What Are the Causes of a Child to Have Poor Self Image & How Might It Affect Their Behavior?

The way your child views herself, her self-esteem or self-image, plays a large role in her own personal development 1. According to KidsHealth, her self-esteem is a source of protection from the trials and tribulations of the world 1. As a parent, it’s your job to help your child learn to respect herself and view herself in a positive manner, which is why it’s important for you to understand exactly what causes poor self-image and how it can affect your child and her behavior.


When your child does not perform well at a particular task, it may hinder his self-image, advises KidsHealth 1. If he simply isn’t athletic but plays baseball, it is probably going to be a challenge for him. When he participates in activities he has no aptitude, for it will challenge his behavior. Your sunny, bright child might start using derogatory language about himself, such as telling you he’s stupid or he’s a terrible player or that he’s not good at anything. His behavior is continually affected because the more he talks about himself this way, the more he will believe it and he may begin to lose his confidence in other areas of life.

An Abusive Childhood

According to the Center for Clinical Interventions in Washington, an abusive childhood is a leading cause of negative self-image in children. If your child was neglected, punished harshly or abused as a child, her opinion of herself will suffer and affect her behavior. If she was neglected as a child, she may feel she is unlovable, which could cause her to behave poorly. According to Dr. Arthur Becker-Weidman, Ph.D., if your child is abused or neglected as a child, her behavior may include an increased risk of substance abuse, trust issues, difficulty maintaining healthy relationships or even psychiatric problems.

Peer Standards

Your child is highly susceptible to the opinions and feelings of her peers, advises KidsHealth 1. If she does not meet her friends' standards regarding what is cool or popular at the moment, it may affect her self-image in a negative way. If her peers do not accept her appearance, she may change her behavior regarding health and start starving herself, throwing up after eating or calling herself fat and other unhealthy adjectives.

Your High Expectations

While it’s great to have expectations of your children, you can go too far with your expectations, advises the Center for Clinical Intervention 3. If your child feels too much pressure to meet your expectations and fails to live up to the perfect child he thinks you want him to be, he is going to develop a poor self-image. He may become withdrawn, negative and he may give up trying to please you at all because he feels he will never be good enough.