Adolescent self-esteem and gender: exploring relations to sexual harassment, body image, media influence, and emotional expression.
Self-esteem plays a central role in mental health, yet not enough is known about how youth evaluate themselves as they move across adolescence. This study used a cross-sectional design to examine age and gender patterns in self-esteem and to explore how contemporary social influences relate to adolescent self-esteem. Self-reported influences on self-esteem involving the media, sexual harassment, body image, family and peer relationships, and emotional expression were evaluated with 93 boys and 116 girls in Grades 5, 8, and 12. Girls reported lower self-esteem than boys in early adolescence, and late adolescent boys reported lower self-esteem than younger boys. The predictors as a set accounted for a significant portion of the variance in self-esteem, while the best predictor of self-esteem varied by age and gender. Large gender differences were present for emotional expression, with boys becoming more restrictive across adolescence. Girls reported more negative body image and media influence scores than did boys in late childhood and early adolescence. Body image appeared to mediate the relationships between certain predictors and self-esteem for girls, while gender and grade appeared to moderate the relationship between media influence and self-esteem for girls and boys. (author's)