Native American Adolescent Females and Self-Esteem Concerns

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 12
Words: 3427
Reading time:
14 min
Study level: PhD


Self-esteem is a significant factor in determining how people make certain choices that make them fit within particular social groups. In the present paper, the focus is to investigate the causes and how low self-esteem influences Native American girls. The main causes of low self-esteem among them are peer or social group, pubertal changes, and body image. Adoption of concepts of cognitive psychology is an imperative remedy and mechanism of preparing Native American girls to embrace the likelihood of facing low self-esteem during adolescent age long before they attain the adolescent age.

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Introduction to the Study

Introduction and problem statement

Self-esteem has an incredible impact on the everyday lives of different groups of people. However, the concept has no universally acceptable definition- it has attracted valid definitions among various psychology scholars. Maslow is one of the best-known psychologists to make use of the term. It is a constituent of one of the elements of his hierarchical order of human needs (Rouse, 2010, p.9). After Maslow, many other scholars have emerged all attempting to devise a universally acceptable definition of the construct. For instance, Marcotte, Fortin, Potvin, and Papillon (2002) defined Self-esteem as encompassing the manner in which children think about themselves depending on their attributes coupled with their abilities (p.31). On the other hand, Lawrence and & Thelen (1995) see self-esteem as entailing “the overall assessment of one’s value as an individual” (p.42). Amid the differing definitions, children psychology scholars largely contend that self-esteem is critical in influencing the development of children throughout their adolescent age. When one discovers that kids have low self-esteem, it is crucial for actions to be taken to assist them to enhance the style of perceiving themselves: not as inferiors. According to Shechtman (2007), one of the most plausible ways of doing this is to provide a “supportive environment in which the children feel safe to self-disclose and try new things” (p.294). Unfortunately, the environment subjected to children on daily basis has toxicities of various social profiling. The media mostly propagates these toxicities. Even though the influence of social profiling especially media profiling impacts people of various ages and gender, the impact is more pronounced on adolescents among Native Americans. For instance, media serves noble roles in shaping the “the perfect” model (athletic, smart, thin, and fashionable) of a typical beautiful Native American girl. For the adolescent girls who feel that they deviate from this perfect model, it becomes practically impossible for them to think freely and positively about themselves (McCabe & Ricciardelli, 2003, p.17). Due to the perception of inability to meet the media anticipations, such girls may end up developing hopelessness. This influences their self-esteem. In this context, the paper holds that, among adolescents, the influence of media afflicts girls most in comparison to boys. From this fundamental perspective, this paper focuses on scrutinizing the concerns of self-esteem among Native American females.

The rationale for the Research

Deterioration of self-esteem during adolescent age is a contributor to self-deprecating behavior during adulthood. Fox et al (2005) share this line of view when he argues out that the low self-esteem encountered by young adults is a product of low self-esteem experienced during pre-teen age (p.17). The rationale behind this study rests on the idea that, if it is impossible to manage devastation of self-esteem among Native American females during adolescence (this age being most susceptible to foreign influences apart from one’s personal influences), it is possible to avoid the replication of these influences in adulthood. Nevertheless, why focus on young females? Numerous studies have argued and demonstrated successfully that the state of self-esteem among adolescent Native American females begins to deteriorate as early as the age of 11. Rare cases occur at the age of 12 and 13, apparently because of environmental changes (such as school shifts) coupled with the onset of puberty (Kostanski & Gullone, 2007, p.307). One major rationale behind focusing on females as opposed to males is because depression relates to self-esteem and body image among girls in comparison to boys (McVey & Davis, 2002, p.96). This makes the field of epistemological research register cases of the prevalence of depression among girls as one of the vital findings. For this reason, there exists a need for the development of a body of research dedicated to addressing the causes of low self-esteem among Native American females.

Methodology and Research strategy


This study depends largely on secondary data in the development of its premises. The methodology adopted is hence conducting an analysis of research on the results obtained by various scholarly findings available at both physical and online libraries.

Research Strategy

This research employed two strategies. The first is to open up Walden university library. The second was to establish a connection with the EBSCOhost academic library. This was vital since, in these sites, chances of encountering high-quality peer-reviewed academic journals were high. A search was conducted in the two sites using the keywords “adolescent self-esteem”. However, this yielded a large number of results making it necessary to narrow the search. Consequently, qualifiers such as “Native American” and “females” were added to the original keywords. This yielded a more particular set of academic journal reporting specifically data related to the American context.

