December 25, 2008

Shamed high self-esteem kids aggressive

Young teens with high self-esteem are more likely than teens with less self-esteem to react aggressively when they feel ashamed, a U.S. researcher said.

Young teens with low self-esteem apparently don't feel the need to protect their punctured egos, University of Michigan psychologist Brad J. Bushman -- a co-author of the study with colleagues from VU University Amsterdam and Utrecht University, both in the Netherlands -- said in a statement.

Bushman and colleagues conducted an experiment with 163 children ages 10 to 13 from Michigan middle schools. Almost all were white and 54 percent were males.

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

For the experiment, 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 another school. In reality, there was no opponent; the computer controlled all events.

Some were randomly selected for the shame condition and were told that their opponent was one of the worst players in the supposed tournament. Their last-place ranking was displayed on a Web site they believed that everyone could see.

The study, published in the journal Child Development, found no support for the traditional view that low self-esteem underlies aggression. In fact, they found that high self-esteem increased narcissistic shame-induced aggression.