The Relationship between Self-esteem and Academic Achievement

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This paper discusses the relationship between self-esteem and academic achievement, two variables that have been shown to influence and/or predict all students’ academic successes and failures. The purpose of diving into the relationship between these is to be able to identify and develop interventions to enhance both, while assisting students in developing their academic, career and personal/social selves. Following is a description of self-esteem and academic achievement, the relationship between the two.

Sadaat, Ghasemzadeh & Soleimani (2012), conducted a research, which aims to study self-esteem and is determined link to academic achievement of university students.

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According to the results obtained from a study on 370 students, significant difference is observed in self-esteem among male and female students. However, male students for family self-esteem received higher scores than female students (t= -2/12), p< 0.05). The students of the faculties of basic sciences, psychology and educational sciences, and electro- computer showed significant difference in self-esteem. Academic self-esteem and family self-esteem on the meaningful level of P< 0.05 had a direct and positive relationship with the academic achievement of students.

Self-esteem is vital because of its power to protect and enhance a person’s feelings of self-worth and value. It is also important because it is a fundamental human motive that measures one’s experience and quality of life (Knightley & Whitelock, 2007; Lane, Lane, & Kyprianu, 2004; Pepi, Faria, & Alesi, 2006; Rosenberg, Schoenbach, Schooler, & Rosenberg, 1995; Rosenberg, Schooler, & Schoenbach, 1989; Ross & Broh, 2000). In a school setting, self-esteem is especially vital because its development is an underlying factor in promoting student motivation, persistence and academic success (Tremblay, Inman, & Willms, 2000). Rosenberg et al. (1989) viewed self-esteem as a product of social interaction dependent on reflected appraisals, social comparison, and self-attribution. Similarly, one study (Knightly & Whitelock) concluded that self-esteem is both individually and socially constructed. However, as important as self-esteem has become as a measurement of self-worth, it still does not predict the choice of personal goals, nor performance accomplishments (Lane et al.). Because the definition of self-esteem is difficult to fully encapsulate, its measurement is also problematic, especially because many students have a tendency to mark higher or lower scores depending on what they feel they are expected to record when answering their self-esteem inventories (Legum & Hoare, 2004). Accordingly, there are two types of self-esteem: global and specific, both of which can be divided into more specific waves (Rosenberg et al., 1995).. Global self-esteem measures an individual’s positive or negative attitude toward the self as a totality looking mostly at the individual’s psychological well-being, sometimes referred to as collective self-esteem (Crocker & Major, 1989). When investigating the relationship between global self-esteem and various social and psychological problems, the cause or effect remains unknown, but cultural factors have been proven to play a role (Rosenberg et al., 1989). Global self-esteem is often the discrepancy between specific selfesteem and an ideal self-esteem (Alves-Martin, Peixoto, Gouveia-Pereira, Amaral, & Pedro, 2002). Specific self-esteem measures a behavior, particularly the behavior that is being measured at any particular time (Rosenberg et al., 1995). For example, it has been argued by Van Laar (2000) that ratings of specific self-esteem are more strongly related to academic performance than global measurements. For these reasons, Rosenberg et al. (1995) notes that specific self-esteem is a better predictor of specific behaviors than global self-esteem because global self-esteem is much less likely to produce a direct effect on any behaviors or performances (such as in academia)

Academic Achievement Factors: There are certain factors that contribute greatly to academic achievement. For example, one study (Bridgeman & Shipman, 1978) noted that a student motivated to impress a teacher or the other students has to be distinguished from a child who is motivated to achieve better grades or Self-esteem and Achievement 11 to graduate higher in his/her class. Acceptance by a larger peer group might promote a sense of group belongingness and cohesion that motivates interest in classroom activities (not necessarily in receiving better grades (Wentzel & Caldwell, 1997). Feelings of classroom belongingness, peer/teacher support are associated with school motivation and expectations for academic success (Guay et al., 1999). (Crocker & Luhtanen, 2003; Freih, 2005; Suh & Suh, 2006) notes that academic competence and ability also play critical roles in predicting academic achievement and success. On a similar note, perceived academic competence can also predict academic achievement (Guay, et al.). In 1968, Erickson (as cited by Osborne, 1995) identified that academic achievement played a crucial role in forming a positive, healthy view of the self. At its highest potential, academic achievement involves a student’s psychological investment in learning, comprehending, and mastering knowledge (Suh & Suh, 2006). However, the most overt, public, visible indicators of academic achievement are school marks or grades. These are greatly valued as a determinant of one’s success in academics (Rosenberg et al., 1989). The ultimate lowest measure of academic achievement is that of a “”drop-out (Suh & Suh, 2006). Several studies (Bridgeman & Shipman, 1978; Morvitz & Motta, 1992; Shi et al., 2008; Tremblay et al.) used children in preschool through elementary school. Other studies (Alves-Martins et al., 2002; Legum & Hoare, 2004; Osborne, 1995; Ross & Broh, 2000; Rubin, 1978; Suh & Suh, 2006; Wentzel & Caldwell, 1997) looked at students in grades six through eight. Four studies (Accordino et al., 2000; Pepi et al., 2006; Rosenberg et al., 1995; Rosenberg et al., 1989) measured students at the high school level, while the remainder of the research (Crocker & Luhtanen, 2003; Freih, 2005; Knightley & Whitelock, 2007; Lane et al., 2004; Van Laar, 2000) looked at students at the university or postgraduate level.

Of all the studies, a majority of them used both males and females, except for Rosenberg et al. (1995) and Rosenberg et al. (1989), which both only used males, and Knightley & Whitelock, which only used females. Interestingly, two of the studies (Osborne, 1995; Ross & Broh; Suh & Suh) used the National Educational Longitudinal Study for their sample populations. The populations ranged from as small as 31 students (Knightly & Whitelock) to as large as 2,213 students (Rosenberg et al., 1995; Rosenberg et al., 1989). While the majority of the research used Rosenberg’s Self-esteem Inventory to measure global self-esteem, a few of the articles (Bridgeman & Shipman, 1978; Legum & Hoare, 2004; Morvitz & Motta, 1992; Rubin, 1978) used the Coopersmith Self-esteem Inventory. One other study (Alves-Martins et al., 2002) used Harter’s self-perceptions profiles for adolescents. Going against the previous research, Knightly & Whitelock (2007) used the Battle’s Self-esteem Inventory in addition to an open interview. This study as well as the one by Tremblay et al. (2000) were the only studies that used both quantitative and qualitative data to measure the variables. Academic achievement was mostly measured by grade point average (GPA) or grades, but some studies used alternate forms of measurement. In all, two of the articles (Crocker & Luhtanen, 2003; Rubin, 1978) used the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT), Bridgeman & Shipman (1978) used Gumpcookies (pictures of children acting, behaving or thinking in one of two ways, used to determine academic achievement motivation), one study (Morvitz & Motta, 1992) used the California Achievement Test, and three (Osborne, 1995; Ross & Broh, 2000; Tremblay et al., 2000) used a combination of four academic achievement tests measuring math, reading, science, and history. The final one, used the status of high school degree attainment as a measurement device (Suh & Suh, 2006). Other studies note (Knightly & Whitelock, 2007; Pepi et al., 2006; Rosenberg et al., 1989; Ross & Broh, 2000) that self-esteem can have an influence on academic performance.

This implies that students who already think highly of themselves and their worth will automatically get better grades and strive for higher academic achievement. The belief is that if the student expects the best, the student is more likely to obtain the best. Abdullah (2000) conducted a study to examine the relationship among achievement motivation, selfesteem, and locus of control and academic performance of university students in a Nigerian University. The purpose was to determine the extent university student’s academic performance was influenced by these criterion variables. One thousand, three hundred and thirty-five male and female university students from seven faculties participated in the study. They were selected by stratified cum simple random sampling techniques. Results from multiple regression analysis revealed that clearly the subjective independent variables did not predict objective measure of the students’ academic performance. Utilizing mixed methodology, this research investigates the relationship between self-esteem and academic achievement for young adolescents within two Western cultural contexts: the United States and England. Quantitative and qualitative data from eighty six North American and eighty six British adolescents were utilized ( Journal of Education and Practice ISSN 2222-1735 (Paper) ISSN 2222-288X (Online) Vol.6, No.1, 2015 158) to examine the links between self-esteem and academic achievement from the beginning to the end of their academic year during their 11th12th year of age.

For both samples, quantitative results demonstrated that fall self-esteem was related to multiple indicators of later year academic achievement. While country differences emerge by the end of the year, math appears to have a consistent relationship with self-esteem in both country contexts. Qualitative analyses found some support for British students’ self-perceptions as more accurately reflecting their academic experience than the students from the United States (Booth & Gerard, 2011). Akinleke (2012) conducted a study and the aim of this study was to discover how test anxiety and self esteem affect academic performance. Two hundred and fifty randomly drawn final year National Diploma (NDII) students of the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro were involved in the study. They were given two questionnaires that took between forty and forty five minutes to complete. The study was carried out in a classroom environment during regular school hours. After collecting information from the students through questionnaires, their comprehensive Grade Point Averages (GPA) in previous year were also collected. This GPA data were then compared to the scores obtained from the questionnaires. This study discovered that overall, low anxiety students had higher GPAs than high anxiety students and that there is a positive relationship between self esteem and academic performance. The implication of the findings were that stakeholders in education should formulate policies that help students to cope with anxiety and also initiate programs that will assist the process of learning and mastering challenges as such would result in higher academic achievement . Twinomugisha (2008), conducted a study used a correlation design .It was carried out among the students of the United States international University in East Africa.