Analysis and potential confounding variables

The phenomenological approach comes in handy in the analysis of the information and data garnered in this research. This is important since the research is based on the perception that experiences encountered by people play pivotal roles in the provision of ample understanding of the experiences that people go through. A major potential confounding variable is variance of the study group members’ (Native American girls) capacity to experience the onset of the adolescent stage at varying chronological ages.

Significance and limitations

This research is significant to the extent that the results obtained may help in prescribing possible programs vital for tackling issues that may lead to adolescents encountering loss of self-esteem early enough during preschool age. A scrutiny of the self-esteem concerns among native American adolescents is vital since, in the event of poor self-worth perceptions among such girls, the perceptions have the capacity to truncate into cyclic incidences of making poor choices. On the extreme scale, this may result in depressive situations.

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The phenomenological approach embraces introspection of a wide variety of results of various studies. Consequently, the fact that every study is normally unique as it seeks to seal a certain scholarly gap, acts as a major limitation of this study. This is because it is virtually impossible to encounter several researchers studying exactly the same phenomenon in terms of both structure and variables. To counter this limitation, the research presumes that some of the changes that adolescents go through in their journey towards adulthood are similar across all races of Native Americans. This makes utilizing the premises held by various studies on the impacts of low self-esteem on varying races of Native American girls possible while attempting to lay some theoretical constructs of the possible causes of the prevalence of low self-esteem among Native American adolescents. Another limitation rests on the fact the research depends on secondary data in making its premises. The absence of primary data makes it impossible to make a literal comparison of results obtained firsthand by the researcher and the secondary data.

Research Question and Research Hypothesis

In any scholarly inquiry, research questions are vital since they act as the guide to the inquiry process. In this research, it is hypothesized that differences in economic status deprive off young native American girls of the opportunity to acquire outfits and body shapes characteristic of what is profiled as “perfect” in the media. Stemming from this hypothesis, using secondary data garnered from the Walden University and EBSCOhost library and policy papers, the research addresses two questions. These are

· Why do young Native American females, specifical adolescents, have deferring personal perceptions leading to deferring levels of self-esteem? The objective here is to propose possible causes of low self-esteem among Native American adolescents.

· What is the role of cognitive theory in influencing the self-esteem of Native American adolescents? The response to this question is an attempt to propose a remedy to the problem of the prevalence of low self-esteem among Native American adolescent females as compared to males.

Definition of Theoretical Constructs

In this research, some technical words are crucial to define. The first term is adolescents. For the purposes of the research, this term refers to persons belonging to the age bracket of 11 to 14 years. Body image refers to “someone’s mental opinion of his or her own physical appearance” (Steese, 2006, p.61). On the other hand, the definition used in this research paper for self-esteem is the one adopted by Khanlou. In this context, self-esteem is “an expression of self-approval or disapproval, indicating the extent to which a person believes he or she is competent, successful, significant, and worthy (Khanlou, 2004, p.409). Another crucial theoretical construct is social cognitive psychology. This theory introspects the interactions of people, behavior, and environment. It holds that, just as the person and the environment do not result in behavior; person and behaviors combined cannot generate the environmental factor. The argument here is that these three factors influence people differently.

Literature Review

Given the prevalence of low self-esteem among native American females in comparison to their age mates counterpart males, an ever-expanding dearth of literature exist principally focusing on the manner in which self-esteem among girls needs to be improved. This extensive body of literature introspects various areas that are critical for improvement. They include social competence, physical appearance (body image), academic competence, and athletic competence among others (Rigby & Waite, 2006, p.361). In this context, it is apparent that self-esteem is a function of many constructs. Hence, inculcating it among the most susceptible group of Native American girls-adolescents- requires an integrated approach. In this section of the paper, peer or social group influences, pubertal changes, body image, depression, and social learning factors are scrutinized from the dimension of an existing body of knowledge addressing how these factors impact self-esteem among native American adolescents girls (young females). Unfortunately, little empirical evidence exists on the most crucial risk factors likely to translate into low self-esteem among these Native American adolescent girls. Crucial to note is that, by considering the absence of cute preventive programs vital to address various low self-esteem risk factors, it implies that strategies and programs to mitigate this problem need to be squarely informed by mechanisms of identification of such risk factors.

