114 Trakia Journal of Sciences, Vol. 16, № 2, 2018
Trakia Journal of Sciences, No 2, pp 114-118, 2018
Copyright © 2018 Trakia University
Available online at:
ISSN 1313-7069 (print)
ISSN 1313-3551 (online) doi:10.15547/tjs.2018.02.007
SELF-ESTEEM IN ADOLESCENTS
M. Minev*, B. Petrova, K. Mineva, M. Petkova, R. Strebkova
Department of Medical Psychology and Foreign Languages, Medical Faculty, Trakia University,
Stara Zagora, Bulgaria
PURPOSE. Self-esteem is an overall evaluation of the person’s value, expressed in a positive or negative
orientation towards himself. Its development starts from birth and is constantly changing under the
influence of experience (1). Especially important is the role of self-esteem in the process of adolescence.
During this period, it correlates with both academic achievement and mental health. The aim of this study
is to analyze the correlation between academic achievement and self-esteem among teenagers. Forty 14-
year-old students (20 boys and 20 girls) with excellent, very good and good results in school were
examined. Methods: Self-Esteem Scale (RSE) (2). The study results show that girls have significantly
more negative attitudes towards themselves (x = 32.25) comparing with boys (x = 25.14). These results
support the need for further research to explore how individual and contextual factors affect the
development of self-esteem over the school years.
Key words: self-esteem, adolescence, academic achievement, self-perception
Self-esteem is an overall assessment of the
individual’s worthiness, expressed in a positive
or negative orientation towards them. It is a
component of the Self-concept that Rosenberg
(2) defines as a totality of individual thoughts
and feelings, having reference to him as an
object. Besides self-esteem, self-efficacy and
self-identification are an important part of the
Self-concept. Self-esteem as a whole is an
unchanging feature of adults and it is difficult
to be influenced by the experimental design of
a study (3).
The synonyms of the term self-esteem are: 1)
self-importance; 2) self-respect; 3) self-love
(which may contain elements of pride); self-
completeness. Self-esteem, however, differs
from self-confidence and self-efficacy which
include conviction in terms of personal
qualities and future performance. In the mid-
1960s Maurice Rosenberg and the supporters
of the social learning theory (2) define self-
esteem as a stable sense of self-worth. This is
the most commonly used definition, the main
difficulty being in distinguishing it from
*Correspondence to: Milen Minev, Department of
Medical Psychology and Foreign Languages,
Medical Faculty, Trakia University, 11 Armejska
Str., Stara Zagora, 6000 Bulgaria.Tel.: +359
886622101; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
narcissism and bragging. In 1969 Nataniel
Brenden (4) defined self-esteem as the
disposition to experience oneself as being
competent to cope with basic challenges of life
and as being worthy of happiness (5). This
two-factor approach, as some call it, offers a
definition limiting self-esteem within the limits
of competence and worth alone. Branden’s
descriptions of self-esteem are as follows (4):
Self-esteem is a fundamental human need;
it is part of the process of life and is
indispensable to normal and healthy self-
development and is vital for survival.
Self-esteem is an automatic and inevitable
consequence of the individual’s choices.
Self-esteem is a part of, or a background
to individual’s thoughts, feelings and
Self-esteem is a part of our personality and in
order or raise it we need to have a sense of
personal worth coming from those life
challenges that demonstrate our success (6).
Self-esteem has two elements – self-
knowledge and self-awareness. It included the
individual’s perceptions about their own
strengths and weaknesses, abilities, attitudes
and values. Its development starts at birth and
is constantly developing under the influence of
experience (1). During different periods of
human age the child realizes one or other side
of their own self. The child becomes aware of
MINEV M., et al.
Trakia Journal of Sciences, Vol. 16, № 2, 2018 115
their skills and practical abilities first – motor
skills, artistic abilities, performing skills.
