Low Self-Esteem and Impairments in Emotion Recognition Predict Behavioural Problems in Children

Amy E Wells, Laura M Hunnikin, Daniel Paul Ash, Stephanie HM Van Goozen

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Research indicates that low self-esteem and impaired emotion recognition are risk factors for antisocial behaviour (ASB). Self-esteem and emotion recognition are essential for successful social interaction and previous research suggests that self-esteem and emotional intelligence are positively related. However, to our knowledge the relationship between these two risk factors for ASB has not been explored in children with behavioural problems. Thus, this study investigated self-esteem and emotion recognition, their relationship with one another and with behavioural problem severity. Participants were 8–11 year olds with behavioural problems (BP; n = 78) who were taking part in an early intervention program, and typically developing controls (TD; n = 54). Participants completed a self-esteem questionnaire and a computerised emotion recognition task. Teachers and parents rated children’s emotional and behavioural problems. BP participants had significantly lower self-esteem and exhibited an impairment in emotion recognition. Self-esteem and emotion recognition were positively related and inversely associated with behavioural problem severity and they predicted behaviour problems independently of one another. This is the first study to show that self-esteem and emotion recognition are related processes in children with behavioural problems and that both predict behavioural problems. This has important implications for the development of intervention strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-701
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment
Early online date2 Jun 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jun 2020


  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Behavioural problems
  • Emotion recognition
  • Peer relationships
  • Self-enhancing bias
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-perception


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