The Evolution of Self-Esteem in Children

Self-esteem is a fundamental element for children’s optimal development. In this article, you’ll discover the evolution of self-esteem in children.
The Evolution of Self-Esteem in Children
Ana Couñago

Written and verified by the psychologist Ana Couñago.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

When you’re little, it’s very important to value your own qualities and love yourself to grow in a healthy and happy way. But this involves a long and progressive learning process. In this article, we explain the evolution of self-esteem in children.

The first social experiences are key to the development of self-esteem. Therefore, families are responsible for providing children affection and attention, so that they feel they’re worthy of being loved and cared for, which is closely related to the perception of self-confidence.

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”

– Lucille Ball –

The evolution of self-esteem in children

Five important areas define self-esteem. These change according to age and the different stages of maturational development:

  • Family area. Parent care and valuation from the moment of birth is important, since it’ll determine the perception children have of their qualities in different areas of life. Thus, a democratic parenting style favors the development of good self-esteem.
The Evolution of Self-Esteem in Children
  • Academic area. In preschool, children begin to think about their characteristics as students. At first, they value their academic skills in an excessively positive way, idealizing their own qualities. But from the age of eight, this perception becomes more realistic and they start comparing themselves to others to evaluate themselves.
  • Physical area. During early childhood, children are already aware of their own physical aspects and abilities. And, from a very young age, they assume a certain self-image. This is especially important in puberty and adolescence, since, to a large extent, self-esteem at that time depends on the fact of feeling attractive to others.
  • Social area. It refers to children or young people’s feelings about the bonds they build with their friends. In this regard, it’s essential that, from a young age, they relate, talk, and play with their peers. Furthermore, during adolescence, friendships become a basic pillar for personal growth and the development of self-concept.
  • Global self-esteem. It’s the general assessment you make of yourself based on the areas we discussed above. Thus, the evolution of global self-esteem up to age eight is usually high. Then, it decreases until it stabilizes and, subsequently, decreases during puberty and adolescence.

What does it mean to develop high or low self-esteem?

Children with high self-esteem:

  • Attribute more personal responsibility to successful results than failures.
  • Blame external factors for their failures.
  • Are motivated to learn and face new challenges.
  • Have high social skills.
The Evolution of Self-Esteem in Children

On the other hand, children with low self-esteem:

  • Attribute successes to arbitrary and external circumstances.
  • Attribute a lack of capacity to failures.
  • Avoid trying to do intellectual, sports, or social activities out of fear of doing it wrong.
  • Have a tendency to cheat and lie.
  • Show regressive behaviors.
  • Have poor self-confidence and believe that they’re unable to control situations.
  • Manifest anti-social behaviors.
  • Have an aggressive, violent, or excessively shy personality.
  • Show a tendency to frustration.

Thus, mothers and fathers should pay attention to these characteristics, trying to foster positive self-esteem in their children.

But if you can’t achieve this despite your best efforts, it’s advisable to consult your child’s pediatrician or a mental health professional to follow an intervention based on the improvement and enhancement of self-esteem.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Sánchez-Bautista, B. Y. y Solís-Villafuerte, J. (2010). Autoestima en niños. México: Ángeles Psicológicos A. C.
  •  Sociedad de Pediatría de Atención Primaria de Extremadura. (s.f.). Programa de Salud Infantil y del Adolescente de la Comunidad Autónoma de Extremadura. Consejos de Salud y Guías Anticipadoras. Cómo fomentar la autoestima en el niño/a. Junta de Extremadura: Consejería de Sanidad y Consumo.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.