Children start becoming aware of their
personal traits at a significantly later stage in
life. The process starts when all moral and
social benchmarks for assessment have been
acquired. That can be explained with the
complexity and ambiguity of results from the
manifestation of personal qualities. Children
become aware of their personal peculiarities
and traits in the communication process with
adults and peers. This process of self-
awareness is the most active in adolescence
Adolescence is a crucial, critical period in
individual’s development, a transition period
between childhood and adulthood in a
particular cultural environment. Self-esteem
plays a very important role for development
during this period.
High self-esteem has no positive effect on
school performance (8). A study (9) even
showed that artificially inflated self-esteem
leads to poorer school performance.
Self-esteem is a fundamental component of
self-awareness. It occupies a key place in the
structure of adolescent individual because it is
related to mental health and definition of life
goals (10). Processes related to the formation
and development of self-esteem determine the
perimeters of the relationship between the
adolescent and the surrounding world,
contribute to the development of their
competence and the quality of the activities
performed. These processes should not be
random; they should be smooth so that the
adolescent can build and adequate self-esteem.
The more realistic is it, the more adaptable the
adolescent will be (11).
Self-esteem is the subject of M. Rosenberg’s
research. Studying high school students with
the help of a 10-item assessment scale
(Rosenberg Self- Esteem Scale) Rosenberg
found that higher self-esteem is largely
determined by parents’ interest in their own
children (2). The self-assessment study model
based on the discrepancy between the real and
ideal self, considers the lack of correspondence
between them as a result of having
unrealistically high ideal standards in a given
field or as a result of the individual’s
perception of insufficiently good performance
in a certain area (12). When the individual
thinks that their real and ideal selves are
incompatible they try to reduce the discrepancy
between them as “the search for self-worth is
one of the strongest motivation forces in the
adolescent and adult human behavior”, the
realization of which is connected with
significant individual differences (13). Chronic
perception of discrepancy between the ideal
and real self is associated with frustration,
inferiority and depression.
The social situation on which the adolescent’s
mental development depends is largely
determined by the family. Parents and older
family members need to know the specifics of
adolescence and seek to help the child
overcome their difficulties, treating the future
full citizen with love, respect and trust (14).
Parents should help their children while
overcoming learning and communication
difficulties; they should give honest and
sincere answers to multiple questions, related
to intimate, social and moral issues. Love and
trust, competent answers and advice are the
parents’ fundamental “tool” helping their
children become an adult and equal to them
individual. The ability to understand
contradictory facts and situations affects the
relationships between adolescents and their
parents. The adolescents compare images of
ideal parents with the real parents they watch
every day. They are often critical of social
institutions, including family and parents. A
number of facts have been identified:
Overly strict parenting and satisfaction of
all needs are associated with earlier onset
of sexual activity of adolescents.
Moderate parental strictness leads to the
best results (15). Sexually active
adolescents often report bad relationships
with their parents.
The number of family disputes increases.
Battles fought over everyday activities
(household chores, dressing, learning,
family meals) allow the adolescents,
through relatively minor problems, to
check the degree of their independence in
a safe family environment. The word
“negotiation” is one of the most important
words at this age. Most psychologists,
instead of talking about rebellion and
painful separation from the family, prefer
to describe the period as one during which
parents and kids negotiate new
relationships between them (15).
Adolescents, feeling strongly about their
individuality are brought up in families
where parents not only offer guidance and
success, but let their children express their
One aspect of thinking on the level of
formal operations is the ability to analyze
one’s own thought processes. A particular
type of egocentrism is being expressed.
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116 Trakia Journal of Sciences, Vol. 16, № 2, 2018
Adolescents tend to believe that their
behavior is as interesting to others as to
themselves. They are not good at putting
boundaries between their own interested
and those of other people. Adolescents are
extremely worried about what other
people will learn about their
shortcomings. The idea that other people
are constantly observing and evaluating
their behavior has been called imaginary
audience. It is a common cause of shyness
and painful response to the opinions of
other people (15).
