What Are the Signs of Low Self-esteem in Child?

What's Covered

The way your child thinks of themselves is what we call self-esteem. It is how they perceive their worth and how they show off their confidence in life. Low self-esteem is an issue that can be brought by your child until adulthood. So, it is important to know the signs of low self-esteem in order to help your child.

What Causes a Child to Have a Low Self-esteem?

A lot of factors affect a child’s self-esteem and if these factors are negatively perceived by a child, this may lead to low self-esteem. Some factors are the following:

New School

When a child moves to a new school, there is competence and this competence greatly affects your child’s self-esteem. There is an emotional involvement when a child switches from one school to another and when a child fails to cope up with the new environment, low self-esteem and dropout might happen.[1]

Moving Into a New House

Moving into a new house also affects a child’s self-esteem. New neighbors mean new exposure to other people and if this new environment is not better for them, problems such as low self-esteem may develop.[2]

Family Problems

Family problems such as parenting ways, marital conflict, and family support affect a child’s self-esteem. These three negatively affects a child’s self-esteem because they make the childhood of a child unhappy and it is suggested that boys are more greatly affected than girls.[3] Also, having unsupportive parents may cause a child to have a low self-esteem.

Poor Academic Performance

This factor is also a contributor of low self-esteem. When a child tends to have a poor academic performance, his or her confidence is dragged down. This happens because a child always feels that he or she cannot achieve anything.[4]

Relationship Breakdown

Relationship breakdown is not just limited to lovers but it is also related to parent-child and child-sibling relationships. When a certain relationship is not going well and it is becoming critical, the tendency is that a child may feel that he or she is not confident enough to handle such relationships. For this reason, a low self-esteem is what a child may get.[5]

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Financial Problems

Even when a child is not yet handling any finances, when he or she knows that his or her parents are having financial problems, that child will tend to have a low self-esteem. This happens because I child may feel that he or she do not have any self-worth and he or she is not capable of any social activities including school activities.[6]

Mental Health Problems and Physical Disabilities

Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are factors for self-esteem issues. A child with anxiety is not confident and when he or she knows that he or she has this mental health problem, he or she is reluctant to get themselves involved with other activities especially those that may exacerbate their symptoms.[7] Additionally, physical disability may also give a child a low self-esteem especially when the activities or things he or she must do requires the physical efforts which he or she knows she cannot give.[8]

For children, I have found a book that will help them understand and accept their differences especially if they are battling with mental illness and physical disabilities.

I Am Me
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Brain Stages
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A child who is always compared with other people tends to get a low self-esteem. Additionally, a child also starts to compare his or her cognitive and social skills with other people at the age of 6 and this is another reason why his or her self-esteem is low.[9]

When Does Low Self-esteem Starts?

As your babies grow, they start to learn how to be independent especially when they are able to apply their skills. This self-esteem, then, will bloom when you pay attention to your child and you show that you are proud of them. As early as babyhood, parents already affect the development of a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence.[10]

Self-esteem starts to develop as early as babyhood and this development is continuous. However, it grows slowly and if you fail to make your child feel that he or she is loved and accepted, this is where low self-esteem begins.

Three Faces of Low Self-esteem

You cannot easily recognize a child with a low self-esteem because they do different mechanisms in order to hide their lack of confidence.

The Imposter

This face of low self-esteem includes the children who pretend to be happy and successful but deep inside, they are frustrated and afraid. They live in constant terror that their real feelings will be found out that is why they mask themselves with positive self-esteem. However, this may lead to procrastination and burnt-out.

The Rebel

This face of low self-esteem includes the children who act like they do not care about others’ opinions. They live in constant anger because they do not feel that they are enough. They always show and prove that they are not hurt by others’ judgments. However, this may cause them to break laws or rules.

The Victim

This face of low self-esteem includes the children who act like they are helpless and they will always need others to rely on. They fear the word responsibility that is why they use self-pity and inadequacy to escape risks and changes. However, this may cause them to be dependent and unassertive.

How do you know if Your Child has Low Self-esteem?

