Situating adolescent gender and self-esteem with personal memories.Child Dev. 1996 Aug; 67(4):1374-90.CD
To identify social schemas that are associated with self-esteem in adolescence, the contents of approximately 1,400 memories from a longitudinal sample of 41 males and 43 females were correlated with a Q-sort measure of self-esteem. Each memory concerned an important or problematic encounter, and was coded for social motive, affect, and identity of significant other. For young women, memories about wanting to help female friends were associated with chronically high and increasingly high levels of self-esteem from ages 14 to 23. For young men, memories about successfully asserting oneself with male friends were associated with chronically high and increasingly high levels of self-esteem. Low self-esteem in women, both chronic as well as decreasing, was associated with memories about failing to get approval from friends. Decreasing self-esteem for males was associated with memories about wanting love from female friends. The results confirm and refine prior findings that adolescent self-esteem is localized in relationships with peers rather than parents, and is based on different relational schemas for females than for males. The findings may help to identify contexts for preventative interventions to enhance adolescent self-esteem.