When Does a Child Develop Self-Esteem?
If you worry about your kid’s self-esteem, you’re not alone.
A lot of parents do. It’s natural.
Trying to raise your kid right and give them the opportunities to achieve what they want is a tough job. And self-esteem gives them the ability to believe in themselves.
New research has found that a child’s self-esteem develops pretty early.
It takes years for them to develop their their thinking skills and abilities. However, you may want to know that they have an established sense of self-esteem around the age of 5.
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To me, that sounds way too young.
Age 5. I don’t even remember what was going through my head at that age. I was too busy being a kid. But scientists say that around the age we start having a self-identity.
Research from Washington University will have findings published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology that reports these findings. It is the first evidence that measures self-esteem at such a young age.
The lead author from the paper, Dario Cvencek, had this to say about his research:
“We found that as young as 5 years of age self-esteem is established strongly enough to be measured, and we can measure it using sensitive techniques.”
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What’s the technique he’s talking about?
Researchers in the study actually developed a new way to measure self-esteem at this age. Previous research has been unable to do so.
This is mostly due to previous self-esteem tests using complex ideas and language. Tests that were developed with adults in mind.
When researchers use the same test on kids, the concepts are usually too abstract and complicated for them.
Another researcher on the project, Andrew Meltzoff, commented on this:
“Some scientists consider preschoolers too young to have developed a positive or negative sense about themselves. Our findings suggest that self-esteem, feeling good or bad about yourself, is fundamental.”
When children are too young to read, you have to adapt the measure used for adults. They did this by having the children associate an object with themselves. In this case, flags were identified as “me” or “not me”.
Once the children understood this concept, the scientists had them relate the flags to words. These words were both negative and positive in nature. Words such as fun, happy, good, mean, or yucky.
When kids started associating the “me” and “not me” flags to words, scientists used this as a way to measure their sense of self.
The research is pretty revolutionary when studying child development.
Just as self-esteem is important for adults and teenagers, it’s also important for young children. Dario explains:
“Self-esteem appears to play a critical role in how children form various social identities. Our findings underscore the importance of the first five years as a foundation for life.”
I know parents don’t need anything else to worry about about. They already have a ton to deal with. But they obviously play an important role here.
Andrew emphasizes where self-esteem comes from:
“It is a social mindset children bring to school with them, not something they develop in school.”
So while I’m sure teachers will do their best to protect and nurture self-esteem, you probably shouldn’t rely on them. You’ll always play the biggest role in this regard.
The next step for the researchers is finding out how to best develop self-esteem in child and parent interactions.
Andreia C. de Andrade