Fragile self-esteem in children and its associations with perceived patterns of parent-child communication

J Pers. 2000 Apr;68(2):225-52. doi: 10.1111/1467-6494.00096.


We examined the extent to which 11- to 12-year-old children's (N = 174) self-esteem (SE) stability and level related to their perceptions of various aspects of parent-child communication. Compared to children with stable SE, children with unstable SE reported that their fathers were more critical and psychologically controlling, and less likely to acknowledge their positive behaviors or to show their approval in value-affirming ways. Likewise, children with low SE reported that their fathers exhibited these qualities to a greater extent than did children with high SE. In addition, fathers of children with stable high SE were viewed as especially good at problem solving. Children's SE level related to perceptions of mothers' communication styles very similarly to how it did with fathers'; with respect to SE stability, however, relationships were generally less consistent and frequently absent. Discussion centered on the role of parent-child communication in promoting unstable SE.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Communication*
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Problem Solving
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Perception*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires