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The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology

The degree to which one values oneself. Note that although the word esteem carries the connotation of high worth or value, the combined form, self-esteem, refers to the full dimension and the degree of self-esteem (high or low) is usually specified. Contrast with SELF-APPRAISAL, from which the evaluative component is absent. Note that the referential domain of the term is sometimes extended to include the esteem of a group with which one identifies or is a member of. See here, SELF-ENHANCEMENT.

The term self-esteem was first coined by William James in 1890, which makes it one of the oldest concepts in psychology. Self-esteem’s importance is often seen in relation to such crucial areas as human motivation, development, performance, coping ability, relationship formation, psychopathology, and mental health or overall well-being. Self-esteem also appears to be the third most frequently occurring theme in psychological literature, with more than 25,000 articles, chapters, and books written on the topic (Rodewalt & Tragakis, (2003)). Given such a long and important history, it is not surprising to find several definitions of self-esteem in the field (Mruk, (2006)). Three of these definitions generate distinct schools of thought consisting of central ideas about self-esteem, major theories consistent with each set of ideas, and a related body of research concerning the role self-esteem plays in behavior. Therefore, understanding self-esteem and its...    Continue Reading

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