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Macro- and micro-social conditions affecting individual sense of mattering during a period of downsizing

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Mattering is a dimension of our self-concept referring to how important we think we are to others. Social interaction is essential to the development of mattering because it provides the opportunity to affirm one's connections with others. I use longitudinal data from a survey of Russian Army officers undergoing organizational downsizing to assess the relative effects of macro-social conditions, measured in terms of distance to urban centers, and micro-social conditions, measured by quantity of social interaction and employment status, on individual sense of mattering. I find that both macro- and micro-level social conditions can impact sense of mattering, albeit in different ways. On the individual level, being unemployed is associated with the greatest loss of mattering over time, probably because the unemployed no longer represent a major source of income support for their families, whereas respondents with more social interaction report higher levels of mattering. On the macro level, respondents living in more remote areas report lower levels of mattering than those closer to cities and towns. Additional findings show that the positive effects of social interaction on mattering are particularly strong in more remote areas.
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CURRENT RESEARCH IN SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY
Volume 9, Number 1
Submitted: July 7, 2003
First Revision: July 9, 2003
Second Revision: July 11, 2003
Third Revision: August 6, 2003
Fourth Revision: August 27, 2003
Accepted: September 2, 2003
Publication Date: September 3, 2003
Macro- and Micro-Social Conditions Affecting Individual Sense of Mattering
during a Period of Downsizing
David E. Rohall
Western Illinois University
ABSTRACT
Mattering is a dimension of our self-concept referring to how important we think we are to
others. Social interaction is essential to the development of mattering because it provides the
opportunity to affirm one's connections with others. I use longitudinal data from a survey of
Russian Army officers undergoing organizational downsizing to assess the relative effects of
macro-social conditions, measured in terms of distance to urban centers, and micro-social
conditions, measured by quantity of social interaction and employment status, on individual
sense of mattering. I find that both macro- and micro-level social conditions can impact sense of
mattering, albeit in different ways. On the individual level, being unemployed is associated with
the greatest loss of mattering over time, probably because the unemployed no longer represent a
major source of income support for their families, whereas respondents with more social
interaction report higher levels of mattering. On the macro level, respondents living in more
remote areas report lower levels of mattering than those closer to cities and towns. Additional
findings show that the positive effects of social interaction on mattering are particularly strong
in more remote areas.
[1]
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[2]
INTRODUCTION
A recurring issue in military life is the need to relocate from friends and family members (Segal
and Harris 1993). In some sense, the military structures the social lives of their service members,
taking them outside of their normal social circles and providing a different selection of people
with whom to interact. If social conditions help mold the self-concept, it suggests that the
military lifestyle may restructure soldiers' self-concept to reflect current social and structural
conditions.
Such a lifestyle may have a particularly profound effect on a relatively understudied element of
the self-concept called "mattering." Rosenberg and McCullough (1981) introduced the concept
of mattering over twenty years ago, referring to the feeling that one makes a difference in other
people's lives. This is an important element of social integration but substantively different than
traditional integration measures such as social support or anomie. For instance, social support
generally refers to the degree to which we feel that we can rely on others to help us, suggesting
that other people are important to us. But mattering is a sense that we are important to others,
that we "matter" to them. Hence, mattering completes the circle in which we are connected to
others and others are connected to us.
My research is designed to explore the social nature of mattering and conditions affecting
individual sense of mattering using data from a survey Russian Army officers undergoing
organizational downsizing. The advantage of using this sample is that it allows me to examine
variations in macro-level social conditions, because respondents were stationed throughout the
Russian countryside, as well as micro-level conditions surrounding them. Thus, there is an
opportunity to examine direct and interactive effects of both macro- and micro-level conditions
on the self-concept.
