Notes for Emotional Development, the Self and Identity
School of Family and Consumer Sciences 400.404/504    Instructor: D. Witt

The basic premise associated with Erikson's theory of psycho-social development is that the personality is determined over the lifespan as the individual biologically and cognitively matures. At each stage of development (each "crisis" stage) there exists an associated set of developmental tasks. The key to successful navigation through life's stages is the quality of the social environment.

Erikson's Epigenetic Principle and Middle Childhood:
At any given stage, resolution must be made for these internal crises in order for the individual to facilitate the move to the next stage.
According to Erikson, a combination of adult expectations and children’s drive towards mastery creates the crisis in this stage.

In middle childhood (School Age for Erikson) social competence increases as the individual masters skills and is able to perform on task with peers. Agility, normal physical and cognitive functioning, and general popularity all contribute to the individual's idea about themselves in relation to their peers (development of a self-concept).

Notice that formal schooling (part of the social network of the developing child) contributes to a generalized set of roles each child must master. Children first begin to describe themselves in terms of their psychological traits, compare their abilities to those of peers, and speculate about their strengths and weaknesses. (between 8 and 11 years of age.  Children increase in the development of perspective taking. Between ages 8 and 15, children start to depend more on peers for feedback as  parental influence begins to wane.  American society promotes conformity to some values, independence and uniqueness in other terms.

Development of Self-Esteem (the judgments children make about their own worth).

Self-esteem generally declines in Middle Childhood due to increased feedback from peers and school. According to Harter (1982), Self-Esteem can be observed as degree of felt success in academic, social, and physical arenas.  Children with high self-esteem, children work harder in school and artistic expression and generally display greater prosocial behaviors. Conversely, children with lower self-esteem will be more likely to give up more quickly and be more sullen, moody, and irritable.

Here the quality of the social environment is as important as the objective mastery of industry tasks. Having parents who's style of parenting promotes self-discovery, organization, and optimism can contribute to successful completion of the School Age stage of development.

Self Concept and Attributions
Attributions are our common, everyday explanations for the causes of behavior (I'm good at math or I suck at math).. Children with high self-esteem demonstrate mastery attributions, which are attributions that credit success to high ability and failure to insufficient efforts. Conversely children with lower self-esteem demonstrate learned helplessness attributions, which are attributions that credit success to luck and  failure to low ability.  These eventualities lead to variations in Emotional Development - how one feels about his/her attributions.  During middle childhood, children begin to empathize - develop a sensitivity to the feelings of others. They are also first able to self-regulate their emotions - to manage negative emotions that threaten self development.  Coping and problem-solving increases during this period. Girls with poor self-regulation tend to freeze with anxiety. Boys with poor self-regulation tend to lash out with hostility.  Children raised in institutions tend to have poor self-regulation (an example of variations in social networks influencing development).

Development of Competence in Middle Childhood
  • Adjusting in School - This becomes the 1st real test of social preparedness for middle schoolers.  Key determinate for social integration.
  • Establishing Peer Relationships - The quality of peer/friend alliances become a key marker for later adaptation in society.
  • Learning to play by the rules - Rule-abiding as opposed to rule-breaking often predicts social and academic competence over the next decade.
  • Achieving Academically - The ability to perform academically affects children’s perception of self and consequently contribute to efforts toward performance.
Family Relationships During Middle Childhood
Parent/Child Relationships -Children spend about 50% less time with their parents than their preschool years. Family support remains important as children practice their developing skills in society. Optimal development occurs when parents employ structured autonomy.  The quality of a child's relationship with parents is associated with academic performance, peer relationships, choosing socially approved friends, and employing alternatives to aggression for problem solving.  Because children model, parents teach competence through their actions

Family Constellations Among Middle Schoolers
  • Over 50% of children born in 1990s experienced divorcing parents, life with a single parent., most living with a single mother.
  • African-American children are at a higher risk
  • Both African-American and Hispanic mothers are less likely to remarry after divorce
  • 50% of children of divorce can expect to have step fathers within 4-8 years.
  • These children tend to grow up feeling less cognitively and physically competent
  • Factors Associated With Divorce and Child Outcomes
    • Quality of Interaction
    • A vast majority of children of divorce adjust well to the changing family arrangement
    • Quality of parenting is more important than family arrangement

Self Concept Development in Adolescence

  • The Self ( df) a sense of oneself and what makes differentiates oneself from others The definitions and images one associates with his or her being.

  • Identity formation is the main developmental task in adolescence - our self-definition - in real, live, visceral terms.  Our identity is the single motivating force in life, in choosing behavior options, and in deciding on friends.  Our self-image is all that stands between action and passivity, and it will continually change for most people over the remainder of their lives, depending on intelligence, experiences, and the quality of our social network.

