Posted on May 17, 2005

Minority Youths Self-Esteem Grows, Not Shrinks Over Time

EurekAlert, May 16

Research on the self-esteem of youths has primarily focused on White, middle-class adolescents, excluding the experiences of ethnically and socioeconomically diverse teens. A new study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Research on Adolescence focused on Black, Latino, and Asian American students from lower and working class families at a public high school in New York City. The researchers found that on average the self-esteem of these students increased. And contrary to other common assumptions, both boys and girls experienced similar trajectories. “Black adolescents reported higher self-esteem, while Asian American adolescents reported lower self-esteem, compared to their Latino peers,” the authors state. Latinos experienced the sharpest increase over time creating self-esteem that was comparable with their Black peers.

The authors used questionnaires to examine the youths’ self-esteem, family support, friendship support, and perceived school climate, (i.e. student/student relations and teacher/student relations). Those adolescents who reported higher levels of support, and perceived a positive school climate reported higher levels of self-esteem, but family experiences were the most strongly related to the changes. “While an increase in self-esteem with age was found for the sample as a whole . . . there were significant ethnic differences in the rate of change over time” the authors explain. The results highlight the important individual differences in self-esteem and challenge one of the most common assumptions about adolescent development.

This study is published in the current issue of Journal of Research on Adolescence (JRA). Media wishing to receive a PDF of the full article please contact [email protected]

Journal of Research on Adolescence (JRA) publishes original research and integrative reviews of the highest level of scholarship. Featured studies include both quantitative and qualitative methodologies applied to cognitive, physical, emotional, and social development and behavior. JRA is the official journal of the Society for Research on Adolescence.

Melissa L. Greene is an instructor of Psychology in the department of Psychiatry at Weill-Medical College of Cornell University and a professional associate at New York Presbyterian Hospital, White Plains, NY.

Dr. Greene is available for questions and interviews.