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The article examines studies which reveal the importance of self-esteem in adolescents. It reviews the development, history, influencing factors, dimensions, characteristics, parent’s role and teacher’s role on the construction of self-esteem. The review is followed by a discussion which arises from past literature implying the need for enhancing self-esteem.


Every person reaches a stage in their life when he/she asks him/herself the question: “Who I am?” The answer to the questions is not all simple. At this stage a person ideally would like to have a complete knowledge of oneself. As knowledge of “self” grows, the value and importance of the “self” becomes better understood. According to Cooley (1902), “Self is a social product that emerges as the child interacts with other people”. Awareness of self comes through the gradual process of adaptation to the environment (Piaget, 1969). As the child grows with experience and knowledge, his/her self begins to develop and then it tends to dominate his/her personality for some time. According to Piaget, ‘a selfless infant becomes an egocentric young child’. Jersild (1963) states, “ The self, as it finally evolves, is a composite of thoughts and feelings, which constitute a person’s awareness of his/her individual existence, his/her perception of what he/she has, his/her conception of what he/she is, and his/her feelings about his/her characteristics, qualities and properties”. Secord and Backman define the `self’ as follows: “Each one of us has a set of cognitions and feelings towards ourselves. The term most commonly applied to this set of elements is self or self-concept”.

The Difference Between Self-esteem and Self-concept

Self has many dimensions such as self-concept, self-esteem, self-confidence etc. To some, self-esteem is the global evaluative dimension of the self. Self-esteem can be stated as the most critical aspect of self-concept. As such, self-esteem generates an essential contribution to the life process. It is indispensable to normal and healthy development.

In most of the literature, the term "self-concept" and "self-esteem" appear to be interchangeable. However, a drawing distinction between the two notions is very essential. Kuppuswamy (1969) describes self-concept as, “A person’s views of himself, his/her identity and worth as a person”. Thus, the notion of “self-concept” includes a person’s perceptions, attitudes, feelings, and knowledge about his/her traits, such as his/her abilities, skills, appearance etc. On the other hand self-esteem involves a person’s evaluation of his/her traits and the extent to which he/she can accept or approve of them. For example:

“Seema considers herself a good student who is intellectually capable (that is her self-concept), but she doesn’t think much of herself (that is her self-esteem), because she doesn’t have as much expertise in dance as she likes and wants in order to fit in with the school dance group that she admires a lot”.

Thus, a child’s self-concept may be positive but at the same time if he/she does not possess the abilities he/she or his/her parents want, then he/she can have low self-esteem.

Bednar, Wells, and Peterson (1989) define self-esteem as, “A subjective and enduring sense of realistic self-approval. It reflects how the individual views and values the self at the most fundamental level of psychological experiencing. Fundamentally, self-esteem is an enduring and affective sense of personal value based on accurate self-perception. It is a feeling of self-approval and a dynamic phenomenon which develops as a result of the cognitive process of feedback, circularity and self-regulation”.

Mack Douglas (1995) defines self-esteem as- "appreciation, worth, and estimate of value. Self-esteem is the packaging belief that one carries around in head, that he has accepted to be the truth about himself. It is a source of personal power that motivates, stimulates and mobilizes individuals down the road to successful living". Lerner (1996) argues that- “earned self-esteem is based on success in meeting the tests of reality measuring up to standards at home and in school. It is necessarily hard-won and develops slowly, but it is stable and long-lasting, and provides a secure foundation for further growth and development”.

Development of Self

Many factors affect the development of “self” but one always wonders when the process of development begins. It is well-known that a child is not born with a positive or negative sense self. Awareness of self begins at fifteen months (Spitz, 1957). In the initial years of life, the self is undeveloped. A child has no clear perception of self or of the world. At that point he/she has no concept of being either good or bad. However, overtime, the awareness of self increases as the child grows and come into contact with the environment, and starts to interact with people.

He/she begins to develop ideas about his/her own intelligence and moral standing. When a child is very young, he/she has a self-concept, but he/she is not capable of evaluating him/herself. As the child matures, self-evaluation begins and self-esteem begins to form. Self-evaluation leads him/herself. He/she begins to react to situations on the basis of these values and beliefs and to develop a particular kind of attitude about his/her “self" that is based on those experiences

Factors that affect Self-esteem

One always wonders why some individuals have high self-esteem and some low self-esteem. There are many factors that affect and influence a person’s self-esteem. It is the sum total of experiences, thoughts, fears, and fantasies that come together in a composite impression of how we are’. Some of the other factors are : childhood experiences, innate characteristics, peer interaction, social roles, cultural environment, religious background, socio-economic status, parents and family members (their behavior, level of self-esteem, etc.), teachers, academic performance and education, unpleasant experiences, rewards and punishments, feedback, environment and society, siblings, negative self-talk, home environment, upbringing, poor role models, unfair comparisons, unrealistic expectations from self, parents or teachers, lack of discipline, labeling by parents or teachers, birth order, and unresolved problems, that play an important role in the development of self-esteem.

