The Media and Self-Esteem in Adolescent Boys
Self-esteem plays a central role in mental health, yet not enough is known about how youth evaluate themselves as they move across adolescence. While adolescent girls traditionally exhibit lower self-esteem than their male counterparts, research shows that messages adolescent boys receive from the media can damage their feelings of self-worth and negatively affect their behavior. The media portrays young men in an unrealistic manner, thereby causing unrealistic expectations of physical prowess, appearance, intellect and attractiveness to the opposite sex. When these idealistic expectations are not met, many young men are overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy and may choose to withdraw, become sullen or act out in a violent manner. Additionally, the media glorifies violence, both in real and fiction genres. Most news services excessively cover violence perpetrated by adolescent boys; which combined with other media violence, may inspire some young men to commit copy-cat crimes in order to gain this same attention, perceived vindication and negative recognition.
Self-reported influences on self-esteem involving the media, sexual harassment, body image, family and peer relationships, and emotional expression were evaluated with 93 boys and 116 girls in Grades 5, 8, and 12. Girls reported lower self-esteem than boys in early adolescence, and late adolescent boys reported lower self-esteem than younger boys. The predictors as a set accounted for a significant portion of the variance in self-esteem, while the best predictor of self-esteem varied by age and gender. Large gender differences were present for emotional expression, with boys becoming more restrictive across adolescence. Girls reported more negative body image and media influence scores than did boys in late childhood and early adolescence. Body image appeared to mediate the relationships between certain predictors and...