, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 1-23

Parental contexts of adolescent self-esteem: A developmental perspective

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Relationships between parental behaviors and adolescent self-esteem were analyzed in a group of 95 early adolescents from multiple settings. The study was designed to investigate hypotheses regarding associations between observed parental interactions (e.g., accepting and devaluing) and adolescent self-esteem. Parents' verbal interactions with their adolescents were assessed through application of the constraining and enabling coding system to transcribed family discussions, generated through a revealed differences procedure. Adolescent self-esteem was measured with the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory. Parent interaction-self-esteem associations were examined in the pooled sample, as well as in specific sub-groups based on gender, health, and ego development (measured by the Washington University Sentence Completion Test). Boys had more numerous associations between their self-esteem and parental interactions than girls, and psychiatrically ill boys had particularly high associations. Parental interactions were found to be most strongly related to adolescent self-esteem for adolescents at the lowest levels of ego development. Our findings are consistent with the view that increasing individuation in self-esteem regulation occurs during adolescent development, such that adolescents at higher levels of ego development evaluate themselves more independently of parental feedback than do their less mature peers.

This study was supported through a Research Training Grant No. MH16259 (Dr. Isberg) from the NIMH, a grant from the National Institute of Child and Human Development (NICHD Grant No. 5 R01 HD18684-02), and a Research Scientis Development Award No. 5 K-02-MH-70178 (Dr. Hauser) from the NIMH.
Received M.D. from Harvard University. Currently studying adolescent development and working with the school consultation program of the Massachusetts Mental Health Center.
Received M.D. from Yale University and Ph.D. from Harvard University (Psychology). Currently studying family contexts of adolescent development.
Received M.D. from The University of Chicago. Currently studying psychological consequences of diabetes mellitus.
Received Ed. D. from Harvard University (School of Education). Currently studying family coping processes in response to stressful events.
Received Dipl. Psych. from Freie Universitat, Berlin (Clinical Psychology). Currently studying relationships between psychopathology and development among adolescent psychiatric patients.
Received Ph.D. from Ohio State University (Psychology). Current interests in assessing ego development and family systems.
Received Ph.D. from the University of Miami (Clinical Psychology). Research interests in family studies and adolescent development.