Low self-esteem affects the quality of life of a child. As a parent, it is important to identify the signs that your child is having a low self-esteem. The following are the signs of low self-esteem in a child:

Negative Image of Themselves

A child with low self-esteem tends to think of themselves as ugly, stupid, unlovable, unworthy, and unlikable.[11] Also, they use these words straight to themselves and they look at their faces in the mirror and say: “you are ugly”, “you are stupid” and “you do not deserved to be loved!”

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Criticize Themselves

When a child has a low self-esteem, he or she usually critics him or herself and this act can lead to sadness, depression, anxiety, anger, shame, and guilt.

Ignores Their Positive Qualities

A child with low self-esteem tends to forget his or her great and positive qualities. They tend to focus more on the negative and when this happens, their self-esteem tends to go lower.

They Feel Inferior

A child with low self-esteem looks at themselves as inferior to other people, even to those kids of their same age.[12] They feel like they do not deserve to be looked up and respected because they feel like their efforts and their skills are not as great as those of other people.

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They Blame Themselves and Other Events

A child with low self-esteem tends to blame themselves for everything including for the things that they no longer can control. They take account into every bad situation and they feel they are the cause even if other people caused that bad situation. Also, a child with a low self-esteem tends to reason out and blame the events itself such as “I do not like the game anyway”.

Their Academic Performance Decline and They Lose Interest in the Things They Love

Another sign that a child has low self-esteem is when his or her grades starts to get low and he or she is no longer do the things that makes him or her happy or the things that he or she enjoys the most.[13] Also, they start to make excuses in order to avoid these activities.

For children who lose interest in their passion and who gets declining academic performance (especially if they do not want this to happen), you can try these brain gummies. They are good for the brain and memory function and they will keep your child always interested in their passion. These gummies lets them concentrate on the things they must do and it makes them more focused on what is important.

Nootropic Brain Support Supplement
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They Feel Unlucky

Luck plays a big role for a child with low self-esteem and they think of luck as a phenomenon which is not for them. They always feel like they are unlucky and their presence causes other people to be unlucky as well. They feel like they always jinx everything!

They Do Not Believe Compliments

When you compliment a child with low self-esteem, they do not believe you. They would not feel grateful. Instead, they would rather say “No, I’m not”, “No, I did it badly”, and “I do not think I deserve that”.

One time, my mom came home to me crying. I told her I failed one of my professional subjects in pharmacy and she kept on saying that it is okay and I am doing just great. I did not believe her and maybe because it was my first time to fail ever since. The next day when she came home, she gave me this gift and I truly appreciate her compliment.

You are doing great
This product will allow your child to express through words the things he or she cannot say. Also, your child will appreciate your compliment and effort in making him or her feel that you are there for him or her and you appreciate their hardworks.

They Can’t Keep Friendships

When you see that your child is having a hard time to keep his or her friendship, then, that is a sign that your child is having a low self-esteem. Additionally, a child with low self-esteem finds it hard to make new friends because of lack of confidence and they sometimes feel like other people will not like and accept them.[14] In short words, they are scared to be rejected.

If you see that your child is having troubles in making friends or in socializing with the people around him, you can share this book with them so that they may have an idea about starting a friendship with other people.

How To Start A Conversation And Make Friends
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They Feel Lonely and Isolated

This sign is related to depression. When a child is always feeling lonely and he or she unwilling to go out, then, your child might have a low self-esteem with depression. This loneliness is because of depression and this depression makes them more isolated. Additionally, low self-esteem is a risk factor for loneliness.[15]

Fear of Trying

A child with low self-esteem tends to avoid new things and new challenges because they feel like their abilities and skills are not enough which can make them fail. Even before trying, they already say that they cannot do it because they are fearful of failure and they feel like they feel a sense of helplessness.[16]

At a young age, try exposing your child to activities and book that talk about perseverance. These are great tools to teach them that it is okay to try and when you have perseverance, you will succeed.

You Can Do It!
This product will allow your child to take risks and enjoy the challenges of life. Additionally, it will overcome your child’s fear of mistakes, failures, and disappointments.

