Gendered self esteem: A missing gap in the conceptualization of adolescent holistic personal development?

Yuk Yee Pattie LUK-FONG

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Enhancing self-esteem/self concept has always been used as a conceptual framework for the healthy holistic growth of adolescent/students. The newly proposed Secondary School Liberal Studies “Self and Personal Growth” strand uses self esteem as a central concept in its curriculum framework. Earlier Lam (1995) called for the use of healthy self concept as a framework for a whole school approach to guidance. This paper argues for the inclusion of a gender perspective when employing self esteem/self concept in fostering adolescents’ personal development. The paper starts with reviewing international and local literature on the global as well as components of self esteem/self concepts including ‘scholastic competence’, ‘social competence’, ‘athletic competence’, ‘behavior conduct’ (Harter, 1996), as well as the ‘academic self’, ‘social self’, ‘emotional self’ and ‘bodily self’ (Lam, 1995) of adolescent boys and girls to see how they are similar and/or different elsewhere and in Hong Kong. While the lack of ‘scholastic competence’ or poor ‘academic self concept’ always surfaces as the key reason for emotional and behavioral problems for both adolescent boys and girls in the Hong Kong context, differences in social and parental expectations of academic achievements and career paths for boys and girls often become constraints on their adolescence development. In other areas of self esteem/self concepts, concerns for adolescent boys and girls also differ. Adolescent boys are more likely than girls to have problems such as school dropouts, bullying and violence, joining street gangs or becoming “invisible kids” (隱蔽少年), which seemingly are related to their scholastic- and –behavior competence or academic- and –emotional-self concepts. Adolescence girls are more likely to have problems such as adolescent depression, eating disorder, body-image difficulties, sexual harassment and relational aggression, which are more likely to be related to their bodily-, emotional-, and social- self concepts. This paper urges for a gender sensitive way of working with adolescence developmental issues: awareness has to be raised (1) of the general prevalence of boys to act out their problems and girls to internalize theirs, (2) gender differences in help-seeking behaviours, and (3) the different comfort levels of boys and girls in expressing feelings and talking about their problems. The paper also calls for a closer look at the cost paid by both adolescent boys and girls in living up to the narrow stereotypical socially constructed images of masculinities and femininities once they reach puberty. Implications for gender equity education in the whole person development area are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006


Luk-Fong, P. Y.-Y. (2006, June). Gendered self esteem: A missing gap in the conceptualization of adolescent holistic personal development? Paper presented at the 2nd International Conference on Gender Equity Education in the Asian-Pacific Region: Challenges and Possibilities in Gender Equity Education, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, China.


  • Development of Disciplinary Knowledge (e.g. Sociology, Psychology)


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