Peer or Social Groups

Across all genders, a certain acceptable set of social behaviors begins to form right from the preschool age (O’Dea & Abraham, 2000, p.45). During school age, pupils form friendship circles taking the form of one ‘best friend’ rotating from one child to the other. This friendship circle reinforces and serves as a guide of what is ethically acceptable among all the members of a small social group. When adolescent age comes around, friendship circles become even further magnified to embrace more members from all genders. From this age henceforth, “the role played by peers becomes influential in relationships as it may serve as a substantive prototype for adult relationships” (Hankin, Mermelstein & Roesch, 2007, p.123). Most important is that the established set of codes defining a particular social group at an adolescent age may affect negatively those persons who may fail to achieve the caliber deserved to belong to that particular social group.

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While discussing the impacts of peer interests on the self-esteem of Native American girls, Steese et al (2006) single outage separation as being one of the dominant issues that influence self-esteem (p.57). This is evident because high school and middle age students have rare situations in which they form friendship relationships with persons older than they are (Hankin, Mermelstein & Roesch, 2007, p.125). This results in constraining the functions of friendship to the interpretation of only persons of a specific age group, hence, the wider the negation of the picture of friendship. Where fragmentations occur based on race, athletic achievements, social class, or academic achievements, chances are that certain members of a particular peer group may become disadvantaged. The quest to determine the specific condition acts as a factor for their isolation from their childhood members, such girls may develop poor self-image and hence low self-esteem. Adolescent peer groups have an immense role in shaping the emotional traits of all their members. They induce the formation of pillars of determining the manner in which adolescents interact with other members of the society, how to maintain social bonds, coping mechanisms, and sources of emotional aid among others (Nichols & Utesch, 1998, p.272). Where one develops these qualities poorly, she may end up perceiving herself as the old one out and hence low self-esteem.

Pubertal Changes

The occurrence of puberty is different among different people. However, the average age at which it occurs is nine years (Zimet, Dahlem & Farley, 1998, p.33). For young girls, the increment of progesterone and estrogen hormonal levels is the mark for puberty. This causes sporadic changes in growth including the development of secondary sexual traits among them breasts development, menstruation, and widening of hips among others. These developments are essential as the body begins to prepare for childbearing. While the most conspicuous changes are physical, mental changes also take place. These include premenstrual symptoms and behaviors that are moody among others. Mood swings, higher tendencies of getting irritated, and bloating mark premenstrual symptoms. Coincidentally, pubertal changes occur at a period in which young girls become aware of their concerns about body images. Consequently, they evaluate their body image relationships from the perspectives of their peers and the images of women depicted and promoted by the media (Shore & Porter, 1990, p.203). Where the pubertal changes result in variation of the profiled body image in the media, the girls may develop a poor perception towards their body images and hence their self-esteem.

Body Image

Media profiles how young girls define how they deserve to look if they have to have a perfect modeling figure. This translates into the construction of metal opinions on one’s physical appearance: body image. In the case of adolescent girls, this kind of opinion distorts peer influences and self-esteem (Steese et al, 2006, p.71). In particular, media fosters certain cultural norms in relation to body size, weight, and shape. Sometimes, such norms are both unattainable and unrealistic for some Native adolescent American girls. Consequently, the girls may develop eating disorders and depression while not negating poor self-esteem (Collins, 2003, p.16). Apparently, women tend to define themselves based on weight and their dress sizes. Upon bringing into the limelight the perception that depicts certain levels of weight as a blow to becoming a beauty queen, media makes most adolescent girls get sad about certain elements of their bodies. This is critical for Native American girls since “women often tie self-concept to their body image” (Hankin, Mermelstein & Roesch, 2007, p.125). Women are most essentially born without this kind of behavior that is ideally self-deprecating. Rather, they acquire it from the environment. Rapid growth characteristic of puberty initiates at age of nine and alters throughout preadolescent age to the adolescent age. Hankin, Mermelstein, and Roesch (2007) share this line of argument and further note that this rapid growth is predominantly responsible for the “creation of body image at this malleable age” (p.146). Worse still, negative body image at adolescent age is highly detrimental in the sense that it may end up being permanent (Rigby, & Waite, 2006, p.363). Therefore, the construction of certain approaches to one’s perception of her body image effects in a devastative way on Native American adolescents’ self-esteem. This is particularly critical in case it emerges as conflicting both physical and mental well-being of the young females.


