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.
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