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Self-esteem in Chinese Adolescents

August 14, 2008

In metropolitan China, high school students' self-esteem depends more on good relations with peers than parents, a new UC Davis study shows. But the opposite is true for younger adolescents and young adults: Both base their self-esteem more on good relations with parents.

The study by Hairong Song, a doctoral candidate in psychology; Emilio Ferrer-Caja, an associate professor of psychology; and Ross Thompson, a professor of psychology, was presented today at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Boston.

The UC Davis researchers surveyed 584 students ages 11 to 23 from Guangzhou and Hangzhou. The students filled out questionnaires that assessed the quality of their relationships with their mothers, fathers and peers. They also filled out self-evaluations that measured self-esteem.

"This study suggests that high school is a period of special challenge to Chinese adolescents because of the competitive academic pressures they face. High school is a time when many Chinese adolescents experience intense pressures from parents to perform well in school," Thompson said.

"Even in a society that traditionally emphasizes family ties, enhanced by the government's one-child policy, competition to get into the best universities may be causing high-schoolers to turn to their peers for support and affirmation."

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