Kids with high self-esteem more aggressive

December 20th, 2008 - 12:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 20 (IANS) Children who think highly of themselves are more likely to react aggressively when they feel ashamed than their peers with lower self-esteem, a new study says. “Young teens with low self-esteem apparently don’t feel the need to protect their punctured egos,” said University of Michigan psychologist Brad J. Bushman, co-author of the study with colleagues from VU University and Utrecht University in The Netherlands.

Bushman, Sander Thomaes and colleagues conducted an experiment with 163 children aged 10 to 13 years from Michigan middle schools. Almost all were white and slightly more than half - 54 percent - were males.

A few weeks before participating in the on-line experiments, the kids filled out a questionnaire designed to assess their levels of self-esteem and narcissism.

Researchers measured self-esteem by assessing the degree to which participants were satisfied with themselves and the way they led their lives.

Sample statements included “some kids like the kind of person they are” and “some kids are not very happy with the way they do a lot of things”. They were asked if they were like that.

Narcissism included grandiose views of themselves, inflated feelings of superiority and entitlement, and exploitative interpersonal attitudes, assessed by questions such as: “Without me, our class would be much less fun;” “Kids like me deserve something extra;” and “I often succeed in getting admiration.”

For the experiment, the children were told they would be competing on an Internet reaction-time game called FastKid! against an opponent of the same sex and age from a school in Columbus, Ohio, said a Michigan release.

In reality, there was no opponent; the computer controlled all events. Those who were randomly selected for the “shame condition” were told that their opponent was one of the worst players in the supposed tournament, and they should easily win; when they lost, their last-place ranking was displayed on a website they believed that everyone could see. Children were told they could blast their opponent with a loud noise after winning a trial.

The narcissistic kids were more aggressive than others, but only after they had been shamed. “Narcissists seem highly motivated to create and maintain a grandiose view of self,” the researchers wrote.

“They tend to interpret social situations in terms of how they reflect on the self, and they engage in self-regulatory strategies to protect self-esteem when they need to. As shameful situations constitute a threat to grandiosity, narcissistic shame-induced aggression can likely be viewed as defensive effort to maintain self-worth.”

The study was published in the December issue of Child Development.

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