  • Ideal-Self vs. Actual-Self - the disparity between ideal and actual self can produce confusion and maladaptation, or this disparity can be a source of motivation and aspiration for adolescents who are searching for identity. Susan Harter on Identity - she details the process of identity development as "the search for self"  - major drama that unfolds on center stage during adolescence, with a complicated cast of characters who do not always speak with a single voice.  Harter goes on to say that adolescence represents a fascinating transitional period, marked by the emergence of new found cognitive capacities and changing societal expectations that, in consort, profoundly shape and alter the very nature of the self-concept.  Teenagers who successfully navigate the journey of self-development should acquire a clear and consolidated sense of true self that is realistic and internalized, one that will lay the basis for further identity development. 

Failure to chart the waters successfully may result in a number of potential psychological risks including:

        1.  Distorted or unrealistic self-concept
        2.  Failure to integrate the self across multiple roles
        3.  Maladaptive or distressing displays of false selves
        4.  A definition of self that rely primarily on the opinions of others

  • Self-Integration - Adolescents begin to integrate all of their experience and their understanding of themselves into a more unified sense of identity, again in stages from Early (deconstruction) to Middle (reconstruction) to Late (consolidation) adolescence.  This developing self-concept is domain-specific, meaning that each aspect of the self must be developed and evaluated by the individual.(Harter, 1989)
  • Scholastic Competence - Athletic Competence -Social Acceptance -Physical Appearance -Behavioral Conduct - Close Friendship - Romantic Appeal -Job Competence.

Parental Influences on self-concept formation include: expression of affection, concern about the adolescent's problems, harmony in the home, participation in joint family activities, availability to give organized help when needed or asked for,  setting clear and fair rules, abiding by these rules, allowing the boys freedom within well-prescribed limits, understanding peer influences on self-esteem. Low self-esteem is highly correlated with depression, suicide, anorexia nervosa, delinquency, especially among boys.

It is during adolescence that we move from being children to adults - perhaps the single most important and grandest set of changes that we will make for ourselves. Others may not know how we feel about ourselves, but we should.   For example here is a little known fact about me:
"I am much hipper than I appear to most people. In fact, I think I am smarter than most people." While I know that we aren't supposed to be stuck on ourselves, I know I'm accomplished in all the important areas of life. I think people should listen to what I have to say and I think we'd all be better off if they did. How could this have happened? How could I walk around day after day and believe my own b.s.?

Now you - what is your best thing that few people know about you.

The "I" and the "me"

When little kids want to go somewhere they say "Take me there!" As adults, when we want to go mobile we say "I'm going!" Me is passive - I is active.  The I and the me are two aspects of personality, and have been dealt with by Wm. James (1890) I (the knower) and me (the object of what is known) and Martin Buber (1920 - I and Thou,  G.H. Mead's I-me dialectic where I refers to the active observer and controller of behavior - Me is the behavior I choose to show.
As adolescents move cognitively into formal operations, they must actively develop a sense of themselves as people - an Identity. To do this they must have well defined images of themselves.

    Cognitive Developmental Changes - these are highly abstract concepts that cannot be understood until the individual reaches formal operational thought. The adolescent can have a very differentiated, even contradictory view of themselves - both good and bad, hard and soft, worker and goof-off. Think about how you might have described yourself 15, 10 and then 5 years ago?

    The onset of formal operational thought allows adolescents to step outside the concrete aspects of their experience and fantasize on a number of streams of thought about who they are. These IDEALIZED IMAGES are badly in need of testing in reality.  Thus we modify our self-theories (self-concepts) as we gain experience in the world. In early adolescence our uncontested self-truths become questionable self-hypotheses that must be tested to gain complete acceptance..Parents can be supportive early on in family environments

    What teenagers want most from parents:

    • respect for their rights as individual's
    • recognition of their needs
    • affection & harmony at home
    • the setting of clear and fair rules
Self Concept. Many psychologists believe that the core -inner organization- of the self is derived from regularities in experience. Through a remembrance of the past, we are willing to place bets on the future (outcomes) of our behavior and success. Carl Rogers talks about parent's UNCONDITIONAL POSITIVE REGARD as an important factor to teenager's development of the most healthy self-concept.

The Self and Social Competence
."those who will manage well the circumstances they encounter daily (Socrates). Think of high self-esteem, or healthy self concept as resources (like money, natural talent, etc.) that are used to ease the management of daily hassles.

Behavioral Indicators of Positive Self-Esteem - signs of high social competence, which simply means the effective management of events involving others.
  • gives others directives or commands
  • uses voice quality appropriate for situation
  • expresses opinions
  •  sits with others during social activities
  •  works cooperatively in a group
  •  faces others when speaking or being spoken to
  •  maintains eye contact during conversation
  •  initiates friendly contact with others
  •  maintains comfortable space between self and others
  •  little hesitation in speech, speaks fluently
Behavioral Indicators of Negative Self-Esteem
  • puts down others by teasing, name-calling, or gossiping
  • uses gestures that are dramatic or out of context
  • engages in inappropriate touching or avoids physical contact
  • gives excuses for failures
  • glances around to monitor others
  • brags excessively about achievements, skills, appearance
  • verbally puts self down, self-depreciation
  • speaks too loudly, abruptly or in a dogmatic tone
  • does not express views or opinions, especially when asked
  • assumes a submissive stance
Four defining issues of social competence:

Socially competent adolescents can strike a comfortable balance between their identity as individuals and as a part of groups, their own self-determination and their responsibility to society, their own superiority in some areas of life and the concept of maintaining equality, and their own wants, desires, needs and their ability to meet the needs of others.

