Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Adolesc Health. 1998 Jul;23(1):7-19.

Changes in self-esteem in black and white girls between the ages of 9 and 14 years. The NHLBI Growth and Health Study.

Author information

Maryland Medical Research Institute, Baltimore 21210, USA.



We examined changes in self-esteem and feelings of competence with physical appearance and social acceptance over approximately 5 years in 1166 white and 1213 black girls, aged 9 and 10 years at baseline.


Maturation stage and body mass index (BMI) were assessed annually. Biennially girls completed Harter's Self-Perception Profile for children. Changes were analyzed in the context of race, sexual maturation, BMI, and household income. Longitudinal regression models were used to compare trends with age in global self-worth, physical appearance, and social acceptance.


Mean global self-worth showed little change over ages 9-14 years in blacks (p = 0.09) but decreased in whites (p < 0.001). Mean physical appearance scores for both races declined between ages 9 and 14 years (blacks, p < 0.001; whites, p < 0.001). Mean social acceptance scores increased for both races between ages 9 and 14 years (blacks, p < 0.001; whites, p < 0.001). For all three scores, these changes differed between blacks and whites (all three p values, < or = 0.002). Adjustment for maturation stage, BMI, and household income did not alter the significance or direction of racial differences in the changes with age in global self-worth and physical appearance scores. Self-worth, physical appearance, and social acceptance scores decreased with increasing BMI. Decreases in physical appearance and social acceptance scores with increasing BMI were smaller in blacks than in whites (p < 0.05). After adjustment for maturation stage and household income, racial differences in social acceptance scores depended on BMI (p < 0.05) but not on age (p = 0.008).


This article reports the first data on self-esteem scores by age for a large population of black girls aged 9 and 14 years and concludes that self-esteem does not follow the same developmental pattern in black as in white girls. A reason for black girls' higher and more stable self-worth and their greater satisfaction with their physical appearance compared to white girls may be racial differences in attitudes toward physical appearance and obesity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Support Center