Self-esteem, self-concept, and the life goals and sex-role attitudes of college students1


  • 1

    This article is based in part on the author's doctoral dissertation, The Ohio State University, Department of Psychology, Columbus, Ohio. The author wishes to thank committee members Samuel H. Osipow, Nancy Betz, Mari Jones, and Saul M. Siegel.

Reprint requests should be sent to the author at the Depression Research Unit, Dept. of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, 904 Howard Avenue, Suite 2A, New Haven, Connecticut 06519.


Questionnaires that assessed self-esteem, self-concept, educational goals, career goals, preferred and expected career commitment, and sex-role attitudes were completed by 884 male and female undergraduates representing two racial groups and two age groups. Men and women did not differ significantly in terms of self-esteem, but the men described themselves as more attractive than did the women in their age group. For the 18–25-year-old white women, an intelligent, unconventional, and/or nonreligious self-concept predicts nontraditional goals and feminist attitudes, and the interaction between self-esteem and socioeconomic status influences educational goals and sex-role attitudes. For the 18–25-year-old white men, a physically strong and intelligent self-concept predicts higher educational goals and traditional career goals, and lower self-described strength and religiousness and greater intelligence predict more feminist attitudes. Physical self-concept is unrelated to goals or attitudes for the female samples. Self-concept is less strongly predictive of goals and attitudes for the black women and the older men and women. Possible reasons for the sample differences and implications for related research are discussed.