How Early Childhood Experiences with Parents Shape Self-Concept

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Running Head: The Shaping of Self-Concept Flanagan 1

How Early Childhood Experiences with Parents Shape Self-Concept CCOU 304
Liberty University
Vickie M. Flanagan
4/3/12

Running Head: The Shaping of Self-Concept Flanagan 2

Thesis:
Early childhood experiences with parents play a major role in the shaping of an individual’s self-concept- the set of attitudes, opinions, and cognitions that she has of herself. Patterns of self-concept begin to develop as early as toddlerhood, while children are developing their sense of self-awareness. Everything from modeling parental behavior, parenting styles, to the availability, love and nurturing of one’s parents is thought to have overall consequences of how someone might see and define themselves.

Running Head: The Shaping of Self-Concept Flanagan 3 In the study of early childhood psychosocial development, self-concept has been defined as a total picture of one’s abilities and traits. It is a “cognitive construction, a system of descriptive and evaluation representations about the self”, that determines how one feels about themselves and serves as a guide for one’s actions (Papalia, Feldman, 2011, p.282). Could there be any wonder as to why parents are thought to play a major role in the overall shaping of an individuals self-concept? From a very early age a child will incorporate into their self-concept the growing understanding of how others view them (Papalia, Feldman, 2011, p.282). This can have an either positive or negative effect, which can carry over into adulthood. The sense of self begins at infancy and experts say that depending on the type of care received by the infant and the response, either pleasant or unpleasant emotions become connected with experiences that play an important role in the growing concept of self (Papalia, Feldman, 2011, p.220). Psychologists explain that by the age of 3 months, infants are already paying attention to their mirror image (Papalia, Feldman, 2011, p.220). By the age of 4 to10 months, infants experience a sense of personal agency, realizing that they can control external events (Papalia, Feldman, 2011, P.220). At this time they are also developing a self-coherence, a sense of being a physical whole, in which is developed by their interaction with caregivers (Papalia, Feldman, 2011 p.220). Over time they will learn that they can successfully complete tasks by goal setting, maintaining effort, and overcoming failure to accomplish a desired result (Steep, 2012). As more opportunities arise they will form beliefs about their ability to perform at their desired level which will motivate the child’s behavior developing a positive sense of self (Steep, 2012)

Running Head: The Shaping of Self-Concept Flanagan 4 In one study, investigators put makeup on the noses of children 6 to 24 months old and sat them in front of a mirror. Three-fourths of the 18-month-olds and all of the 24-month-olds touched their red noses, revealing their self-awareness and self-consciousness (Papalia, Feldman, 2011, p.220). A 2 year old is already exhibiting expressions of embarrassment and even pride (Steep, 2012). Self-concept continues to grow throughout childhood. Parents can influence their child’s ideas and beliefs about how to define the self, often through every day conversation. Children don’t usually talk about their self-concept until the age of about 8 years old. However, they do tend to express by behavior, that they have a self-concept (Papilia, Feldman, 2011, p.283). Even before the age of 7, a child’s self-esteem is not based on reality but rather the judgments of that of adults and can be either positive or critical. In early childhood, the concept of...
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