When Parents' Praise Inflates, Children's Self-Esteem Deflates

Child Dev. 2017 Nov;88(6):1799-1809. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12936. Epub 2017 Aug 30.


Western parents often give children overly positive, inflated praise. One perspective holds that inflated praise sets unattainable standards for children, eventually lowering children's self-esteem (self-deflation hypothesis). Another perspective holds that children internalize inflated praise to form narcissistic self-views (self-inflation hypothesis). These perspectives were tested in an observational-longitudinal study (120 parent-child dyads from the Netherlands) in late childhood (ages 7-11), when narcissism and self-esteem first emerge. Supporting the self-deflation hypothesis, parents' inflated praise predicted lower self-esteem in children. Partly supporting the self-inflation hypothesis, parents' inflated praise predicted higher narcissism-but only in children with high self-esteem. Noninflated praise predicted neither self-esteem nor narcissism. Thus, inflated praise may foster the self-views it seeks to prevent.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Narcissism*
  • Netherlands
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Self Concept*