Feeling of Hopelessness

Of course, low self-esteem means lack of confidence. A child with low self-esteem tends to be hopeless which can make them suicidal.[17] They do not want to face another day because they feel like they cannot face another challenge due to their hopeless attitude. When a child starts something new, he or she quits soon because he or she feels the frustration.

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Pick-A-Stic Inspirational and Motivational Tool
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They Cannot Deal with Failure

Many people do not like it when they fail but a child who continually cries and get sad with failure is a child with a low self-esteem.[18] A child with a low self-esteem cannot deal with failure because he or she is afraid of disappointing others especially his or her parents.

Immature Behavior

A child with a low self-esteem tends to be immature especially when he or she is not at home. For example, when he or she is in school, he or she tends to act like a baby and keep on taunting. Although they are unconscious of their actions, these can become reasons for other people to tease them. Eventually, this teasing may damage their self-esteem in the future.

They Are Not Proud of Their Achievements

A child with low self-esteem tends to hide or make their achievements private as they feel that these achievements are minimal and can be achieved by everyone. They do not think of these achievements as their successes and victories.

Lies and Cheats

A child with low self-esteem tends to lie and cheat in order to win or become successful because they think that they will lose a game or task if they do not cheat and they will get caught and will feel embarrassed if they do not lie.[19]

They Constantly Compares

A child with low self-esteem constantly compares him or herself with other children negatively. Some comparisons also happen inside your home such as comparison with siblings and other cousins.

Sensitive to Criticisms

A child with a low self-esteem is very sensitive to criticisms and these criticisms may come from you or from others. These criticisms, then, are perceived by your child negatively and may think that he or she is incapable of doing anything or whatever he or she will do in the future, will be wrong and unaccepted.

Social withdrawal

A child with a low self-esteem tends to decline social invitations. He or she will tend to cancel their scheduled meeting or plans and make some reasons in order to not attend and he or she might cut off connections with some friends. This happens because a child with a low self-esteem does not want to be around with other people especially the successful ones, and if they are forced to be around with other people, their depression and anxiety may worsen.[20]

If you see that your child is showing this sign, you can try to share this book with them. It is about deep social connections.


A child with a low self-esteem tends to be hostile and this hostility is their defense mechanism.[21] They lash out and become aggressive in order to feel a little better from other people’s attacks and critics. Also, he or she may sometimes become bossy and controlling and these are ways to hide their feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy.

Physical Symptoms

A child with low self-esteem may have anxiety and depression but a sign of being anorexic is also a symptom of low self-esteem.[22] Additionally, unhealthy habits like alcohol and tobacco use can also act as red flags.

Of course, you cannot force your child to eat especially when your child is feeling low. What you can do is offer some dietary supplements that may support their health during the times when they feel like they do not want to consume any food.

Natural Dietary Supplement for Kids
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What Are the Consequences When a Child has Low Self-esteem?

When a child cannot cope up and he or she is stuck with having a low self-esteem, worst things may happen such as:


A child with low self-esteem makes him or her more at risk of self-harm such as deciding to not eat at all and even suicide. This happens because more anxiety, stress, sadness, and depression may be felt.


A child with low self-esteem lacks self-care. With this, drug abuse and alcohol usage may be done by a child who is not able to boost his self-esteem.

Impairs Performance

A child with low self-esteem will continually damage his or her performance in academics and curricular activities. In the future, even job performance can be affected as well.

What is a Good Self-esteem?

A good self-esteem is very important especially for a child because this is their bridge in becoming an independent person. A child with good self-esteem acknowledges his or her strengths and he or she takes negative events as only temporary. Also, a productive learning and development will be the result of a good, positive, and healthy self-esteem.

Positive Self-image

Good and positive self-esteem can be seen when a child look at him or herself as a worthy person, loveable, likeable, and beautiful individual.

Act Independently

A child with a positive self-esteem can act independently. He or she can solve problems and decide on his or her own, and, at the same time, he or she is open in asking for help.[23]

Assumes Responsibility

A child with a good self-esteem knows the meaning of responsibility.[24] He or she is capable of handling responsibilities and he or she accepts the consequences of his or her actions. He or she takes responsibility of these actions and is open for change.

