The assessment of adolescent self-esteem: A comparison of methods1


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    . We are appreciative of the critical comments made by professors Daryl Bern, David Demo, Rick Shweder, and Barbara Koslowski on earlier drafts of this manuscript. The Spencer Foundation provided financial support in a generous grant made to the first author. We are primarily grateful to the adolescent participants for their cooperation and enjoyable moments. Requests for reprints should be sent to Ritch C. Savin-Williams, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853.


The present series of studies explores the relationship between two conceptions of self-esteem: the self as experienced by the individual and the self as presented to others. Traditional measures of self-esteem are employed, and two new methods of assessing self-esteem in adolescents are introduced: an observational measure of self-esteem behavior (presented self) and a repeated self-report measure (experienced self). The presented self (observed behavior and peer ratings) and the experienced self (Rosenberg, Lerner, and a new method, paging devices) measures were consistent within themselves in assessing self-esteem. The presented self and the experienced self were not, however, significantly related to each other. We propose a moderator variable (“defensiveness”) to explain these discrepancies, and suggest that the observation of adolescent behavior provides a more accurate assessment of self-esteem than self-report measures.