The hypothesis of this study stated that if self-esteem increased then academic success will increase also. A total of 37 participants took part. The researcher took a sample of the senior students to examine whether their self-esteem had increased and if the increase had any relationship with their academic success. The researcher also sought to examine whether there was a difference between the levels of self-esteem development among females and males and what relationship it may have with academic achievement. The Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale was used to measure the students?? self-esteem state between their fresh man year and their senior year for any developments. The scale is a ten item Likert scales with items answered on a four point scale – from strongly agree to strongly disagree. The Scale has high reliability; test-retest correlations range from 0.82 – 0.88 and Cronbach’s alpha for various populations are in the range of 0.77 0.88.The results of this research show that there was a positive relationship (r =.048) between self-esteem and CGPA. The results confirmed that there was a negative relationship between self-esteem and gender (r= -.316) and a positive relationship between CGPA and Gender(r=.057); the Males self-esteem and CGPA increased while the Females self-esteem decreased but their grades remained constant. The study concluded that there was a positive relationship between self-esteem and academic achievement although the relationship was weak. Another study was undertaken to investigate the self-esteem and academic achievement of urban and rural adolescents, and to examine the gender differences in self-esteem and academic achievement.

The sample of this study consisted of 400 adolescents (200 urban and 200 rural) from Varanasi District. The boys and girls (aged 12 to14) were equally distributed among the urban and rural sample. Self-esteem was measured by Self-esteem questionnaire and academic achievement was measured by academic school records. The findings indicated that there were no significant differences with regard to self-esteem of rural and urban adolescents. There were significant differences with regard to academic achievement of rural and urban adolescents. Urban adolescents scored higher in academic achievement as compared to rural adolescents. Boys would score significant higher on self-esteem as compared to girls. Significant gender differences were found in academic achievement. Girls were significantly higher on academic achievement as compared to boys (Joshi & Srivastava, 2009). The relationship between self-esteem and academic achievement is one that is regarded by many educators as a well-established fact. This belief has been often invoked in order to argue against the provision of ability grouping for gifted students. Refuting that commonly-held belief, this research examined the relationship between self-esteem and academic achievement in 65 high-ability secondary students, a sample drawn from a longitudinal study of over 900 students. The research demonstrated that there were no differences in measured self-esteem between the gifted and non-gifted students. More contentiously, though, the research found no correlation between self-esteem and academic achievement for the gifted group (Vialle, Heaven & Ciarrochi, 2005).

A cross sectional study was carried out to examine the relationship between self esteem and student’s academic performance among the second year undergraduates of Faculty of Health Sciences and Faculty of Journal of Education and Practice ISSN 2222-1735 (Paper) ISSN 2222-288X (Online) Vol.6, No.1, 2015 159 Medicine. Undergraduates (n= 220, 110 males) were selected via systemic random sampling, responded on survey domains regarding their self-esteem, body area satisfaction, stress and demographic data using 3 scales Rosernberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and Body Area Satisfaction Scale (BASS). The study has found that the mean score for self-esteem scales was 17.44±3.44 with score ranged from 0 to 30 (RSES); the mean of CGPA was 3.022±0.41. The correlation between self esteem and academic performance were analyzed using Pearson’s correlation and linear regression, results showed that students with higher selfesteem perform better in their academic (p< 0.0005, r=0.32); self esteem score and body area satisfaction was significant (p< 0.05, r=0.016) and self esteem and stress is inversely significant (p< 0.05, r=-0.198). In conclusion, self-esteem is one of the key factors in affecting an individual's academic performance, more significant than other contributing factors including stress and body image (Rosli, Othman,Ishak, Lubis, Saat & Omar, 2011). Zimmerman (2010) conducted the research to identify and study key processes through which students self-regulate their academic learning . This study was to examine the relationship between academic achievement and the following variables: anxiety, self-esteem, optimism, and pessimism. The sample consisted of 400 male and female students in the Basic Education College in Kuwait. The salient findings of the investigation were the significant positive correlation between academic achievement and both optimism and self-esteem whereas the correlations were negative between academic achievement and both anxiety and pessimism (El-Anzi & Owayed, 2005) Studying and measuring the relationship between self-esteem and academic achievement is important for several reasons.

According to the self-esteem model of Ross and Broh, (2000), adolescents who feel good about themselves do better in school than do those who have low self-worth (a term commonly interrelated with self-esteem). If poor performance in academics can lead to a more negative view of oneself (Osborne, 1995), then knowing this serves as an important motivator in measuring the relationship between self-esteem and academic achievement. Overall, more successful academic accomplishments are coupled with higher self-esteem (Knightly & Whitelock). Because there is such a strong, positive relationship and a continuous interaction between these two factors (Freih, 2005; Van Laar, 2000), studying them together can serve students, teachers, counselors and anyone working in the school environment in a beneficial manner.

Many researches have been conducted to assess the relationship between self-esteem and academic performance because of the increase in demand for good academic grades and healthy mental beings. This research is important because it not only assesses the relationship between self-esteem and academic achievement in 2018 but also helps to provide the difference n self-esteem between genders, and ethnicities which is required to understand college students across America.


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The Relationship Between Self-esteem and Academic Achievement. (2019, Nov 08). Retrieved from