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Self-Esteem Levels Vary by Age, Race, Study Finds

MONDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- Although Hispanics tend to have lower self-esteem than blacks or whites in the teen years, by age 30 their self-esteem has increased to the point that they have higher self-esteem than whites, a new study suggests.

And in both adolescence and young adulthood, blacks have higher self-esteem than whites. By age 30, whites trailed both Hispanics and blacks in terms of self-esteem, according to the report published online July 4 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland made this finding after analyzing U.S. survey data of more than 7,000 young adults from 1994 to 2008. The participants ranged in age from 14 to 30 years. Over the course of 14 years, the study authors examined how five personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism) affected the youth's self-esteem.

In addition, the researchers also looked at the participants' 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," the study's lead author, Ruth Yasemin Erol, said in news release from the American Psychological Association. "Understanding the trajectory of self-esteem is important to pinpointing and timing interventions that could improve people's self-esteem."

The researchers found that conscientiousness, emotional stability, a feeling of mastery and being extraverted are key to predicting the direction a person's self-esteem will take as they grow up, and that income did not affect this course. These findings, they pointed out, could assist health professionals in targeting treatments.

And, contrary to popular belief, there are no significant differences in the way men and women feel about themselves during those periods of development, the investigators found.

"The converging evidence on gender similarity in self-esteem is important because false beliefs in gender differences in self-esteem may carry substantial costs," said Erol. "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."

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics provides more information on kids' self-esteem.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, July 14, 2011

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