The Concept of Mattering
Rosenberg and McCullough (1981) define mattering as, "the feeling that others depend on us, are
interested in us, are concerned with our fate, or experience us as an ego-extension" (165). In this
seminal work, mattering is measured using three items specifically developed for the study,
asking how interested adolescents thought their mothers are in them, how important they are to
their families, and how interested their parents are in what they had to say. The authors find
mattering positively related to self-esteem and negatively related to depression and anxiety,
independent of one's self-esteem. Mattering is also negatively related to delinquent behavior:
adolescents who feel that they matter more are less likely to engage in delinquent behavior.
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The social conditions that influence sense of mattering may stem from social positions and
interactions that provide feedback about an individual's relative contribution to a group. For
instance, people in high positions, denoting more responsibilities, may have a higher sense of
mattering simply because they are more important to more people. Similarly, family members,
particularly parents, may have a high sense of mattering because they are legally responsible for
the lives of their children. Schieman and Taylor (2001) find that older people tend to report
higher levels of mattering, as do people who feel they have more control over their work lives.
Their finding makes sense because many people accrue relationships as they age and more
autonomy at work implies some sort of leadership role in an organization. In both cases people
matter more because they are in a position that matters.
Some research suggests that mattering can result from both the quality and quantity of interaction
with other people. For instance, Schieman, Taylor, and Rohall (2002) show that deficits in early
childhood paternal warmth to be associated with reduced sense of mattering in adulthood. But
simply having access to social interaction can impact sense of mattering too. People who are
currently in a close relationship report higher levels of mattering than those who are not in a
close relationship (Schieman and Taylor 2001). In this sense, social relationships represent an
opportunity to matter; simply being around people implies a social connection. From a social
exchange perspective, there must be something of value to give in a relationship in order for it to
exist. Thus, simply being with other people may give people a sense of value. Given this
research and theory, I predict that mattering will be positively related to levels of social
interaction: individuals who interact more often will report higher levels of mattering.
Social Conditions Affecting the Self-Concept
Separation is a common aspect of military life. Soldiers are often asked to leave their families for
days and months at a time (see Rohall, Segal, and Segal 1999). This type of separation affects
personal well-being in many ways, including higher levels of anxiety and depression (Black
1993; Kelly 1994). Another major form of separation that affects military members is separation
from home and lifestyle. That is, soldiers and their families are often asked to leave long-
standing relationships to be stationed somewhere else (Segal and Harris 1993).
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Separations in the Russian context can have a more profound impact on soldiers simply by virtue
of the Russian landscape. While the Russian population is at least third less than the U.S.
population, it has about twice the landmass to protect. Much of that land, especially in central
(e.g., Siberia) and far eastern portions, is desolate with little access to transportation or
infrastructure. Thus, bases in these areas provide little relief for Russian soldiers and their
families.
While no research on macro-social conditions affecting mattering exist, a number of studies
examine how various social conditions may affect other aspects of the self-concept, notably self-
esteem, a correlate of mattering. For instance, on the meso-level, Wiltfang and Scarbecz (1990)
find that neighborhood unemployment has a strong, negative effect on self-esteem. Further, Abu-
Saad (1999) finds that adolescents with better relationships with parents and peers and those
living in more urban environments report higher levels of self-esteem than those living in more
remote villages.
Social conditions can impact the individual by providing some indication of social position and
relative worth in a given environment. But these reflections are largely mediated through direct
social interaction. In one study, Whitbeck and his colleagues (1991) find that economic hardship
affects children's self-esteem by decreasing social support and involvement. Similarly, Gecas and
Seff (1990) find that the effects of social structural variables on self-esteem depend on the extent
in which these variables operate: when social structural variables are more salient, their impact
on the self-concept is stronger. In this sense, the self-concept is somewhat pliable, providing
different information from which to assess one's self-esteem under different social conditions
(Bohrnstedt and Fisher, 1986).
These findings suggest that the relationship of macro- and micro-level conditions may impact
mattering in two ways: macro-level conditions can have direct effects on mattering as well as
interactive effects with micro-level conditions, making micro-level conditions more or less
salient to people. Social structural conditions are particularly relevant for soldiers who are often
stationed far away from traditional sources of social support like friends and family. Given the
role of social conditions on the self-concept more generally, it is predicted that individuals living
in more remote places will report lower levels of mattering than those less isolated places.
