Psychological Reports, 1990, 66, 1001-1002. O Psychological Reports 1990
CODEPENDENCY AND SELF-ESTEEM AMONG HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS '" DEENA FISHER AND JOHN BEER
United School District No. 399, Natorna, Kanrar Summary.-46 north central Kansas rural high school students completed a coedependency measure prepared from a list of codependent characteristics and the Coopersmith Self-esteem Inventory-Short Form including the Lie scale. Girls reported higher codependency scores than boys, but there was no difference between boys and girls on self-esteem. There was a significant difference between boys and girls on the self-esteem lie scores; boys tended to exaggerate their responses to appear more socially appropriate. The Pearson correlations suggest a moderate and negative association of self-esteem and codependency. Codependency may reflect ill health or maladaptive or problematic behavior which is associated with living with, working with or otherwise being close to a person with alcoholism, other chemical dependence, or chronic impairment. Codependency may characterize not only individuals, but families, communities, businesses, and other institutions, and even whole societies (Whitfield, 1984, 1987). Codependent penons usually have been in relationships with chemically dependent persons or have grown up in dysfunctional families. A primary difference between codependents and other people is that the latter do not judge themselves as harshly as do codependent persons. Such persons believe that they are worthless, incompetent, unlovable, and feel insecure about everything. They constantly shame themselves, run from good relationships, but remain in destructive ones, because they feel they are not entitled to a person who treats them well. Codependent persons live in a world of disaster, so they learn how to cope dysfunctionally in a crisis. They become so used to these confusing situations that they cannot handle living without a crisis so they create a crisis to live. With such problems and character defects, it is understandable why codependent persons have low set£-esteem. The measure of codependency is based on a questionnaire created by listing 25 codependent characteristics in the areas of caretaking, low self-worth, repression, obsession, controlling, denial, dependency, poor communicadon, anger, and severe depression (Beattie, 1987). Most signs of codependency seem to appear in caretaking and low self-worth. Individuals who have low self-esteem tend to express self-hatred, psychosomatic symptoms and feelings of depression and distress, according to Coopersmith (1967), who also states that people with low self-esteem tend to withdraw from others, are more intropunitive and passively adapt to environmental demands. Persons with low sex-esteem experience greater anxiety, self-hatred, inferiority, and are self-conscious and lack self-confidence. Battle (1976) did not find significant differences between boys and girls on self-esteem but stated that older boys tended to report higher self-esceem scores. The mean self-esteem scores for male college students were tugher than those for female college students (Battle, 1977). The Short Form of the Coopersmith Self-esteem Inventory-School Form contains the first 25 questions from the longer 58-question School Form. A total of 25 points is possible. High
'Opinions expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the yhool district. Request reprints from John Beer, 300 E. New Hampshire, Osborne, KS 67473.
D. FISHER & J. BEER
self-esteem scores "have generally been in the range of from 70 to 80 with a standard deviation of from 11 to 13. Scores on the SEI have been shown to increase slightly . . . with grade level" (Coopersmjth, 1984, p. 8). The upper quartile can be considered high self-esteem while the lower quartile as low self-esteem. The higher the number correct, the better the self-esteem. The Lie scale is composed of eight questions taken from the Coopersmith Self-esteem Inventory-School Form with a possible score of eight points. A high score on the Lie scale indicates there was an exaggeration in responses in order to appear socially appropriate. The higher the number correct, the more exaggeration in the profile. The following study investigated the relationship of scores on self-esteem and on codependency among 46 north central Kansas rural high school students (82% responded ro the questionnaires from a population of 56). The participants completed the codependency measure and the Coopersmith Self-esteem Inventory-Short form which included its Lie scale. Analysis involved sex as the independent variable and codependency, self-esteem, and lie scores as dependent measures. There was a significant difference between boys and girls on codependency (F,,,, = 10.08, p .05). The girls' mean of 13.71 (SD = 6.34) was not different from the boys' mean of 16.56 (SD = 5.26). There was a significant difference between boys and girls on the self-esteem Lie scores (F,,,, = 4.73, p .05). The mean self-esteem score of the airls wac lower than that of the bovs as has been observed but both scores fall within the aver.lgc range. The girls may show more codependent-related attributes than the boys, but then, rhe boys may be not answering truthfully. Codependency affects indviduals who may be exposed to the behavioral and emotional effects of chronic dependence and it must be recognized and addressed.
REFERENCES BATTLE, J. (1976) The relationship between infelligence and self-esteem. Edmonton, Alberta: Edmonton Public Schools. BATTLE, J. (1977) Test-retest reliability of the Canadian Self-esteem Inventory for Adults (Form AD). Perceprual and Motor Skills, 44, 38. B E A ~M., (1987) Co-dependent no more. New York: Harper & Row. COOPERSMITH, S. (1967) Antecedent1 ofself-exteem. San Francisco, CA: Freeman. COOPERSMITH, S. (1984) Self-esteem inventories. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press. WHITFIELD,C. L. (1984) Co-alcoholism: recognizing a treatable illness. Family and Community Health, 7 (Summer) WHITFIELD, C. L. (1987) Healing the child within. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications. Accepted May 8, 1990.