Reflected self-esteem, identity, and mental health in adolescence
Evenson, Ranae Jo
This dissertation examines how identity processes affect teens’ mental health as they move through adolescence and transition into young adulthood. Using seven waves of panel data in the National Youth Survey (N = 1725), I test three main hypotheses. First, I argue that reflected self-esteem plays an important role in the development of adolescents’ sense of self. Adolescents whose reflected self-esteem is positive should experience better well-being than those persons with negative reflected self-esteem. Second, positive reflected self-esteem should be directly related to greater salience of and more time spent in the role-identity that is attached to the source of the reflected self-esteem. Finally, the relationship between reflected self-esteem and mental health should be medicated by the salience and the amount of time spent in the role. The first two hypotheses are strongly supported, but not the third. Implications of these findings are discussed. By understanding the identity process among adolescents, we may better explain how it is that teens in the United States come to avoid or to suffer detrimental and possibly debilitating mental health problems.