Hesitant language use and self-esteem in adolescent girls across ethnicity


  • Lucy Sopher Riverdale Country School
  • Angelica Puzio Mentor, New York University




Self-esteem, Hesitant Language, High School, Adolescence, Ethnicity, Correlation


Language is dynamic and changes across the course of adolescence. Researchers have found that usage of some words and phrases, such as “um…” and “I don’t know,” increase during the teenage years, especially when youth are confronted with topics that they may not feel comfortable discussing. Hesitant language is defined as words or styles of speech that communicate 1. a distancing of the declarative content of one's speech and 2. interpersonal sensitivity towards the listener. These phrases are typically used because one is nervous or unsure about what to say and they can signify a variety of issues and may or may not be linked to self-esteem. In this study, we analyzed eighth-grade girls’ usage of hesitant language and how the use of this type of language may or may not be correlated with their scores on the Rosenberg self-esteem test. We also ran an ANOVA to determine if there was a significant difference in correlation across ethnicity. Our current study is focused on eighth grade and we plan on expanding to include the 6th and 11th-grade data. There have been very few studies done on how hesitant language and self-esteem correlate and change through girls’ adolescence. We hope our study will help add to the important conversation around girls' self-esteem and what can be used as indicators of a change in that self-esteem over time.


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Author Biographies

Lucy Sopher, Riverdale Country School

Sole Author

Angelica Puzio, Mentor, New York University

Mentor to the author

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How to Cite

Sopher, L., & Puzio, A. (2021). Hesitant language use and self-esteem in adolescent girls across ethnicity. Journal of Student Research, 10(2). https://doi.org/10.47611/jsrhs.v10i2.1519



HS Research Articles