However, it also predicted that the effects of individual-level social interaction on mattering will
vary by location. Specifically, the effects of social interaction on mattering will be stronger in
more remote areas than in less remote areas because that interaction will be more important in
maintaining mattering.
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Downsizing and the Self-Concept
Most research on the effects of organizational downsizing on the self-concept focus on its impact
on personal well-being, such as depression and anxiety. And most downsizing research is done in
civilian contexts. Though there is some evidence that organizational downsizing produces
distress among survivors, the preponderance of evidence is that those who are asked to leave an
employer do worse than the survivors. In terms of mental health, those leaving a job as a result of
downsizing show greater signs of anxiety, depression, hostility, somatization, and alcohol abuse
than survivors of organizational downsizing (Hamilton, Hoffman, Broman, and Rauma 1993;
Hoffman, Carpentier-Alting, Thomas, Hamilton, and Broman 1991; Kessler, Turner, and House
1988; Liem 1981; Moen 1980).
While there is some research that suggests job loss may also reduce one's sense of self-esteem,
the findings are mixed. Dooley and Prause (1995) find that unemployment is negatively related
to self-esteem. Further, longer durations of unemployment are associated with lower self-esteem
(Sheeran and McCarthy 1990). In another study, Sheeran and Abraham (1994) argue that most of
the effects of unemployment on the self-concept are largely mediated via reflected appraisals
from friends, family, and other people. Under this schema, life events affect how people see and
interact with us. Kessler and McCleod (1984) argue that income loss is particularly negative for
men compared to women because of the importance society places on work for men. Job loss
reduces one's sense of value in society and in the family directly, via loss of income. While no
one has studied the impact of unemployment on mattering, Schieman and Taylor (2001) do find
a positive relationship between income and mattering. Loss of a job not only represents loss of
income but loss of position. Thus, it is predicted that job loss will have a direct, negative effect
on mattering because employment represents a source mattering to family, via income support,
and loss of position in the organization.
The larger social context can also have an impact on how people react to job loss and
downsizing. Most research in this area focuses on the effects of larger economic conditions on
personal sense of well-being. For instance, Dooley, Catalano, and Rook (1988) find direct effects
of community-level unemployment rates on individual distress but no interaction between job
loss and larger social conditions on distress. More recent research shows that community-level
unemployment rates are not directly related to depression levels but affect distress indirectly by
increasing the risk of becoming unemployed (Dooley, Catalano, and Wilson 1994). However, the
focus on this paper is not on the impacts of economic conditions on mattering per se but the
social conditions surrounding the relationship between downsizing and sense of mattering. But
given the previous research suggesting the possibility of both direct and indirect effects of
macro-level conditions on individual well-being during a period of downsizing, it is predicted
that the negative effects of job loss on mattering will be heightened in more remote areas, where
there are fewer social resources with which to cope with unemployment.
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METHOD
Sample
The Russian Army has been in the process of downsizing since the late 1980s. Researchers from
the University of Maryland, the University of Michigan, and other locations supervised a two-
stage panel survey of Russian Army undergoing downsizing in the mid to late 1990s. They only
sampled officers because Russian enlisted personnel are largely drafted from the general
population, making the separation experience quite different for this group. Army lists of 1800
officers who would be leaving within 3-6 months were randomly sampled, clustered
geographically by region, nested in 58 bases. The seven military regions or districts in Russia
range from very rural areas like the Far East to highly urban areas such as Moscow. Twenty-four
percent of the respondents came from the St. Petersburg (Leningrad) district, followed by the
Volga district representing 20% of the sample, Kaliningrad with 16% of the sample, Trans-
Baikal 14%, Far East 13%, Moscow 9%, and Ural 3% (differences due to rounding).
