Self-esteem, appearance and friendships

Adolescence is a part of life that, among other things, includes figuring out who you are. Many may experience feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem during this time. In the Youth in Norway study we have looked at whether adolescents actually do have low self-esteem and whether or not it increases with age.

Figure 1 shows that in the early teenage years boys tend to have a higher self-esteem than girls. We then see an increase in self-esteem, but more so among the girls. As a result the gender difference is rather small going into the thirties. Self-esteem tends to improve with age, especially among girls.

Self-esteem Figure 1

Satisfaction with one’s appearance

Do we also see this positive development in how we feel about our own appearance? Figure 2 shows our level of satisfaction with our appearance. Again we see women starting out low, before becoming more satisfied. Still men were far more satisfied with their appearance going into their thirties. What could be the cause of this?

One reason for this could be that appearance is more important for women, and that the beauty ideal portrayed in media is difficult to obtain for women.

Close friendships

We see the highest levels of self-esteem in Men in most areas, with one exception: Women feel more secure when it comes to keeping and developing close friendships. Figure 3 shows that in this area they are constantly at a higher level than men. However we see both genders experiencing more difficulty in developing relationships like this going into the end of their twenties. Is this due to the high number of people going into marriage and cohabitation around this age? Or due to child rearing? Maybe there is less time to maintain good friendships?

Summed up the Youth in Norway study shows that adolescents actually experience quite low self-esteem but that it tends to increase with age.