Adolescence and Self-esteem

Self-esteem can be defined as a life force for an individual and particularly for an adolescent. The term adolescence comes from the Latin word ‘adolesere’, which means “to grow” or “to grow towards maturity.” Adolescence is a developmental stage between childhood and adulthood. This is a time period, which is very critical. Biological, emotional, psychological, social, physiological and cognitive changes occur at this stage. Developmental stage of adolescence deals with the development of self-image and self-identity. At this stage the adolescent needs answers to questions like : “What am I’?”, “How good I am ‘?”. He/she begins to judge himself/herself and begins to identify his/her needs, wants, beliefs, values, likes, dislikes, accomplishments, failures, abilities, skills, etc.

According to Erik Erikson’s eight stages of life cycle, adolescence is the stage where development of “identity versus identity confusion” occurs. At this stage an adolescent wants to know who he/she is, what he/she is all about, and where he/she is going in life. At this stage the world around becomes important. He/she faces a sense of confusion as he/she has to choose from various meaningful alternatives. Developmental psychologists regard the stage of adolescence as a period of “storm and stress” (Hall, 1904). If the adolescent faces and is able to cope with, this stage of identity development, then it has a very positive effect, as he/she develops self-knowledge, which helps him/her to face the world in the future. He/she emerges with a new sense of self that is refreshing and acceptable. If not dealt with properly, the negative outcome would be the inability to have an identity to identify appropriate roles in life, in the future. He/she faces confusion in the later part of life. With this state of confusion he/she takes one of the two courses, either he/she withdraws himself /herself from peers and family by isolating himself/herself, or he/she ends up losing his/her own identity in the crowd.

Two Dimensions of Self-esteem

Self-esteem is the positive or negative attitude towards a particular object, namely, “the self”. It has two very different understandings. One is high self-esteem and the other is low self-esteem. High self-esteem is when the individual thinks positive towards his/her ‘self’, that is – he/she thinks he/she is ‘very good’. And low self-esteem is when the individual thinks negatively towards his/her ‘self’; he/she thinks he/she is ‘not good enough’. High self-esteem expresses the feeling of self-worth (not to feel better or superior to others) and self-respect. One accepts oneself fully and completely, and wants to grow in life, recognizing his own limitations and wanting to improve by overcoming his own deficiencies. Low self-esteem implies self-rejection, self-dissatisfaction and self-contempt. Such individuals feel that they are not worthy enough and do not respect themselves much for what they are. The picture that they have of themselves is not very agreeable to their self.

Certain Characteristics of Individuals with High Self-esteem

A person with high self-esteem tends to be more relaxed and calm, energetic and purposeful, motivated and has clear sense of direction, is open and expressive, positive and optimistic, is able to face and solve problems, is self-reliant and sociable, is cooperative, assertive, and is self-developing. He/she is also able to make his/her own decisions, is able to trust others and oneself, able to help others without any hesitations, able to appreciate good in others and in own, able to assume an active role in social groups, able to express his/her views frequently and effectively, less troubled by fear and ambivalence, less burdened by self-doubt, able to move more directly and realistically towards personal goals, able to overcome any obstacles, able to adjust very easily, and to make and maintain any kind of relationship.

In brief, individuals with high self-esteem are less afraid and embarrassed about themselves, but rather they take out time to praise themselves in front of the mirror. They enjoy and cherish what they see in the mirror. They highlight more on their strengths, minimizing their weaknesses. They are more aware of their needs and wants, and to achieve them they can fight and stand up for themselves. They take advice from others, but eventually have the tendency and capacity to make their own decisions.

Rosenberg (1965) in his study found that: “Students with high self-esteem are selected more as leaders, they actively participate in class, are more admired and respected by others and are well thought of, they make good impression, and think that others think well of them. High social class students are somewhat more likely to accept themselves, considering themselves worthy than lower class students”. According to Korman (1976): “People with high self-esteem have stronger association between ability and performance, compared to low self-esteem people. People with high self-esteem get satisfaction from their work and from new opportunities as this gives them chance to use their skills as compared to low self-esteem people who are not satisfied (Korman, 1970)”.

