sciences. The SES consists of ten items requiring the respondent to report about the self. The possible answers range from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”. The SES consists of one total score, with higher scores representing higher self-esteem. For the purposes of this study, self-esteem scores were divided into low, moderate, and high groups. The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (Spielberger et al., 1983) measures the level of state and trait anxiety in a person. There are 40 items in the inventory, the first 20 examine state anxiety while the second 20 items examine trait anxiety. The scores are obtained from a Likert type scoring, with responses ranging from “not at all” to “very much so”. Scores can range from 20 to 80 for trait anxiety, with higher scores meaning greater trait anxiety.The subjects were also asked various demographic questions such as age, marital status, gender, and ethnic background. Marital status was divided into three groups: Married, single, and other. Procedure Students in the Introductory Psychology Class student research pool signed up to take part in this study as part of a course requirement. The students were given a sheet which explained the requirements of the study, a consent sheet to sign and return before completing the study. The experimenter met with the participants to explain the requirements in detail. Steps were also taken to ensure confidentiality. Between groups ANOVAS with follow-up analyses using the LSD procedure (p=.05) were performed to examine the relationship between gender, marital status and self-esteem score as they relate to trait anxiety. Table 1 shows the univariate statistics and demographic information. There was not a significant three-way interaction between Gender, Marital Status and Self-Esteem Scores (SES) as they relate to trait anxiety (F(4,387) = 2.100, p =.080, Mse = 53.978, r =.0734). There was also no significant two-way interaction between self-esteem and marital category (F(4,387) = 1.378, p =.241, Mse = 53.978, r =.0595), gender and marital category (F(2,387) =.312, p =.732, Mse = 53.978, r =.0283), and gender and self-esteem category (F(2,387) =.287, p =.750, Mse = 53.978, r =.0272) as they relate to trait anxiety. It was found there was no significant main effect of Marital status (F(2,387) = 1.849, p =.159, Mse = 53.978, r =.0689) as they relate to trait anxiety. There was also no significant main effect of gender (F(1,387) = 1.264, p =.262, Mse = 53.978, r =.057) as it relates to trait anxiety. There was a significant main effect of self-esteem score as it relates to trait anxiety (F(2,387) = 75.952, p <.001, Mse = 53.978, r =.405). Overall, those with low self-esteem reported higher trait anxiety than those in the medium or high categories of self-esteem. Between groups ANOVAs with follow-up analysis using the LSD procedure (p=.05) were performed to examine the relationship between self-esteem scores, gender, and marital status, as they relate to stress. Table 2 shows the summary of the factorial ANOVA analyses and Table 4 shows the descriptive statistics for stress. There was a significant three-way interaction between self-esteem scores, gender, and marital status, as they relate to stress (F(4,387) = 2.814, p =.025, Mse = 47.961, r =.0849). Follow-up analyses (LSD=4.292) revealed that for males with low self-esteem, married people reported the highest stress, whereas single people reported the second highest, and other statuses the lowest. For those with moderate self-esteem, there was no difference between single and married, while other had the highest scores. Finally, for the high self-esteem, there was no difference between single and other, but single and other did have higher stress scores than married. Follow-up analyses for women (LSD=3.839) revealed for low and moderate self-esteem scores there was no difference between the marital statuses. For those with high self-esteem, there was no difference between married and other, single and other, but singles had higher stress than married. There was a significant two-way interaction between self-esteem scores and marital category (F(4,387) = 2.760, p =.028, Mse = 47.961, r =.0841) as they relate to stress. Follow-up analyses using the LSD procedure (LSD= 2.336) revealed no significant difference for any of the marital statuses for low or moderate self-esteem scores. There was also no significant difference for single and other with high self-esteem, but single and other both had higher scores than married. There was no significant two-way interaction between gender and marital category as they relate to stress (F(2,387) = 2.076, p =.127, Mse= 47.961, r =.073). However, this was not descriptive for either gender when also taking self-esteem and marital status into account. There was no significant two-way interaction between gender and self-esteem category as they relate to stress (F(2,387) =.227, p =.797, Mse = 47.961, r =.0242). There was no significant main effect for marital status (F(2,387) =.324, p =.723, Mse = 47.961, r =.0289) or gender (F(1,387) = 1.830, p =.177, Mse = 47.961, r =.0686) as they relate to stress. There was a significant main effect for self-esteem category as it relates to stress (F(2,387) = 12.677, p <.001, Mse = 47.961, r =.178). Follow-up analysis (LSD=1.652) revealed overall, those with lower self-esteem scores reported more stress. Taking the three- way interaction into account, this effect was only descriptive for single and married females with high self-esteem, and males single versus other, and married versus other, for those with low self-esteem. It is also descriptive for males with high self-esteem, single versus married. The purpose of this study was to examine stress and trait anxiety as they relate to gender, self-esteem, and marital status. Contrary to the research hypothesis, there was not an effect of gender for stress, as both men and women had equal levels of stress. This would contradict the research of Abouserie (1994) who found an effect of gender for stress, with women having higher stress than men. However, confirming the research hypothesis and previous research by Abouserie (1994), those with lower self-esteem reported more stress, and those with high self-esteem reported lower stress. This is important for future research to examine how people with low self-esteem are coping with the stress. There was also a significant interaction of self-esteem, gender, and marital status for stress, with single women and men with high self-esteem reporting lower stress. There was also no gender differences for trait anxiety, which contradicts Long (1988), as well as contradicting the research hypothesis. There was also no support for the research hypothesis for marital category and trait anxiety, as the interaction was not significant. This could be an issue with the sample, as there were not many married participants, and there were many single participants. There were nearly no significant results for the trait anxiety interaction with self-esteem, gender, and marital status. There were no major effects of gender or marital status. There was, however, an effect of self-esteem score, with those with low self-esteem reporting greater trait anxiety than those with moderate or high self-esteem. This is important, as it has the same pattern as stress, which could explain the co-occurrence of stress and anxiety in other issues such as depression or physical illness (Rawson, Bloomer, & Kendall, 1994). Future research should correct for the sampling issues with the present study. It would be interesting to examine married and single people in a university setting for differences in stress and self-esteem scores. It would also be important to correct for the ethnic homogeneity of the current sample, and examine how stress, trait anxiety, and self-esteem fluctuate across cultures and ethnicities. There should also be an examination of trait anxiety in detail, as there were no effects found in this sample. Table 1 Univariate Statistics and Demographics (N=405) Univariate Statistics NPercent GenderMale18044.4% Female22555.6% Marital Category Single24259.8% Married121 29.9% Other4210.3% Self-Esteem Category Low10024.69% Medium11327.90% High19247.41% Mean Std Age28.4810.885 Table 2: Summary of Factorial ANOVA Analyses (N=405, df=387) Fp Trait Anxiety Gender*self-esteem*marital cat.2.10.080 Self-esteem*Marital category1.38.241 Gender*Marital Category.312.732 Gender*Self-Esteem.287.750 Marital Category1.85.159 Self-Esteem Category72.95<.001 Gender1.26.262 Stress Gender*Self-Esteem*Marital cat.2.81.025 Self-Esteem *Marital cat.2.76.028 Gender*Marital cat.2.08.127 Gender*Self-Esteem.227.797 Marital Category.324.723 Self-Esteem12.68<.001 Gender1.83.177 Table 3: Trait Anxiety Descriptive Statistics Self-Esteem MaritalMeanStd. N Males LowSingle49.716.64428 Married 51.179.8276 Other43.337.6943 Total49.437.69437 MediumSingle40.646.14736 Married 38.576.56014 Other48.3310.5043 Total33.096.85490 HighSingle39.499.20558 Married 31.006.00627 Other35.606.0255 Total33.096.85490 Females LowSingle49.928.77639 Married44.798.98014 Other49.108.55610 Total48.658.89863 MediumSingle39.738.23633 Married 40.896.87919 Other 40.002.4498 Total40.137.22660 HighSingle33.738.27948 Married30.736.02141 Other32.385.91013 Total32.357.237102 Table 4: Stress Descriptive Statistics Self-EsteemMarital MeanstdN Males LowSingle12.797.38528 Married20.09.0776 Other8.335.6863 Total13.597.98837 MediumSingle7.945.98536 Married7.577.07914 Other15.331.5283 Total8.266.31053 HighSingle7.696.67358 Married3.814.33327 Other9.808.0445 Total6.646.37390 Females LowSingle13.217.88839 Married10.5010.64614 Other12.808.82910 Total12.548.62863 MediumSingle9.217.84933 Married8.377.31219 Other7.134.9418 Total8.677.29060 HighSingle8.156.74148 Married4.765.39341 Other6.776.27413 Total6.616.314102