Year Published: 2006

Author: Sumru Erkut, Ph.D.

This review is designed to provide a guide to parents and educators on what is known about self-esteem and what remains uncertain. Rather than analyzing the results of many separate studies, the review relies most heavily on meta-analyses of self-esteem that summarize studies on particular subtopics and, when possible, places findings in a cross-cultural perspective. The review covers the definitions of self-esteem, its roots, measuring self-esteem, the intuitive appeal of the concept, attempts to raise self-esteem, and the correlates of self-esteem with age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. The paper concludes with the observation that while self-esteem has intuitive appeal, empirical research has not supported concerns that low self-esteem is conducive to anti-social or delinquent risky behaviors nor that high self-esteem is related to better academic performance.


The implication for parents and educators who would like to boost children's and adolescents' self-esteem to protect them from engaging in undesirable behaviors is to focus on changing specific beliefs and attitudes concerning the behaviors they would like to promote and those they would like to suppress. What research shows is that depression and suicidality is associated with low self-esteem and life satisfaction with high self-esteem. The implication for educators and parents is that they need to be concerned with low self-esteem among their students and children because of its association with adverse mental health outcomes.

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