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Essay on Relationship between Gender Differences, Parental Attachment and Self-Esteem

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As self-esteem plays an important role in individuals' development studies have always presented interest in how an individual’s self-esteem is influenced by early parental attachment. Many of the studies present that a positive and close relationship with carers leads to higher levels of self-esteem and confidence. However, it is still debatable if gender differences and self-esteem are in one way or another associated, as a distinct result has been found. Therefore, this study is aiming to explore gender’s parental attachment scores, defining which gender group presents greater levels of self-esteem. Sixty-one participants took part in the study and completed two questionnaires: The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and the Parental Attachment Questionnaire. There was no significant relationship found between levels of self-esteem and parental attachment, however, gender differences and parental attachment presented no effect on self-esteem, rather gender differences scores presented a weak negative relationship with self-esteem, suggesting that males present higher levels of self-esteem. For further research is important to consider a more reasonable sample size and gender distribution as the present data is skewed and presents a number of limitations.


Family plays a vital role in the development of children. From the moment a child is born the family represents the environment in which that child learns and develops, and the parents have to play their parts as role models. John Bowlby (1969) presented the theory of attachment as an instinctive tendency of humans to develop protective and comforting connections, claiming that children may adopt various behavioral strategies, depending on life circumstances, to get as much support as they can from their care providers. Furthermore, he is stating that attachment behavior is adjusted in the light of life experiences. Later on, Mary Ainsworth proposed a classification of attachment based on studies of mother and baby interaction, focusing on the type and quality relationship between mother and child emerging from conditions of stress represented by the presence of a stranger and the condition represented by the temporary absence of the mother. As a result, Ainsworth placed those interactions in three primary attachment styles: secure, anxious avoidant, and anxious ambivalent (Ainsworth, 2015). Levine & Heller (2010) are stating that individuals' attachment styles reflect the consistent level of support and responsiveness a parent or caregiver provides any individual, in early childhood. But how does parental attachment play into self-esteem? Self-esteem is defined by Bleidorn et al. (2016) as a subjective evaluation of self-worth, encompassing views on oneself and emotional states. Do individuals with a specific upbringing present a higher level of self-esteem than others?

Emphasizing the current literature on attachment, Beckett & Taylor (2019) is identifying parental attachment as an emotional anchor and a source of security, therefore arguing that insecurity is commonly represented by the absence of attachment. Equally, much of the existing literature concerning attachment is highlighting the importance of the relationship between parents and children as a vital dimension in enhancing the well-being of children and facilitating healthy cognitive and emotional well-being.

However, there are a few questions that still have to be addressed. First, do the patterns of parental attachment and gender differences have any implications on an individual’s self-esteem? Second, does self-esteem differs in the magnitude of parental attachment affect gender differences? Third, are there gender-specific variables that predict differences in parental attachment effect on self-esteem?

The present study is aiming to explore what kind of relationships exists between gender identity, parental attachment, and self-esteem. Furthermore, this research is seeking to understand the implication of parental attachment and gender differences in the level of self-esteem. The hypothesis refers to a significant positive relationship between self-esteem and parental attachment where an association of higher levels of self-esteem and a higher level of parental attachment has been identified. On the other hand, the study's aim is to explore the effects of parental attachment and gender differences on self-esteem as well.

Thus, the influence of parental attachment on levels of self-esteem likely varies by gender differences in a notable way, through gender differences in the level of parental attachment measures. This way of exploring gender and parental attachment suggests that in the male’s case, all variables are held constant, while in the female’s case, higher levels of parental attachment are scientifically predicting higher levels of self-esteem and this represents our hypothesis.



The participants consisted of 61 Psychology undergraduates (10 males, 50 females and 1 preferred not to say). They had a mean age of 24.33 years (SD = 9.50, range from 19 to 61 years); males had a mean age of 26.70 years (SD = 12.63) and females had a mean age of 23.90 years (SD = 8.92). Opportunity sampling represented the recruitment process adopted.


The employed research design is a correlational one as we are aiming to find out if our variables are related, and in what way. The relationship between self-esteem and parental attachment has been examined by correlational analysis. Concerning the multiple regression analysis, gender, and parental attachment represented the predictor variables where self-esteem embodied the outcome variable.


Two questionnaires have been used for this study. Self-esteem was measured using The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965) which includes 10 items. Each item is rated on a 4-point scale (1 = strongly agree, 2 = agree, 3 = disagree, 4 = strongly disagree), with higher scores reflecting higher self-esteem. For the self-esteem questionnaire items 2, 5, 6, 8, and 9 are negatively worded and were reverse coded. According to Rosenberg (1965), the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale has good internal consistency, with a Cronbach’s alpha reported of  = .77. In the current study, the Cronbach’s alpha value was  = .92. Parental attachment was measured using the Parental Attachment Questionnaire (Kenny, 1987) which comprises of 55 items and 3 subscales. Each item is rated on a 5-point scale (1 = not at all, 2 = somewhat, 3 = a moderate amount, 4 = quite a bit, 5 = very much), with higher scores reflecting greater parental attachment. For the parental attachment questionnaire, 25 (out of 55) items (3, 6, 10, 11, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 29, 31, 33, 34, 35, 38, 41, 43, 47, 52, 53, 55) are negatively worded and were reversed coded. According to Kenny (1987), the Parental Attachment Questionnaire has an excellent internal consistency, with a Cronbach’s alpha reported of = .92. In the current study, Cronbach’s alpha value was  = .97.


