Low Self-Esteem and Childhood Sexual Abuse 

Written by: Adewale Atoyebi, (He/Him/His) Placement Student, Diploma Student for Community & Justice Services at Humber College

Low self-esteem has been highly linked to childhood sexual abuse. Children who have low self-esteem are vulnerable to sexual abuse because of their natural need for affection. Most children with low self-esteem feel the need to search for acceptance and admiration. Perpetrators know this. The elements are common among children bullied in schools or whose parents have low self-esteem. Children exhibiting such traits are likely to be drawn by those individuals who give them attention, flattery, and gifts. Perpetrators will often use these tactics to lure the child. Lack of self-worth and confidence may make the children vulnerable as they might not see they are supposed to be valued and respected. 

Parents need to ensure they help build their children’s self-esteem. Establishing good self-esteem for the children starts with parents responding to their children and making them feel safe. In addition, parents need to be present during their children’s growth and development to give them a sense of love. Altogether, parents can build their children’s self-esteem at a tender age by allowing them to explore. If the child falls and injures themselves, parents become available to pick them up, making them understand that they can depend on them.  

Good self-esteem normally develops through growing up in an environment where the child feels loved and secure (Keane, 2017). Parents can establish a secure environment by making their children feel safe and supported. If a child does not have parents who support them, it will lead to no one to trust, which will make their self-esteem low, making them vulnerable to sexual abuse. 

 Another way that parents can help in building their children’s self-esteem is by assigning them duties around the house and rewarding them once they have completed. The element will give the child a sense of belonging in the household and their value. Also, when others are bullying a child, the parents should address the problem immediately and ensure the child feels safe again. Moreover, a parent should always show confidence whenever they are around their children, as a parent is the first role model of every child. Therefore, if a parent portrays a positive trait, the child will likely fall into the same course. 

Low self-esteem also leads to feelings of loneliness. Loneliness could lead a child to feel neglected, alienated, and isolated. Most sexual perpetrators play with children’s psychology by ensuring they are isolated from others. If a child has feelings of isolation, the perpetrator could use this vulnerability to lure and abuse them.  


Keane, L., & Loades, M. (2017). Low self‐esteem and internalizing disorders in young people–a systematic review. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 22(1), 4-15.