The study authors offer several explanations (not explored in their study) as to why more attractive teens might have lower levels of self-esteem:
Changes During Puberty: They suggest that the more attractive adolescents may perceive the actual or impending changes of puberty as negatively affecting their appearance, while less attractive young adolescents may view these changes as having a positive impact on their appearance.
High Expectations: It’s possible that peers, teachers, and parents often unconsciously expect higher levels of social functioning and academic performance from attractive children. These expectations may be overwhelming for children and create a sense of self-doubt or low self-esteem if they feel they cannot live up to other people’s expectations.
It is thought that low or unstable self-esteem may be a vulnerability for depression. It is also known that during early adolescence when children are often going through puberty, rates of depression increase, especially in girls.
It is important to know that low self-esteem does not always lead to depression. Certainly, attractiveness does not always lead to depression. However, parents should be aware that a child is susceptible to low self-esteem regardless of appearance and may be especially vulnerable in early adolescence.