Self-esteem is usually thought to be people’s sense of their self-worth. It is the evaluation of a their self-concept that is whether they see themselves in a favorable or unfavorable light. In regards to at-risk teens self-esteem is the “engine” that drives all their self-limiting beliefs and that result in non-work behaviors. It seems logical that a reliable measure of self-esteem would be helpful as a method of assessing progress when working with at-risk teens.

One of the most widely used measures is Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory (1967-1981). The Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory was developed through research to assess attitude toward oneself in general and in contexts such as peers, parents, school, and personal interests. In a study conducted by Blascovich and Tomaka (1991), they noted that most people score at least above the mean. They concluded that anyone who scores on a low end of the scale is most likely clinically depressed. Not surprising is Coopersmith’s own findings (1967) that the main source of positive self-esteem for adolescents is their peer groups.

The Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory was given to 14 students at Clearview Girls Academy, a therapeutic boarding school for at-risk teen girls. The girls took the assessment close to the time they arrived in March and April and then again in June and July. The results were encouraging. Of the 14 students 10 girls improved in their rating. Three girls stayed the same, but one had the highest rating. One girl dropped in her scoring, but only by three points. Overall the ratings indicate that the treatment provided and the work the girls are doing are creating positive results.

The goal is to shift the girls’ overall thinking and altering their belief system so that they can create more happy and healthy results in their lives. This assessment indicates that most are moving in this direction. This is very encouraging information for most of the parents. For those few that have not made the significant progress, it helps everyone to reevaluate the treatment plan and to help the girls realize they still have more work to do. The only limitation to this assessment is that it is a self-assessment. However the inventory does have a built in system to indicate if people are trying too hard to present themselves in a positive light. In the reporting of the scores in this essay there were four girls who presented themselves as not reliable in their scores. They were not included in the results of the assessments. They will be retested in the future.


Adler, Nancy and Steward, Judith. (March 2004). Research network on ses & health. MacArthur.

Coopersmith, S. (1967). The antecedents of self-esteem. San Francisco. W. H. Freeman & Co.

Self-report measures for love and compassion research: self-esteem. Fetzer Institute.