No respect for self-esteem

Exploding the Self-esteem Myth in the January Scientific American looks at the evidence that high self-esteem leads to better outcomes. Not much there.

After coming to the conclusion that high self-esteem does not lessen a tendency toward violence, that it does not deter adolescents from turning to alcohol, tobacco, drugs and sex, and that it fails to improve academic or job performance, we got a boost when we looked into how self-esteem relates to happiness. The consistent finding is that people with high self-esteem are significantly happier than others. They are also less likely to be depressed.

Even here, correlation doesn’t prove causation.

People with high self-esteem are better at making friends. Unfortunately, that means they’re quicker to end a relationship, confident they can move on to someone else.

The Insta-Wife, who’s written a book, The Scarred Heart on violent children, isn’t a big self-esteem fan either.

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Comments

  1. Half Canadian says:

    I’d argue that self-esteem and happiness are similar concepts.
    Of course, do we want people to be happy by being self-centered? That should be every parent’s fear.

  2. They didn’t mention the 1991 study from the American Association of University Women that showed girls had a large drop in self-esteem around age 12. Of course, because it was never peer-reviewed and the data was not made public, they never let out the fact that the study seemed to show that self-esteem was negatively correlated with achievement in school, staying out of trouble in general, etc.

  3. My problem with self-esteem is not so much the concept itself, but how it is applied. Where does self-esteem originate? It is success that leads to self-esteem, or self-esteem which leads to success? These are the key questions to ask. Most educators believe that self-esteem has to be in there for success to happen. This causes them to praise kids for every little thing, and to avoid criticizing kids at all costs, all for the sake of self-esteem. Does it help build self-esteem? NO! The kids aren’t idiots, they can empty praise and coddling coming from a mile away. What you end up with using this method are a bunch of spoiled little brats who think they can do no wrong, YET STILL DON’T THINK WELL OF THEMSELVES.

    So, what is the correct application of self-esteem? I’d like to, ironically, call it constructivism. Let children construct their own self-esteem by giving them chances to genuinely succeed, which means there must be a chance to fail, and then help them succeed. Success leads to self-esteem. Actually, while we’re at it, let’s replace the word self-esteem with “confidence through competence,” a.k.a. “CTC,” which is a much more accurate description of the desirable phenomenon.

  4. Mike in Texas says:

    I took the time to read the article and it is nothing but an opinion pieces that cites mostly research done by the authors themselves.

    I guess we were supposed to assume there would be something scientific in it since it was published the Scientific American

  5. Annoying Old Guy says:

    I gave up on Scientific American years ago because of the overt political bias. Note that you can see it even in this excerpt, where the authors “get a boost” when they finally find some evidence in favor of self-esteem being beneficial.

  6. Mike in Texas wrote:

    I took the time to read the article and it is nothing but an opinion pieces that cites mostly research done by the authors themselves.

    Well who else’s opinion of the research would be more valuable? Yours because your disdainful? Obviously you don’t have a self-esteem problem if you think your casual dismissal carries more weight then the opinions of researchers in question.

    I guess we were supposed to assume there would be something scientific in it since it was published the Scientific American

    Who’s “we” kemosabe? Since the research is publicly accessible, something which can’t be said for most of what passes for research coming out of ed schools, someone with the time and the chops could actually peruse it for shortcomings. That means you don’t have to assume anything. If you think the research is faulty, go and prove it.

    Annoying Old Guy wrote:

    I gave up on Scientific American years ago because of the overt political bias.

    On climatic matters, yeah. The entire “Skeptical Environmentalist” dustup made it pretty clear that, at least as far as this issue goes, the proper position trumps good science.

    They’re also getting a bit politically correct on Native American anthropology although the bias isn’t as onerous as it is on climate change.

    I read the article through twice looking for that “boost” but couldn’t find it. I don’t see why they would get a boost from the self-esteem cheerleaders since they hit the whole idea with a bucket of ice water. Maybe you could be more specific?

  7. “They didn’t mention the 1991 study from
    the American Association of University
    Women that showed girls had a large drop
    in self-esteem around age 12. Of course,
    because it was never peer-reviewed and
    the data was not made public, they never
    let out the fact that the study seemed
    to show that self-esteem was negatively
    correlated with achievement in school,
    staying out of trouble in general, etc.”

    I’m not entirely sure that it’s the same study, but a
    professor friend of mine was telling me about one
    similar study that was highly publicized, and it turned
    out that the “data” on which the conclusions were based
    were the answers to the multiple choice question “I
    feel good about myself”, where the choices were
    something like “Always”, “Most of the time”, “Some of
    the time”, and “Rarely”, and “Never”. It turned out
    that girls over 12 started answering “Most of the time”
    (instead of “Always”) more often than boys did — that
    is, they showed at least the beginnings of
    self-awareness and emotional honesty. In other words,
    the conclusion that teenage girls were suffering a
    steep decline in self-esteem was tendentious nonsense.

  8. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen wrote:

    That means you don’t have to assume anything. If you think the research is faulty, go and prove it.

    I have something the researcher’s don’t, which is actual experience with children who are learning (don’t jump on your soapbox, Allen, I know to you that means nothing.

    When you call your article EXPLODING then it seems to me there should be something substantial to it, maybe some actual research but this was nothing more than an opinion piece, no matter how much more you value their opinion over mine.

  9. Mike in Texas wrote:

    I have something the researcher’s don’t, which is actual experience…

    Oh sure, I understand. When it suits you, it’s opinions that matter. When it doesn’t, it’s research.

    When you call your article EXPLODING…

    I don’t have a clue what that means. The only use of the word “exploding” is by you.

    What I do know is that much of what comes out of ed schools, labeled as research, is either useless or self-serving or both. In the case of the self-esteem fad, it’s both and this article and the research that underpins it make it clear that the whole concept of self-esteem, as practiced in ed schools and by their acolytes, is nowhere near the panacea it’s been sold as.

    The reason that isn’t explosive news is that the value of ed school research has been so discreditted and the dissappointments that inevitably follow their promises so common that one more failed experiment hardly warrants a sigh. One more lie out of a proven liar is hardly worth noticing.