This chapter examines the conceptualization and structure of global self-esteem (hereafter SE): that is, SE not tied to any particular societal context, personal attribute, social activity, or role (e.g., spouse and blues guitarist, physical appearance and intelligence, or school and work, respectively). Although there are several possible approaches to conceptualizing SE, we focus our examination on SE as an attitude people take toward their self à la Rokeach's (1968) widely accepted definition of attitude. Even though a multitude of SE measures exist (see Blascovich & Tomaka, 1991; Wylie, 1979), we limit our comments and analyses primarily to Rosenberg's (1965) oft cited and employed SE construct. We focus on the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (hereafter RSES) because of its preeminence among social scientists and other students of SE.
Our chapter has three specific, though interrelated, goals: a clarification, an expansion, and an analysis of the meaning, measurement, and structure of global SE. Our clarification revolves around three chief aims. First, we explore in detail how Rosenberg (1965) actually conceptualized SE. Oddly, despite a plethora of ink devoted each year to the topic, this has not been thoroughly addressed. As we shall show, a careful look at Rosenberg's original Guttman scaling instructions for SE reveals a rather surprising and counterintuitive idea of what it means to be a high SE person. Second, we hope to bring terminological unity and clarity to some SE terms and offer corrections for some past imprecision.