A study conducted by Greenberg and others (1992) states that: “Boosting the self-esteem of an individual makes him/her less prone to the experiences of anxiety. High self-esteem provides protection against anxiety”. People with positive self-esteem have self-respect, self-confidence, self-worth, self-acceptance, self-love, self-knowledge and are self-disciplined. Research shows positive correlation between high self-esteem and realism, intuitiveness, creativity, independence, flexibility, ability to manage change, willingness to admit mistakes and cooperativeness.

Certain Characteristics of Individuals with Low Self-esteem

Individual with low self-esteem are exactly opposite to individuals with high self-esteem. They view success as a part of luck or chance or fate. This, according to them, is out of their reach and control and this weakens their confidence to work towards succeeding in the future. They avoid trying new things and tasks. They feel unloved and unwanted and blame others for their shortcomings. They are less able to tolerate any level of frustration. They believe that they are worthless and doubt their abilities and skills. They are more vulnerable to the opinion of others, as they have no opinion of their own. They feel in- secure and this insecurity results into feelings of jealousy and possessiveness. They have less control of their life and are more dependent as they cannot make decisions on their own. Their motivational level is low, and they get angry and irritated very fast. Rosenberg (1965) found that: “Low self-esteem individuals are more likely to experience physiological indicators of anxiety like hand trembling, nervousness, insomania, heart pondering, pressures or pains in the head, fingernail biting, shortness of breath when not exercising or working hard, palm perspiration, headaches and nightmares”.

Individuals with low self-esteem are found to be gossipers and are more critical in nature. They are difficult to work with and are close-minded and self-centered in nature. They always justify their failures and give excuses very fast. They blame others and are just able to take any responsibilities. They lack the initiative to do something novel or creative. They are jealous of others and are defensive in nature. They constantly seek approval from others for any kind of activities. They lack assertiveness and are not able to stand up for themselves and their beliefs/values.

People with low self-esteem have self-doubt, self-hatred, self-denial, and are self-centered. Poor self-esteem tends to correlate with blindness to reality, rigidity, fear of the new and unfamiliar, inappropriate conformity/ rebelliousness, defensiveness, over-controlling behavior and hostility towards others (Branden, 1994). Guinn, Semper and Jorgensen, (1997) indicate significant positive relationship between self-esteem and body image and exercise involvement, and negative relationship between self-esteem and body weight. Zimmerman and others (1997) found that youths with consistently high and moderately rising self-esteem had developmentally healthier outcomes in grade 10, compared to the youths of other clusters. Thus it can be assumed that low self-esteem is a psychologically distressing state in itself. It also tends to set lots of events in motion, which leads to a state of feelings of anxiety.

Academic Performance and Self-esteem

Literature on self-esteem clearly indicates that academic performance in school is one of the factors that contribute to the development of self-esteem. Good grades lead to a feeling of achievement and thus raises self-esteem, but low grades lead to a feeling of failure and this lowers self-esteem. But on the other hand, Lecky (1945) who formulated the self-consistency theory, believes that self-esteem also affects the school grades and performance. Self-esteem helps in motivating and guiding all actions and in turn whatever we achieve or attain from all our actions, directly influence our self-esteem. Covington and Omelich (1979) suggest that youngsters protect their self-esteem by indirectly performing poor in school. For students it is less damaging to their self-esteem if the poor grades are due to lack of efforts rather than lack of ability. Thus both self-enhancement and self-consistency theory agrees that low self-esteem can be a cause of academic performance.

Research shows a very significant relationship between self-esteem and school achievement. Brookover, Thomas and Patterson (1985) found that: “There was a significant relationship between self-concept and academic achievement.” Coopersmith (1965) reported that: “Children's self-concept helped in predicting a child's ability to read in the first grade.” Wylie (1979) stated: “There is considerable empirical evidence that self-concept predicts and influences achievement in school, from the primary grades through undergraduate education.” Holly (1987) compiled a summary of all the studies and indicated that: “Most people supported the idea that self-esteem was more likely the result rather than the cause of academic achievement.” However, he acknowledged that a certain level of self-esteem is required in order for a student to achieve academic success. He also stated that self-esteem and achievement go hand in hand as they feed each other. Covington (1989) stated that: “The level of self-esteem increases along with the achievement scores; and as self-esteem decreases, it affects the achievement level negatively”. He concluded that “self-esteem can be modified through direct instruction and that such instruction can lead to achievement gains”.

