Dimensionality and construct validity of the Rosenberg self‐esteem scale within a sample of recidivistic prisoners

Publication Date16 Mar 2012
AuthorDaniel Boduszek,Mark Shevlin,John Mallett,Philip Hyland,Damian O'Kane
SubjectHealth & social care,Public policy & environmental management,Sociology
Dimensionality and construct validity of the
Rosenberg self-esteem scale within a
sample of recidivistic prisoners
Daniel Boduszek, Mark Shevlin, John Mallett, Philip Hyland and Damian O’Kane
Purpose – This study aims to examine the construct validity and factor structure of the Rosenberg
self-esteem scale (RSES) using a sample (n¼312) of Polish prisoners incarcerated in Nowogard High
Security Prison.
Design/methodology/approach – The number of confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) models under
investigation was limited to two by virtue of employing a much stricter and more rigorously sound
methodological procedure in which item errors were prevented from correlating, as suggested by
Findings – Confirmatory factor analyses indicated that the two-factor (positive and negative
self-esteem) model provided a better fit for the RSES items than did the one-factor model.
Originality/value – The results provide some initial support for the two-dimensional model that could
possibly be measuring substantively separate factors within a prison sample, thus calling into question
the one-factor solution of the RSES.
Keywords Prisoners, Rosenberg self-esteem scale, Dimensionality, Construct validity,
Confirmatory factor analysis, Imprisonment, Poland, Self esteem, Psychology
Paper type Research paper
One of the most widely used instruments to measure self-esteem is the Rosenberg
Self-esteem Scale (RSES; Rosenberg, 1989). Rosenberg considered self-esteem as a
component of the self-concept and defined it as a set of positive or negative thoughts and
feelings that individuals hold about themselves in terms of their worth and importance
(Rosenberg, 1965). Although the RSES was introduced as a one-dimensional scale and one
of the first CFA analysis has supported it (Shevlin et al., 1995), further empirical findings from
several studies have suggested a two factor solution for the RSES, with positive (typically
labelled positive self-esteem) and negative (labelled either negative self-esteem or
self-deprecation) items loading onto two distinct factors of self-esteem (Kaufman et al.,
1991; Goldsmith, 1986; Bachman and O’Malley, 1986; Carmines and Zeller, 1979; Dobson
et al., 1979; Hensley, 1977; Kaplan and Pokorny, 1969).
As a result of this series of contradictory findings, Marsh (1996) carried out a systematic
assessment of the dimensionality structure of the RSES using student sample. In his
research, Marsh performed a series of confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs), including a
group of correlated uniqueness models. The results showed a single dimension underlying
responses to RSES items, together with evident method effects – mostly associated with
negatively worded RSES items. Marsh (1996) suggested that such an artefact might take
place because younger and less verbally able students would have greater difficulty
responding appropriately to negatively worded items. More recently, Toma
´s and Oliver
(1999) evaluated nine alternative models of the RSES. The first six models were identical to
those specified in Marsh’s (1996) earlier study, whereas the last three were CFA models with
DOI 10.1108/20093821211210468 VOL. 2 NO. 1 2012, pp. 19-25, QEmerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 2009-3829
Daniel Boduszek,
Mark Shevlin, John Mallett,
Philip Hyland and
Damian O’Kane are all
based in the School of
Psychology at the
University of Ulster,
Londonderry, UK.
Special thanks to the Polish
Prison Service for providing the
venue for this study, particularly
to Warden of Nowogard High
Security Prison Mr Jerzy Dudzik
and Mr Jacek Pedziszczak for
assistance in survey

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