Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

Lisa L. Harlow


Selected psychosocial correlates of maladaptive behaviors were evaluated within the context of Howard Kaplan's multivariate theory of self-concept and deviance (e.g., Kaplan, Martin, & Johnson, 1986). The hypothesized relationships between self-concept, existential variables, and maladaptive psychosocial outcomes were examined using structural modeling techniques with a sample of 290 undergraduates. Six separate models were tested using these three general sets of variables. In each model, the independent construct was a self-concept variable, either self-derogation or self-esteem. In four of the six models, the existential variables of purpose in life or hopelessness were alternately used as mediating constructs. The maladaptive psychosocial outcomes--substance use, depression, and suicide ideation--represented the dependent constructs in each of the six models.

The data was analyzed using estimation procedures that could account for the nonnormality inherent in the data. Results indicated that overall model fit was generally adequate. However, two of the six models yielded unstable results, a finding that may be due to a small sample size for the models explored here, colinearity, and/or nonnormality. In terms of individual pathways, the self-concept variables were found to be highly significant predictors of the existential variables. There were also several significant direct and indirect (via the mediation of the existential variables) relationships between the self-concept and maladaptive outcome variables. There were strong direct associations between low self-concept and depression, and significant indirect relationships via the mediation of hopelessness. Negative self-concept directly predicted suicide ideation and there was a strong indirect association via the mediation of existential situation, particularly hopelessness. Few linkages of either a direct or indirect nature were noted between self-concept and substance use.

Overall then, it appears that, in this college sample, individuals with a negative self-concept are more likely to experience hopelessness, a lack of purpose in life, feelings of depression, and suicide ideation. Furthermore, it seems that negative perceptions of existential situation serve to augment feelings of low self-concept and thus contribute to feelings of depression and suicide ideation. The relationship between self-concept, existential variables, and substance use is less clear from this sample and may reflect the difficulty of adequately modeling extremely nonnormal data using existing methods and/or signify changing attitudes towards substance use in a college population.


Thesis is missing page 22.



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