School Dropouts and Self-esteem

Relationship between school dropouts and self-esteem has also been studied . Kite (1989) found that out of the seven factors that contributed to school dropouts, four of them were related to self-esteem. Bloom (1977) stated that school dropouts tend to have more negative self-esteem as learners than those who stay in school. Earle (1987) found two common characteristics among girls who drop out of school are low academic achievement and low self-esteem.

Siblings and Self-esteem

Rosenberg (1965) found that: “An only child with no siblings, tends to have higher self-esteem than those who had siblings. An only male child tends to have high self-esteem than an only female child. Younger minority boys unlike other youngsters, tend to develop a type of self-esteem, which is not based on competitive achievement, or by outdoing others, or upon social and academic success. The feeling of self-worth derives from the care, love and affection of his siblings”.

Gender and Self-esteem

Majority of the studies do not find reliable differences in the self-esteem level of men and women (Maccoby and Jacklin, 1974; Wylie, 1979). Women are more likely than men to have a collectivist or connected schema for their self. For them the relationship with other important people is taken as part of the self. Whereas men on the other hand are individualists and have independent or autonomous schema for their self. For them others are not part of their self but are rather distinct from it (Markus and Kitayama, 1991; Sampson, 1989; Triandis, 1989).

Depression and Self-esteem

Self-esteem theory also states that one of the causes of depression can be low self-esteem. But at the same time, a depressed person feels worthless, negative and hates himself/herself. So it can also be stated that depression causes low self-esteem. Survey conducted by Beck (1967) revealed that: “80% of depressed patients expressed self-dislike.” Rosenberg’s study found strong and consistent relationship between self-esteem and depressive effects. 80% of the individuals with low self-esteem were found to be highly depressed.

Crime - Violence and Self-esteem

Certain studies state a relationship between crime and violence and self-esteem. Kelley (1978) found a correlation between delinquency and low self-esteem. She found that along with the implementation of raising self-esteem programs, incidence of delinquent behavior in schools declined. Kaplan (1975) found that individuals with lower levels of self-esteem were most likely to adopt deviant behavior patterns. Low self- esteem becomes a tremendous source of anger and hostility, which frequently results in violence. Toch (1969) and Davis (1993) found that the most common factor that prompted violence was "self-image compensating" that involved aggression in defense of the self-image. They found that many people commit violence to compensate for their feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem. Johnson (1977) stated that juvenile delinquents not only had low self-esteem, but also significantly lower reading skills and achievement. Sahagan (1991) suggests that kids join gangs because of the need to belong somewhere. To reduce this, one must give more importance to raising the self-worth and self-esteem of the youth so that they do not need or require others to fulfill their basic human needs. According to Lopez (1992) gang formation occurs due to the need for recognition, identity, belongingness and peer pressure. All these factors deeply relate to self-esteem.

Drugs and Self-esteem

Studies state significant relationship between self-esteem and drug and alcohol abuse. Keegan (1987) states that low self-esteem either causes or contributes to neurosis, anxiety, defensiveness, and ultimately alcohol and drug abuse. Skager (1988) states that drugs are often used to compensate for low self-esteem and feelings of a lack of control over one's life. Gossop (1976) found considerable deficiencies in self-esteem among drug-dependent patients, and believes that teenagers with low self-esteem who are exposed to drugs must be considered to be at risk. Miller (1988) stated that a program to raise self-esteem significantly changed the attitudes of students regarding their alcohol and drug use.

Other Factors and Self-esteem

Whitely (1980) found a high correlation between moral decision-making and the level of self-esteem. Piccinini (1987) stated that bulimic subjects tend to exhibit significantly lower levels of self-esteem as compared to those not exhibiting bulimic behavior. Sagan (1990) states that the healthiest person today is one with self-esteem and a sense of personal control. Those who feel good about themselves are less susceptible to not only psychosomatic illnesses but also are also more resistant to disabilities like cancer.

Parent’s Role in the Development of Self-esteem

Development of self is highly influenced by the nature of the relationship between parent and child. Thomas Edison states that: ‘The greatest gift parents can give to their children is enthusiasm and the foundation of enthusiasm is high self-esteem.’ Parental approval, acceptance and affirmation of the adolescents, positively correlate with the children’s self-esteem (Coopersmith, 1967; Sears, 1970; Smart, 1970; Gecas, 1971; Peterson et al, 1983; and Gecas and Schwable, 1986). Studies of young children show that parent’s style of child rearing during the first three or four years determines the amount of self-esteem that a child starts with.

