News Day Tuesday: Teens Be Thinking Dey Da Bomb

Around 5,000 teenagers gather in front of Berlin’s town hall on November 12, 2008 to demonstrate for better education systems. (photo: Tobias Schwarz / Reuters)

Self-esteem, self-esteem…everyone’s always talking about self-esteem, especially the self-esteem of young people.  Well you know what?  It turns out that you high schoolers think quite highly of yourselves…at least according to this study that appeared in the November issue of Psychological Science.  (You can read more about the study here and here.)

Researchers examined answers that thousands of U.S. high school students gave to questions about how they viewed themselves.  They found that of the students surveyed in 2006:

  • 15.6% reported earning an A average in high school, compared to 7.7% in 1976
  • 54.4% thought they’d be “very good” parents, compared to 35.6% in 1975
  • 56.4% thought they’d be “very good” spouses, compared to 36.7% in 1975
  • 64.7% thought they’d be “very good” workers, compared to 48.8% in 1975
  • 72.8% said they were satisfied with themselves, compared to 67.4% in 1975

So yay right?  It seems like students today are more confident in themselves.  This news is all peaches and cream and rainbows and giggles!  But ohhhh…Jean Twenge of San Diego State University (one of the researchers of the study) says hold on and pump the brakes!

“What this shows is that confidence has crossed over into overconfidence…High school students‘ responses have crossed over into a really unrealistic realm, with three-fourths of them expecting performance that’s effectively in the top 20 percent.”  According to Twenge, “uncritical boosterism” by parents and grade inflation by teachers may be fostering expectations that could be in for a rude awakening in the real world.  And Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University who has studied self-esteem, worries that kids may have become more fragile and less able to take criticism well.  He says, “Thinking you’re God’s gift to the world is nice for you.  It’s a little harder for everyone else around you.”  Ouch.

But hey…it’s not all rain on the parade!  Even Twenge stresses that thinking you’re the bomb isn’t necessarily bad: “Young people have always had some degree of starry-eyed optimism, and that’s probably a good thing.  And setting goals for yourself is a good thing.  It’s just when those goals are wildly unrealistic, then that can cause trouble for everyone.”

Jennifer Crocker, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and a longtime researcher in self-esteem, says that today’s youth might be right to be more self-confident: “The fact is that we are all getting smarter – IQ is going up quite dramatically over this same period of time.  Students may believe that they are getting trained better than they used to, that they are learning skills that they didn’t use to have.  So, maybe their predictions aren’t unreasonable.”

Also chiming in is Brent Roberts, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who argues that not only is high self-esteem more likely to protect youth against depression, but that having optimistic goals may lead people to do better.  He says, “We don’t know what these kids eventually are going to do.  Maybe a lot of them will be great workers and better at family life than their parents were.”

So does this study reflect your reality?  Are y’all as confident as this study suggests?  Do you think having high self-esteem is good?  Bad?  A double-edged sword?  Twenge mentioned “unrealistic” goals and expectations.  What does that mean?  How do you know if you’re being “unrealistic”?  Where do you draw the line between being practical and limiting yourself?  Is it bad to aim too high?


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9 Responses to “News Day Tuesday: Teens Be Thinking Dey Da Bomb”

  1. jessica f Says:

    GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD mornin Kathy! I love the weekly newsdays! This article is pretty interesting. I wasn’t aware that confidence among teens has been increasing. I think its a double-edge sword. It’s wonderful that teens now-a-days have that confidence to pursue things they want to, or even feel confident and positive. This can have a positive effect on the population as a whole.
    On the other hand, it is hard in the real world. We don’t always get what we feel we deserve. But, we learn to adjust and eventually realize we get what the world offers. It’s not always fair, but we learn to deal. Some times, if we look hard enough, we do get what we get what we feel we deserve-just not in the place we’re looking for.

  2. MarilyneL Says:

    Well, yes I think we are more prepared or we are more aware of “what life is”. However, I also feel like there are so many things we ignore about a bunch of things just like steps you have to follow when you buy a house, a car, insurances, etc…lol But, as I like to remind myself and others, if our parents and our parents’ parents managed to do it, we certainely can! 😀

  3. Aurélie Says:

    Hi !

    Aurélie, a french fan (sorry for my english).
    Kisses and happy new year everybody !!! Congratulations (again) for Kendra 😉
    Salut !
    Joyeux anniversaire, Kristin !
    Aurélie, une fan française (désolée pour mon anglais).

    Bisous et bonne année à tous ! Encore toutes mes félicitations à Kendra !

  4. taylor nikole Says:

    okay okay study scares me
    am i not normal or something?

    1) I’ll be the first to admit I’ve struggled in school, especially this year.

    2) Okay maybe I wouldn’t suck as a parent, but I’d be totally stumped on what to do first and then what to do next…
    (scared to death)

    3) Hmmm good spouse… how am i supposed to know.. I see myself as the person with commitment problems

    4) good workers
    muahah maybe if i was doing something that could really keep me focused and i loved
    otherwise there is pure procrastination and laziness..
    oh boy

    but then there is the last one…
    okay I’ll admit that at times I may be hard on myself…. and sometimes I’m compared to other members of my family (their success etc.).. but for the most part.. I’m thankful for who i am and what i have… my abilities to do things others cant… and my ability to not do things others can..

    Although I get where this is coming from… alot of people at my school are like that..
    and are usually the ones that you hope don’t reproduce in life.

    Hmmm I love something about a certain level of modesty.. sure you can be proud of yourself and share that.. but don’t flaunt it…

    and I agree with MarilyneL 😀

  5. G Says:

    I’m not going to wholeheartedly agree with this, because I know studies only tend to show a bias toward their subject. However, being a teen, yes, yes, a lot of us are self-absorbed little bastards. But ya know, some of us have our good moments *looks around*

  6. Auntie Kailin Says:

    Interesting. I thought our generation of teens were da bomb! Don’t most teens think they are? I think it is physical and hormonal – a stage we humans go through where we do see ourselves through rose-colored lenses. But then again, I think past generation of teens have been more sheltered, protected. Parents in the past have also not been as involved nor into developing their kids’ self-confidence. I really admire today’s teens – they are more mature and prepare for adulthood than previous generations because they’re more connected, savvy, and aware. Oh goodness, I can’t even tell you what preschoolers are learning these days, which will blow your mind! Just wait when they’re teens.

  7. taylor nikole Says:

    “self-absorbed little bastards”

    ohhh G you think to highly of yourself

  8. Kristina Says:

    Haha yep, teens are pretty cocky in thinking we’re always right about everything. I’m gonna say that having high self esteem is ultimately better than having low self esteem. However, a little modesty never hurt anyone

  9. Emma-Lu Says:

    mmmm I must say for me that a combination of modesty and confidence is the most appealing trait. If those 2 things can be merged into 1 person somehow.
    Personally, I don’t think it’s that good to think toooo highly of yourself as it could set you up for a fall.
    Having said that there is nothing wrong with having good self esteem, but as long as it doesn’t border on arrogant. Good self esteem should be about being able to take criticism or to make mistakes and not feel crushed along the way.
    I have learnt some of my best lessons in life during the hardest ‘knocks’ that my esteem took.

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