NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Self Esteem Overrated

June 13, 2003

The claims made for high-self esteem by teachers, parents and psychotherapists aren't borne out by research, according to a new review of the scientific literature by Florida State University researchers.

Among their findings in the May issue of "Psychological Science in the Public Interest":

  • Individuals' high self-esteem, whether present from early childhood or induced by education programs, generally doesn't lead to improved school or job performance.
  • Those with high self-esteem on self-ratings aren't more likely to have satisfying relationships, assume leadership positions or avoid depression.
  • Nor does it prevent children and teen-agers from using tobacco, alcohol or other drugs, having sex or behaving violently.
  • Schoolyard bullies, as well as those who stand up to them, frequently report high self esteem.

Academic and job successes do often boost self-esteem, say the researchers.

Source: Bruce Bower, "Findings Puncture Self-Esteem Claims," Of Note, Science News, June 7, 2003.


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