Self-esteem consists of the thoughts and feelings we have about ourselves. For most people, it is an ever-evolving process. Some days, such as the one when we finally pass the driving test and earn a driver’s license, we feel very good about what we have accomplished. Other days, such as the one when we forgot to complete a homework assignment, our self-esteem may be lower. Occasional bouts with low self-esteem are to be expected. But, people who have low self-esteem most of the time have less ability to function effectively.
In a study published in 2015 in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers from Spain wanted to determine if an antibullying program, known as Cyberprogram 2.0, was also useful for improving self-esteem. The cohort consisted of a randomly selected sample of 176 Spanish teens between the ages of 13 and 15 years. The intervention group had 93 teens; the control group had 83. The sample was recruited from three schools with varying socioeconomic levels—low, medium, and high. Assessment instruments were administered before and after the program, which consisted of 19 one-hour sessions carried out during the school term. The researcher learned that the program increased the use of conflict resolution strategies, decreased aggressive and avoidant strategies, and increased self-esteem. The change was similar in the males and females. The researchers concluded that the improvements in self-esteem were the result of “behavioral improvements caused by the intervention.” 1
In a study published in 2015 online in the American Journal of Health Promotion, researchers based in Australia wanted to learn if an out of school intervention known as “Girls on the Go!” actually raised self-esteem and addressed other problems such as poor body image and low levels of self-confidence. The cohort consisted of 122 primary and secondary female students between the ages of 10 and 16 years. The 10-week program was held at a community health center located in a culturally diverse area of Melbourne, Australia. It employed an empowerment model that included interactive and experiential approaches.
Weekly themes included body image, self-esteem, safety, assertiveness, trust, and confidence. The researchers found that the program led to significant increases in self-esteem and self-efficacy. After six months, a follow-up determined that the students retained these improvements. The researchers concluded that the intervention was “a successful means of improving self-esteem among girls from diverse cultural backgrounds.” 2
In a longitudinal, cross-sectional, and cross-cultural study published in 2015 in the Journal of Adolescence, researchers from Israel and Germany investigated the relationship between multiple social identifications in teens and self-esteem. Their cohort consisted of 2,337 early adolescents (mean age of 11.4) and mid-adolescents (mean age of 15.9) from Israel and Germany. Completing questionnaires, the teens described their social identification as students, family members, and as members of the majority national group, and reported on their degrees of self-esteem. The researchers found that the students with multiple social identifications had more self-esteem, and the multiple social identifications appeared to have an accumulative effect. The researchers noted that the fact that the studies in the two distinct countries had identical results shows the “robustness of the findings.” The researchers concluded that “both parents and educators should work to increase adolescents’ group engagement, in the hope that involvement with these groups will have a positive effect on adolescents’ self-esteem.” 3
In a study published in 2012 in the journal Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, researchers from the United Kingdom and Australia wanted to learn more about the ability of positive self-images to improve self-esteem in people with social anxiety. They asked 44 participants with high levels of social anxiety and 44 participants with low levels of social anxiety to generate either positive or negative self-images and complete measurements of explicit (conscious) and implicit (automatic) self-esteem. The participants who had negative self-images reported lower levels of positive implicit self-esteem. They also noted that they had lower positive explicit and higher negative explicit self-esteem. And, all participants having positive self-images reported higher levels of explicit self-esteem than those holding negative self-images. 4
In a school-based study published in 2010 in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers from Texas, Minnesota, and Australia learned more about the association between body dissatisfaction and self-esteem in teens. The cohort consisted of a diverse samples of 4,746 adolescents between the ages of 11 and 18 years who lived in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area of Minnesota. Five years later, the teens were resurveyed through the mail; the response to the second survey was 2,516 teens and young adults. The researchers found a strong and significant relationship between body dissatisfaction and self-esteem in both the males and females, and there was no significant difference between the genders. As a result of their findings, the researchers noted that “adolescents who express overly negative evaluations of their bodies or appearance should be considered at risk for lowered self-esteem.” 6
In a study published in 2015 in the journal Violence and Victims, a researcher from Israel wanted to learn more about the effects of violence between parents and/or parent-to-child violence and adult self-esteem. Data were obtained from a sample of 352 university students between the ages of 18 and 30 years. Most of the participants were born in Israel or moved to Israel, primarily from the former Soviet Union, when they were young children. The researcher learned that the students not exposed to family violence in childhood had the highest levels of self-esteem. The students who experienced one type of childhood violence, generally parent-to-child violence, had lower self-esteem. The lowest self-esteem was seen in students who experienced both types of family violence. Self-esteem was also associated with the frequency of family violence. The researcher noted that the findings “demonstrated that the presence and frequency of family violence experiences have a negative accumulative effect on adult self-esteem.” 7
In a study published in 2015 in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, researchers from Canada examined the association between chronic physical illness in children and a number of other factors including self-esteem. Why is this important? Chronic physical illness among children is actually fairly common. According to the researchers, almost 20 percent of children have some type of chronic physical illness such as asthma or diabetes. As a result, millions of children and their families deal with these problems every day. To learn more, the researchers examined data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children, a study of Canadian children from birth to early adulthood (n=10,646). The researchers found that childhood chronic physical illness was directly associated with maternal depression and family dysfunction “leading to declines in child self-esteem.” So, children dealing with chronic illness may have lower levels of self-esteem. 8
In a study published in 2014 in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, researchers from George Mason University in Virginia wanted to learn more about the association between social anxiety disorder and self-esteem. (Social anxiety disorder is a condition in which a person fears being evaluated by others and avoids social situations.) The cohort consisted of 40 people (25 women) who had been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and 39 matched healthy controls. The participants were asked to provide two weeks of end-of-day reports on their affect and self-esteem. The researchers found that compared to the healthy adults, the participants with social anxiety disorder had unstable low self-esteem. In addition, people with social anxiety disorder were three times more likely to have acute shifts in self-esteem. The researchers theorized that self-esteem instability “may be an important marker for social anxiety symptoms.” 9
1. Maite Garaigordobil and Vanesa Martínez-Valderrey, “The Effectiveness of Cyberprogram 2.0 on Conflict Resolution Strategies and Self-Esteem,” Journal of Adolescent Health 57 (2015): 229-34.
