Volume 88, Issue 6 p. 1799-1809
Special Section

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

Eddie Brummelman

Corresponding Author

Eddie Brummelman

University of Amsterdam

Stanford University

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Eddie Brummelman, Research Institute of Child Development and Education, University of Amsterdam, P.O. Box 15780, 1001 NG Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Electronic mail may be sent to [email protected].Search for more papers by this author
Stefanie A. Nelemans

Stefanie A. Nelemans

University of Leuven

Utrecht University

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Sander Thomaes

Sander Thomaes

Utrecht University

University of Southampton

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Bram Orobio de Castro

Bram Orobio de Castro

Utrecht University

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First published: 30 August 2017
Citations: 43
This research was supported by The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (grant 431-09-022).

Abstract

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.