Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 1–23

Parental contexts of adolescent self-esteem: A developmental perspective


  • Roberta S. Isberg
    • Harvard Medical School
  • Stuart T. Hauser
    • Harvard Medical School
  • Alan M. Jacobson
    • Harvard Medical School
  • Sally I. Powers
    • Henry A. Murray Research Center of Radcliffe College
  • Gil Noam
    • the Children's Unit of McLean Hospital
  • Bedonna Weiss-Perry
    • Adolescent and Family Development ProjectHarvard Medical School
  • Donna Follansbee
    • Adolescent and Family Development ProjectHarvard Medical School
    • Parent-Place, Judge Baker Guidance Center

DOI: 10.1007/BF02139243

Cite this article as:
Isberg, R.S., Hauser, S.T., Jacobson, A.M. et al. J Youth Adolescence (1988) 18: 1. doi:10.1007/BF02139243


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.

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989