Can Handle Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is common and a child with a good self-esteem can handle this pressure perfectly. He or she is not easily affected by others’ actions and influences and he or she decides to do what is right and not because everyone else is doing it.


A child with positive self-esteem is confident enough to face another day. He or she is confident to do new things, meet new people, and do risky and challenging activities.


A child with positive self-esteem is very sociable and this social skill can make them friendlier and it allows them to handle friendships and other relationships perfectly.[25]

Can Play Alone or in Group

It does not mean that when a child is playing alone, it already means that he or she is a loner. Sometimes, a child with good self-esteem is capable of being alone and is also readily available to enjoy group activities.

Proud of Their Achievements

A child with positive self-esteem is proud but not boastful of his or her achievements. He or she uses these achievements as a ladder to achieve bigger things.

Admits Mistakes

A child with a good self-esteem knows how to admit and accept mistakes. He or she is open for failures and disappointments and he or she is using these mistakes as a learning to do better next time.

Able to Adapt to Any Change

A child with a good self-esteem is open to any change because he or she knows how to adapt to these changes. They easily learn how to handle new things and how to mingle with new people in a different environment.

Where Does Self-esteem Come From?

Self-esteem means believing in oneself but it is not limited to that. When a child is able to learn at school or new skills in music or sports, and make a progress, that child’s self-esteem grows. Self-esteem is acquired by a child when he or she is able to make friends and feels like he or she belongs and is accepted to a group. Connection plays a vital role in a child’s self-esteem that is why when a child is able to connect with other people and he or she is always being encouraged, self-esteem will bloom. Also, self-esteem comes from family especially when a child is able to have a quality time with the parents and other relatives, or when they get a reward and praise from their elders.

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Things That Can Damage a Child’s Self-Esteem

Even if a child already has a good self-esteem, this self-esteem can be damaged by others and here are some ways of damaging a child’s self-esteem:

Negative Messages

Negative messages include regrets. Back when my grandmother found out that I was pregnant, she told me hurtful words such as: “If you are not pregnant right now, you could’ve been working and traveling abroad!” When I gave birth, words like “If you do not have any child, you could have bought a house!”


This means that you are treating your children like nuisance and you are not interested with the things they share with you. Personally, I once felt ignorance before. The people around me are focused on their phones and they do not listen to what I say. My confidence started to get low and I was not sure anymore if I should open up again with my family members.

Discipline That Shames a Child

Disciplining your child is a great way to help them learn and understand their mistakes. However, if shame is a part of that discipline, that will lead to embarrassment and degrading one’s self. Discipline that shames a child will make them feel bad about themselves.[26]

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What Can You Do to Improve Your Child’s Self-Esteem?

As a parent, your role in boosting your child’s self-esteem is very important. You can influence your child and your influence can make them become better individuals.

Be Affectionate

Show your love and be positive about them as a person. Make them feel special and one way is by making time for them. If you show your children that you are always ready to spare some time with them, their self-esteem will grow because they know that you appreciate them. Being affectionate also means acknowledging your child’s feelings. Let them know that you understand them and you are there for them.

Back when my parents were still together (even today that they are separated), they always make sure that they spend some of their busy time with me. The usual thing we do as a family is to go for a backyard swimming. My dad will usually prepare the pool while my mom will prepare some BBQs. Indeed, I really felt special every time we did this as a family.

Expectations Should Be Appropriate

Do not set too high expectations and do not also set too low expectations as both are damaging. You know the stage of the development of your child. Therefore, set a standard that you know are perfect for their developments. If you set too high expectations and your child failed to meet that expectation, his or her self-esteem will get lower. At the same, if you set too low expectations, you may stunt your child’s development.

Avoid Using Labels

If you have more than one kid, try to avoid labeling your children. For example, this is my “hyper one and this is my industrious one”. Also, labeling your child with words like “little scientist” can also harm them especially when they are interested with other professions.

Be a Role Model

Let your child look at you as a positive person. A child will usually mimic your behavior that is why it is important to let them mimic your positivity and great self-esteem.

Now that I am a parent, I want to make sure that I am being a great example to my son. I read this book when I was on my maternity leave and I really did learn a lot while I am enjoying its activity!