To conclude we may say that self-esteem is
central to what we do with our lives – the
loyalty we have to developing ourselves and
caring for others – and is at the heart of
everything that an adolescent will achieve in
their life. Self-esteem is formed in the family
by the parents and parental attitude is of
paramount importance. Self-esteem will
influence the adolescent’s performance at
school; it will determine how competent the
child will be, to what extent that child will be
accepted by others and what acceptance they
will demonstrate in turn.
The aim of this study is to analyze the
correlation between successful academic
achievement and self-esteem in adolescent
People included in the study
40 eight-grade students from the Ivan P.
Pavlov Professional High School of Veterinary
Medicine – Stara Zagora were included in the
study. The participants in the study were 14
years old and the sex distribution was as
follows: boys- 20, girls – 20. The participants
were distributed on the basis of their school
performance as follows: 15 students with
excellent grades, 15 students with very good
grades and 10 students with good grades.
I. Psychology research tools:
1. Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale. (RSE) (2).
Adapted and standardized for Bulgarian
conditions by Professor H. Silgidzhiyan. The
questionnaire has proven reliability and
validity (Cronbach’s coefficient - α= 0, 690),
indicating high internal consistency of the
scale. It is designed to measure the level of
The questionnaire includes 10 items which are
ranked on a scale of 4 self-esteem points at the
time of the study. Scores are calculated as
follows: 4 – strongly agree; 3 – agree; 2 –
disagree; 1 – strongly disagree. Higher scores
are indicative of high self-esteem level, while
lower ones indicate lower self-esteem.
Empirical data were processed with the SPSS
statistical program. Descriptive statistics and
correlation analysis were used.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Scientific literature on studies conducted with
respect to self-esteem of Bulgarian adolescents
is scarce. Therefore, the interest in this area is
not exhausted and the problem is yet to be
studied. The gender differences found by
Silgidzhiyan are being confirmed in a more
recent study conducted by Zhorzh Balev with
292 Bulgarian adolescents aged between 13
and 19, using Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale
(17). Results show that girls demonstrate a
comparatively lower self-esteem level
(х=32,76) as compared to boys (x=33,74).
Gender has its impact on adolescents’ self-
esteem as well. When compared to boys, girls
seem especially vulnerable regarding the level
of their overall self-esteem. Girls tend to have
significantly more negative attitude to
themselves as compared to boys. Results show
that girls regard themselves more negatively
(х=32,25) than boys (x=25,14) (18).
Achieving and maintaining a high and stable
self-esteem is a special type of challenge for
adolescents at that age.
The results of the present study show gender
differences in the self-esteem scores of the
students included in the study. It confirmed the
fact that boys have higher level of self-esteem
than girls (Table 1).
Table 1. Comparison of gender-based self-esteem scores
p < 0,01
MINEV M., et al.
Trakia Journal of Sciences, Vol. 16, № 2, 2018 117
Boys regard themselves as more independent
and worthy than girls; they look more self-
assured and for that reason they seem to have
fewer problems. That does not mean, however,
that boys have no feelings, concerns or doubts.
It is simply indicative of the fact that boys
cope better in the emotional sphere than girls.
This is consistent with results from previous
studies, revealing statistically significant
differences between the two groups (19).
Researchers explain lower self-esteem in
adolescent girls with the fact that boys tend to
be more independent from the opinion of
others, while girls are more prone to
conformism (х=31,44) as compared to boys
No difference in self-esteem scores in both
genders was found regarding the average
school performance (t=0,44; x=34,56; р
<0.01). The difference found is small and
statistically insignificant (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Students’ self-esteem scores based on school performance
Studies investigating differences in self-esteem
and self-concept in adolescents that have been
cited above show that positive self-esteem at
that age can be associated with personal
qualities helping the individual in their self-
expression, self- realization and self-
affirmation (20), the gender influencing the
level of self-esteem (16). Our results also show
that gender affects the levels of self-esteem.
1. The level of self-esteem differs according
to gender. Boys have a higher self-esteem
2. School performance has no impact of self-
esteem levels of the students included in
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