Parental Conditional Regard: Psychological Costs and Antecedents

  • Avi Assor
  • Yaniv Kanat-Maymon
  • Guy Roth


Parents often try to promote internalization of valued behaviors by making their regard contingent on children’s enactment of those behaviors. We present findings suggesting that while parental conditional regard (PCR) might lead to enactment of expected behaviors, this practice has the following costs: (1) stressful internalization of parental expectations, (2) rigid and low-quality performance (3) self-esteem fluctuations and poor well-being, and (4) negative affect towards parents. Importantly, our research suggests that positive PCR (i.e., giving more regard when children comply) is quite harmful despite its seemingly benign nature. Several studies suggest that: (1) there is an inter-generational transmission of PCR (2) parents’ contingent self-esteem and a competitive world view enhance parents’ inclination to use PCR, and (3) parents use of PCR increases when they have infants who are easily frustrated. Overall, the findings suggest that PCR is a harmful practice originating, at least partly, from stressful parental experiences.


  1. Assor, A. (2011). Autonomous moral motivation: Consequences, socializing antecedents, and the unique role of integrated moral principles. In M. Mikulincer & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), The social psychology of morality. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  2. Assor, A., Cohen-Melayev, M., Kaplan, A., & Friedman, D. (2005). Choosing to stay religious in a modern world: Socialization and exploration processes leading to an integrated internalization of religion among Israeli Jewish youth. In M. L. Maehr & S. Karabenick (Eds.), Advances in motivation and achievement (Religion and motivation, Vol. 14, pp. 105–150). Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  3. Assor, A., Eilot, K., & Roth, A. (2009). In search of an optimal style of negative emotion regulation: Correlates and potential parental antecedents of integrated regulation. Paper presented at the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), Denver, CO, USA.Google Scholar
  4. Assor, A., Ezra, O., Kanat-Maymon, Y., Gabay-Elegy, P., Iluz-Cohen, M., & Shapira, D. (2013). Infant’s distress to limitation amplifies the use of conditional regard and reduces autonomy support among first time parents. Paper to be presented at the 5th International Conference on Self-Determination Theory, Rochester, NY.Google Scholar
  5. Assor, A., Kaplan, H., Kanat-Maymon, Y., & Roth, G. (2005). Directly controlling teacher behaviors as predictors of poor motivation and engagement in girls and boys: The role of anger and anxiety. Learning and Instruction, 15, 397–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Assor, A., & Roth, G. (2005). Conditional love as a socializing approach: Costs and alternatives. Scientific Annals of the Psychological Society of Northern Greece, 7, 17–34.Google Scholar
  7. Assor, A., Roth, G., & Deci, E. L. (2004). The emotional costs of perceived parents’ conditional regard: A self-determination theory analysis. Journal of Personality, 72, 47–89.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Assor, A., Roth, G., Israeli-Halevi, M., Freed, A., & Deci, E. L. (2007). Parental conditional positive regard: Another harmful type of parental control. In A. Assor & W. S. Grolnick (Chairs), Disentangling the construct of parental control: Conceptual and measurement issues. Symposium conducted at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research on Child Development (SRCD), Boston, MA.Google Scholar
  9. Assor, A., Shapira, D., Johnson, G., & Kanat-Maymon, Y. (2012). Parental conditional positive regard has negative correlates also when assessed in ways that are consistent with behavioral approaches. Unpublished manuscript. Ben Gurion University.Google Scholar
  10. Assor, A., & Shavit-Miller, A. (2012). Vulnerability to the experience of negative conditional parental regard in the academic domain: Gender differences and possible mechanisms. Paper presented at the conference of the Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA), Vancouver, BC, Canada.Google Scholar
  11. Assor, A., & Tal, K. (2012). When parents’ affection depends on child’s achievement: Parental conditional positive regard, self-aggrandizement, shame and coping in adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 35, 249–260. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2011.10.004.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Assor, A., Vansteenkiste, M., & Kaplan, A. (2009). Identified versus introjected-approach and introjected-avoidance motivations in school and in sports: The limited benefits of self-worth strivings. Journal of Educational Psychology, 2, 482–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Barber, B., Stolz, H., & Olsen, J. (2005). Parental support, psychological control and behavioral control: Assessing relevance across time, culture and method. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 70, 1–151.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Baron, I., Kanat-Maymon, Y., Assor, A., Gabay-Elegy, P., Iluz-Cohen, M., & Moed, A. (2010). Expecting parents’ beliefs in conditional regard and autonomy support as socializing practices: Parental, self-esteem and world-view determinants. Paper presented in the Fourth International Conference on Self Determination Theory, Ghent, Belgium.Google Scholar
