Self Esteem and Substance Abuse Among Adolescents – Child Development Example

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"Self Esteem and Substance Abuse Among Adolescents"  is an engrossing example of a paper on child development. The adverse effects of lack of positive self-esteem among adolescents have long been documented by many researchers. Low self-esteem in adolescence is a potential risk factor that is closely linked to a number of negative outcomes. These negative outcomes vary from poorer mental or physical health, higher levels of criminal activity, antisocial behaviors, depression, suicidal ideation, to substance abuse (Erol & Orth, 2011, p. 607). Adolescents are extremely vulnerable to substance abuse; low self-esteem is a significant contributing factor for substance abuse among adolescents.

While alcohol remains the favorite drug choice for adolescents, use of tobacco, cocaine, heroin, and steroids are also common. Substance abuse impairs the physical, cognitive, social and psychological well-being of adolescents and is strongly related to a number of risk-taking behaviors. Fostering self-esteem among adolescents has been regarded as a protective factor against substance abuse. This paper analyses the relationship between self-esteem and substance abuse among adolescents and shows how the development of self-esteem can effectively be employed as a potential tool to fight substance abuse in adolescence. Substance abuse among adolescents triggers a number of negative outcomes many of which can be avoided through the inclusion of self-esteem components.

It has been observed that adolescent substance abuse leads to “ depression, antisocial behavior, rebelliousness, aggressiveness, crime, delinquency, truancy, and poor school performance” (Armstrong & Costello, 2002, p. 1224). Similarly, the use of various drugs hampers their social and interpersonal relationships (Uba, Yaacob, Talib, Mofrad, & Abdullah, 2013, p. 214). Adolescents are being continuously subjected to societal expectations, peer pressures, and family stresses.

Therefore, high levels of self-esteem are essential for them to maintain stable mental health to manage these pressures and make balanced decisions (Donnelly, Young, Pearson, Penhollow & Hernandez, 2008, p. 390). The researchers point out that strong and healthy parental attachment may foster positive self-esteem among adolescents.     Increased levels of self-esteem act as a protective factor that guards adolescents against the ill-effects of substance abuse. Donnelly et al. , in this respect, argue that self-esteem serves as a protective factor that decreases the motivation for and increases the resistance to use drugs (    2008, p.

390). Uba et al. conducted a remarkable study among 352 adolescents between 13 to 18 years to identify the relationship between self-esteem and substance abuse. The findings of the study clearly demonstrated that adolescents with high self-esteem were better equipped to manage the challenges in their environments to overcome substance abuse (2013, p. 216). This evidence suggests the need to promote the self-esteem of adolescents to fight against all sorts of substance abuse. The purpose of this paper was to analyze how higher levels of self-esteem could effectively be employed to manage substance abuse among adolescents.

Factors such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity, gender, race, and social class play pivotal roles in molding adolescent self-esteem (Rhodes, Roffman, Reddy & Fredriksen, 2004, p. 244). It is therefore imperative to develop positive self-images and concepts among adolescents. The immediate surroundings of adolescents comprising of their family, peers, community, and school environment play a significant role in the formation of their self-esteem. On the other hand, students with low self-esteem succumb themselves so easily to substance abuse under peer pressure, depression, anxiety, or stress.  


Armstrong, T.D & Costello, E.J. (2002). Community Studies on Adolescent Substance Use, Abuse, or Dependence and Psychiatric Comorbidity. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70 (6), 1224–1239.

Donnelly, J., Young, M., Pearson, R., Penhollow, T.M & Hernandez, A. (2008). Area specific self-esteem, values, and adolescent substance use. J. Drug Education, 38(4), 389-403.

Erol, R.Y & Orth, U. (2011). Self-Esteem Development from Age 14 to 30 Years: A Longitudinal Study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(3), 607–619.

Rhodes, J., Roffman, J., Reddy, R & Fredriksen, K. (2004). Changes in self-esteem during the middle school years: a latent growth curve study of individual and contextual influences. Journal of School Psychology, 42, 243–261.

Uba, I., Yaacob, S.N., Talib, M.A., Mofrad, S & Abdullah, R. (2013). Effect of Self-Esteem in the Relationship between Stress and Substance Abuse among Adolescents: A Mediation Outcome. International Journal of Social Science and Humanity, 3(3), 214-217.

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