Studies show that youngsters who feel belonged and connected to home and school environment, develop better feeling of self-worth. Feelings of independence and sense of self-determination, develop self-respect in youngsters. When they are addressed as competent in certain areas, it generates a feeling of satisfaction and pride in them. When they feel welcomed and are accepted the way they are, it generates a positive outlook in them and towards others. For this, parents and teachers need to have realistic expectations from children and youngsters.

Divorce and separated parents have negative effect on the self-esteem of an individual (Parish and Dostal, 1980; Parish and Wigle, 1985; Rosenberg, 1965). For boys divorce has positive effect on stress (Hess and Camara, 1979). Rosenberg (1965) found that children whose parents are living together have fewer psychosomatic symptoms than children whose parents are separated or divorced, child has low self-esteem if both mother and child are young at the time of divorce.

But if the child and the mother are older, then self-esteem is found to be fairly normal. Students whose mothers are young when widowed, are less likely to have high self-esteem and less likely to be free from psychosomatic symptoms of anxiety. Children of divorced mothers who remarried, tend to have low self-esteem than the children whose mothers did not remarry. Children whose widowed mother remarried had comparatively lower self-esteem than those children whose widowed mothers did not remarry.

Parent’s reaction to the child’s friends and their knowledge of friends, make a lot of difference to a child. Rosenberg (1965) found that little difference was seen in the self-esteem of children whose mothers knew their child’s friends. It was found that children who knew that their mothers had knowledge of their friends, had high self-esteem. Mealtime conversation plays an important role in the self-esteem of children. If no conversation takes place between parents and children, then children feel that parents are not interested in their daily activities and their opinions, and this lowers their self-worth. Rosenberg (1965) found that the families who had mealtime conversation, their children had high self-esteem. He also found that class, religion, sex, urban/rural condition does not make much difference in the child’s self-esteem as compared to the indifferent attitude of the parents.

Rosenberg (1965) found that adolescents who have close relationship with their fathers, are more likely to have high self-esteem and a stable self-image. If parents exaggerate a child’s accomplishments by over praising, it results in a feeling of psychological invisibility and the child develops a sense that whoever he is, is not enough (Ginott, 1965). Healthy self-esteem develops if children are loved and accepted by parents, as they are, rather than expecting change according to their own desires, which causes self-doubt and insecurity. According to Coopersmith, four conditions are associated with high self-esteem in children. They are: “a) The child experiences full acceptance of thoughts, feelings, and the value of his or her being. b) The child operates in a context of clearly defined and enforced limits that are fair and negotiable- but the child is not given unrestricted freedom. This develops a feeling of security, high standards and confidence in the child. c) The child experiences respect for his or her dignity as a human being. Parents give importance to the needs and wants of the child, where authorization is in operation, not authority. Interest of parents in the child’s academic and personal life and being available to them when the child needs, plays a very important role. d) The parents themselves tend to enjoy a high level of self-esteem (Coopersmith, 1989)”.

Parents need to be extremely careful about what they tell their children. Words like ‘stupid’, ‘dumb’ etc. have a negative effect on the child’s self-esteem. Parents should not encourage children to deny the way they feel. Parents should accept expression of fear, anger, love, happiness etc. They need not be over-protective. Children must be allowed to take risks, to feel adequate and worthy towards normal challenges of life. Parents must encourage children to think independently, express views openly, treat them with respect, understand them genuinely, and value them and love them as they are. They must deal with them and the situations fairly and in a just manner. They must not punish them by hitting or beating them. They must believe and convey to them their intellectual and creative abilities. They shouldn’t make them feel guilty or afraid through their behavior or through the way they deal with them, and at the same time they must not invade their privacy and must allow them their own space. They must accept the mistakes of the children as part of their learning process.

Teacher’s Role in the Development of Self-esteem

Along with parents, education also plays a very important role and has great influence on students in creating an environment that promotes self-esteem (Battle, 1981; Geraty, 1983; and Segal, 1988). Rutter (1980) identified several characteristics in schools like reward and praise, discipline, staff cooperation and their availability to the students that associate with greater student achievement and satisfaction.

