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Egotism and Delinquent Behavior

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Volume: 18 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2003 Pages: 572-590
Barbara J. Costello; R. Gregory Dunaway
Date Published
May 2003
19 pages
Using data from a survey of 377 middle school and high school students in a small Southern U.S. city, this study tested Baumeister et al.'s (1996) hypotheses that "threatened egotism" is an important cause of violent behavior.
The findings provide some support for Baumeister et al.'s hypothesis that "egotism" can help explain delinquency. Baumeister et al. distinguished between "egotism" and high self-esteem, noting that high self-esteem is generally considered to be a healthy attribute; whereas, egotism or inflated self-esteem can have unhealthy consequences. Egotism can result in a tendency to perceive frequent threats to self-esteem. If one possesses a grandiose self-concept, it is fairly easy to feel that one has been slighted or not treated with appropriate respect. The current study found that egotism was negatively related to self-control, and self-esteem was positively related to self-control. These findings support Baumeister et al.'s contention that the distinction between egotism and self-esteem is important and consequential for the explanation of delinquency. Thus, only inflated self-appraisal requiring repeated confirmations from others was related to delinquent behavior, especially violent behavior. The study sample included 179 males and 198 females (332 White and 45 Black students). Egotism was measured with seven questionnaire items that measured the four dimensions of narcissistic personality: superiority, authority, exhibitionism, and entitlement. Self-esteem was measured with items from Rosenberg's self-esteem scale. Five questions that measured self-reported violence were combined into an index that constituted the primary dependent variable. Data also included a number of measures of social control and self-control theories. 2 tables; 31 references; and appended indicators, descriptive statistics, and reliability scores of indexes