Mom School
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Value Their Efforts

Instead of being a perfectionist, try to value your child’s effort. Give praise for their success and do not focus on the things which they did not do well. Tell those kind words such as: “I know it was hard but I am proud because you did not quit!”

Get Them Involved

Encourage your child to be involved with activities that they can learn from especially activities that they are most interested at. It is important to know that you must not force them. Instead, encourage them to join voluntarily because forcing them will not make a positive effect on their self-esteem. At the same time, celebrate their small successes. Allowing them to be involved will also help them to bring out their talents.

Teach them to be Independent

Independence can give your child a solid self-esteem. If your child learns how to be independent at a young age, they will become responsible individuals in the future. At first, help your child to make plans and set goals and allow them to do achieve these goals independently.

You can teach your child how to become independent even of your child is still young. Activities like backyard ladder climbing can help them become independent and confident at the same time.

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Mistakes are Okay

Tell your children that it is okay to make mistakes. Mistakes are part of our life and the thing they can do with is to learn from them. Teach them how to cope up with mistakes positively. If you are unhappy with your child’s mistakes, explain to them your reasons kindly. Teach them to forget the past and learn from it.

Do Not Compare

Do not do comparisons because these can really degrade your child. Understand that every child is unique and their development is different from one another. Be proud of their uniqueness

Read Books on Self-development

Self-development books are also great tools in boosting a child’s confidence because it explains the development of a child as he or she grows older. These books allow them to understand that their development is different from others.

Personally, I recommend this book because I find it very interactive and when I read it, I really realized my worth. I always doubt my abilities but after reading it, I became free of my toxic thoughts.

Welcome Your Child’s Friends

Welcoming your child’s friends is a way of letting your child become confident in sharing things with you. If you welcome your child’s friends at your home and you treat them as your family, your child will surely appreciate it.

Keep Up With Family Activities

Strengthen your relationship with your family by having those family activities. This will make your child feel their importance in your family.

Why Self-esteem Matters

Children who are able to have a positive self-esteem are able to have a growth mindset. This growth mindset, then, can be brought by them as they grow older. They will learn how to cope up with challenges and they will know how to use their mistakes. They will be able to form great friendships and when it is time for them to create their own family, they will be able to nourish and respect their romantic relationships. Additionally, they will be able to make great decisions in life and they will have enough confidence to face any challenges they may encounter.

Final Thoughts

If your child is struggling with self-esteem, understand that it will not last forever. Be your child’s comfort zone and at the same time, know that you also need to seek help from others because doing this will allow your child to grow confident and independent.


Is low self-esteem a mental illness?

Low self-esteem is not a mental illness but they are linked with each other. If a child will never be able to cope up with challenges, this may lead to depression and anxiety which are considered mental illnesses.

How do you punish a child with low self-esteem?

Understand that you can discipline your child without embarrassing or shaming them. Discipline your child by motivating them in order for them to not make the same mistakes.

How is self-esteem related to success?

Self-esteem is the key to success. If your child has a high self-esteem, this means that it is possible for him or her to be more successful in life, relationship, and work.

[1] Gasper, Joseph, Stefanie DeLuca, and Angela Estacion. “Switching schools: Revisiting the relationship between school mobility and high school dropout.” American Educational Research Journal 49.3 (2012): 487-519.

[2] Chetty, Raj, Nathaniel Hendren, and Lawrence F. Katz. “The effects of exposure to better neighborhoods on children: New evidence from the Moving to Opportunity experiment.” American Economic Review 106.4 (2016): 855-902.

[3] Amato, Paul R. “Marital conflict, the parent-child relationship and child self-esteem.” Family Relations (1986): 403-410.

[4] Pullmann, Helle, and Jüri Allik. “Relations of academic and general self-esteem to school achievement.” Personality and Individual Differences 45.6 (2008): 559-564.

[5] Lee, Richard M., and Steven B. Robbins. “The relationship between social connectedness and anxiety, self-esteem, and social identity.” (1998): 338.

[6] Crocker, Jennifer, and Riia K. Luhtanen. “Level of self-esteem and contingencies of self-worth: Unique effects on academic, social, and financial problems in college students.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 29.6 (2003): 701-712.