The interview schedule included a number of questions about the downsizing experience,
including job-searching strategies and the cognitive impacts of downsizing, including measures
of the self-concept, life satisfaction, distress levels, organizational commitment, drinking and
substance abuse, financial hardships, among others. The instruments were written in English,
translated to Russian in Moscow, and back-translated into English in Moscow and in the U.S.,
where the two versions were compared to resolve any discrepancies. On average, interviews
lasted about 60-67 minutes.
Army psychological services personnel administered the first set of surveys in late 1995 with a
group of Russian officers about half of whom were slated to leave service as a result of
organizational downsizing, yielding a response rate of 90% or 1,798 interviews. They
interviewed the officers again in the spring and summer of 1997, over a year after the first set of
interviews, producing a response of 85% (1,536 respondents).
Since this study compares those who have actually left the military with those who are still in
service, I will focus on the responses from the second wave of data collection, though some first
wave data are included as control variables, to predict changes in variables. This study includes
officers who remained in service after the downsizing event (wave 2) and those who left and
either found employment or are currently unemployed and actively looking for employment
because the latter group represents those who were involuntarily separated from service. I
exclude those officers who left service and are on paid or unpaid leave (n=8) or did not respond
to the question regarding to their job status (n=19) and those who are unemployed and not
looking for work (n=14) or who did not respond to the question about whether they are looking
for work (n=19), reducing the sample size to 1,476 in 49 different bases.
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Dependent Variable
My measure of mattering is derived from the global mattering scale developed by Marcus and
Rosenberg (1987) that includes the following items:
How important do you feel you are to other people?
How much do you feel other people pay attention to you?
How much would other people miss you if you went away?
How interested are people generally in what you have to say?
How much do other people depend on you?
Responses for all items ranged from 1 "A Lot" to 4 "Not At All." These items are coded so that
higher scores are associated with higher levels of mattering, producing a Cronbach's alpha
reliability coefficient of .85 for officers' mattering with a mean of 2.95 (see Table 1).
Table 1: Sample Characteristics by Region*
No. of
Bases
N
Mattering
Distance to
City (km)
Social
Interaction
Employment Status
(1=unemployed)
Military Region
Mean (sd)
Mean (sd)
Mean (sd)
Mean (sd)
Kaliningrad
6
240
2.76 (.77)
18 (25)
3.66 (1.22)
.10 (.31)
St. Petersburg
9
354
2.87 (.49)
45 (68)
3.27 (1.12)
.05 (.23)
Moscow
3
140
3.06 (.51)
10 (18)
3.54 (1.30)
.09 (.29)
Volga
6
293
3.17 (.58)
19 (15)
3.46 (1.00)
.12 (.33)
Urals
5
41
2.93 (.90)
9 (7)
3.68 ( .92)
.12 (.33)
Trans Baikal
10
212
2.86 (.58)
123 (105)
3.82 (1.41)
.09 (.28)
Far East
10
196
3.01 (.53)
17 (31)
3.59 (1.33)
.05 (.21)
Total
49
1476
2.95 (.61)
39 (66)
3.53 (1.21)
.08 (.28)
* All models tested using one-way ANOVA analysis; Mattering (F=14.185, p<.001), Distance
(F=110.076, p<.001), Interaction (F=5.435, p<.001), Unemployment (F=2.495, p<.05)
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Independent Variables
Micro-level social conditions predicted to impact sense of mattering include levels of social
interaction with friends, family, and neighbors and employment status. Levels of social
interaction are measured by responding to the question: "How often do you get together with
neighbors, friends or relatives, for example, go out together or visit each other?" Responses
range from 1 "several times a week" to 6 "never." I reverse coded the item so that higher
numbers are associated with more interaction, producing a mean of 3.53 (Table 1).
Employment status may have a large effect on sense of mattering simply because income from
work represents a major source of supporting other people, a sense of contributing to the physical
well-being of others. Of the 1,476 respondents in this study, 1,352 or 92% either remained in
service after downsizing or found new work. Thus, only 124 (8%) are unemployed leavers.
