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Children’s self-esteem is already established by age 5.

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By age 5 children have a sense of self-esteem comparable in strength to that of adults, according to a new study by University of Washington researchers.

Because self-esteem tends to remain relatively stable across one’s lifespan, the study suggests that this important personality trait is already in place before children begin kindergarten.

“Our work provides the earliest glimpse to date of how preschoolers sense their selves,” said lead author Dario Cvencek, a research scientist at the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS).

“We found that as young as 5 years of age self-esteem is established strongly enough to be measured,” said Cvencek, “and we can measure it using sensitive techniques.”

The new findings, published in the January 2016 issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, used a newly developed test to assess implicit self-esteem in more than 200 5-year-old children — the youngest age yet to be measured.

“Some scientists consider preschoolers too young to have developed a positive or negative sense about themselves. Our findings suggest that self-esteem, feeling good or bad about yourself, is fundamental,” said co-author, Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of I-LABS. “It is a social mindset children bring to school with them, not something they develop in school.”

Meltzoff continued: “What aspects of parent-child interaction promote and nurture preschool self-esteem? That’s the essential question. We hope we can find out by studying even younger children.”

Peoples' personalities barely change throughout one's life and are usually set by the time their done first grade. 

Original paper:

Implicit measures for preschool children confirm self-esteem's role in maintaining a balanced identity

A few Reddit comments:

When my child was gaming us by pretending to be asleep at 4 months old (evidence caught on video monitor) I knew her personality was going to be crafty! This stuff is innate.

Tara she sounds very resourceful! How do you guide her to make good choices?

I think you just have to model it through your behaviour as parents, suddenly your own moral compass comes in to question when seen through that lense. In that was being a parent makes you a better person.

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