Chapter 11 – Self-Concept
Self-concept: attitudes, behaviours, and values that a person believes make (him / her) a unique person.
Origins of Self-Recognition
Mother’s placing a red dot on her infant’s nose
o Before 15 months of age a baby will try and touch the nose on the mirror.
o At 15 months when an infant has self-concept they will touch their own nose while
looking in the mirror.
Self-awareness occurs between 18 & 25 months of age. (Well established in 2 year olds)
o Toddlers will look more often at pictures of themselves than pictures of others.
o They refer to themselves by name or personal pronoun “I”
o They are aware of different roles between themselves and the caregiver
o They are aware of their body.
When a child becomes self-aware they start their autobiographical memory.
A child will understand continuity (of existence of self) when they say a toy is “mine”
o They understand that over time the toy remains theirs
They describe themselves with physical characteristics, their preferences (“I like cookies”), their
possessions, and their competencies (“I can count to 50”)
All traits are observable and concrete and relatively unchanging across time.
Chinese preschoolers are more likely to show that they are embedded in relationships with
others (“I like my mommy”)
(5-7 years old)
They mention emotions, social groups to which they belong and they contrast themselves to their peers.
They describe themselves using attitudes (“I love algebra”), personality traits (“I am usually a happy
person”), beliefs (“I’m a Catholic” or “I’m a Conservative”), and future orientation (Occupational goals:
“I’m going to be a teacher”; Educational goals; or Social Roles “ I want to get married young”).
More abstract, psychological and seen as an identity that changes over time.
Self-concept becomes richer as children grow and the type of knowledge children have of themselves
changes. The Search for Identity
Erik Erikson believed that adolescents struggle to achieve an identity that will allow them to participate
in the adult world.
Most exploration is career or love oriented.
Adolescence Egocentrism- self-absorption that marks the teenage search for identity.
Imaginary Audience- adolescents feel that they are constantly watched by peers.
Personal Fable – teenager’s tendency to believe that their experiences and feelings are unique.
Illusion of Invulnerability- the belief that misfortune only happens to others.
Theses 4 become less common when adolescents find an identity for themself.
Erikson proposed that at each of the 8 stages across a lifespan a psychological and social crisis must be
met and resolved.
2 outcomes: identity vs. role confusion
Marcia proposed that in dealing with identity crisis, adolescents deal with these phases, in no particular
Diffusion- Individuals are confused overwhelmed with the task or achieving an identity and are
doing little to achieve one
Foreclosure- Individuals have an identity chosen largely by adults, rather than personal
Moratorium- individuals are still examining different alternatives and have yet to find a
Achievement- Individuals have explored alternatives and have deliberately chosen a specific
Most young adults are in a state of foreclosure or diffusion because they are avoiding crisis.
Choosing a Career
Super’s 3 phases of Career Development
At about 13 or 14 adolescents use their emerging identities as a source of ideas about careers in
a process known as crystallization.
At 18 they enter a new stage called specification where individuals further limit their career
possibilities by learning more specific careers to obtain the training required for a specific job.
Early 20s they experience implementation where individuals enter the work force and learn
first-hand about jobs.
In these stages there is a constant give-take between an individual’s identity and career choice.
Parents are influential throughout these stages o When parents are more open to discuss the autonomy of the child and encourage
discussion children are more likely to reach the achievement status.
o When parents set rules with little justification and enforce them without explanation,
adolescents are stuck in the foreclosure status.
o Adolescents are more likely to establish an identity when parents encourage them to
explore alternatives on their own but do not pressure or provide explicit direction
o Woman who had achievement and foreclosure were more likely to have securely
Ethnic Identity – when people feel a part of their ethnic group and learn the social customs and
traditions of their group’s culture. It is established in 3 phases:
1. An individual has not examined their ethnic roots
2. Adolescents explore the personal impact of their ethnic heritage (ie going to festivals)
3. Individuals achieve a distinct ethnic self-concept
Older adolescents are more likely to have found their ethnic-identity because they have had
more time to explore their cultural heritage.
If their parents are encouraging of it is also more likely that adolescent will establish an ethic
Adolescents benefit from a strong ethnic identity.
o They have higher self-esteem and find interactions between friends and family more
o They are happier and worry less.
o They do better in school and are more likely to go to college.
Connecting with mainstream culture weakens an ethnic identity.
Identity and Acculturation of Immigrant Youth
Acculturation- the process of integrating into and adopting the customs of a different culture.
It is helpful to acculturate but those individuals have a much more fulfilling life when they still
carry their heritage with them.
Storm and Stress
The rebellious teen is a myth. Adolescence isn’t a time of turmoil and conflict.
They feel sadness, are irritable, have low self-esteem, sleep poorly and are unable to concentrate.
6% of girls and 2 % of boys are vulnerable of being majorly depressed between the ages of 12-14
o Girls are have more stresses than boys in adolescence. Triggered by significant losses, disappointment or failure.
Attributions- personal explanations of successes and failures.
o Depressed teens are more likely to be depressed if they blame themselves for failure.
Can become depressed when their parents are emotionally distant and uninvolved, there are
economic hardships or marital problems.
Biology also affects depression
o Some depressed adolescents have reduced levels of norepinephrine or serotonin that
help regulate the brain centers that allow people to experience pleasure.
They can take antidepressants, but they have no long term benefits
Psychotherapy improves depression long term. (CB – cognitive behavioural)
A person’s judgement and feelings about their own worth.
Measuring Self Esteem
High self-esteem if you feel that …
You are good at schoolwork