A Study Based on Rosenbergs Research

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  • Topic: Self, Participant observation, Identity
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  • Published : April 4, 2013
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A STUDY BASED ON ROSENBERG’S RESEARCH (1979)

Abstract
The development of children’s identity particularly their self-perceptions, is of a widespread interest. This small-scale study was based on previous research by Rosenberg (1979). The aim was to determine the differences between self-descriptions and the shift of the locus of self-knowledge with age. The design involved semi-structured interviews of two participants aged 8 and 16 years. The participants wrote some statements about who they were, which were coded according to Rosenberg’s (1979) themes of self-descriptions. The responses about the locus of self-knowledge were also analysed to assess the shift with age and other themes were also analysed. The results showed that children’s self-descriptions became complex with age as they described themselves more in terms of their relationships and characteristics showing insight to their inner thoughts and ideas rather than just physical attributes. The locus of self-knowledge also showed a trend in shifting towards ‘self’ with age. These results supported Rosenberg’s ideas.

Introduction
Identity of a person comprises of his/her individual personality or character traits. According to Maccoby (1980,) identity development is a complex process which takes place over time with multiple factors affecting its development such as environmental interaction and personal experiences. James (1982) suggested that identity development starts when children recognize their existence in environment is separate from others, this development is called the existential-self (referred as ‘I’). This existential-self further develops into categorical-self (referred as ‘me’), which involves the recognition of one’s physical characteristics. Bannister and Agnew (1977) observed that children’s self-awareness developed with age. Younger children tended to describe themselves in terms of physical characteristics. The ability to view themselves as psychologically different from others increased with age. To understand children’s self-perceptions, Harter (1983) reviewed children’s interviews and proposed a developmental sequence of self-description in children. He observed that younger children used objective facts to describe themselves while older children used character qualities/ traits and the oldest participants gave descriptions of their emotions and attitudes, showing that self-descriptions become complex with age. Research by Rosenberg (1979) looked at children’s self-concept and its development. This led to the categories of self-descriptions in children: physical characteristics, character attributes, relationships and inner-thoughts. He interviewed 8-18 year olds and found that younger children mostly used descriptors related to psychical characteristics while older children also used character traits to express self-perception in terms of their social relationships. The oldest children also described themselves in relation to their innermost thoughts, ideas and beliefs. Rosenberg further explored the ‘locus of self-knowledge’ which referred to how children developed an independent, self-reflective sense of self which was separate from others. This was assessed by asking children who knew them best, themselves or parents. It was found, younger children tended to refer to others while some older children placed the locus of self-knowledge within themselves. This showed that the locus of self-knowledge shifted with age from others to the self. Rosenberg also noticed other developmental themes by asking specific questions. Questions related to ‘ideal self’ explored what type of person they wanted to become when they grew up. The theme of ‘Self and others’ was based on the feeling of being a separate and distinct individual and of ‘self-evaluation’ was centred on the feelings of pride and shame about personal characteristics. He noticed that there was an increasing reference to relationships with age within these themes. The aim of...
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