Self-centeredness in Adolescents: An empirical study of students of Steiner schools, Christian academic high schools, and public schools


  • Axel Föller-Mancini
  • Peter Heusser
  • Arndt Büssing


Abstract. We intended to further analyze the attitudes of 17 year old high school students associated with more self-centered positions on the one hand and altruistic tendencies on the other hand. Previous findings indicated that `self-centeredness´ is particularly valued by boys while less so by girls. In a sample of 521 German high school students (mean age 16.6 ± 0.70 years) recruited from Christian schools (38%), Waldorf schools (36%), and public (state-funded) schools (27%), we investigated influencing factors such as schooling, individual ideals / ethics, and spirituality. We confirmed that `self-centeredness´ was expressed significantly lower in female than in male students; yet there were no significant differences which could be ascribed to the different school types. Regression analyses indicated that this self-centered position can be predicted best (R2 = .211) by an attitude focussing on one’s own well-being (`eudemonism´) and the conviction that pity for others prevents them from taking the initiative themselves; these predictors are negatively modulated by satisfaction with the school situation, a spiritual Quest orientation, and the ideal of helping others. Although the school type by itself is not a significant predictor of the respective attitudes, the associations between self-centeredness and ethical ideals nevertheless differed between students of the different schools types. It might be that families with specific attitudes or convictions choose those schools that are best suited to their ideology. The school nevertheless will have a significant impact on the ethical commitment of students and can contribute to the process of adolescents´ development to future adults as relational and moral beings.

Key words: high school students, self-centered attitudes, altruistic tendencies, Christian schools,
Steiner (Waldorf) schools, public schools, spirituality, individualization, shift in mentality, religious orientation.




Empirical Research / Beiträge zur empirischen Forschung / Peer Reviewed Articles