So much of who we become as adults finds its roots in childhood. For that reason, professors from Florida State University and University of Miami put together a study to see if collected data could support the idea that low self-esteem in childhood led to higher instances of substance abuse as adults. The results aren’t surprising.
Professors John Taylor and Donald Lloyd spearheaded the project, which was published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse. It included a multiethnic sample of over 800 boys with data collected over a nine year period. They conducted interviews with children at age 11 and then again at age 20 to compare the findings.
Professor Taylor’s findings suggest that childhood low self esteem is a kind of “spark plug for self-destructive behaviors” with drug abuse being one of these. A good sense of self is fundamental at an early age in order to develop the life choices and pathways to success and health later on. Without this kind of security early in life, Taylor says “people become pathologically unhappy with themselves, and that can lead to some very serious problems.”
Indicators of low self-esteem were apparent in their true/false responses to statements like “In general, I am a failure” or “I don’t like myself as much as I used to.” They were also asked to rate their friend’s level of approval for drug use. The study found that in large part, boys who had a low value of their own worth and were surrounded by peers who approved of drug use were 1.6 times more likely to be addicted at age 20.
This sheds some light on how many of us developed addictive dependencies and this sort of stuff tends to be revealed in therapy during treatment. If we can learn to identify this in young boys we can possibly stem the tide of addictions that will occur in the future.
**It should be noted that this study did not include any girls and data should not be extrapolated to suit girls, as young females tend to respond to low self-esteem differently than boys. Girls are more prone to manifest low self-esteem in the forms of depression and overeating rather than substance abuse.