The developmental period for students has long been considered a period of distress and frustration. It seems that student personalities may play a larger role in the subsequent self-esteem than previously thought. A longitudinal study focusing on students at 14, 18, and 23, suggests just this and that there are significant differences in self-esteem during each of these three time points (Block & Robbins, 1993).
The results of this study show a significant decrease in self-esteem over time for females and an increase in self-esteem for males. It is interesting to note that while there were significant differences between gender in self-esteem, there were not significant differences in ethnicity, nor in socioeconomic status.
What I found particularly interesting about this article were the individual personality characteristics which correlated with a higher self-esteem for the various genders. Here are just a few of them:
Personality Characteristics Predicative of Change in Self-Esteem Over Time:
- responds to and appreciates humor
- turned to for advice
- is cheerful & happy
- socially at ease
- feels satisfied with self; unaware of self-concern
- regards self as physically attractive
- is calm, relaxed
- behaves in a masculine way
Now, what is so interesting about this list is that the characteristics for predicting increased self-esteem are not similar at all between male and female. It begs the question: Are these characteristics innately “better” because they contribute to higher self-esteem? Or are they more valued by our society in one gender or another, so then they are valued by the individual, thus contributing to a higher self-esteem? Just some food for thought…
Also, interesting to note are the characteristics that contributed negatively to self-esteem:
- critical, skeptical, not easily impressed
- fluctuation in mood
- expresses hostility
- is irritable
- is physically attractive (very interesting, right?)
- Fantasizes, daydreams
- is anxious
- anxiety and stress find outlet in physical symptoms
The developmental change in self-esteem is an important topic, and one that educators should probably know more about. I think it is of great importance particularly to note the differences in gender. There may be a few ways we as educators can address students to avoid further negativity. “Young women with high self-esteem emphasize interpersonal connectedness far more than young men of high self-esteem. They tend to be warm, gregarious, talkative, giving, closely concerned individuals, whereas young men with high self-esteem are relatively unemotional, uninvolved, and independent in distancing ways,” Block & Robins, 919).
Block, J., & Robins, R. W. (1993). A longitudinal study of consistency and change in self-esteem from early adolescence to early adulthood. Child Development, 64(3), 909–923.