Participants were approached during a seminar and asked to take part in the study. Before taking part in the study they read an information sheet detailing their ethical rights, and the agreeing consent has been completed electronically. After agreeing to take part, participants completed demographic questions including gender and age. Then they completed the self-esteem questionnaire followed by the parental-attachment questionnaire. Participants completed the study at their own pace, taking approximately 30 minutes.

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Data analysis

All statistical analyses are reported with two-tailed levels of significance, and with the alpha level set at .05. All scale measures were treated as interval data.

Before conducting the correlational analysis between self-esteem and parental attachment, violation checks have been applied to all required assumptions. There were no violation predictors for the assumption of a level of measurement, related pairs, independence of observations, linearity, or homoscedasticity. However, the violation has been predicted for the normality assumption as the parental attachment histogram and normal probability plots presented some non-normal distributions. Furthermore, one Kolmogorov-Smirnov value was significant (p < .05). As violation of the normality assumption has been noticed, Spearman’s rho the non-parametric alternative to correlation, will be conducted.

All required assumptions have been checked for violations before conducting the multiple regression analysis with gender and parental attachment as predictor variables and self-esteem as the outcome variable. Violation of the assumptions of the level of measurement, related pairs, independence of observations, linearity, homoscedasticity, independence, and multicollinearity has not been presented. However, the normality assumption has been violated as the parental attachment histogram and normal probability plots show some non-normal distribution and one Kolmogorov-Smirnov value was significant (p < 0.5). Conversely, the assumption of multicollinearity has not been violated (VIF's < 5, tolerance's > .20, r's < .90). Parental attachment weakly positively correlating with self-esteem and gender weakly negatively correlating with self-esteem is indicated by correlation matrix. (See Table 1). The assumption of independent errors (Durbin-Watson = 2.01) has been met. Due to the violation of the normality assumption caution will be taken when interpreting the data in the multiple regression analysis.

Table 1: Correlation matrix showing correlations between gender, self-esteem, and parental attachment

  • Self-esteem Parental attachment Gender
  • Self-esteem --
  • Parental attachment .21 --
  • Gender -.28* -.11 --
  • *p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001


The relationship between self-esteem (as measured by the Self-Esteem scale) and parental attachment (as measured by the Parental Attachment scale) is shown in Figure 1.

Assumption testing analyses indicated that there were violations of the normality assumption. A Spearman rank order correlation coefficient revealed that even though the correlation was weak and positive, there was no significant relationship between self-esteem and parental attachment (rho = .20, N = 61, p > .05).

A simultaneous multiple regression was used to investigate whether gender and parental attachment predicted self-esteem. Overall, the regression model was significant, F(2, 58) = 3.69, p < .05, R2 = .11, with 11% of the variance in self-esteem being explained by parental attachment and gender. Parental attachment did not predict self-esteem (β = .18, p = .15). Furthermore, gender negatively predicted self-esteem, β = -.26, p = .04, suggesting that females have lower self-esteem than men.


The purpose of this study was to focus on the investigation of how self-esteem would be affected by parental attachment and gender differences. The prediction has been referred to higher levels of parental attachment in female cases will significantly predict higher levels of self-esteem compared with the male cases.

From the results of this study, the suggestion is that certain elements of parental attachment contribute to individuals’ differences in presenting a high level of self-esteem. However, differences between gender differences and self-esteem are found in the descriptive statistics, not supporting our hypothesis. Overall, results from this study indicate that gender differences may affect the ways that parental attachment contributes to self-esteem, as it has been shown that gender differences weakly predicted self-esteem levels and the gender category presenting higher levels of self-esteem is the male's case.

The current findings are not consistent with Young's (2013) nor Meredith G.F. Worthen's (2011) studies where the result is indicating that gender differences may affect the way that parental attachment contributes to self-esteem. Moreover Young (2013) Is arguing that self-esteem is a ‘pivotal mechanism’ related to parental attachment. On the other hand, the findings seem to be consistent with (Lucktong, Salisbury & Chamratrithirong, 2017) and Robins et al. (2002). However, contrary to the existing studies, the current study did not find a significant relationship between parental attachment and self-esteem. The reason for the non-significant result might be directly referring to the study's limitations. As the convenience sample and results have been limited to university students, it can be argued that the familiarity with the scales and the comprehensive understanding of what is expected. Another limitation of the study can refer to the unequal distribution of the sample as there are only 10 male participants compared to 50 female participants and the skewed data showed higher self-esteem scores for males. Finally, one more limitation is characterized by the lack of a wider variety of variables such as socioeconomic status, life satisfaction, or perceived anxiety.

There are several ways the result of this research could be extended. First, would be helpful and informative to examine other socio-demographic characteristics such as race/ethnicity or family structure. Second, as the attachment is not limited to parents and exploration of friends bonding would certainly complement the result of the study. Finally, an exploration that incorporates social class variables and differences between balanced and unbalanced families would yield fruitful results.

To conclude, a contribution to the existing body of knowledge around the subject of gender differences and parental attachment implication on the scores of self-esteem is brought even if the results of the current study are insignificant. Only gender predicts association with self-esteem, just because the data itself is skewed and unequal regarding the male participants. There is no doubt that further studies should be conducted in order to establish a stronger theory concerning the relationship between gender differences, parental attachment, and self-esteem

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Essay on Relationship between Gender Differences, Parental Attachment and Self-Esteem. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 4, 2024, from
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