Self-Esteem: The Incredibly Young Age At Which It’s Set

Self-esteem could be set at a surprisingly young age — so what influences it?

Self-esteem could be set at a surprisingly young age — so what influences it?

At the age of just five, children have developed a sense of self-esteem as strong as adults, a study finds.

Self-esteem tends to remain stable over the lifespan.

This suggests self-esteem could be set very early on.

Professor Andrew Meltzoff, one of the study’s authors, said:

“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.

It is a social mindset children bring to school with them, not something they develop in school.”

Until now it has been difficult to test the self-esteem of young children.

Dr Dario Cvencek, the study’s lead author, explained:

“Preschoolers can give verbal reports of what they’re good at as long as it is about a narrow, concrete skill, such as ‘I’m good at running’ or ‘I’m good with letters,’ but they have difficulties providing reliable verbal answers to questions about whether they are a good or bad person.”

Researchers used a newly developed test which examines implicit self-esteem.

In other words: it doesn’t directly ask children, rather it looks for associations.

For example, an adult test might look for links between the word “self” and the words “pleasant” or “unpleasant”.

The test was adapted for children that can’t read using the same principle.

Researchers examined the self-esteem of over 200 5-year-old children.

Dr Dario Cvencek, the study’s lead author, explained the results:

“Our work provides the earliest glimpse to date of how preschoolers sense their selves.

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

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.”

The question now, explained Professor Meltzoff, is what influences self-esteem at this young age:

“What aspects of parent-child interaction promote and nurture preschool self-esteem?

That’s the essential question.

We hope we can find out by studying even younger children.”

The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (Cvencek et al., 2015).

Psychopaths Are Raised By Parents Who Treat Children Like This (M)

Typical callous-unemotional traits linked to psychopathy include cheating, lying and a lack of remorse.

Typical callous-unemotional traits linked to psychopathy include cheating, lying and a lack of remorse.

Parents who mistreat their offspring are more likely to raise children with psychopathic traits, research finds.

Both girls and boys who are subject to harsh and negative parenting are at a greater risk of developing callous-unemotional traits, which can develop into psychopathy.

Typical callous-unemotional traits include cheating, lying and a lack of remorse.

While the connection is well-known in males, this is one of the first studies to include females.

Ms Bridget Joyner, the study’s first author, said:

“Most studies that have looked at similar associations have not included females in their samples; it’s been strictly males.”

The study included over 4,000 young people whose callous-emotional traits were assessed along with any childhood maltreatment.

The results showed that while both sexes tended to develop callous-emotional traits when treated badly by parents, the link was weaker among females.

Callous-emotional traits are a precursor to psychopathy, which is linked to criminal behaviour.

Professor Kevin Beaver, study co-author, said:

“We know that males tend to respond to adverse experiences in more external ways, through behavior and other visible traits.

Females are more likely to internalize.

That can mean developing things like chronic stress, anxiety and depression.”

Callous-emotional traits are thought to be one way that young people cope with their harsh upbringing, said Ms Joyner:

“The development of these traits is thought to make them more withdrawn and help to protect them from being hurt again.”

If childhood maltreatment could be identified earlier, it may be possible to slow or stop the development of undesirable personality traits, said Ms Joyner:

“It’s important to be able to identify the risk factors that tell us how to look at and treat these individuals and to impede the development of these traits.

And when we can’t impede them then we need to treat them for it so the pattern isn’t repeated.”

The study was published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect (Joyner & Beaver, 2021).

The Unflattering Childhood Label That Predicts Higher Income 40 Years Later (M)

Adults who grew up with this childhood personality trait earn more money now.

Adults who grew up with this childhood personality trait earn more money now.

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Do Video Games Damage Your Mental Health? Research Reveals Complicated Truth

How video games affect children’s behaviour and development.

How video games affect children’s behaviour and development.

Fears about what video games are doing to young minds have been growing for years — not least because now 97% of teenagers play them.

They’re said to reduce socialising with real friends, damage psychological adjustment and the violence depicted in many games may be corrupting.

On the other hand, some studies have suggested benefits like improved thinking skills, hand-eye co-ordination, perhaps even greater attention and creativity.

What should parents — and society at large — make of all this conflicting talk?

Cautiously positive

Now a study, conducted by Oxford University psychologist Dr Andrew Przybylski, of almost 5,000 young people in the UK has looked at both the positive and negative effects of video games together (Przybylski, 2014).

The results, published in the journal Pediatrics, are cautiously positive about video games, but still support the old saying: everything in moderation.

Across the children, who were between 10- and 15-years-old, the results showed that the best adjusted children did play video games, but usually for less than one hour a day.

These children were most likely to report:

  • Being more sociable.
  • Being more satisfied with their lives.
  • Having low levels of hyperactivity.

Doing worse on these measures were teens that didn’t play any video games and those who spent at least half of their daily free time on video games (over 3 hours).

For moderate players of video games — those who indulged for somewhere between 1 and 3 hours a day — there were no positive or negative effects on their psychological adjustment.

Moderation

However, even the negative effects of playing video games too much were relatively insignificant compared to the effects of material deprivation or family conflict.

Dr Andrew Przybylski explained:

“These results support recent laboratory-based experiments that have identified the downsides to playing electronic games.

However, high levels of video game-playing appear to be only weakly linked to children’s behavioural problems in the real world.

Likewise, the small, positive effects we observed for low levels of play on electronic games do not support the idea that video games on their own can help children develop in an increasingly digital world.”

By the same token, there was little evidence that playing video games was doing children that much good.

Przybylski continued:

“Some of the positive effects identified in past gaming research were mirrored in these data but the effects were quite small, suggesting that any benefits may be limited to a narrow range of action games.”

So, despite all the worry and hype, this study at least suggests the effects of video games on teenagers’ psychological adjustment are relatively neutral.

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Two Emotional Skills That Are Blunted By Early Life Stress (M)

One of the reasons that experiencing stress early in life is a major risk factor for depression.

One of the reasons that experiencing stress early in life is a major risk factor for depression.

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The Modern Parenting Techniques That Hinder Brain Development (M)

…plus the ancient parenting practices repeatedly linked to positive brain development.

...plus the ancient parenting practices repeatedly linked to positive brain development.

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Childhood Spanking Backfires Spectacularly On Parents, 50 Years Research Finds (M)

Risks of spanking children confirmed by 50 years of research.

Risks of spanking children confirmed by 50 years of research.

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This Childhood Trauma Triples Psychotic Disorder Risk (M)

Psychotic disorders, like schizophrenia, are those that involve becoming detached from reality.

Psychotic disorders, like schizophrenia, are those that involve becoming detached from reality.

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