September 4


Why Late Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood Boost Your Self-Esteem: The Science Behind It

By Joshua Turner

September 4, 2023

Self-esteem is a crucial component of an individual’s mental health and well-being. It affects how we perceive ourselves and our abilities and influences our behavior and decision-making.

While self-esteem can fluctuate throughout our lives, it tends to increase in late adolescence and emerging adulthood. This period of life is characterized by significant changes in social roles, relationships, and identity development, which can contribute to higher levels of self-esteem.

During adolescence and emerging adulthood, individuals start to form their own identities, which can lead to a greater sense of control over their lives. This newfound autonomy can boost self-esteem, as individuals feel more confident in their abilities and decisions. Emerging adults tend to experience positive social interactions and relationships, which can contribute to higher levels of self-esteem.

Key Takeaways



During adolescence, young people experience significant physical changes due to puberty. These changes can cause adolescents to feel self-conscious and insecure about their bodies. However, as they adjust to these changes, they may also feel more confident about their appearance and themselves.

High School Student

High school is when many adolescents focus on their education and future goals. They may feel pressure to perform well academically, participate in extracurricular activities, and prepare for college or a career. These experiences can help adolescents develop a sense of competence and confidence in their abilities.

Circle of Friends

Adolescents often form close friendships with peers who share similar interests and values. These friendships can provide a sense of belonging and support, boosting self-esteem. However, negative experiences with friends, such as rejection or conflict, can also harm self-esteem.

Self-Esteem and Beliefs

Their beliefs and values influence adolescents’ self-esteem. Those who value personal qualities such as kindness and honesty may have higher self-esteem than those who prioritize external factors such as appearance or popularity. Adolescents with positive beliefs about themselves are likelier to have higher self-esteem.

Music and Identity Exploration

Music can be a powerful tool for adolescents to explore their identities and express themselves. Listening to music that reflects their values and experiences can help boost self-esteem and provide a sense of validation. However, negative messages and themes in music can also harm self-esteem.


Depression is a common mental health issue among adolescents. It can cause feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem. Adolescents who struggle with depression may benefit from therapy and other forms of support to help them develop a more positive self-image.


Romantic relationships can have a significant impact on adolescents’ self-esteem. Positive relationships can provide a sense of validation and support, while negative relationships can lead to feelings of rejection and low self-worth. Adolescents in healthy relationships may have higher self-esteem than those who are not.


Emerging Adulthood

Transition to Adulthood

Emerging adulthood is a time of transition from adolescence to adulthood, marked by the search for identity and independence. During this period, young adults experience a sense of instability as they move away from their parents and try to establish themselves as independent individuals. This instability can be exciting and challenging as young adults explore new opportunities and face new responsibilities.

Work and Education

Work and education are key areas of focus during emerging adulthood. Many young adults are pursuing higher education, which can provide them with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the workforce. However, transitioning from education to work can be difficult, as young adults may struggle to find employment matching their skills and interests.

Romantic Relationships

Romantic relationships are also an important aspect of emerging adulthood. Many young adults are exploring their sexuality and forming intimate relationships for the first time. These relationships can be both exciting and challenging as young adults navigate the complexities of love and intimacy.


Parenthood is another area of focus for some young adults during emerging adulthood. While many young adults delay parenthood until later in life, others start families younger. Parenthood can be rewarding and challenging as young adults learn to balance work, family, and personal life demands.

Overall, emerging adulthood is a time of great possibility and change. While it can be challenging, it is also a time of growth and exploration as young adults learn to navigate the complexities of adulthood and establish themselves as independent individuals.


Brain Development

As the frontal cortex develops during late adolescence and emerging adulthood, executive functions like planning, decision-making, and impulse control improve. It allows individuals to navigate complex social situations and make more informed choices.

Work and Society

In industrialized countries like the United States, work significantly shapes an individual’s self-esteem. As young adults enter the workforce and establish themselves in their careers, they may feel a sense of pride and accomplishment that boosts their self-esteem.

Marriage and Parenthood

For some individuals, marriage and parenthood can also contribute to increased self-esteem. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that married individuals tend to have higher levels of self-esteem than single individuals, while parenthood can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment.


As individuals gain more life experience and become more self-aware, they may develop greater self-confidence. It can be particularly true for women, who often face societal pressures to conform to certain beauty standards and may struggle with self-esteem during adolescence.


In American society, individualism is highly valued and celebrated. As young adults begin to establish their own identities and pursue their own goals, they may feel a sense of pride in their individuality that boosts their self-esteem.

Old Age

Seniors and Society

Old age is often associated with a decline in self-esteem. Some studies suggest that self-esteem can remain stable or increase in old age. Seniors tend to have more positive attitudes towards aging and view themselves as more experienced and wiser. Additionally, seniors who are active in their communities and maintain social connections tend to have higher self-esteem than those who are isolated.

Health and Lifespan

The link between health and self-esteem in old age is complex. Bad health can lead to declining self-esteem, as seniors may feel less capable and independent. Good health can provide a sense of control and mastery over one’s life. Furthermore, seniors with a longer lifespan tend to have higher self-esteem as they have more time to accomplish their goals and feel a sense of purpose.

Old age does not necessarily lead to a decline in self-esteem. Seniors who maintain social connections, engage in healthy behaviors, and have a positive attitude toward aging are likelier to have higher self-esteem.


In late adolescence and emerging adulthood, self-esteem rises for several reasons. Research shows that as individuals reach this life stage, they become more self-focused, which can lead to increased self-esteem. Also, moral reasoning develops during this time, allowing individuals to understand better and value their beliefs and opinions.

Furthermore, as individuals in this life stage begin to take on more responsibilities and face new challenges, they may experience guilt or self-doubt. However, overcoming these obstacles and achieving success can boost self-esteem.

It’s also important to note that divided attention may play a role in the rise of self-esteem during this life stage. As individuals become more independent and take on multiple roles, they may feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in managing their time and responsibilities.

Overall, the rise of self-esteem in late adolescence and emerging adulthood is a natural part of development. By understanding the factors that contribute to this increase, individuals can better navigate this life stage and continue to build their self-confidence and self-worth.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is more likely to emphasize physical appearance as a basis for their self-esteem?

Adolescents and emerging adults who are more concerned with their physical appearance, especially females, are more likely to emphasize their physical appearance as a basis for their self-esteem.

What is one of the strongest risk factors for depression in adolescence and beyond?

Low self-esteem is one of the strongest risk factors for all types of depression in adolescence and beyond.

What is an increase in self-esteem in emerging adulthood may be associated with?

An increase in self-esteem in emerging adulthood may be associated with increased autonomy, identity exploration, and positive life experiences.

How does self-esteem change during adolescence?

Self-esteem tends to decline during early adolescence but then stabilizes and may increase during late adolescence and emerging adulthood, especially for those who successfully navigate developmental tasks such as establishing a sense of identity and achieving autonomy.

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