There has been a movement for at least 20 years to boost self-esteem in children. Why did this ever get going?
Baumeister et. al. trace the literature to California Assemblyman John Vascocellos arguing that raising self-esteem in youth would reduce crime, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, school underachievement and pollution (p.1) but even after nine years of meeting, his committee had no evidence. To date, the research is spotty and contradictory.
While studies are mixed or contradictory, the original theory that increasing self esteem in youth will reduce crime, teen pregnancy and increase school performance has not found any support. Instead, Baumeister’s review suggests that “perpetrators of aggression general hold favorable and perhaps inflated view so themselves”, that those with high self-esteem are more likely to break off relationships and those with a heightened self-worth are more likely to demand preferential treatment or to exploit their fellows.” (Ibid passim.) Baumiester et. al. Conclude “We have found little to indicate that indiscriminately promoting self-esteem in today’s children or adults just for being themselves, offers society any compensatory benefits beyond the seductive pleasure it bring to those engage in the exercise” (Ibid.)
What has been your experience with the self-esteem movement? Have you seen good results in your classroom?