Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Literature Review: The Effects of Self-Esteem versus Self Control on Raising Children

Research Question

            Is self-control a more effective measure than self-esteem for raising well-adjusted and higher achieving children?

Literature Review

Childhood is an important stage of psychological development, which has a lasting effect on people’s personalities and conduct throughout adulthood and the remainder of their lives (Twenge & Campbell, 2017), hence the description of childhood as “formative years” (Woodruff, Bolen, & Thomas, 2004). 

A socially well-adjusted child is one that distinguishes between the self and others, has the ability to understand, express, and regulate emotions, and possess the ability to feel, reason, and behave morally (Santrock, 2016).

The effects of self-esteem versus self-control on raising children were chosen for several reasons:

 The first is that the self-esteem movement which started in the 1970’s (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, & Vohs, 2003) has been greatly influential in western society, and in child rearing literature (Brummelman, Thomaes, Nelemans, & Castro, 2017).

The second reason is that inflated praise of children has been the immediate byproduct of the self-esteem movement, which recent research indicates that it is negatively correlated to self-esteem (Brummelman, Thomaes, Nelemans, & Castro, 2017).

The third reason is that raising well-adjusted children is a complicated, laborious, and time-intensive process, which should be preparing children to be able to take care of themselves (Santrock, 2016). Therefore the effects of having children practice self-control and being achievement oriented, has been indicated by recent research to have a long-term positive impact on self-esteem and achievement (Baumiester & Tierney, 2012).

After presenting the reasons, what follows is: defining self-esteem, self-control, and their relationship with each other, and their impact on childhood development.

Self-esteem is defined as the person’s sense of self-worth and overall self-evaluation (Myers & Campbell, 2016), children high in self-esteem usually seek feelings of adequacy and connection with others (Brummelman, Thomaes, Nelemans, & Castro, 2017).

Self-control on the other hand is another self-concept, where individuals exert conscious control over their impulses and behaviors (Myers & Campbell, 2016). Self-control can be developed in children by establishing a reward and punishment system that is swiftly and consistently enforced by parents (Baumiester & Tierney, 2012).

A strong correlation exists between self-control and achievement, for individuals to be able to accomplish difficult tasks; they must be able to suppress the impulse for instant gratification (Fourie, 2017). Moreover, Walter Mischel conducted an experiment on children’s ability to delay gratification by having them stare at a marshmallow and telling them if they eat it directly they’d only have this one, however it they wait 15 minutes, they would get 2 marshmallows. Those that were able to delay gratification, also showed higher academic success (Mischel, et al., 2011).

There is a popular assumption that self-esteem is nurtured through praise, however this assumption is not supported scientifically. A 2017 journal article was produced as a result of a longitudinal study conducted in the Netherlands that studied the effect of praise on self-esteem. Its findings showed that moderate praise had no to minimal impact on self-esteem; however inflated praise had a negative impact by deflating self-esteem. Moreover, the same study also found that inflated praise was correlated with narcissism in children with high self-esteem, even though there is no direct correlation between self-esteem and narcissism in children (Brummelman, Thomaes, Nelemans, & Castro, 2017). Moreover, a 1990 research by Sandra Graham shows that praising children at mundane or easy tasks have the possibility to lower self-perceived competence (Graham, 1990).

Raising children’s self-esteem is not a direct and straightforward process; it can be nurtured indirectly though bonding with their parents, and having their parents show interest in their activities (Brummelman E. , et al., 2015)

As a conclusion, the research that was cited in this literature review indicated self-control resulted in well-adjusted and high achieving children (Baumiester & Tierney, 2012). Moreover, self-esteem appears to be a product of achievement (Brummelman E. , Thomaes, Nelemans, & Castro, 2017), where achievement builds a sense of worthiness, and when this worthiness is internalized into self-worth; it leads to higher levels of self-esteem (Baumiester & Tierney, 2012).


Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., & Vohs, K. D. (2003). Does high self-esteem cause better performance, interpersonal success, happiness, or healthier lifestyles? Psychological Science in Public Interst, 1-44.

Baumiester, R., & Tierney, J. (2012). Chapter 9: Raising strong children: self-esteem versus self-control. In Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest human Strength. New York: Penguin Group.

Brummelman, E., Thomaes, S., Nelemans, S. A., de Castro, B. O., Overbeek, G., & Bushman, B. J. (2015). Origins of narcissim in children. PNAS Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 3659–3662.

Brummelman, E., Thomaes, S., Nelemans, S., & Castro, B. O. (2017). When parents praise inflates, childrens' self-esteem deflates. Child Development, 1799-1809.

Fourie, J. (2017). Want to be rich? be patient. Finweek, 6.

Graham, S. (1990). The down side of help: an attributional-developmental analysis of helping behavior as a low-ability cue. Journal of Educational Psychology, 7-14.

Mischel, W., Ayduk, O., Berman, M. G., Casey, B. J., Gotlib, I. H., Jonides, J., & Shoda, Y. (2011). ‘Willpower’ over the life span: decomposing self-regulation. Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, 252-256.

Myers, D., & Campbell, J. (2016). The self in a social world. In Social Psychology (pp. 27-60). New York: McGraw Hill.

Santrock, J. S. (2016). Socioemotional development in early childhood. In Children 13th Edition (pp. 304-340). New York : McGraw Hill.

Twenge, J., & Campbell, K. (2017). Personality across the lifespan. In Personality Psychology (pp. 240-225). New York: Pearson.

Woodruff, C., Bolen, Y., & Thomas, B. (2004). A rationale for art education in the formative years: early childhood and elementary preservice teacher perspective. Review of Higher Education & Self-Learning, 106-110.



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