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19-03-2019 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 6/2019 Open Access

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 6/2019

Perceived Quality of the Mother–Adolescent and Father–Adolescent Attachment Relationship and Adolescents’ Self-Esteem

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 6/2019
Renske Keizer, Katrien O. W. Helmerhorst, Loes van Rijn-van Gelderen
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There is consensus in the literature that self-esteem stems from relationships with others. In particular, it is assumed that parents play an important role in the development of children’s self-esteem, also in adolescence. Despite the importance of parent–child attachment relationships for adolescents’ self-esteem, we know very little about the extent to which fathers and mothers uniquely contribute to adolescents’ self-esteem. The current study aims to contribute to acquiring knowledge in this research area in three ways. First, by separating the potential influences of father–child and mother–child attachment relationships on sons’ and daughters’ self-esteem, the current study is able to investigate the individual contribution of the father–child and mother–child attachment relationship to female and male adolescent’s self-esteem. Second, by controlling for changes in the quality of the parental relationship and peer relationships the current study is able to isolate linkages between changes in adolescents’ perceived quality of the parent–child attachment relationships and changes in adolescents’ self-esteem. Third, by using longitudinal data and solely analyzing within-person variation, the current study is able to rule out stable confounding factors as alternative explanations. Self-reports of 542 adolescents (mean age at T1 = 13.6 years, percentage female = 0.51) from all three waves of the Dutch cohort study Social Development of Adolescents were used. The longitudinal fixed effects models showed that, for both sons and daughters, changes in the perceived quality of the mother–adolescent attachment relationship and changes in the perceived quality of the relationship between adolescents’ parents were positively linked with changes in self-esteem. Changes in the perceived quality of the attachment relationship with father were only significantly linked to changes in daughters’ self-esteem, not in that of sons. Contrary to the expectations, changes in peer relationships were not associated with changes in adolescents’ self-esteem. These findings suggest that even though adolescents may be increasing their time spent with friends and romantic partners, perceived changes in the attachment relationships with fathers and mothers and in the wider family system are highly important for how adolescents think of and judge themselves.

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