  15. Broucek, F. J. (1991). Shame and the self. New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  16. Covington, M. (1992). Making the grade: A self-worth perspective on motivation and school reform. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Crocker, J. (2002). The costs of seeking self-esteem. Journal of Social Issues, 58(3), 597–615.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Crocker, J., Sommers, S., & Luhtanen, R. (2002). Hopes dashed and dreams fulfilled: Contingencies of self-worth in the graduate school admissions process. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1275–1286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Crocker, J., & Wolfe, C. T. (2001). Contingencies of self-worth. Psychological Review, 108(3), 593.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dweck, C. S. (1999). Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  21. Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity, youth, and crisis. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc.Google Scholar
  22. Freud, S. (1923/1962). The Ego and the Id. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  23. Frost, J. (2005). Supernanny: How to get the best from your children. New York: Hyperion.Google Scholar
  24. Gewirtz, J. L., & Pelaez-Nogueras, M. (1991). Proximal mechanisms underlying the acquisition of moral behavior patterns. In W. M. Kurtines & J. L. Gewirtz (Eds.), Handbook of moral behavior and development (Theory, Vol. 1, pp. 153–182). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  25. Ginott, H. (1969). Between parent and child. New York: Avon Books.Google Scholar
  26. Grotevant, H. D. (1987). Toward a process model of identity formation. Journal of Adolescent Research, 2, 203–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gurland, S. T., & Grolnick, W. S. (2005). Perceived threat, controlling parenting, and children’s achievement orientations. Motivation and Emotion, 29, 103–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Israeli-Halevi, M., Assor, A., & Roth, G. (2012). Mothers’ use of conditional positive regard to promote anxiety suppression in children: A problematic emotion socializing strategy. Manuscript under review. Ben Gurion University, Israel.Google Scholar
  29. Kanat Maymon, Y., Roth, G., Assor, A., & Reizer, A. (2012). Conditional regard in close relationships. In P. E. Shaver & M. Mikulincer (Eds.), Meaning, mortality, and choice: The social psychology of existential concerns. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  30. Kazdin, E. A. (1973). The effect of vicarious reinforcement on attentive behavior in the classroom. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 63, 71–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kernis, M. H. (2003). Toward a conceptualization of optimal self-esteem. Psychological Inquiry, 14, 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kernis, M. H., Brown, A. C., & Brody, G. H. (2000). Fragile self-esteem in children and its associations with perceived patterns of parent-child communication. Journal of Personality, 68, 225–252.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kernis, M. H., Cornell, D. P., Sun, C. R., Berry, A., & Harlow, T. (1993). There’s more to self-esteem than whether it is high or low: The importance of stability of self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 1190–1204.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kernis, M. H., & Paradise, A. W. (2002). Distinguishing between fragile and secure forms of high self-esteem. In E. L. Deci & R. M. Ryan (Eds.), Handbook of self-determination research (pp. 339–360). Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.Google Scholar
  35. Kernis, M. H., Whisenhunt, C. R., Waschull, S. B., Greenier, K. D., Berry, A. J., Herlocker, C. E., et al. (1998). Multiple facets of self-esteem and their relations to depressive symptoms. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, 657–668.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Latham, G. I. (1994). The power of positive parenting: A wonderful way to raise children. Logan, UT: P&T Ink.Google Scholar
  37. McDowell, J. J. (1988). Matching theory in natural environments. The Behavior Analyst, 11, 95–109.PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Miller, A. (1981). Prisoners of childhood. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  39. Morrison, A. P. (1989). Shame: The underside of Narcissism. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press.Google Scholar
