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Aim: The purpose of this study was to examine the following hypothesis: (i) Self-esteem and aggressiveness, adverse childhood experiences (ACE), and a depressive tendency interact with each other. (ii) The subjects show a strong depressive tendency, and each of the other factors exerts a main effect on, and interacts with, the depressive tendency.
Method: The subjects were 91 juveniles (all female) admitted to a female juvenile correctional facility between November 2005 and December 2006. They were aged 15–19 years, with a mean age of 17.0 (SD = 1.18) years. Self-esteem scale, aggression scale, ACE questionnaire, and depression scale were conducted.
Results: Significant main effects (R2 = 0.50, P < 0.001) on the depression score were observed in self-esteem (β = −0.41, P < 0.001) and aggression (β = 0.21, P < 0.05). Self-esteem, aggression, ACE, and depression were found to be interrelated.
Conclusion: Low self-esteem was also shown to exert marked effects on various factors. About half of the inmates of the facility were depressed, and the main effects of self-esteem, aggression, and the ACE score were shown to influence the depression score.
THERE HAVE BEEN a number of studies on the correlations between self-esteem and antisocial behavior.1–3 Donnellan et al.2 reported that low self-esteem in adolescence exerts negative effects on behavior. In contrast, Baumeister et al.4 argued that unrealistically high levels of self-esteem reflect narcissism and lead to social maladaptation. Such exaggerated self-esteem reportedly leads to aggressiveness and antisocial behavior in some adolescents.5 Thus, whether low self-esteem is related to antisocial behavior or overly high self-esteem promotes problematic behavior is presently unclear.
Much research has been conducted on self-esteem of juvenile delinquents.6–8 Research concerning the low self-esteem hypothesis, in which low self-esteem is related to external problematic behavior, can be classified into three major categories.2 Rosenberg suggested that low self-esteem weakens ties with society, and, consequently, promotes social maladaptation and delinquency. Hirschi9 also presented a similar opinion by emphasizing social ties. Rogers explained the mechanism of the appearance of problematic behavior as follows: ‘Failure to develop positive self-esteem leads to psychological problems and induces aggressive behavior’.10 Horney, who is considered to be a Neo-Freudian psychologist, asserted that an inferiority complex and a sense of humiliation (including low self-esteem) enhance aggressiveness and lead people toward antisocial behavior.11 While the low self-esteem hypothesis is widely accepted, its interpretation varies, and the direction of the cause–effect relationship lacks sound evidence.1
There are also reports that the self-esteem of juvenile delinquents is not low, and that the low self-esteem hypothesis, the controversy over which still remains, is still unable to explain delinquency or aggressive behavior. It has been supported, but at the same time has been suggested to lack scientific evidence.2
Matsuura et al., who investigated juvenile correctional facilities in Japan, compared the inmates with age- and gender-matched controls, and demonstrated the very low self-esteem of inmates.12 They simultaneously disclosed some common features and characteristics in inmates through the investigation of multiple facilities. They included developmental problems such as hyperactivity and impulsiveness, adverse childhood experiences (abuse and inappropriate child-raising), and moderate aggressiveness.13–15 Their studies also revealed marked internal problems such as anxiety, depression, and social withdrawal, as well as external behavioral problems such as aggressive behavior and delinquency.16
There is also extensive literature concerning the relationship between delinquency and inappropriate child-raising (including abuse).17–19 Abuse is considered to have particularly strong effects on the occurrence of aggressive behavior, and the concurrence of serious abuse and inappropriate child-raising has been shown to increase the seriousness of behavioral and emotional problems.20,21 The Adverse Childhood Experiences study (ACE study) by Felliti et al.22 is particularly informative. Anda et al.23 reported that ACE such as child abuse and the inadequacy of the child-raising function of the family lead to various health-related problems in adulthood. These ACE studies were planned primarily by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and were conducted with regard to the relationship between past ACE and the present state of health in more than 17 000 adults. New findings that ACE enhance delinquency and dangerous behavior such as crime and drug abuse have also been reported.24–26 A clear quantitative relationship between ACE and external problems as well as their relationships with self-esteem and depression have also been clarified.22,27 Thus, it has been shown with scientific evidence that children exposed to an adverse environment are more likely to exhibit problems such as depression and suicide attempts during and after adolescence. In girls, particularly, it has been reported that more than 50% of those who experienced four or more ACE developed depression, and that about 20% attempted suicide.28
In Japan, Matsuura performed a questionnaire survey in inmates of juvenile correctional facilities and a control group using the Japanese translation of a simplified version of the ACE questionnaire, and compared their responses. As expected, sharp differences were observed, suggesting the seriousness of ACE that inmates had. Furthermore, a survey at multiple facilities in Japan revealed common features of ACE in inmates.14
It has also been suggested by many studies that juvenile delinquents often suffer from symptoms of anxiety and depression. Depression and behavioral disorders are more concurrent than expected, and their relationship is so strong that it must not be overlooked.29–31 Angold et al. performed meta-analysis concerning the concurrence of depression and behavioral disorders in community samples of average children, and showed that the risk of the occurrence of psychiatric problems in adolescence was about 6.6 times higher (95%CI: 4.4–11.0) in those who had both conditions than in those who did not.32 As behavioral and depressive disorders innately tend to concur, some researchers have suggested that it may be more reasonable to regard the concurrence of both symptoms as a single diagnostic category.32
In a survey of male inmates of juvenile correctional facilities in Japan, marked depression was also noted in about 50% of the inmates.16 While characteristics among the inmates such as low self-esteem, increased aggressive behavior and serious ACE have thus been disclosed gradually, evaluation of their correlation remains insufficient. Although many factors are considered to interact in a complex way to induce psychiatric disorders, investigations themselves have been limited in Japan, and a standardized questionnaire has not been developed, hampering a clear understanding or analysis of the situation.
