Jeremy Swinson measured self-esteem among 60 pupils in four schools for children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, and also examined 35 statements of special educational need from seven local authorities.
Dr Swinson, principal educational psychologist for the Witherslack group, which provides education and care for children with special educational needs in the north-west of England, said it was widely assumed that pupils with behaviour problems had low self-esteem.
In a presentation at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society's education and child division, held in Glasgow last week, he said his research had found that the average score for self-esteem was similar to that of other pupils. Some 30 per cent had low or very low self-esteem, 38 per cent were average and 32 per cent had high or very high self-esteem.
Dr Swinson advises teachers to measure self-esteem themselves, and to ignore statement reports.