  40. Patterson, G. R., & Gullion, M. E. (1976). Living with children: New methods for parents and teachers. Champaign, IL: Research Press.Google Scholar
  41. Raskin, R., Novacek, J., & Hogan, R. (1991). Narcissistic self-esteem management. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 911–918.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rhodewalt, F., & Morf, C. C. (1998). On self-aggrandizement and anger: A temporal analysis of narcissism and affective reactions to success and failure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 672–685.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rhodewalt, F., Tragakis, M. W., & Finnerty, J. (2001). Narcissism and self-handicapping: Linking self-aggrandizement to behavior. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 573–597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Richmond, M. K., Stocker, C. M., & Rienks, S. L. (2005). Longitudinal associations between sibling relationship quality, parental differential treatment, and children’s adjustment. Journal of Family Psychology, 19, 550–559.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rogers, C. R. (1951). Client centered therapy. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.Google Scholar
  46. Roth, G. (2008). Perceived parental conditional regard and autonomy support as predictors of young adults’ self- versus other-oriented prosocial tendencies. Journal of Personality, 76, 513–534.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Roth, G., & Assor, A. (2003, April). Autonomy supporting and suppressing parental practices as predictors of flexible versus rigid emotion regulation in children. Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), Tampa, FL.Google Scholar
  48. Roth, G., & Assor, A. (2010). Parental conditional regard as a predictor of deficiencies in young children’s capacities to respond to sad feelings. Infant and Child Development, 19, 465–477.Google Scholar
  49. Roth, G., & Assor, A. (2012). The costs of parental pressure to express emotions: Conditional regard and autonomy support as predictors of emotion regulation and intimacy. Journal of Adolescence, 35, 799–808.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Roth, G., Assor, A., Niemiec, C. P., Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2009). The negative emotional and behavioral consequences of parental conditional regard: comparing positive conditional regard, negative conditional regard, and autonomy support as parenting practices. Developmental Psychology, 45, 1119–1142.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ryan, M. R., Deci, E. L., & Grolnick, W. S. (1995). Autonomy, relatedness, and the self: Their relation to development and psychopathology. In D. Chicchetti & D. J. Cohen (Eds.), Developmental psychopathology: Theory and methods (pp. 618–655). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  52. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68–78.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sartre, J. (1981). The words: The autobiography of Jean-Paul Sartre. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  54. Schwartz, S. J. (2001). The evolution of Eriksonian and neo-Eriksonian identity theory and research: A review and integration. Identity, 1, 7–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Shapira, M., Ezra, O., Gabay-Elegy, P., Shapira, D., & Assor, A. (2012). The multiple appearances of parental conditional positive regard: Direct and vicarious conditional regard as predictors of labile self-esteem dynamics. Paper presented in the International Conference on Motivation (ICM), Frankfurt, Germany.Google Scholar
  56. Shavit-Miller. (2009). Vulnerability to the experience of conditional parental regard in the academic domain: Gender differences and possible mechanisms. Doctoral dissertation submitted to Ben Gurion University, Israel.Google Scholar
  57. Shavit-Miller, A., & Assor, A. (2003). The experience of conditional parental regard and its effects on development: A study of gender differences. Paper presented at the 10th European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI), Padua, Italy.Google Scholar
  58. Skinner, B. F. (1969). Contingencies of reinforcement: A theoretical analysis. New York: Appleton.Google Scholar
  59. Soenens, B., Vansteenkiste, M., & Luyten, P. (2010). Towards a domain-specific approach to the study of parental psychological control: Distinguishing between dependency-oriented and achievement-oriented psychological control. Journal of Personality, 78, 217–256.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Steinberg, L. (2004). The ten basic principles of good parenting. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Avi Assor
    • 1
  • Yaniv Kanat-Maymon
    • 2
  • Guy Roth
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EducationBen-Gurion University of The NegevBeer-ShevaIsrael
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyInterdisciplinary CenterHertzliaIsrael

Personalised recommendations