How Valid Are Measures of Children’s Self-Concept/ Self-Esteem? Factors and Content Validity in Three Widely Used Scales

Guerin, Suzanne and Tatlow-Golden, Mimi (2019). How Valid Are Measures of Children’s Self-Concept/ Self-Esteem? Factors and Content Validity in Three Widely Used Scales. Child Indicators Research, 12(5) pp. 1507–1528.



Children’s self-esteem/self-concept, a core psychological construct, has been measured in an overwhelming number of studies, and the widespread use of such measures should indicate they have well-established content validity, internal consistency and factor structures. This study, sampling a demographically representative cohort in late childhood/early adolescence in Dublin, Ireland (total n = 651), examined three major self-esteem/self-concept scales designed for late childhood/early adolescence: Piers-Harris Self-Concept Scale for Children 2 (Piers et al. 2002), Self-Description Questionnaire I (Marsh 1992) and Self-Perception Profile for Children (Harter 1985). It also examined findings in light of the salient self factors identified by participants in a linked mixed-methods study. The factor structure of Piers-Harris Self-Concept Scale was not replicated. The Self-Description Questionnaire I and Self-Perception Profile for Children were replicated only in part although in similar ways. In all three scales, a global/ appearance self evaluation factor accounted for the largest variance in factor analyses. Sport/athletic ability, school ability, school enjoyment, maths and reading ability/enjoyment, behaviour, peer popularity, and parent factors were also identified but did not always reflect existing scale structures. Notably, the factors extracted, or items present in these scales, often did not reflect young people’s priorities, such as friendship over popularity, the importance of family and extended family members, and the significance of incremental personal mastery in activities rather than assessing oneself as comparatively good at preferred activities. The findings raise questions about how self-esteem/self-concept scales are used and interpreted in research with children and young people.

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