What Factors Affect Self-Esteem in Boys?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
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The self-perception developed in childhood and adolescence can have a significant effect on adult behavior and self-image. There are many factors that can influence self-esteem in boys, for better or for worse. Some of the most common influences on male self-esteem include comparison with traditional male stereotypes, performance in academics and extracurricular activities, the presence or absence of learning disorders, peer relationships, and relationships with male authority figures.

Some experts suggest that a boy's identification with classic male stereotypes can have an affect on self-image. The perception of men as tough, bluff, unemotional, and violent can sometimes cause boys to feel weak or unmanly if they experience feelings of sadness or fear. Self-esteem in boys can also be damaged if they are taunted or made fun of for experiencing natural emotions, or for wanting to take part in non-stereotypical “male” activities, such as learning to bake cookies, or taking part in gymnastics instead of baseball.


For many children and adolescents, one of the primary means of measuring self-worth and personal success comes from performance in academics or extracurricular activities. Students who do poorly in school may begin to feel inadequate, or be concerned that they are not smart. Boys who do well in school or sports can also develop low self-esteem if their work is not recognized or appreciated by parents or authority figures. Some sociologists have also suggested that the surge of interest in female scholastic performance since the late 20th century has been detrimental to self-esteem in boys, if boys believe that their own performance is less important than that of their female classmates.

In addition to performance in school, self-esteem in boys can also be greatly influenced by peer relationships. Boys who are bullied or have difficulty making friends may be more prone to low self-esteem, since they are not receiving positive reinforcement of their personalities by peers. On the other hand, extremely popular boys may feel increased pressured to remain cool in the eyes of their friends, and may ignore self-esteem issues in order to keep up a reputation as a cool kid.

According to some studies, learning disorders such as dyslexia and attention deficit disorder may be far more prevalent in boys than in girls. If a boy has an undiagnosed learning disorder, he may be unable to complete school work or progress at the same level as classmates, while having no idea why he is having trouble. This can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and a severe decrease in self-esteem. With diagnosis and managed treatment, boys with learning disorders can often learn to cope with the scholastic environment, as well as have a safe place to discuss self-image fears relating to the disorder.

Many psychologists and researchers suggest that relationships with male role models and authority figures can have a tremendous impact on self-esteem in boys. If a boy has a healthy male role model, he may pick up a great deal of useful information about how to be a healthy, responsible man. For boys that do not have a good relationship with their father, it may be helpful to find alternative role models who can fill a father-like position, such as sports coaches, teachers, male therapists, or even admirable historical figures.


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Post 3

@indigomoth - I disagree. It's not difficult to get right, it's just that people are being told to do the wrong things. They get told to praise their kids all the time for very little reason. That's the quickest way to build them up for a fall though, because the world isn't going to lie to them like their parents are.

Instead of indiscriminate praise, the way to build self esteem is to reward kids with discussion and interest. Don't just tell them their picture is pretty and hang it on the wall. Ask them about it. Get them to describe their process and what they might do better next time. Tell them specifically what you like about the painting (and

especially, about their process in making it).

In other words, take them seriously. If you don't take them seriously, either by dismissing them with praise or by ignoring them, they will know, deep down, that their work isn't really that important to you.

Post 2

@Mor - I think it does depend on the definition of self esteem. I would argue that a lot of what people think of as high self esteem is actually just a way of concealing anxiety. People who boast too much, for example, might seem like they have high self esteem, but really they might feel like they need to put their good points out front to cover what they see as their many flaws.

I think real self esteem, where you respect and trust yourself, goes hand in hand with self efficacy because you come to know and accept your abilities and limitations. It's something that a lot of parents try to nurture in their children, but I think it can be difficult to get right.

Post 1

Something I really feel strongly about is the idea that kids should have high self efficacy rather than necessarily high self esteem. I guess it depends on your definition of self esteem though.

Self efficacy is knowing that you are capable of doing something, or learning to do something. If a kid has high self efficacy and they fail, they will attribute that failure to the fact that they are new to the activity, or that they didn't pay enough attention or some other logical reason, and will be willing to try again.

If a child with artificially high self esteem tries something and fails they might just refuse to do it again, or they might be frustrated because they think they should automatically be good at everything without trying.

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