60-Second Mind

Fear Raises Self Esteem in Iraqi Teens

A survey of 1,000 Iraqi teens reveals a surprising effect of living in a war torn country. Seems that when faced with an indirect threat to one's self or nation, we take action to raise our own self esteem.

This Spring Operation Iraqi Freedom will have its fifth anniversary. After more than one million deaths and about $490 billion U.S. dollars spent, we might reflect on just how free Iraq is.
At least we might look at the psychological fallout within the Iraqi population, specifically the war’s effects on teens.
Researchers from the University of Cincinnati conducted a survey that measured the self-esteem of 1,000 Iraqi teens (including Sunni and Shi’a) living in 10 neighborhoods in Baghdad.
All teens were exposed to news of assassinations, mortar attacks, car bombs, and other deadly threats.
The results are surprising. The more fear the teens felt, the higher their self-esteem. Levels of self-esteem were actually as high as any random sample of U.S. adolescents.
But the researchers say their findings are in line with a theory that indirect threats to our sense of self (or in this case of one’s nation) will cause us to take action to bolster our self-esteem. Perhaps it’s linked to our sense of pride.
The word “indirect” is key here, because if it’s a direct threat, like a gun to the head, our response is not, “I’m proud to be me,” but more, “Uh oh.”

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