2. L. Tirlea, H. Truby, and T. P. Haines, “Pragmatic, Randomized Controlled Trials of the Girls on the Go! Program to Improve Self-Esteem in Girls,” American Journal of Health Promotion (May 2015).
3. Maya Benish-Weisman, Ella Daniel, David Schiefer et al., “Multiple Social Identifications and Adolescents’ Self-Esteem,” Journal of Adolescence 44 (2015): 21-31.
4. Natalie Hulme, Colette Hirsch, and Lusia Stopa, “Images of the Self and Self-Esteem: Do Positive Self-Images Improve Self-Esteem in Social Anxiety?” Cognitive Behaviour Therapy 41, no. 2 (2012): 163-73.
5. Lucy Tan and Graham Martin, “Taming the Adolescent Mind: A Randomised Controlled Trial Examining Clinical Efficacy of an Adolescent Mindfulness-Based Group Programme.” Child and Adolescent Mental Health 20, no. 1 (2015): 49-55.
6. Patricia A. van den Berg, Jonathan Mond, Marla Eisenberg et al., “The Link Between Body Dissatisfaction and Self-Esteem in Adolescents: Similarities Across Gender, Age, Weight Status, Race/Ethnicity, and Socioeconomic Status,” Journal of Adolescent Health 47 (2010): 290-96.
7. Zeev Winstok, “Effects of Childhood Experience of Violence Between Parents and/or Parent-to-Child Violence on Young Israeli Adults’ Global Self-Esteem,” Violence and Victims 30, no. 4 (2015): 699-713.
8. Mark A. Ferro and Michael H. Boyle, “The Impact of Chronic Physical Illness, Maternal Depressive Symptoms, Family Functioning, and Self-Esteem on Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression in Children,” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 43 (2015): 177-87.
9. Antonia S. Farmer and Todd B. Kashdan, “Affective and Self-Esteem Instability in the Daily Lives of People with Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder,” Clinical Psychological Science 2, no. 2 (2014): 187-201.
Abbott, Rebecca A., Anne J. Smith, Erin K. Howie et al. “Effects of Home Access to Active Videogames on Child Self-Esteem, Enjoyment of Physical Activity, and Anxiety Related to Electronic Games: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial.” Games for Health Journal 3, no. 4 (2014): 260-66.
Benish-Weisman, Maya, Ella Daniel, David Schiefer et al. “Multiple Social Identifications and Adolescents’ Self-Esteem.” Journal of Adolescence 44 (2015): 21-31.
Ciccolo, Joseph T., Nicholas J. SantaBarbara, Shira I. Dunsiger et al. “Muscular Strength Is Associated with Self-Esteem in College Men But Not Women.” Journal of Health Psychology (July 2015).
Farmer, Antonina S., and Todd B. Kashdan. “Affective and Self-Esteem Instability in the Daily Lives of People with Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder.” Clinical Psychological Science 2, no. 2 (2014): 187-201.
Ferro, Mark A., and Michael H. Boyle. “The Impact of Chronic Physical Illness, Maternal Depressive Symptoms, Family Functioning, and Self-Esteem on Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression in Children.” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 43 (2015): 177-87.
Garaigordobil, Maite, and Vanesa Martínez-Valderrey. “The Effectiveness of Cyberprogram 2.0 on Conflict Resolution Strategies and Self-Esteem.” Journal of Adolescent Health 57 (2015): 229-34.
Hulme, Natalie, Colette Hirsch, and Lusia Stopa. “Images of the Self and Self-Esteem: Do Positive Self-Images Improve Self-Esteem in Social Anxiety?” Cognitive Behaviour Therapy 41, no. 2 (2012): 163-73.
Tan, Lucy, and Graham Martin. “Taming the Adolescent Mind: A Randomised Controlled Trial Examining Clinical Efficacy of an Adolescent Mindfulness-Based Group Programme.” Child and Adolescent Mental Health 20, no. 1 (2015): 49-55.
Tirlea, L., H. Truby, and T. P. Haines. “Pragmatic, Randomized Controlled Trials of the Girls on the Go! Program to Improve Self-Esteem in Girls.” American Journal of Health Promotion (May 2015).
van den Berg, Patricia A., Jonathan Mond, Marla Eisenberg et al. “The Link Between Body Dissatisfaction and Self-Esteem in Adolescents: Similarities Across Gender, Age, Weight Status, Race/Ethnicity, and Socioeconomic Status.” Journal of Adolescent Health 47 (2010): 290-96.
Winstok, Zeev. “Effects of Childhood Experience of Violence Between Parents and/or Parent-to-Child Violence on Young Israeli Adults’ Global Self-Esteem.” Violence and Victims 30, no. 4 (2015): 699-713.
The Nemours Foundation. www.kidshealth.org .