Researchers discover men and women have comparable self-esteem during adolescence and early adulthood.
Among both genders, self-esteem increases during adolescence, then slows in young adulthood, says research published by the American Psychological Association.
Researchers also discovered that during adolescence, Hispanics had lower self-esteem than blacks or non-Hispanic whites, but Hispanics’ self-esteem increased more strongly so that by age 30, they had higher self-esteem than whites.
Surprisingly, at age 30, whites also trailed blacks in self-esteem.
Researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland looked at data from the Young Adults section of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a U.S. national probability survey that was started in 1979 and included an oversampling of blacks and Hispanics.
The sample consisted of 7,100 individuals age 14 to 30. Forty-nine percent were female; 37 percent were white, 32 percent black, 20 percent Hispanic; and 11 percent other ethnicities. The participants were assessed every two years from 1994 to 2008.
Ruth Yasemin Erol, MSc, and colleagues tested how five personality traits — openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism — affect self-esteem.
They also looked at subjects’ sense of life mastery, risk-taking tendencies, gender, ethnicity, health and income.
“We tested for factors that we thought would have an impact on how self-esteem develops,” Erol said.
“Understanding the trajectory of self-esteem is important to pinpointing and timing interventions that could improve people’s self-esteem.”
The finding that blacks have higher self-esteem than whites in both adolescence and young adulthood supports prior research.
Ethnic differences remained even when the researchers statistically controlled for a sense of mastery, or the perception of control over one’s life.
The same was true regarding mastery when they compared the self-esteem of men and women.
“The converging evidence on gender similarity in self-esteem is important because false beliefs in gender differences in self-esteem may carry substantial costs,” Erol said.
“For example, parents, teachers and counselors may overlook self-esteem problems in male adolescents and young men because of the widespread belief that men have higher self-esteem than women have.”
Perceiving control or mastery over life is strongly assoicated with a subjects’ level of self-esteem, according to the study. In contrast, income did not influence the level or shape of the self-esteem trajectory in adolescence and young adulthood, the researchers found.
“The present research suggests that, in particular, emotional stability, extraversion, conscientiousnestrs and a sense of mastery are important predictors of the self-esteem trajectory in adolescence and young adulthood,” they wrote.
The study is published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.