Sex, Drugs, Cash? College Kids Would Rather Have a Self-Esteem Boost

Filed under: In The News, Teen Culture

Studies show kids would rather be praised than have sex. Credit: Getty Images

Forget about sex, booze, Red Bull or cash. College kids are happiest when they're getting good old-fashioned ego boosts.

Two new studies conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University claim an increase in self-esteem, such as receiving good grades or a smattering of compliments, trumps feasting on favorite foods, having lots of money and hitting keg parties for college students, LiveScience reports.

"College students love sex, they love to eat and any place there is free food, they are there," Brad Bushman, lead author of the studies and an Ohio State professor of communication and psychology, tells LiveScience. "And, yet, they love self-esteem more."

When the results were broken down by gender, it turns out boys value feeling good about themselves most, but female students say a self-esteem boost, such as earning a good grade, rank neck-and-neck with money and friends, according to an Ohio State press release.

In the studies published online in the Journal of Personality, researchers asked college students how much they wanted and liked various pleasant activities, such as eating their favorite food or seeing a best friend, according to the release. They were asked to rate how much they liked and wanted to perform each activity on a scale of one (not at all) to five (extremely).

Overwhelmingly, researchers found students care more about increasing self-esteem than about any of the other listed activities, Bushman says in the release.

"It is somewhat surprising how this desire to feel worthy and valuable trumps almost any other pleasant activity you can imagine," he says.

There is nothing wrong with a healthy sense of self-esteem, Bushman adds, but he says the study results suggest many young people may be too focused on pumping up their own egos.

"The concern is that obsession with self-esteem is not healthy," he says in the press release. "American society seems to believe that self-esteem is the cure-all for every social ill, from bad grades to teen pregnancies to violence. But there has been no evidence that boosting self-esteem actually helps with these problems."

Study co-author Jennifer Crocker says in the release that the problem isn't with having high self-esteem; it's how much people are driven to boost it.

"When people highly value self-esteem, they may avoid doing things such as acknowledging a wrong they did," she says. "Admitting you were wrong may be uncomfortable for self-esteem at the moment, but ultimately it could lead to better learning, relationships, growth and even future self-esteem."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.