Study: inflated praise is damaging for children with low self-esteem

Posted on January 15, 2014

"If you tell a child with low self-esteem that they did incredibly well, they may think they always need to do incredibly well. They may worry about meeting those high standards and decide not to take on any new challenges" (Photo: flickr)

As counterintuitive as it may seem, a study has revealed that inflated praise given to children who are suffering from low self-esteem could be detrimental to their ability to overcome their feelings of inadequacy. Whilst children with high self-esteem are seen to flourish when given inflated praise, those with low self-esteem are more likely to spurn new challenges when they are too heavily praised.

Inflated praise was defined in this research as an adverb, such as "incredibly", or an adjective, such as "perfect", attached to an already positive statement, resulting in an inflated evaluation of a child's performance. For example, "You're good at this" is not inflated, whereas "You're incredibly good at this" is inflated. Lead author of the study, Eddie Brimmelman, also discovered that adults gave twice as much inflated praise to children with low self-esteem than to children with high self-esteem.

"Parents seemed to think that the children with low self-esteem needed to get extra praise to make them feel better," said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University. "It's understandable why adults would do that, but we found in another experiment that this inflated praise can backfire in these children."

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Category(s):Child Development

Source material from Wired