Thursday, March 18, 2010

Self-Esteem and Child Rearing: Cross-Culturally

Self-Esteem is defined as the extent to which an individual believes himself or herself to be capable, significant, successful, and worthy. The amount of self-esteem, or having self-esteem has become a marker for the psychological well-being of a person, as well as a factor in the resiliency of an individual. So how does one develop self-esteem? 

     Self esteem is developed in middle childhood, when a child reaches elementary school and begins to compare themselves to other children based on their abilities, appearances and many other factors. In addition to this, the most important way a child gains their self-esteem is through parent-child interactions, or child-rearing. Parents can affect their child's self esteem simply by the way they encourage or discourage them. A parent who is accepting and gives positive reinforcement and is nurturing of their child will most likely produce a child with high self-esteem. On the other hand, a parent who puts down a child's self-worth, or is negative and not nurturing to their child is likely to produce a child with low self-worth and self-esteem. Also, the amount of support or expectations that a parent puts on a child has a huge effect on the child. A child who receives support that coincides with their skills and helps them just enough is likely to develop self-esteem and confidence in their skills, while a child who receives too much or no help is likely to feel negatively about their skills.

      A parent who uses an "authoritative" approach to child-rearing will find that it provides the optimal level of assistance and nurturing to give the child good self-esteem. As you can see, the parent to child dynamic is a very large factor in the development of a child's self-esteem.

     Culturally, other things also affect a child's self-esteem. Children in Asian countries, while having high test scores, have low self-esteem, probably because while they view others with high levels of praise, do not feel the same about themselves. Meanwhile, African American children have high levels of self-esteem probably because of their extended families and ethnic pride in their heritage. 

     Here is a link to a video on how to help develop a child's self-esteem, in ways other than only child-rearing.

Some interesting questions:

Did your parents positively or negatively affect YOUR self-esteem when you were growing up?

Do you think that the concept of the "authoritative" parent is ideal for all aspects of child-rearing, or only for self-esteem building?

Do you think that parents in other cultures are typically, or try to be, authoritative parents? Or do they use other parenting styles?

Herz, L. and Gullone, E. (1999). The relationship between self esteem and parenting style: A cross-cultural comparison. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. Retrieved from

1 comment:

  1. I think the video was really interesting, because while the tips it gave seem to be very straight-forward, almost common sense things to do as a parent, in reality they are not always easy to accomplish! Parents get frustrated and have weaknesses just like everyone else, and its scary to think that kids are so vulnerable that one out-lash or accusation or demeaning comment could affect their self-esteem immensely. However, I think this is where authoritative parenting comes in too, because I remember in lifespan development reading that authoritative parents realize that their kids are not perfect, and that theey as parents are not perfect either. If this is the case, then if this type of parent has a moment of weakness or frustration with the child, they are willing and able to see their mistake and genuinely talk to their child about it and apologize. I think this is critical because parents can't be perfect all the time either, but being able to realize and admit this, and talk to your kids when you do make mistakes can build healthy, open, honest relationships based on trust between child and parent. If a parent can admit to their faults, then their children will realize that its okay to have faults, and that their parents realize this is okay as well.

    Another thing I can relate this to is learning about Ericksons' stages of development. Toddlers are going through "Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt", and will either come out with confidence in themselves and a sense of independence, or a low self-esteem and lack of decision making skills. In a way, I think this is important to remember because we, or at least I, forget sometimes how early children's self-esteem is being built, and how it is even more critical to be nurturing it when they are 2 and 3 then when they are 13, because how they feel as they develop at a young age continues to follow them in to later stages. Therefore, I think its interesting after watching the video that while we sometimes put so much emphasis on self-esteem during middle school and those difficult ages, the images focused on toddlers because that is when the development starts, and when parents need to be especially in-tuned with their expectations and parenting styles.