Self-esteem refers to people’s sense of self-worth and value. Teen self-esteem can be affected by a number of factors, and low self-esteem in teens can make them susceptible to various problems.
Not Always Related to Reality
The first important thing to realize is that teen self-esteem is not always related in a rational way to reality. The 2004 biennial study of about 25,000 high school students by the Josephson Institute of Ethics sheds some light on this. The research found that while 62% of the teens said they cheated on a test, 82% said they had lied to a parent about something significant, and 27% had stolen something from a store, all in the last 12 months, 92% said they were satisfied with their ethics and character.
The Institute postulates that this discrepancy is explained by cynicism. Teen belief that immoral behavior – lying and cheating, for example – is necessary to succeed, and that success means doing what it takes, whatever that is, suggest that teen values are built around success, not a moral standard.
Things that Diminish Teen Self-Esteem
Teen self-esteem is affected by body image. Entering puberty, during which the body changes considerably, is a time during which teens bodies and therefore their body images, need to undergo adjustment to stay related. Being overweight or obese can diminish self-esteem. Since body image is affected by engaging in sexual behavior, choosing to have sex can affect self-esteem as well.
Self-esteem can also be diminished by bullying, low academic achievement, addiction, and serious illness. Receiving lots of negative feedback from adults, particularly parents, can also contribute.
Low self-esteem puts teens at risk
A number of studies have found connection with low self-esteem and:
- poor grades (but see below for another interpretation)
- juvenile delinquency
- gang membership
- inconsistent use of contraceptives
- drug and alcohol abuse
- dropping out of school
- eating disorders
- vulnerability to addiction
Things that Increase Teen Self-Esteem
Teen self-esteem is increased by participating in team sports. New challenge also contribute to building self-confidence and give teens opportunities to demonstrate their strengths. In fact, some research supports the claim that the folks who try to teach self-esteem directly have it the wrong way around – that boosting academic success increases self-esteem, rather than increased self-esteem enhancing academic performance. It’s also been noted that a teen’s perceived similarity to his or her role models increases self-esteem.
Teen Self-Esteem Sources:
- pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/105/1/e15 safeyouth.org/scripts/teens/docs/bullying.pdf
- ceousa.org/READ/self.html findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2294/is_7-8_50/ai_n6079191/pg_13