Positive social relationships increase self-esteem and at the same time high self-esteem contributes to positive social relationships, according to a new study by the American Psychological Society.

The study was published in the «Journal of Personality and Social Psychology».

«For the first time, we have a systematic answer to the key question of whether and to what extent positive social relationships contribute to the development of self-esteem and vice versa, but also in which ages in life do we observe this phenomenon», says Michelle A. Harris, who is on the editorial team at the University of Texas at Austin.

Harris and Ulrich Orth of the University of Bern analyzed data from 52 studies involving some 47.000 people, in order to examine whether self-esteem affects positive social relationships or vice versa.

All surveys were published between 1992 and 2016 and included a number of countries (30 samples from the USA, four from Switzerland, three from Germany and two from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Greece, Russia and Sweden).
High self-esteem was associated with better social relationships

It was found that positive social relationships, support and approval of the social environment contribute to the development of self-esteem in individuals of all ages (4 to 76 years).

The opposite also seemed to be the case, that is, high self-esteem was associated with better social relationships, support, and social acceptance. Even when the researchers took into account the gender and age of the participants, the results remained unaffected.

This mutual connection of social relationships and self-esteem shows that the effects of this cycle of positive feedback accumulate over the years and can be an essential asset in a person’s life.

Researchers suppose that good relations with the parents improve a child’s self-esteem, which may contribute to better relationships with peers in adolescence, which in turn enhance their self-esteem by leading to better relationships in adulthood.

They, however, emphasize the need for research projects that will test whether and why specific relationships are more important in different age ranges.

The opposite results are observed in cases of people with low self-esteem or poor quality of social relationships, situation that leads to the need for psychological interventions, Ms. Harris said.