Cooperation-competition and self-esteem: A Case of Cultural Relativism

Spencer Kagan, George P. Knight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Several empirical studies have demonstrated that among Black and White U.S. children high self-esteem is associated with competitiveness. To test the generality of that relationship, the correlation of self-esteem and cooperation-competition was assessed among two generations of Mexican-American children and an Anglo-American comparison group. Among second-generation Mexican-American children, who display a cultural norm of cooperativeness, high self-esteem was significantly correlated with cooperativeness; among Anglo-American children, who display a cultural norm of competitiveness, high self-esteem was associated with competitiveness; among third-generation Mexican-American children, who do not demonstrate clear cooperation-competition norms, no clear relationship between self-esteem and cooperation-competition was found. Results do not support the generality of a self-esteem cooperation-competition relationship; rather, they are consistent with the interpretation that self-esteem is partially a function of the extent to which children live up to their cultural norms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-467
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1979
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology


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