Self-esteem in children and adolescents helps in determining the motivation and satisfaction level in school and their level of achievement (Borba and Borba, 1978; Brooks, 1987; Canfield, 1986; and Coopersmith, 1875). Studies show that if students are given an opportunity to take responsibilities and participate in running their school lives, then their attainment, attendance and behavior are found to be good. Certain ways in which parents and teachers have contributed and can contribute in raising self-esteem among adolescents, through certain day-to-day pointers, such as:

  • Attend their award ceremony,
  • Hold their hand while walking,,
  • Have certain specific and clear guidelines or rules in the family,
  • When they get bad marks be positive towards them,
  • Stick positive motivational sayings in the class or house,
  • Give them their own space and privacy,
  • Give positive comments or encouraging words in a day,
  • Let them make their own decisions,
  • Appreciate them for their growth and progress,
  • Take interest in their day-to-day activities,
  • Listen to their problems, attentively
  • Attend their sports events and parent’s day,
  • Attend their drama or musical performance,
  • There has to be consistency between both the parents,
  • Have regular routine time for eating, sleeping, studying, etc,
  • Pat their shoulder often,
  • Do not complete their sentences or answers for them,
  • Let them decide their own clothes,
  • Make sure they are not afraid of parents,
  • Smile at them daily,
  • Do not finish a task or assignment for them,
  • Write small notes of appreciation,
  • Accept their strengths as well as their weaknesses,
  • Do not compare them with someone else,
  • Praise them for their any kind of activities or performance,
  • Pay full attention when they are talking to you,
  • The family must have at least one meal a day, together,
  • Never hit them,
  • Do not scold them in front of class, other children, or other people,
  • Do not rush to answer all of their questions,
  • Do some kind of activity like drawing, or playing sports, with them,
  • Try to know their friends and teachers,
  • Have realistic academic expectations for them,
  • Never force them to do things,
  • Be aware of their negative self-talk like, I am so dumb, or I am not a good person/student’,
  • Never re-do the things they have done or made (re-ironing the shirt, re-arranging the table),
  • Keep their best school or personal work in a special file and go through it occasionally,
  • Never take sides when there is a argument or fight between two children or siblings, and - Tell them often that you love them,

Enhancement of Self-esteem

At this point one can say that raising self-esteem is very much necessary for the psychological, emotional and academic development of a person. Lot of programs have been developed in the past to raise self-esteem among adolescents of different cultural backgrounds and age groups. People often use several coping strategies, which are counter-productive and indicative of low self-esteem (Brooks, 1992). strategies like : Quitting, Avoiding, Cheating, Clowning and Regressing, Controlling, Being Aggressive and Bullying, Being Passive, Denying, Rationalizing and Being Impulsive affirm this. Various interrelated components play a role in fostering self-esteem in children and adolescents. Components like providing choices, teaching decision-making and problem-solving skills, communicating acceptance and respect, praise when deserved, setting rules for the purpose of discipline, which are fair and consistent, and making youngsters believe that one must learn from mistakes and accept them as valuable experiences and not to take them as defeat (Brooks, 1988).

Specific strategies for building self-esteem have been stated by Coopersmith (1989). First is accepting feelings of children as real and supporting their expressions by teachers and parents. Second is understanding and realizing that each and every individual is different and they all have different ways of coping. Third is avoiding sudden and drastic changes. Fourth is providing a model of effectiveness. Fifth is helping children develop constructive ways of dealing with difficulties. Sixth is to maintain self-respect and promote parent education and cooperation in developing coping strengths.

According to Nathaniel Branden (1994) there are six pillars of self-esteem. They are: “The practice of living consciously, The practice of self-acceptance, The practice of self-responsibility, The practice of self-assertiveness, The practice of living purposefully, and The practice of personal integrity”. By working on these six main factors, self-esteem can be raised. According to Frey and Carlock (1984) the process of raising self-esteem begins with the Identity Phase. The focus in this phase is on helping people discover their own identity. The second stage is awareness of strengths and weaknesses. This phase highlights the individual aspects of self, of which they have been unaware so far. They learn to evaluate these aspects. The third stage is Nurturance Phase and the final phase is the Maintenance Phase. This phase assists individuals to nurture their newly found identity. Through the maintenance phase they learn to enhance their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

Pope, McHale and Craighead (1988) developed a program to raise self-esteem. The program worked on five domains. The Global self-esteem (overall self-esteem), The Social self-esteem (evaluation of the child in relation to others), The Academic self-esteem (the child’s school abilities and performance), How a child sees himself as a valued family member, and The quality of one’s body image (physical appearance). Bednar, Wells and Peterson (1989) did a study with a view to enhancing self-esteem cognitively. The main factor of their program was feedback (internal and external). Burns (1993) has developed a 10-day program to raise self-esteem. In it he deals with problems related to self-esteem like anxiety and depression. He uses cognitive strategies that clearly work for depression, pioneered by Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck. Thus the importance of self-esteem can be identified from the above review. It leads to the fact that self-esteem is a basic component of human beings. It is not a secondary requirement but an important integral part of day to-day performance of an individual. It is essential for psychological survival. One of the factors that differentiate humans from animals is the “awareness of self”, the ability to form an identity and then attaching value to it. A dislike for certain colors, shapes, or sensations is inevitable and does not affect self-esteem, but when one objects to certain aspects of his/her own self, he/she greatly damages the psychological structure that keeps him/her alive. As a result it is extremely important to raise self-esteem for individual’s self-worth, self-respect and day-to-day survival.


