Multicultural teenagers' self-esteem high: Study

October 19, 2004

While Canada's multicultural youth are exposed to a barrage of media stereotypes and pressures, their self-esteem remains high, says a University of Toronto researcher.

"There is the perception that adolescence is a challenging time for youth's self-esteem and fitting in a diverse society could play a role in this," says Nazilla Khanlou, a professor in the Faculty of Nursing and Department of Psychiatry and lead author of the study, Influences on adolescent self-esteem in multicultural Canadian secondary schools. "What we've found is that in multicultural schools, students of different ethnic backgrounds have similar levels of self-esteem, which is high."

The study, published in the September/October issue of Public Health Nursing, examined current self-esteem levels of 550 students at four predominantly multicultural schools in the Hamilton-Wentworth area. Khanlou, who completed the research as part of her doctoral studies at McMaster University, surveyed the students using both closed- and open-ended questions to measure influences that promote or challenge their self-esteem.

"The results showed that a number of different factors came into play such as school, lifestyle, personality and achievements," says Khanlou. "Relationships were also an important influence both for female and male youth." While Khanlou cautions against generalizing findings, she says the study also supports previous research that male adolescents report higher self-esteem.

"It's important that educators, health promoters and parents recognize the many ways adolescent self-esteem can be influenced," says Khanlou. "This is important since youth self-esteem is related to other mental health outcomes."
The research was funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship.

Contact: Professor Nazilla Khanlou, Faculty of Nursing, 416-978-2853, or Karen Kelly, U of T Public Affairs, 416-978-5948,

University of Toronto

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