Poor Self-Esteem & Reckless Behavior in Teens

By Jeremi Davidson
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Teens with low self-esteem often struggle to fit in with their peers, which can lead to external problems. Reckless or violent behavior can soon follow if teens fail to view themselves as adequate or as persons of worth in comparison to their peers, reports "Psychological Science" journal. According to the website Kids Health, youths with low self-esteem often interpret temporary problems as permanent, which can lead to depression, frustration and risky behaviors. This behavior often occurs because they do not see a solution to their problems.

Causes of Low Self-Esteem

A person's level of self-esteem changes constantly, as it first develops as an infant and continues into adulthood. For some children, low self-esteem arises when they do not feel loved. For others, it arises when they begin to question their own abilities and do not have anyone to provide support. As teens develop, they create a self-concept based on their own capabilities and achievements, reports Kids Health. If their self-concept is not accurate, they can create a negative image of themselves, leading to self-esteem problems.

Aggressive Behavior

A clear link exists between low self-esteem and aggressive behavior, according to research published in "Psychological Science" in 2005. This study shows that 11-year-olds with self-esteem problems are more likely to become aggressive in a physical or verbal manner by the age of 13 than those with healthy self-esteem. This behavior is, in part, because these individuals wish to protect themselves against their self-concept of inferiority by lashing out with anger towards others. As teens become more aggressive, they can cause physical harm to themselves and to others.


"Psychological Science" notes a link between low self-esteem and delinquency that goes beyond supportive parents and academic achievement. This study shows that teens with low self-esteem were more likely to lie to their parents or commit other non-violent acts than those with healthy self-esteem regardless of their performance in school or the relationship with their parents. Delinquency can include disobeying rules and ignoring authority figures, which can lead to legal problems.

Use of Alcohol

Although drinking is common among teens, those with self-esteem issues are more likely to drink and misuse alcohol than those with high self-esteem. The issue is present more often with males, as females with high self-esteem tend to drink as much as their peers, while males drink less, according to the "Journal of Youth and Adolescence." Alcohol use can lead to further problems, such as low test scores and poor brain development, especially if the teen chooses to binge drink.

About the Author

Jeremi Davidson began freelance writing in 2005. Davidson enjoys writing about sports and personal fitness, contributing to a number of different health and lifestyle websites. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Thompson Rivers University.