Relationship of Self-Esteem & Academics in Children

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Many researchers and educators regard self-esteem as a predictor of academic success. This belief suggests that positive self-esteem is vital to a child’s level of achievement. However, the examination of research studies investigating the relationship between self-esteem and academic success indicates that it is a parallel one in which one side increases at a similar rate as the other. Therefore, a rise or fall in academic success will likely cause an equal rise or fall in self-esteem.


Self-esteem refers to the feelings and beliefs that an individual has of his own worth. This term is often confused with self-concept. Self-concept is the knowledge and understanding that an individual has of himself. Often efforts are made to help a child find or understand himself better. Though the efforts are helpful, they may not significantly affect self-esteem or academic performance. A 2009 study of 1,611 American Indian adolescents found a positive relationship between self-esteem and academic success, but cultural identity, a factor of self-concept, was not directly related to academic achievement and had very few indirect links. To best help children, a parent or teacher should understand the difference between the terms.


A 1996 study of 6,923 sixth-graders in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, published in Pediatric Exercise Science, found that physical activity, self-esteem and academic achievement go hand in hand. A study of 100 pre-university students in Iran, published in the Journal of Applied Science in 2010, found a strong relationship between self-esteem and academic success in both boys and girls. Because of the prerequisite of self-esteem placed on academic achievement, it may be one of the most important focus areas of child development.


The time children spend in school and learning may cause them to place a large amount of attention on academics in self-valuation. Although their views of what makes them valuable--in this case academics--are disproportionate, children struggle to understand the balance of success in academics versus other activities. If a child is not matching up to peers academically, he may develop a lower sense of worth because so much focus is placed on his weakness. This, too, suggests that self-esteem may be a consequence of academic success.


Students classified in a gifted group show different results than do average students. In 2005, Australian scientists took the 65 most academically gifted students out of a group of 900 in the Wollongong Catholic Diocese, and found that self-esteem did not have any significant effect on their academic success. These results indicate that gifted children may be an exception to the rule.


All parents want their children to succeed in school and to live happy lives after they finish. To help your children get the advantages they need, find areas of involvement in which they can excel. If they do well in school, praise and encourage strong academics. If they are athletic, enroll them in sports. If they are artistic, promote crafts in your household. If they are musically oriented, get them voice, guitar or piano lessons. Even enrolling them in various activities will give them a well-rounded feeling as they will become familiar with many tasks, offering them better chances to find their niches. A heightened sense of accomplishment in other areas may give them the self-esteem boost they need to succeed academically as well. And success academically may in turn promote positive self-esteem.