The primary macro-level condition predicted to affect personal sense of mattering is distance to
the nearest city. Remoteness to cities means more than reducing access to physical survival but
also to communication resources and sources of social interaction. Distance to nearest city refers
to the distance the respondent is to any city and is measured in kilometers, based on the 49
sample points. Base-level measurements are provided by the International Center for Human
Values (1997) in Moscow, Russia. The macro-level data are based on government statistics that
were provided between the first and second wave of data collection. The average distance to the
nearest city ranges from 0 kilometers (i.e., within a city) to 400 kilometers with a mean distance
of 39 kilometers (using base-level data).
Age and marital status (married or not) are included in the analyses as control variables,
controlling for individual-level conditions that may affect sense of mattering (see Schieman and
Taylor 2001). It is important to note that age can also be used as a proxy for rank and time in
service; older soldiers tend to have both higher rank and more time in service. Age is used
instead of rank because rank is no longer relevant for officers who left service. The average age
of this sample is 34 and almost all are married (96%). Social interaction at wave 1 is also
controlled in order to test if changes in social interaction are associated with current sense of
mattering.
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Analysis
In addition to a review of the basic relationships between model variables, hierarchical linear
modeling (HLM) will be conducted to determine if the larger social conditions impacts
individual-level sense of mattering and its interaction with micro-level conditions. The HLM
technique is designed to distinguish group-level measures from individual-level measures when
partitioning the variance in a regression model. Traditional forms of regression such as (OLS)
regression tend to underestimate the standard errors associated with group-level variables
because OLS regression assumes statistical independence. This assumption is violated when
group-level measures are attached to individual-level records because those scores are the same
for each individual in that group; hence, they are not independent (Hirsch and Schumacher
1992).
HLM calculates a separate regression slope for each individual-level variable within each group-
level variable (Bryk and Raudenbush 1992). Thus, HLM provides the relative significance of
individual and group-level variables on the outcome variable. Two components of an HLM
include a model on the individual level and another on the group level. The N on the group level
is the number of group-level units in the analysis. This analysis uses base-level measures (n=49)
as the group measure rather than the regional measure because there are only seven regions, not
enough for advanced analysis. The result of this technique is to examine direct effects of
individual- and macro-level variables on mattering, controlling for each other, as well as an
assessment of the interaction between these levels of measurement.
RESULTS
Macro-Level Variations in Mattering
The first set of analyses is designed to determine if there are any variations in mattering across
locations. This study includes officers and former officers in 49 locations across the Russian
countryside, under varying conditions. Some live within cities while others live in very remote
locations, sometimes as much as 400 kilometers from a major town or city.
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Table 1 provides data on average mattering scores, distance to nearest city, social interaction
levels, and unemployment rates on the regional level. These data show that areas with the highest
average mattering levels are located in the western and middle parts of Russia, in the Volga
district (3.17) and Moscow (3.06), Russia's largest city. However, social interaction is highest in
one of the districts in the eastern portion Russia, where there are fewer urban centers — where
they probably need it the most. For instance, respondents in the Trans-Baikal region, on average,
report the highest levels of interaction (3.82) and the furthest distance to a city (123 kilometers).
However, these findings are averages of base-level scores within each respective region;
limitations on information about specific locations were a result of security concerns. Hence, it is
important to be aware that the summary data in Table 1 obscures the conditions of individual
bases within each region. However, all advanced, HLM analysis will utilize base-level data when
discussing macro-level effects, though I cannot determine their exact location of a particular base
within a specific region.
City Distance, Social Interaction, Employment Status, and Sense of Mattering
Mattering is correlated with all model variables in the predicted direction: as distance to the
nearest city goes up, sense of mattering goes down (r=-.11, p<.001), supporting the second
hypothesis (Table 2). Conversely, sense of mattering is positively associated with social
interaction (r=.07, p<.01): the more time people spend with other people, the higher their sense
of mattering, supporting the first hypothesis. Unemployed people show lower levels of mattering
than those who are employed (r=-.13, p<001), supporting the third hypothesis.