However, scientific studies to date have suggested that inmates of juvenile correctional facilities exhibit serious internal as well as external problems. In particular, close correlations are considered to be present between self-esteem and aggressive behavior and between abusive experience and a depressive tendency. Girls have been reported to respond more sensitively to stressful life events and to be more likely to exhibit a depressive tendency.33 In this study, we conducted a questionnaire survey in female inmates of juvenile correctional facilities, and examined the following hypothesis:
(i) self-esteem and aggressiveness, ACE, and a depressive tendency interact with each other; and (ii) the subjects show a strong depressive tendency, and each of the other factors exerts a main effect on, and interacts with, the depressive tendency.
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Results of the ACE questionnaire revealed that physical, psychological, and sexual abuse had been experienced by 27.2%, 23.8%, and 8.6% of the subjects, respectively. The inmates of the correctional facility were asked questions regarding their household environment: 17.3% of the inmates indicated that ‘there was alcohol abuse’; 22.2 % indicated that there was ‘someone who was chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized, or suicidal’; and more than 45% indicated that ‘either or both of the parents were missing’. A total of 12.3% of the inmates indicated that ‘a family member was imprisoned’, and 9.9% stated ‘I was neglected by my parents (was not allowed to go to school, not given regular meals etc.)’. These results suggest that family functioning in their families had often disintegrated.
The ACE score was 4 or higher, indicating a serious condition, in 28.4% of the subjects.
The mean score of the DSRS-C was 15.5 (SD = 6.57), and the score was equal to or above the cut-off point (= 16) in 39 inmates (48.1%). Therefore, about half of the inmates were classified into the ‘being depressed’ group.
Table 2 shows the results of correlation analysis among various factors. Self-esteem assessed with the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale had significant negative correlations with aggression assessed with the BAQ, the ACE score and depression assessed with the DSRS-C. However, aggression had significant positive correlations with the ACE score and depression. The ACE score also had a significant positive correlation with depression.
Table 2. Correlations among self-esteem, aggression, and depression
|1 Self-esteem||–|| || || |
|2 Aggression||−0.291***||–|| || |
|3 Adverse Childhood Experiences score||−0.240*||0.353**||–|| |
As correlation analysis identified significant correlations among factors, the main effect and interactions of each factor were evaluated to examine the hypothesis.
Table 3 shows the results of multiple regression analysis performed by selecting the depression score as the dependent variable and the other factors as independent variables. The main effects of self-esteem and aggression on the dependent variable were evaluated in the Main effect model (A). As a result, significant main effects on the depression score were observed in self-esteem and aggression.
Table 3. Self-esteem, aggression, and ACE score as predictors of depression
| ||Main effect model (A)||Main effect model (B)||1-way interaction model|
|Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) score|| ||0.12|| |
|Self esteem × aggression|| || ||0.20|
Next, the main effects of self-esteem, aggression, and the ACE score were evaluated using the Main effect model (B). As a result, self-esteem had a significant negative main effect on the depression score, but the other two factors showed no significant effect. The multiple regression coefficient of this model indicated its high-level validity.
Next, multiple regression analysis was performed by selecting self-esteem and aggression and their interaction as independent variables using a 1-way interaction model. In this model, a significant negative main effect was observed in self-esteem. The multiple regression coefficient of this model significantly indicated a goodness of fit.