[7] Mann, Michal Michelle, et al. “Self-esteem in a broad-spectrum approach for mental health promotion.” Health education research 19.4 (2004): 357-372.

[8] Miyahara, Motohide, and Jan Piek. “Self-esteem of children and adolescents with physical disabilities: Quantitative evidence from meta-analysis.” Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities 18.3 (2006): 219-234.

[9] Fischer, Kurt W., and Daniel Bullock. “Cognitive development in school-age children: Conclusions and new directions.” Development during middle childhood: The years from six to twelve (1984): 70-146.

[10] Robins, Richard W., and Kali H. Trzesniewski. “Self-esteem development across the lifespan.” Current directions in psychological science 14.3 (2005): 158-162.

[11] Hulme, Natalie, Colette Hirsch, and Lusia Stopa. “Images of the self and self-esteem: do positive self-images improve self-esteem in social anxiety?.” Cognitive behaviour therapy 41.2 (2012): 163-173.

[12] Moritz, Steffen, Ronny Werner, and Gernot von Collani. “The inferiority complex in paranoia readdressed: a study with the Implicit Association Test.” Cognitive neuropsychiatry 11.4 (2006): 402-415.

[13] Batool, Syeda Shahida, Sumaira Khursheed, and Hira Jahangir. “Academic procrastination as a product of low self-esteem: A mediational role of academic self-efficacy.” Pakistan Journal of Psychological Research (2017): 195-211.

[14] Azmitia, Margarita. “Self, self-esteem, conflicts, and best friendships in early adolescence.” Understanding early adolescent self and identity: Applications and interventions (2002): 167-192.

[15] Vanhalst, Janne, et al. “Low self-esteem as a risk factor for loneliness in adolescence: Perceived-but not actual-social acceptance as an underlying mechanism.” Journal of abnormal child psychology 41.7 (2013): 1067-1081.

[16] Schmidt, Louis A., and Thomas N. Robinson Jr. “Low self-esteem in differentiating fearful and self-conscious forms of shyness.” Psychological reports 70.1 (1992): 255-257.

[17] McGee, Rob, Sheila Williams, and Shyamala Nada-Raja. “Low self-esteem and hopelessness in childhood and suicidal ideation in early adulthood.” Journal of abnormal child psychology 29.4 (2001): 281-291.

[18] Lane, Andrew M., Liz Jones, and Matthew J. Stevens. “Coping with failure: The effects of self-esteem and coping on changes in self-efficacy.” Journal of Sport Behavior 25.4 (2002): 331.

[19] Tracy, Jessica L., and Richard W. Robins. “” Death of a (Narcissistic) Salesman:” An Integrative Model of Fragile Self-Esteem.” Psychological inquiry 14.1 (2003): 57-62.

[20] Rubin, Kenneth H., Robert J. Coplan, and Julie C. Bowker. “Social withdrawal in childhood.” Annual review of psychology 60 (2009): 141-171.

[21] Ostrowsky, Michael K. “Are violent people more likely to have low self-esteem or high self-esteem?.” Aggression and Violent Behavior 15.1 (2010): 69-75.

[22] Karpowicz, Ewa, Ingela Skärsäter, and Lauri Nevonen. “Self‐esteem in patients treated for anorexia nervosa.” International Journal of Mental Health Nursing 18.5 (2009): 318-325.

[23] Baumeister, Roy F., et al. “Does high self-esteem cause better performance, interpersonal success, happiness, or healthier lifestyles?.” Psychological science in the public interest 4.1 (2003): 1-44.

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[26] Thomaes, Sander, et al. “Trumping shame by blasts of noise: Narcissism, self‐esteem, shame, and aggression in young adolescents.” Child development 79.6 (2008): 1792-1801.

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Diana Lucas

Diana Lucas

Hi, Diana here. Welcome to my blog and hope you like my sharing. I am a mother of 2 boys, 3 years old and a 1 year old. I dedicate my career in child development research and I focus on parenting tips, positive parenting, educational toys for my babies. Your time here means a lot to me! Diana A. Lucas