Table 2: Correlation of Mattering and Other Model Variables
City
Distance
ment
Marital
Status
Age
Mattering
City Distance
----
Social Interaction
-.04
(1405)
Unemployment
(1=unemployed)
.05
(1476)
Marital Status
-.01
(1473)
----
Age
-.05
(1469)
.15***
(1466)
----
* p. < .05, ** p. < .01, *** p. < .001
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Direct and Interactive Effects of Macro- and Micro-Level Conditions
While traditional statistics suggest that mattering is related to macro- and micro-level conditions,
they do not provide evidence of interactive effects. Further, the effects of macro-level conditions
may be misleading because base-level data are attached to individual-level records. HLM
analysis separates these levels of analyses when determining the direct and indirect relationships
between them.
I predicted that macro-level access to social resources, measured in terms of distance to the
nearest city, would have a small, direct effect on mattering but that some of its effects would be
felt through individual-level processes, notably by structuring social interactions. Initial findings
continue to support the hypothesis that there should be variations in levels of mattering based on
remoteness of location (chi-square=102.6, p<.001): average levels of mattering vary by base
location (Table 3). The next stage is to determine the conditions that affect mattering and spatial
variations in mattering.
Table 3: HLM Model of Mattering, Social Interaction, City Distance, and Employment
Status
Coefficient
se
t-ratio
p-value
Random Effects
Average base mean score (Intercept)
2.9459
.0351
83.949
.000
Distance to Nearest City
-.0095
.0005
-2.015
.049
Fixed Effects
Level of Social Interaction (Wave 2)
.0477
.0137
3.489
.001
Distance to Nearest City
.0004
.0002
2.070
.044
Employment Status (1=Unemployed)
-.3349
.0910
-3.677
.001
Distance to Nearest City
.0002
.0012
0.195
.978
Marital Status (W2, 1=Married)
.2334
.0854
2.732
.007
Age (W1)
.0084
.0025
3.390
.001
Level of Social Interaction (Wave 1)
.0013
.0122
0.105
.917
Chi-Square
Standard
Deviation
Variance
Component
df
Chi-
Square
p-value
Base Mean (Level-2 Effect)
.1935
.0375
28
102.567
.000
Level of Social Interaction
(Wave 2)
.3648
.1331
28
55.189
.002
Employment Status
(1=Unemployed)
.0256
.0006
28
23.448
>.500
Level-1 Effect
.5613
.3150
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The second hypothesis, that mattering would be negatively associated with the distance to the
nearest city, also has some support, even after controlling for background characteristics usually
associated with mattering. The random effects model of the HLM statistics focuses on the effects
of base-level variations in city distance on personal sense of mattering (b=-.001, p<.05). Hence,
for every kilometer in distance, there is a .001 unit loss of mattering. Put differently, for every
600 miles in the distance to the nearest city, there is a one unit decrease in an individual's sense
of mattering to other people.
Two additional statistics focus on the direct effects of social interaction on mattering as well as
the direct effects of job loss on mattering (Table 3, Fixed Effects Model). Supporting the first
hypothesis, levels of social interaction are positively related to personal sense of mattering
(b=.05, p<.001). Further, the fourth hypothesis, that being unemployed would be associated with
lower sense of mattering is also supported (b=-.33, p<.001).
The final set of analyses is designed to determine the interaction between micro- and macro-level
conditions, predicting that social interaction and downsizing status should have a stronger impact
on mattering in more remote locations. The third hypothesis is generally supported: the effects of
social interaction on mattering increases in more remote locations (b=.0004, p<.05), however,
this effect is constant across locations. The fifth hypothesis about the interaction of job loss and
location on mattering is not supported: the effects of unemployment on mattering do not seem to
interact with location at all.
