Promoting Self-Esteem in Adolescents: The Influence of Wellness Factors

By Myers, Jane E.; Willse, John T. et al. | Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, Winter 2011 | Go to article overview

Promoting Self-Esteem in Adolescents: The Influence of Wellness Factors


Myers, Jane E., Willse, John T., Villalba, Jose A., Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD


Self-esteem, the feelings individuals have about themselves (Bosson, Brown, Zeigler-Hill, & Swann, 2003), is among the most widely researched topic in psychology and counseling (Searcy, 2007). Self-esteem has been directly connected to individuals' social network, their activities, and what they hear about themselves from others (e.g., Kernis, 2003). Multiple studies have linked a positive sense of self-esteem to factors such as psychological health (Gonzalez, Casas, & Coenders, 2007; Keyes, 2006), mattering to others (Marshall, 2001), and both body image and physical health (Kostanski & Gullone, 1998). Conversely, low self-esteem has been linked to outcomes such as depression (MacPhee & Andrews, 2006), health problems (Stinson et al., 2008), and antisocial behavior (Niregi, 2006). There is some disagreement in the literature as to whether self-esteem is a stable or changing characteristic; however, recent research using cross-sectional data on more than 326,600 persons suggests that self-esteem changes over the life span and is particularly critical during adolescent development, when it is likely to decline (Robins, Trzesniewski, Tracy, Gosling, & Potter, 2002).

Self-esteem during adolescence is affected by a variety of factors, such as age, race, ethnicity, puberty, body weight, involvement in physical activities, and gender (McLoed & Owens, 2004; Powell, 2004). Both boys and girls experience declines in global self-esteem during adolescence, and in contrast to boys' self-esteem, girls' self-esteem does not increase until young adulthood (Twenge & Campbell, 2001). Self-esteem also has been studied as a multidimensional construct, including social and academic components in addition to studies of self-esteem in the context of home and school (e.g., Coopersmith, 2002). For example, Wastlund, Norlander, and Archer (2001) found that girls in Asia, Australia, and the United States reported higher academic self-concepts than boys did, whereas boys reported higher nonacademic and total self-concept than girls did.

Stinson et al. (2008) found that lower self-esteem in adolescents is predictive of poor health, and the authors presented a model to explain this relationship as a result from poor quality social bonds. Studies such as this underscore the holistic nature of facets of adolescent functioning and the need to better understand the interaction of factors that affect positive development and well-being. Wellness models based in counseling emphasize these interactions and provide a structure for developing strength-based counseling interventions (Myers & Sweeney, 2008). The importance of such interventions during adolescence lies in helping young persons choose healthy behaviors as a foundation for healthy functioning across the life span (Dixon Rayle & Hartwig Moorhead, 2005; Myers & Sweeney, 2005b). Although virtually all wellness models include attention to self-worth in relation to wellness, studies examining the relationship of wellness factors to self-esteem among adolescents have not been conducted.

The present study was undertaken to determine the extent to which wellness factors are predictive of components of self-esteem in adolescents. We hypothesized that the determination of these relationships would result in identification of a path model to guide both research and counseling practice. Counselors often use wellness models as a foundation for both developmental and remedial interventions (e.g., Myers & Sweeney, 2005b). An understanding of the relationship between wellness and self-esteem could enhance the effectiveness of such interventions, and thus help counselors promote positive self-esteem to counter the seemingly normative declines in this characteristic during the adolescent years. A brief review of the wellness model, research using the model with children and adolescents, and how the model is used for strength-based interventions is provided as further context for this study. …

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