An Examination of Factors Effecting Adolescent Self-esteem

Adolescence is a time in a persons development when many changes are occurring. Transitions in an adolescents development that take place include physical maturation, shifting educational environments, an increased association with peers, and developed cognitive abilities (Barber & Chadwick, 1992). Barber and Chadwick (1992) report that these developments allow the adolescent to consider their value and position in society. They further report that an adolescents self-esteem can be a useful marker of the success with which he or she is proceeding through this important period (Barber & Chadwick, 1992, p. . Block and Robins (1993) define self-esteem as: The extent to which one perceives oneself as relatively close to being the person one wants to be and /or as relatively distant from being the kind of person one does not want to be, with respect to person-qualities one positively and negatively values. (p. 911) Block and Robins (1993) discuss self-esteem as requiring two kinds of assessment. The first is an evaluation between how an individual perceives themselves and the self they desire to be.

The second involves the specific elements and criteria an individual uses in relation to their self-evaluation (Block & Robins, 1993). Verkuyten (1990) discusses how individuals differ in their view of perceived self-concept. Certain characteristics of the self-concept are not equally important regarding self-esteem. Verkuyten (1990) reports that most research that has studied self esteem uses a long list of characteristic features and the person is to rate his/her degree of agreement or disagreement; the relevance to the individual is disregarded.

William James (as cited in Block & Robins, 1993) conceives self-esteem as the correlation of a persons successes with their desired goals and ambitions. Rosenburg (as cited in Block & Robins, 1993), along the same comprehension as James, asserts that an individuals self-esteem is perceived in terms of the personal qualities in which the person associates to the aspired characteristics of the self as well as the degree of fondness of the perceived self. In other words, an individuals self esteem is based on characteristics that they view to be important to their self-concept.

Verkuyten (1990) further explains this idea by discussing how one person may view himself/herself as being nonathletic, but whether this has negative effects on his/her self-esteem depends upon whether he/she thinks it is important to be good at sports. In their research, Block and Robins (1993) found that self-esteem tends to change in some ways yet is also consistent in the transition from early adolescence to early adulthood and stays continuous in other ways throughout the life span.

This notion implies importance for the understanding of adolescent self-esteem, especially if an individual presents a negative self-concept. To understand the ramifications of self-esteem, the elements that have been found to correlate with it need to be explored. Research has found that many components may contribute to the perceived self-esteem of the adolescent. This paper will focus on factors of parental behavior, school transitions, ethnicity, adolescent friendships, and body image in relation to self-esteem. By exploring these factors, a greater understanding of adolescent self-esteem will be achieved.

This examination will be accomplished through discussion of previous research and the relevance of future research in this area. Parental Behaviors and Adolescent Self-esteem In their study, Barber and Chadwick (1992) discuss that adolescents use behaviors of significant others to perceive their own self-worth. When parents demonstrate support, this conveys to the adolescent that he/she is a person of worth and value. On the other hand, when negative parenting behaviors are used, such as inconsistent control and coercion, the adolescent will question his/her self-worth (Barber & Chadwick, 1992).

The results of Barber and Chadwicks study (1992) found that adolescent self-esteem was significantly correlated with adolescents perception of parent-adolescent relationships characterized by feelings of security and availability. This research portrays an important component in adolescent self-esteem. School Transition as a Component of Adolescent Self-esteem Wigfield, A. , Eccles, J. , Mac Iver, D. , Reuman, D. , and Midgley, C. (1991) studied the change across the junior high school transition in young adolescents general self-esteem. Wigfield et al. 1) also examined the level of math competence and gender and how it effected the change in students self-perceptions. The results of this study found that self-esteem was lower among the adolescents immediately following the transition to junior high school (Wigfield et al. , 1991). Although, the students self-esteem increased during the seventh grade year; the disruption in the adolescents self-esteem was not long lasting (Wigfield et. al. , 1991). It was also found that the adolescents mathematics, English, social, and sports self-concepts became more negative immediately after the transition to junior high school (Wigfield et. 1991). To explain these declines, Wigfield et al, (1991) believe that the differences in classroom environments between elementary and junior high school play a role. They found that junior high school math teachers evaluate the students in a stricter manner and the student-teacher relationships are less positive (Wigfield et al. , 1991). Wigfield et al. (1991) concluded that the transitions to junior high school correlated with changes in adolescents perceived self-esteem and domain-specific beliefs. This explanation of an additive feature to adolescents self-esteem can be viewed as contributing to the overall perception of self-worth.

