Self-esteem and smoking in youth - muddying the waters?

Anthony Glendinning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Longitudinal analysis by McGee and Williams (2000, Journal of Adolescence, 23, 569–582, doi: 10.1006/jado.2000.0344) indicates that global self-esteem is not related to substance use in early youth. In the case of tobacco use Glendinning and Inglis (1999, Journal of Adolescence, 22, 673–682, doi: 10.1006/jado.1999.0262) have looked at the “problem” of self-esteem in youth and its relevance for smoking, and they also note that the evidence from the survey literature has been inconclusive. However, rather than suggest that the survey methods and data have been inadequate, Glendinning and Inglis argue that an explanation is provided by looking at the relationship between global self-esteem and smoking in much greater detail, specifically within the peer context, and at peer culture, and the meanings that different groupings of young people attach to smoking or not smoking. That is, rather than a direct link between global self-esteem and smoking behaviour in youth, both are bound up with peer status and differentiation in early youth, although it must be said, not necessarily in the “expected” way.

In the present study longitudinal data from the British Household Panel Study (BHPS, 2001, Economic & Social Science Research Council, Research Centre on Micro-Social Change. British Household Panel Survey Colchester, Essex: The Data Archive, 28 February 2001.SN: 4340.) confirm this more complex picture, and qualify the conclusions of McGee and Williams, in that global self-esteem year-on-year at around age 12–14—when young people take up smoking in increasing numbers—is clearly linked to experimentation and to smoking in subsequent years, in the shorter term. However, a longer-term linkage between self-esteem in early youth and smoking in later youth is less clear cut, and less compelling; but then, pursuing the longitudinal analysis still further, the findings lend force to the argument that putative links between self-esteem and smoking must be understood in context, specifically the peer context. Copyright 2002 The Association for Professionals in Services for Adolescents. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-425
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2002


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