Self-Evaluation Differences Among Swedish Children and Adolescents Over a 30-Year Period

Front Psychol. 2020 Apr 28;11:802. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00802. eCollection 2020.


International research has found changes in how today's young people evaluate themselves. The present Swedish research contributes with new findings by distinguishing different patterns of change in self-evaluation in two age groups. The study investigates generational and gender differences in five self-evaluation dimensions in two samples, one from 1983 (N = 3052 10-16-year-old students) and one from 2013 (N = 1303 10-18-year-old students). Three age groups were analyzed. The generational comparison for primary school (ages 10-12) showed higher scores in 2013 than in 1983 for all five self-evaluation dimensions. Interactions between generation and gender were found for psychological well-being, relations to others, school competence evaluations, and the total score, demonstrating, in contrast to international research, a greater increase for girls than for boys. Noteworthy is that girls in primary school had higher scores in 2013. The generational comparison for lower secondary school (ages 13-15) demonstrated higher scores for school competence, relational self-evaluations, and a total higher score in 2013. Interactions between generation and gender were found for total, physical, and psychological well-being evaluation scores, indicating an increase for boys and a decrease for girls in 2013 compared to 1983. The gender comparison for secondary school (ages 16-18, 2013), showed gender differences for physical, psychological well-being, school competence evaluations, and for the total score to the advantage of boys. The study discusses changes in self-evaluation in relation to phenomena such as permissive child-rearing, decreased demands in school, increased self-enhancement behavior through social media, and narrow body ideals in today's society. The study recommends that interventions directed toward groups with low self-evaluation scores should be considered.

Keywords: adolescents; children; cohort differences; gender differences; generational differences; self-concept; self-evaluation.