This review offers evidence that self-esteem plays a central role in lives of all people, especially adolescents. The major implications of the research findings are : Firstly that self-esteem is the foundation of an individual. White (1964) says that, ‘without the self, we have no point of anchorage for the personal pattern of tendencies that is the characteristic of each individual’. Self-esteem is a basic component of human beings. It is not a secondary requirement but an important integral part of day to-day performance of an individual. Self-esteem is essential for psychological survival. One of the factors that differentiate humans from animals is the “awareness of self”, the ability to form an identity and then attaching value to it. A dislike for certain colors, shapes, or sensations is inevitable and does not affect self-esteem, but when one objects to certain aspects of his/her own self, he/she greatly damages the psychological structure that keeps him/her alive. Self-esteem can be called a fundamental human motive. It is self-maintained and is a motive for self-worth. Maslow (1970) identifies it as one of the “prepotent” human need. McDougall (1932) views self-regard as the “master sentiment”. Hobbs expresses that; to have a high opinion of oneself is “the greatest joy of the human soul” (quoted in Allport, 1968).Secondly, there is a difference between self-concept and self-esteem, where the prior one means the person’s views, identity, worth of himself whereas the later means the evaluation one does about his traits and the extent to which he accepts and approves it.

Thirdly, awareness of self develops at the age of 15 months. Awareness increases as he comes in contact with the environment. As one matures he starts to evaluate himself and this is when development of self-esteem takes place. Brooks (1984) and Levine (1987) feel that, “The development of self-esteem occurs within the dynamic interaction between a child’s inborn temperament and the environment forces that respond to the child”. . Dr. John Talbert, chairman of the department of psychiatry, says that: ‘Self-esteem is often the result of a combination of factors like early childhood events, genetics, and personality. According to Coopersmith (1989), 'In psychological terms, self-esteem provides a mental set that prepares a person to respond according to the expectations of success, acceptance and personal strength'. Fourthly, Fifthly, self-esteem is influenced by many factors such as environment, school, innate characteristics, culture, religion etc. O’Malley P.M. &Bachman J.G (1979) studied relationship between self-esteem and education along with sex and cohort comparisons among high school seniors. Results indicate that the self-esteem of male seniors was correlated with education. The impact of educational factors was similar for both sexes. The level of self-esteem of males and females was found to be the same. Karim S.F. (1990) investigated the impact of age, sex and cultural differences on self-concept. Results show that sex and cultural differences have profound effects on both personally perceived self and socially perceived self. Pandey A.P. (1993) investigated the impact of personality traits on self-esteem. Subjects were administered the Hindi adaptation of the 16-PF Questionnaire. Results indicated that self-esteem related positively with 11 personality factors (A,B,C,E,F,G,H,N,Q1,Q2,and Q3), and negatively with 4 personality factors (I,L, and Q4).

Fifthly, there are two dimensions of self-esteem- high (positive) and low (negative). High self-esteem implies self-love, self-respect, self-worth etc., whereas low self-esteem implies self-hate, inferiority, and self-rejection. Individuals with high self-esteem are easy to get along with, are well respected, have healthy and positive interpersonal relationships. They feel they are pleasant, likeable, popular and have good nature. They are direct in their approach, they have faith and trust in themselves and others, and are less skeptical and do not doubt others. They can stand up for themselves, can react firmly, like to compete with others and know that they are capable enough and possess good qualities. He also found that high self-esteem group had few symptoms of physiological indications of neurosis, compared to that with low self-esteem who had more symptoms. High self-esteem individuals view success as part of their efforts and hard work, which, they know, is in their control. This strengthens their confidence and self-worth which acts as a motivating factor to strive for success in the future. They act independently and can assume any kind of responsibilities. They are more able to tolerate frustrations and setbacks, are able to handle their positive and negative emotions, and accept new opportunities and tasks as a challenge, and work towards achieving them. Individuals with high self-esteem are able to take risks in life, build strong convictions, create willingness to accept responsibilities, build optimistic attitudes and lead a better and fulfilling life. Schlenker et al (1990) found that: “When high self-esteem person is under social pressure he becomes more self-assertive, as compared to the low self-esteem person who becomes self-protective”.

