Personal DevelopmentDoes Low Self-Esteem Run in Families?

Does Low Self-Esteem Run in Families?


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Does Low Self-Esteem Run in Families?

One of the interesting aspects of human behavior is that you often find that different emotional as well as behavioral patterns tend to run in families. The same is often true when it comes to levels of self-esteem. Sadly, un-self-aware parents often create low self-esteem in their own children without the slightest idea they are doing so or that they suffer from low self-esteem themselves. In this article, I will discuss a few often overlooked ways in which parents create self-esteem issues in their children.

Most parents are blissfully unaware in how the emotional development of children works and what their role in it is. Often, parents have self-esteem issues that they are not aware of and hold faulty behavioral patterns that then create low self-esteem in their own children. Two of these low self-esteem behaviors are self absorption and manipulation.

Self Absorption

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One of the ramifications of having low self-esteem tends to be a person that is self-absorbed. It makes sense if you think about it because if a person does not feel very good about themselves then most of their energy is needed just to focus on themselves to get by day to day. It usually takes someone with pretty good self-esteem to show interest in others and to have that extra energy to put into other people.   If a parent is self-absorbed and does not show interest in the details of a child’s life whether the parent realizes it or not the child is affected by that.

The child’s self-esteem development when young is directly related to the amount of time and energy spent by the parent showing how important the child is. If the parent however is never around or when is around is occupied doing other things then the child feels worthless. Imagine a father coming home from work and instead of spending time with his son, he sits in front of the tv and barely acknowledges his kid, let alone spending one on one focused time asking him to tell him what happened during his day or showing genuine interest in him.

This child in essence feels that his father puts the ‘worth’ of the television he is watching above him. After all, if the son were that important his father would be spending time talking and playing with him and not be glued to the tv set right? Multiply this by years and you have the makings of a kid with self-esteem issues who now goes out in the world feeling ‘un-important’.


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Another unhealthy behavioral pattern that is rampant in many families is that of the narcissistic parent that in essence manipulates their child for their own emotional gain. In a healthy family, the parent should be mature enough and self-aware enough to recognize that their child has certain emotional developmental needs and that the parent provides that support and attention to the child.   But what if the parent is needy and immature? Then you have a reversed dynamic.  In this case the child, far from getting the attention and self-esteem that comes with feeling important is actually put in the position where he is forced to give attention to the parent or do the parent’s bidding in order to vicariously gain attention and worth for the parent.

We see this in families for instance where an immature mother pushes her child into show business for her own vicarious needs instead of what is really healthy for the child. We also see this in the father that might push his son in sports even if he doesn’t want to in order to live out his fantasies or get attention in some vicarious way. Both of these are manipulations which can harm the self-esteem of the child.    Both parental manipulation and self absorption are instances where low self-esteem parents create low self-esteem in their own children. This should be identified and avoided to prevent the generational continuation of low self-esteem in families.  For more great articles on self-esteem and human behavior please visit

by Robert Levin

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