Ethnicity as a Component of Adolescent Self-esteem Verkuyten (1990) studied whether there was a difference between the self-esteem of Dutch and Turkish adolescents in the Netherlands. Verkuyten (1990) wanted to know if the negative effects of minority status had an effect on the self-esteem of the Turkish adolescents. Turkish people in the Netherlands typically have low social status, a relative social disadvantage in several areas, and often are faced with prejudice and discrimination (Verkuyten, 1990).

The results of this study did not confirm that adolescents from ethnic minorities have lower self-esteem because of lower status, a relative social disadvantage, and encounters of prejudice and discrimination (Verkuyten, 1990). It was reported however that the evaluation of ones self based on ethnic minority is a contributing factor rather than the sole determinant (Verkuyten, 1990). The results of the study found that body image was the component with the greatest impact on the self-esteem for both the Turkish and Dutch adolescents (Verkuyten, 1990). Quality of Friendship and Self-esteem in Adolescence

Keefe and Berndt (1996) explored the relationship of friendship quality to adolescent self-esteem over time. Using a longitudinal study, Keefe and Berndt (1996) examined the various domains of self-esteem related to friends interaction frequency and friendship stability. Results of this study indicated that the quality and stability of adolescents friendships are correlated to their self-esteem and also effect the changes over time in specific domains of self-esteem (Keefe & Berndt, 1996). A strong correlation was found between self-perceptions of physical appearance and global self-worth (Keefe & Berndt, 1996).

This correlation was explained when students became less satisfied with their physical appearance during the year when their friendships were mostly unstable. Although the research did not find that stable friendships enhance self-esteem, the failure to maintain satisfying or involved friendships seemed to modify the stability of perceived physical appearance (Keefe & Berndt, 1996). This research presents peer relationships as an additive component to self-esteem, though it exemplifies the significance of physical appearance.

Body Image as a Component of Adolescent Self-esteem Wood, Becker, and Thompson (1996) investigated the origins of body image dissatisfaction earlier in childhood because of the correlation that has been found between adolescent self-esteem and body image satisfaction (Vekruyten, 1990). In their research, Wood et al. (1996) found that at ages between 8 and 11, girls displayed greater body dissatisfaction and lower self-esteem than boys did.

Wood et al. (1996) defined body dissatisfaction as a larger absolute value of discrepancy between ideal self and current self (p. This study found that the dissatisfaction reported by girls was attributed to a desire to be thinner than their current figure (Wood et al. , 1996). Girls as early as the age of eight were found to already display significantly lower self-esteem than boys due to the perception of body image (Wood et al. , 1996). Pubertal Timing as a Contributing Factor Williams and Currie (2000) explored the relation of body image to pubertal timing and self-esteem. The study was done on Scottish girls with a mean age of 11. 53 years.

Results of this study found that early maturers and those that reported poor perception of body image exhibited lower ratings of self-esteem. It was also found that negative perceptions of body size and perceived looks contributed to the prediction of lower ratings of self-esteem (Williams & Currie, 2000). Lerners research (as cited in Williams & Currie, 2000) discusses pubertal timing and self-esteem in a goodness-of-fit model. When the level of physical development matches the norm in a context of social comparisons, it is likely to be advantageous.

However, being different, as with 11 year olds being postmenarcheal and 13 year olds as pre-menarcheal, this can represent a lack of fit and increases the sensitivity of these girls to have poor evaluations of physical appearance and self-esteem (Williams & Currie, 2000). It was also reported that both girls that were 11 and 13 who reported concerns with their body size and noted perceiving themselves as not physically attractive had lower self-esteem ratings than their peers (Williams & Currie, 2000).

