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J Adolesc. 1996 Jun;19(3):233-45.

Self-esteem and mental health in early adolescence: development and gender differences

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Service Universitaire de Psychiatrie de l'Enfant et de l'Adolescent, 25A rue du Bugnon, Lausanne, CH-1005, Switzerland


A longitudinal study of a general population (n=219; M age: 12, 13 and 14), was carried out between 1990 and 1993 over 3 years in Lausanne (Switzerland). Several questionnaires, validated in French, were used: Perceived Competence Scale, Social Support Appraisal and a questionnaire on mental health developed in our research Unit. We attempted to answer the following questions: Is there a global change in self-esteem during early adolescence? If so, does the way in which the young person perceives himself vary according to the social and relational environment? What are the differences between boys and girls in the development of self-esteem? What is the relation between self-esteem and mental health?As to the specific differences according to gender, results show that girls tend to have a poorer self-esteem than boys, whatever the domains taken into consideration. Differences are more significant with reference to appearance and athletic performance. As far as the development of self-esteem is concerned, there is no major change, notably when considering global perception. Results of a factor analysis underscore the fact that girls' self-esteem is more global and less differentiated by domain while boys separate the scholastic and behavioral part of their experience from the social. Global self-esteem has more influence on the level of depressive mood in girls than in boys.


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