Individuals with low self-esteem have less stability of self-picture, have unstable self-conceptions, are uncertain about themselves, put up false front, are more sensitive to criticism, get deeply disturbed when someone laughs/scolds/blames them, are more bothered about others having poor opinion of them, get easily hurt and touchy and feel more lonely and isolated. They are shy, cannot make friends easily, get embarrassed easily, and wait for a known person to talk first. They are dreamy, emotional, and temperamental in nature. They seek approval from others and want everyone to like them. They are more detached from their feelings as they are not much aware of what goes on inside them, and this is due to lack of self-interest and self-knowledge. They are more docile, are easily led by others, they give in faster, and are relatively less interested in public affairs and political matters. “Rosenberg (1965) found that individuals with low self-esteem had four or more psychosomatic symptoms, compared to high self-esteem individuals who had two or less symptoms”. Sixthly, self-esteem is most important for the adolescent stage. During this stage individual develops self-image and self-identity. Lot of questions such as “who am I”, surround him which cause lot of confusion. If not dealt with properly than the negative outcome would will surface out where he will not be emotionally strong and will not have an identity that will help him identify certain roles in future. Numerous longitudinal studies have, till now been conducted on the development of self-esteem during the adolescence stage. Berndt & Hawkins, (1985) in their study found that no change in global self-esteem was found over the period of transition. At the same time Petersen and colleagues reported that at this age both positive and negative changes in self-image take place.

Seventhly, factors such as academic performance, school dropouts, depression, crime-violence and drugs affect the level of self-esteem. Individual with low self-esteem performs low in school, has a possibility of dropping out from school, feels depressed, turn to violent behavior and may eventually sucome to drugs. At the same time these factors can influence an individual’s self-esteem negatively. Eighthly, parents and teachers play an extremely important role in the development of self-esteem. Their level of relationship, their behavior, mannerism towards the child, their professional career & satisfaction, their outlook towards the child’s performance, their disciplinary moods, family environment, etc influence the self-esteem. Stanley Coopersmith in his survey on self-esteem found that when fathers with regular work, enjoyed their work, 97% of their children had high self-esteem. Whereas fathers without work and away from home, had 18% of their children with high self-esteem. The effect of mothers having and not having work, on children, was found to be similar to the ratio of fathers. 85% of children had high self-esteem when their mothers showed emotional stability. 82% of children whose parents spent lot of time with them reported high self-esteem. In the homes where there was constancy of rules, 88% of children were found to have high self-esteem.

Backman (1982) states that strict disciplinary actions and practices of parents internally relate to the self-esteem of boys. Thomas and Sanada (1985) found that self-esteem depends significantly on family harmony, physical facilities provided by parents and their practices towards their children. Buri (1989) states that: “Nurturance of father and mother positively influences self-esteem and this is perceived by adolescents themselves”. On the other hand parental authorization inversely affects self-esteem. Gecas (1981) in his study found that intimate, intensive and relatively enduring nature of family interactions, is most pervasive and consequential for an individual. Teachers and parents who allow children to make choices and decisions, and solve their own problems in academic matters, influence their self-esteem positively. Encouragement, appreciation, positive feedback and praise from teachers, tend to positively affect the self-esteem of students. Felker (1973) and others reported that self-esteem can be enhanced in children by making their teachers aware of the importance of encouraging self-rewarding behavior in their students. Staines (1965) suggests that a teacher’s classroom comments influence children’s self-esteem. Lastly, the need for enhancing self-esteem and so the development of systematic and well-planned programs or strategies or techniques. Mruk Christopher (1995) in his study found that “major self-esteem programs are systematic and have logical identifiable ties to general theories of self-esteem, which in turn are connected to larger theoretical perspectives in social science, giving them additional credibility”. His study also stated that each major self-esteem enhancement program recognizes the importance of assessment. It tells us what is needed for an individual and helps to prevent us from harming people through any form of misdiagnoses. The study showed overall positive significant difference in an individual's self-esteem due to the self-esteem enhancement programs.

Almost all of the enhancement programs have shown positive influence on the self-esteem. Such programs should be part of the school curriculum to build their foundation strong. The findings alongwith the outcome implies how valuable self-esteem is and how very essential it is to enhance it.


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