Gender and Class as Factors Contributing to Adolescent Self-esteem Abell and Richards (1996) studied the differences that gender and SES have on adolescent self-esteem. It was found that both males and females portray a similar level of dissatisfaction with their body shape. The overall body image scores correlated significantly with self-esteem scores for both males and females. In this study, females who reported a desire for a thinner figure had lower self-esteem scores, but no relationship between these variables were found for males (Abell & Richards, 1996).

The relationship found between SES and weight satisfaction portrayed that those high in SES wanted to be larger and heavier, while those in low SES wanted to be thinner and weigh less (Abell & Richards, 1996). The authors point out that the conclusions drawn concerning the factor of SES may also be due to the variable of religion. The study was done at an urban Roman Catholic university. A contributing variable may be that religious and ethnic backgrounds influence an individuals perception of a desirable body shape.

Females in this study that reported being religious had significantly heavier real and ideal weights (Abell & Richards, 1996). It was also found that high SES women who had greater dissatisfaction of body shape had lower self-esteem ratings (Abell & Richards, 1996). Contrasting this finding, females of high SES and high overall body image had scores of high self-esteem. This portrays a correlation between satisfaction with body shape and self-esteem being greater for women from high SES (Abell & Richards, 1996). Thompson and Thompson (1986) further researched differences in gender relating to body size distortion and self-esteem.

Their research investigated body size distortion in males and females as well as the relationship between self-esteem and body size distortion in each gender group. Thompson and Thompson (1986) found that females overestimate body size to a larger degree than males, and higher distortion was associated with lower self-esteem. Research done by Garner and Garfinkel (as cited in Thompson & Thompson, 1986) found similar correlations between self-esteem and body satisfaction and between body distortion and body dissatisfaction in a group of anorexia nervosa patients that generated negative relations between self-esteem and distortion level.

Bruch (as cited in Thompson and Thompson, 1986) found that there may be many factors that lead to the development of an eating disorder, but body size distortion has always been one of the most prominent. Concerning the issue of body size distortion, Thompson and Thompson (1986) indicate the importance of research designed to investigate the causal nature of the relationship between self-esteem, body satisfaction, and body size overestimation.

It is also discussed that further research correlating self-esteem and body size distortion should be done on asymptomatic individuals because the majority of research done on this subject has been done on females with eating disorders (Thompson & Thompson, 1986). Abell and Richards (1996) direct further research to explore the impact of social views and religious beliefs on the way in which young men and women perceive their bodies. They also feel that to gain a greater understanding of the relationship between body image and self-esteem the impact of class differences must be explored (Abell and Richards, 1996).

Keefe and Berndt (1996) direct future research to explore the relations of friendship quality and stability to self-perceptions of physical appearance in adolescence. They find this to be important because their finding indicated that the failure to maintain satisfying friendships may undermine adolescents competence in physical appearance (Keefe & Berndt, 1996, p. 125). This presents an important objective considering the research by Verkuyten (1990) that found body image as the most important component concerning perceived self-esteem. Wood et al. 6) believes a replication of their study with a larger sample size and wider age range would be beneficial. They feel it is important to explore the possibility of developmental patterns in correlations of body dissatisfaction, self-esteem, and depression (Wood et al. , 1996).

Wood et al. (1996) also consider the importance of directing research toward identifying specific factors that influence the development of body image dissatisfaction at an early age in childhood. Williams and Currie (2000) believe that there needs to be further studies concerning the relationships of pubertal timing and self-esteem.

They also find that it would be useful to investigate mediating mechanisms through which aspects of physical development influence changes in self-esteem at different ages in early adolescence and across different cultures (Williams & Currie, 2000). Adolescent self-esteem is multidimensional and has many contributing factors. This paper has reviewed many of these components and discussed the direction of future research to further the understanding of this complicated subject. Although, as discussed in the beginning of this paper, the approach of person-centered research should be explored (Block & Robins, 1993).


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