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What Factors Affect Self-Esteem in Childhood?

By Amanda R. Bell
Updated: Feb 03, 2024

Several different factors affect self-esteem in childhood, primarily a child’s interaction with his or her parents, caregivers, and other adult role models. A mother's, father’s, or caregiver's view of themselves often plays a role in how a child is taught to view him or herself. Receiving accurate praise for accomplishments can also mold a child’s confidence, as can whether or not a child is given attainable responsibilities. Participating in activities based on a child’s skills or abilities can also aid in the development of self-esteem.

Prior to a child starting school, his or her primary role models are his or her parent(s) or primary caregiver. Parents or caregivers with high self-esteem typically model this to the children, who will consciously or unconsciously pick up these ideas. Those who are constantly exposed to negativity, even if the negativity is not directed at them, will often adopt the same pattern of thinking, leading to low self-esteem in childhood. It is also common for parents or caregivers with high self-esteem to be more capable of dependable praise and punishment tactics, which can also affect self-esteem in childhood.

Consistent praise for achievements as a child is growing up, from either parents, caregivers, or other adult role models, plays a large part in a child’s view of him or herself. Praising a child for acting as expected or accomplishing something often encourages him or her to repeat the same actions and instills a sense of self-worth. Empty praise, however, can have the opposite effect. A child who is praised for anything and everything will typically stop believing the words, and the empty praise will have little effect on self-esteem in childhood or possibly a negative effect.

Providing a child with responsibilities based on his or her capabilities is also a factor in the development of self-esteem in childhood. Making a child feel like a contributing member of a household or group, whether at home or in school, helps to foster a higher sense of confidence in his or her abilities. Despite this, giving a child responsibilities or tasks that he or she is not capable of completing can take a toll on the development of high self-esteem in childhood.

Each individual child has different strengths and weaknesses. A child who is encouraged to participate in activities, either alone or in groups, which capitalize on skills and provides him or her with opportunities to work on weaknesses in a constructive environment can help to build up a child’s view of him or herself. Children who are given the opportunity to use their unique skills to help others or improve themselves typically have higher self-esteem than those who are not afforded the same opportunities or who are pushed into activities that they do not enjoy or for which they do not have the capabilities.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon288386 — On Aug 30, 2012

A child of seven seems to have been given the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings so much so that he attempts to correct them by slapping them and bullying them.

The younger children constantly call on him if they require something or if they are upset, despite the child minder being there. The same child is lacking in self confidence and if asked to do something will call on a younger sibling to help him, such as to go upstairs to get a pair of socks. Is he being given too much responsibility, which in turn has affected his self esteem? One of his siblings has an intellectual disorder.

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