DISCUSSION
Studying the relationship between macro- and micro-level conditions can be challenging because
it is difficult to assess the relevant structural conditions surrounding each individual. For
instance, Census data places individuals into tracts that may or may not correlate with the lived
experience of the individuals in that tract. The military context allows researchers to do this kind
of analysis because of the limited span of conditions surrounding each military base. The
conditions surrounding those areas, in this case the Russian military, then gives us a glimpse of
the macro-level environment in which current and former officers in the Russian Army lived.
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The study of mattering in this arena is also useful because mattering is derived from the social
conditions around us. Mattering is a concept that Rosenberg developed to study the role of the
individual in society. It serves as a natural link between social conditions and the self-concept
because it is implicitly social in nature. It measures individuals' sense of how important they feel
in their social world. Changing social conditions provide different feedback about one's role in
their social world. In this sense, social conditions provide information from which our friends
and family make reflected appraisals, the mechanism by which self-esteem is affected (see
Sheeran and Abraham 1994). This study shows that just spending time with other people
produces higher levels of mattering.
Additional work needs to be done to determine if quality of interaction would interact with the
quantity of interaction on mattering. Some research would suggest that there are such
qualifications. Shieman and Taylor (2001) find that better work conditions, in terms of jobs that
allow more control over work, are associated with greater sense of mattering. However, this
finding does not reflect the quality of relationships per se, unless the job reflects the worker's
relationship to their employer. These findings may simply reflect workers' level of responsibility
in their jobs. One way to examine this issue would be to look at the effects of social interaction
and add variables regarding the quality of that interaction. Mediating effects can be established if
the quality of interaction reduces the effects of the quantity of interaction.
Understanding the link between macro- and micro-level conditions on individuals' sense of self
can be challenging both because individual-level conditions may vary by location as well as the
macro-level conditions. My study shows that both of these occur at the same time. There are
small, direct effects of macro-level conditions, in this case, remoteness represented by distance to
the nearest city. Living further away from people reduces sense of mattering, ostensibly because
there are fewer opportunities to matter in people's lives. But these effects are quite small
compared to its interactive effects on social interaction and mattering. People living further from
cities report lower sense of mattering, particularly if they have little social interaction. Hence,
social interaction is more important to sense of mattering when there are fewer social resources.
In some sense, the few relationships available make each relationship more important as a source
of appraisal.
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[14]
All of these findings occur amidst the backdrop of organizational downsizing. Downsizing can
affect people through a number of different relationships, including one's family and work
relationships. Unlike their working counterparts in this sample, who are more distressed (see
Rohall, Hamilton, Segal, and Segal, 2001), the unemployed group report lower levels of
mattering. Losing a job immediately separates people from their colleagues and their employer;
clearly one does not have the opportunity to matter to these groups after leaving the job. In this
study, unemployment has a direct, negative effect on individuals' sense of mattering but the
effects of unemployment did not interact with social structural conditions.
The challenge for future research in this area is to find additional micro- and macro- level factors
affecting sense of mattering. My study finds that social interaction is important to mattering but
it does not explain all of the variation in mattering. That is, mattering continues to vary by
location after controlling for both macro- and micro-level conditions. More information about
the breadth and quality of interaction, as well as the social conditions structuring these
interactions, may help to explain this variation.
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AUTHOR NOTE & ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (Sociology Program)
under grants #SBR-9402212, 9411755, and 9601760 and the U.S. Army Research Institute for
the Behavioral and Social Sciences under contracts DASW0195K005 and DASW0100K0016.
The views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily those of the National Science
Foundation, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government. I would like to thank Lee
Hamilton and John Reynolds for all of their support in developing this research. Details about the
data and survey instruments can be obtained by contacting the author.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY
David Rohall is an assistant professor of Sociology at Western Illinois University. He currently
studies the impact of social structure on individual thoughts, feeling, and behaviors in both
civilian and military contexts. His e-mail address is: de-rohall@wiu.edu.
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