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Characteristics Associated With Low Self-Esteem Among US Adolescents

  • Auden C. McClure
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to Auden C. McClure, MD, MPH, Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire 03756.
    Affiliations
    Department of Pediatrics (Drs McClure, Tanski, and Sargent), Norris Cotton Cancer Center (Drs McClure, Tanski, Gerrard, and Sargent); and Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences (Mr Kingsbury), Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover NH
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  • Susanne E. Tanski
    Affiliations
    Department of Pediatrics (Drs McClure, Tanski, and Sargent), Norris Cotton Cancer Center (Drs McClure, Tanski, Gerrard, and Sargent); and Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences (Mr Kingsbury), Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover NH
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  • John Kingsbury
    Affiliations
    Department of Pediatrics (Drs McClure, Tanski, and Sargent), Norris Cotton Cancer Center (Drs McClure, Tanski, Gerrard, and Sargent); and Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences (Mr Kingsbury), Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover NH
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  • Meg Gerrard
    Affiliations
    Department of Pediatrics (Drs McClure, Tanski, and Sargent), Norris Cotton Cancer Center (Drs McClure, Tanski, Gerrard, and Sargent); and Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences (Mr Kingsbury), Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover NH
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  • James D. Sargent
    Affiliations
    Department of Pediatrics (Drs McClure, Tanski, and Sargent), Norris Cotton Cancer Center (Drs McClure, Tanski, Gerrard, and Sargent); and Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences (Mr Kingsbury), Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover NH
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      Objective

      Low self-esteem in adolescents has been associated with a number of risk and protective factors in previous studies, but results have been mixed. Our objective was to examine characteristics associated with low self-esteem in a large national sample of young adolescents.

      Methods

      We conducted a population-based correlational study. A sample of 6522 adolescents aged 12 to 16 years was surveyed by phone as part of a national study of media and substance use. Self-esteem was measured with 3 questions that assessed global self-worth and physical appearance. Multivariate logistic regression was used to examine the relationship between self-esteem and sociodemographics, child personality characteristics, weight status, daily TV time, parenting style, school performance, and team sports participation. Interactions among gender, race, and weight status were examined.

      Results

      In multivariate analysis, female gender, Hispanic race, overweight and obesity, sensation seeking, rebelliousness, and daily TV time were each independently associated with lower self-esteem. Teens of black race, with higher parental responsiveness and demandingness, better school performance, or involvement in team sports were less likely to report low self-esteem. Black females were at lower risk and Hispanic males were at higher risk for low esteem than peers of similar gender of other races.

      Conclusions

      Low self-esteem was associated with a number of modifiable risk factors, including obesity, TV time, team sports participation, school performance, and parenting style, that should be discussed with teens and parents at health supervision visits. Further research examining race and gender-specific factors that serve to moderate risk for poor self-esteem in adolescents is warranted.

      Key Words

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