Depression affects virtually every aspect of the life of adolescents in-home settings, school settings, and social relationships settings in a negative. Amid this harm, adolescent depression may be hard to diagnose as it may be confused with irritability and mood swings. A study by LeCroy (2004) estimates that depression among Native American adolescents’ stands at 20 percent (p.428). Some of the prominent signs of depression among adolescents include changes in appetite, lack of enthusiasm, sadness, and self withdrawal. These signs are critical in affecting personal self-esteem in the sense that depression has the capacity to trigger or amplify perceptions of self-worthlessness, self-doubt, feeling of being irrelevant in comparison to certain persons, and image distortion (Stallard et al, 2008, p.284). Depression among adolescents occurs because of a variety of reasons including peer pressures, inappropriate body image, and parental depressions among other reasons. Low self-esteem has a direct association with depression, “depression accounts for the majority of explained variances in scores on depression scales (31%) with no other factor explaining more than 5% of variance” (MacPhee & Andrews, 2006, p.73). What comes out of these findings is surprising in that instances of occurrence of depression can serve to predict self-esteem. The worse part of this argument is that depression is dominant among female adolescents (MacPhee & Andrews, 2006, p.73). This dominance is a character of the onset of puberty, body image, and poor parenting. Unfortunately, these factors produce more pronounced effects on females than males with females twice as likely to get depressed in comparison to their male counterparts (Hankin, Mermelstein & Roesch, 2007, p.127). Consequently, it is possible to argue that female adolescents are more likely to be prone to stressors than male adolescents are.

Social Cognitive Theory

There exists an immense body of research studying the problems experienced by young Native American girls during the transition age to puberty: adolescents. However, an enormous gap exists on how the girls may get prepared to deal with the challenges so that they do not result in having dwindled self-esteem. Nevertheless, social cognitive theory plays a central role in studying these difficulties in an attempt to engineer an effective way of countering these challenges. Psychologists have used this theory in making predictions of behavioral changes related to health conditions following exposure to HIV coupled with the use of contraception among adolescents. This theory holds that “behaviors requiring decision making are highly dependent on cognitive characteristics of adolescents coupled with their personal social relationships” (Wentzel, 1998, p.203). The value of the theory in influencing the self-esteem of Native American girls rests on the interrelationships between its fundamental pillars: environment, people, and behavior. The environment has many influencers including media and provides the basis for shaping behavior (Pajares, 2001, p.29). Variations of this factor in impacting the changes that Native American girls undergo during the adolescent period are thus critical in impairing the behaviors developed towards their body image and hence self-esteem. In this context, social cognitive theory acts to provide clarification of “how people attain and preserve certain behavioral patterns” (Wentzel, 1998, p.206). The theory also postulated the possible intervention tactics. Consequently, the theory is instrumental in ensuring that caregivers are able to induce and maintain the self-esteem of female adolescents.

Results and Discussion

Upon introspection of the wide body of literature, the hypothesis that differences in economic status deprive off young native American girls of the opportunity to acquire outfits and body shapes characteristic of what is profiled as “perfect” in the media was confirmed. In this connection, media acts as the principal channel for acerbating possible causes of low self-esteem prevalence among Native American adolescent females. These causes include negative body image, the onset of puberty, peer or social group influences, and depression. In absence of media profiling, cognitive psychology may form a subtle way of curtailing the impacts of these causes of low self-esteem, as it would enable adolescents to embrace the physical and emotional changes they encounter during adolescents from personal perspectives as opposed to their peer’s perspectives. Programs engineered to enhance self-esteem are recommended as being vital in helping Native American girls to cope with emotional challenges encountered during the adolescent age.

This is because “girls entering adolescent age experience a free fall in self-esteem from which some will never recover” (Robertson & Simons, 1989,

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p.125). Therefore, low self-esteem experiences at adolescent age are a key indicator of the probability of encountering behavioral and emotional problems in the future. Such problems include depression, dissatisfaction with life generally, drugs abuse, social anxiety, and isolation among others. Some of the programs that may be useful in resolving this challenge include interactive approaches for promoting self-esteem that is school-based and promotion of the perception that everybody is unique.


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