Nav: Home

Positive relationships boost self-esteem, and vice versa

September 26, 2019

Does having close friends boost your self-esteem, or does having high self-esteem influence the quality of your friendships?

Both, according to a meta-analysis of more than two decades of research, published by the American Psychological Association.

"For the first time, we have a systematic answer to a key question in the field of self-esteem research: Whether and to what extent a person's social relationships influence his or her self-esteem development, and vice versa, and at what ages," said study author Michelle A. Harris, PhD, of The University of Texas at Austin. "The answer to what age groups is across the life span."

The research was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Harris and her co-author, Ulrich Orth, PhD, of the University of Bern, analyzed 52 studies involving more than 47,000 participants (54% female) looking at either the effect of self-esteem on social relationships over time or the reverse effect. The studies, all published between 1992 and 2016, included multiple countries (e.g., 30 samples from the United States, four from Switzerland, three from Germany, two each from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Greece, Russia and Sweden). Participants were 60% white, 2% Hispanic/Latino, 12% other predominantly another ethnicity and 19% mixed ethnicities. Samples ranged from early childhood to late adulthood.

The authors found that positive social relationships, social support and social acceptance help shape the development of self-esteem in people over time across ages 4 to 76. The authors also found a significant effect in the reverse direction. While earlier research had yielded inconsistent findings, the meta-analysis supports the classic and contemporary theories of the influence of self-esteem on social connections and the influence of social connections on self-esteem, according to Harris. The findings were the same after accounting for gender and ethnicity.

"The reciprocal link between self-esteem and social relationships implies that the effects of a positive feedback loop accumulate over time and could be substantial as people go through life," according to Harris.

The authors discuss the idea that positive relationships with parents may cultivate self-esteem in children, which leads to more positive relationships with peers in adolescence, which may further strengthen the self-esteem of emerging adults, and so on into late adulthood. However, the field is still in need of an integrated theory that can explain whether relationships have such a cumulative effect across life, or whether certain relationships become particularly important at certain ages.

When self-esteem or quality of social relationships is low, Harris noted, it can negatively affect the other factor, and set off a downward spiral, making clinical interventions especially important to offset this potentially adverse development.

"The fact that the effect did not differ significantly among studies with different sample characteristics strengthens confidence in the robustness of our findings," said Harris.

"We found a limited number of longitudinal studies on self-esteem and specific relationships in adulthood as well as studies using measures other than self-report, so our findings only begin to speak to these groups, and we look forward to future work oriented towards filling these gaps."
-end-
Article: "The Link Between Self-Esteem and Social Relationships: A Meta-Analysis of Longitudinal Studies," by Michelle A. Harris, PhD, The University of Texas at Austin and Ulrich Orth, PhD, University of Bern. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published online Sept. 26, 2019.

Full text of the article can be found online at https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-pspp0000265.pdf

Contact: Michelle Harris can be contacted via email at michelleaharris@utexas.edu.

American Psychological Association

Related Relationships Articles:

Disruptions of salesperson-customer relationships. Is that always bad?
Implications from sales relationship disruptions are intricate and can be revitalizing.
Do open relationships really work?
Open relationships typically describe couples in which the partners have agreed on sexual activity with someone other than their primary romantic partner, while maintaining the couple bond.
The 7 types of sugar daddy relationships
University of Colorado Denver researcher looks inside 48 sugar daddy relationships to better understand the different types of dynamics, break down the typical stereotype(s) and better understand how these relationships work in the United States.
Positive relationships boost self-esteem, and vice versa
Does having close friends boost your self-esteem, or does having high self-esteem influence the quality of your friendships?
Strong family relationships may help with asthma outcomes for children
Positive family relationships might help youth to maintain good asthma management behaviors even in the face of difficult neighborhood conditions, according to a new Northwestern University study.
In romantic relationships, people do indeed have a 'type'
Researchers at the University of Toronto show that people do indeed have a 'type' when it comes to dating, and that despite best intentions to date outside that type -- for example, after a bad relationship -- some will gravitate to similar partners.
Advancing dementia and its effect on care home relationships
New research published today in the journal Dementia by researchers from the University of Chichester focuses on the effects of behavioral change due to dementia in a residential care home setting.
Passion trumps love for sex in relationships
When women distinguish between sex and the relational and emotional aspects of a relationship, this determines how often couples in long-term relationships have sex.
The interplay between relationships, stress, and sleep
A new Personal Relationships study documents how the quality of a person's romantic relationship and the life stress he or she experiences at two key points in early adulthood (at age 23 and 32) are related to sleep quality and quantity in middle adulthood (at age 37).
From asexuality to heteroflexibility: New openness about intimate relationships
The 21st century has ushered in a ''quiet revolution'' in the diversity of intimate relationships, and a leading scholar says the scale and pace of this social transformation warrants a ''reboot'' of relationship studies.
More Relationships News and Relationships Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#542 Climate Doomsday
Have you heard? Climate change. We did it. And it's bad. It's going to be worse. We are already suffering the effects of it in many ways. How should we TALK about the dangers we are facing, though? Should we get people good and scared? Or give them hope? Or both? Host Bethany Brookshire talks with David Wallace-Wells and Sheril Kirschenbaum to find out. This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News. Related links: Why Climate Disasters Might Not Boost Public Engagement on Climate Change on The New York Times by Andrew Revkin The other kind...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab