Gender Differences in Adolescent Self-Esteem
Self-esteem among children and adolescents is a persistent topic discussed in both professional and popular arenas. In fact, gender differences in self-esteem during the teenage years are widely featured in popular stereotypes, and for some time, accepted without actual support from empirical evidence. The ambiguousness of such an extensively talked about topic leads to an unclear picture of how adolescents view themselves. The most common stereotype is that boys have higher self-esteem then girls (Wilgenbusch & Merrell, 1999). Girls are seen as weak and insecure; easily swayed by the mass media as well as their peers. But is this accurate? There have been numerous studies conducted to discover just that: is there a gender difference in self-esteem during adolescence? To uncover the truth, many factors must be discussed. Firstly, clear definitions must be made in order to integrate multiple viewpoints on the topic. Self-esteem is commonly defined as an individual’s sense of self-worth (Baumeister, 1993; Bolognini, Plancherel, Bettschart, & Halfon, 1996; Ponsoda, Abad, Francis, & Hills, 2008) This perception of the self can include evaluations that are both positive and negative, and can also incorporate specific aspects of the self as well as a global sense of well-being (Quatman & Watson, 2001; Wilgenbusch & Merrell, 1999). Historically, higher levels of self-esteem have been associated with better coping skills, positive affect, emotional stability, and an increased improvement in quality of life perceptions. On the other hand, lower levels of self-esteem have been known to encourage emotional and behavioral disorders such as anxiety, depression, and criminal behavior (Quatman & Watson, 2001). There are two different theories regarding the notion of self-esteem. One theory states that one’s self-esteem is based on the relationship between one’s personal goals/expectations and one’s actual successes. If the person’s successes are high or higher than their individual expectations, they develop a positive self-concept. Likewise, if their achievements do not reach their objectives than a low self-esteem is the result. The second theory argues that self-esteem is determined by how one feels he or she is viewed by significant others. This social opinion is reflected in how the individual sees him- or herself. Someone held high esteem by others acquire high self-esteem, while those who are held in low regard incorporates the negative opinions into their perceptions of themselves causing the development of low self-esteem (Bolognini, Plancherel, Bettschart, & Halfon, 1996). Both of these theories have been illustrated in numerous studies and agreed to be significant factors in the development of self-esteem (Bolognini, Plancherel, Bettschart, & Halfon, 1996; Harter, 1999). Secondly, the age of adolescence is a very curious topic researched in professional literature as well as the popular media. Adolescence is viewed as a transitional period in which one evaluates and re-defines the self. The individual constantly struggles with changes in both the body and mind, as well as their intended social roles. Additionally, this period in the life cycle is where young people begin to pay more attention to themselves, and begin exploration and introspection in order to develop a clear individual identity (Bolognini, Plancherel, Bettschart, & Halfon, 1996; Garrison, 1956). These changes can be extremely stressful and have been known to cause fluctuation or sense of instability in oneself. Adolescence, being a transitional period leading to adulthood, is a time where important life decision will be made regarding school choices, career goals, and lifestyle preferences. Social roles and expectations are also established during this time. Boys and girls begin to feel pressure from society to begin associating themselves with their prescribed genders...
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