It turns out that answering in the affirmative to both questions is the correct response according to a new study on the association between self-esteem and relationships. Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Bern found that each element has the potential to positively enhance the other. According to study author Michelle A. Harris, high self-esteem and solid social relationships have the ability to influence one another in a sort of, “positive feedback loop,” with the beneficial outcomes accruing over time. The large study analyzed data from over 20,000 participants, ages 4 to 76, with the majority of subjects women. The study sought to confirm the long-held theory that relationships and self-esteem influence one another. Based on their findings, the researchers agreed that having a good sense of self-worth is key to developing positive relationships and vice versa, across all ethnicities, age groups, and genders. Unfortunately, but perhaps not surprisingly, the study findings revealed that the reverse is also true, that negative self-esteem and negative relationships can act to influence each other in a destructive sort of vicious, rather than positive, cycle. For example, when either negative relationships or poor self-image are present, each can alter the health of the other, making clinical interventions crucial especially among children. The researchers speculated that healthy, encouraging relationships with one’s parents can be a significant source of positive self-esteem for children, leading to affirmative school-age relationships which in turn bolster one’s self-image into adulthood. “For the first time, we have a … answer to a key question in the field of self-esteem research: Whether and to what extent a person’s social relationships influence his or her self-esteem development, and vice versa, and at what ages,” concluded Harris. So, which comes first in the chicken or the egg conundrum in regard to good self-esteem or good relationships? The safe answer, and the best answer, is, “yes!”
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