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New Study on Self-Esteem in Adolescent Women Demonstrates Affect of Race and Body Mass


Thursday, October 05, 2006

A new, long-term study of self-esteem in adolescents and young adults shows that race and body mass are important predictors of self-esteem in adolescent women.

The Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center study shows that self-worth is greater in black women after age 11 and that self-esteem is lower in both black and white women with the highest body mass indices. The study is published in the current issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

"Black women have greater satisfaction with their physical appearance throughout most of adolescence and, consistent with results we found in previous studies, may feel more comfortable with a 'thicker' body shape," says Frank Biro, MD, a physician in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Cincinnati Children's and the study's lead author.

"In addition, white girls are undergoing school transitions typically at the same time as changes in physical development and body composition. In contrast, pubertal changes in black girls occur slightly earlier, before the school transition, and which may contribute to the less negative perception of the changes in body composition."

The study involved 2,379 women from Cincinnati, Richmond, California and Washington, DC, who had been recruited into the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Growth and Health Study. These women were followed from age 9 or 10 through the age of 21 or 22.

"Previous studies from other authors have noted the impact of self-esteem on the vulnerability of adolescent women to risky behaviors," says Dr. Biro. "However, building self-esteem could improve outcomes, as suggested by a community-based study that notes lower rates of violent behaviors in those who underwent self-esteem building."

The study was funded by grants from the NHLBI and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Cincinnati Children's is a 475-bed institution devoted to bringing the world the joy of healthier kids. Cincinnati Children's is dedicated to transforming the way health care is delivered by providing care that is timely, efficient, effective, family-centered, equitable and safe. Cincinnati Children's ranks second nationally among all pediatric centers in research grants from the National Institutes of Health. It is a teaching affiliate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The Cincinnati Children's vision is to be the leader in improving child health.

Contact Information

Jim Feuer, 513-636-4656, jim.feuer@cchmc.org