The impact of chores on self-esteem

We all want our kids to feel good about themselves. We complement them on their performance, their appearance, and their abilities hoping that they'll develop self-esteem and grow into happy adults. Unfortunately, as we discussed in Episode 61 of the Family Anatomy Podcast, words don't cut it when it comes to self-esteem - kids need to develop skills and experience "mastery" to feel good about themselves; these mastery experiences give them accurate information about their skills and capabilities, promoting self-esteem. Researchers believe that this is one of the reasons why participation in extracurricular activities has such a positive impact. While kids live at home, parents can facilitate participation in these activities, but what about when they move on to college or university? Suddenly their beliefs about their capabilities and competence become extremely important, since they must be self-motivated to complete their schoolwork.

Heidi Riggio and her colleagues examined the impact of household responsibilities on self-efficacy beliefs in a study published in a recent issue of Personality and Individual Differences. The researchers questioned 280 college students about their relationships with their parents, the chores that were assigned to them when they lived at home, and their beliefs about their "self-efficacy." Women who reported having grown up with greater responsibility for household tasks, preparing meals, and who were able to care for themselves at younger ages also reported greater feelings of competence, self-direction, and focus on assigned tasks. Men who took responsibility for running errands also felt more competent and effective in their daily lives and at work. Although in this particular study, household duties had a greater impact on women and responsibilities outside the home had more of an effect on men, it's not unreasonable to believe that it's important for young men and women to learn to take care of things both inside and outside the house! And we know that mastery experience and self-efficacy are essential factors in the development of self-esteem.

As we said on the podcast this week, giving kids household responsibilities is important - this study bears that out. Starting young is a good idea too; Dr. David Elkind wrote about chores for very young children last October.

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Note: Posts on Family Anatomy are for education only, and are not intended to replace professional or medical advice. If you need to talk to someone about family or mental health issues, you can get a referral from your family doctor.