Identity Formation
Erikson is the theorist with the most to say about Identity Formation. You will recall that Identity vs. Role Confusion is the stage of development most associated with adolescence according to his Epigenetic Principle. In this fifth development stage, adolescents must decide who they are, where they are going in life, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Erikson's view of Identity Formation

Personality and Role Experimentation - with the overwhelming number of choices, adolescents appear to go through a period of psychological moratorium, during which they try out many roles to see if they fit. You all know the teenage boy who is experimenting with the tough guy image (poses often, tries to show himself in a muscular light) - or the teenage girl who has decided to be glamorous and flirty (dresses in a variety of revealing modes, shoves her budding sexuality up front). These same kids may decide without notice to become religious, or studious - and are capable of saying things like: "I'm going to become a vegetarian - except for burgers!" It is important for adults to allow this experimentation to continue (with safety in mind). If allowed to experiment, most adolescents will settle on choices that are good ones.

Complexity in Identity Achievement -
Erikson has seven dimensions here. Identity achievement is:

    • a product of the individuals experience over the first four stages of development
    • an adaptation of the individual's special skills, capacities, and strengths to society
    • dependent on social structural (environment) allowances for the person's initiative, time perspective and the coordination of personal goals.
    • a dynamic process in which the usefulness of role experimentation is gauged.
    • a subjective process in which the person feels cohesiveness with society when it is there.
Marcia's Four Statuses of Identity -Taking Erikson's theory further, Marcia described the process as having four basic, recursive steps. Identity Crises are defined as a period of identity development during which the adolescent is choosing among meaningful alternatives on a single aspect of personality. Identity Commitment is defined as the moment when adolescents show a personal investment in a personality component is chosen. Thus, on any particular personality component, the developing adolescent can be in any one of four stages of development: Importantly each aspect of Identity must be crisis-proven and committed to in order to be achieved. How many aspects are there? Think of situations in which you are, or have been, in each category.
  • Identity Diffusion.  Adolescents have not yet experienced a crisis or made any commitments.
  • Identity Foreclosure.  Adolescents have made a commitment but have not experienced a crisis.
  • Identity Moratorium.  Adolescents are in the midst of a crisis, but whose commitments either are absent or are only vaguely defined.
  • Identity Achievement.  Adolescents have undergone a crises and made a commitment.
Berzonsky (2000) offers a conceptualized a social cognitive view of adolescent identity development.This view focus on how individuals process information when faced with relevant conflicts regarding identity development.
  • Informational.  Individuals actively seek out, process, and use self-relevant information when dealing with identity issues/forming commitments.
  • Normative.  Individuals conform to the expectations and prescriptions of significant others.
  • Diffuse/avoidant.  Individuals deliberately avoid having to deal with personal conflicts and decisions.
  • Cultural and Ethnic Aspects of Identity
  • Adolescence represents a period when many explore and make serious commitments about their ethnic identity.
Helms’ Model of Ethnic Identity Development (1990, 1996) proposed a model of ethnic identity development that consists of four stages:
  • Pre-encounter.  Ethnic minority individuals prefer dominant cultural values to those of their own culture.
  • Encounter.  Ethnic minority individuals may develop a gradual reinvestment in their own unique minority group due to particular experiences in society.
  • Immersion/Emersion. Ethnic minority individuals reject dominant culture values and completely endorse the values of their own unique group.
  • Internalization/Commitment. Individuals experience a sense of fulfillment that arises from the integration of their personal and cultural identities.  Commitment is to multiculturalism and the elimination of discrimination.
  • Asian adolescents face challenges and make commitments involving academic achievement
    and school enrollment.
  • African-American adolescents face challenges of societal discrimination and stereotypes
    around physical attraction.
  • Latino adolescents noted discrimination as a current issue in ethnic identity development
    and the challenge of acculturation.
Gender and Identity Development
In relation to identity development, boys tend focus on career and ideological commitments, girls tend to focus on marriage and childbearing. Some researchers suggest that males and females enter Erikson’s stages in a different order.

Erikson’s Intimacy vs. Isolation Stage - Young Adulthood. 
After completing Identity Formation, the next stage is to further define oneself through another person.
Orlofsky (1976) noted some types of intimate interaction
  • Intimate.  The individual forms and maintains one or more deep and long-lasting love relationships.
  • Pre-Intimate.  The individual shows mixed emotions about commitment, an ambivalence reflected in the strategy of offering love without obligations.
  • Stereotyped.  The individual has superficial relationships that tend to be dominated by friendship ties with same-sex rather than opposite-sex individuals.
  • Pseudo-intimate.  The individual maintains a long-lasting sexual attachment with little or no depth or closeness.
  • Isolated.  The individual withdraws from social encounters and has little or no attachment to same- or opposite-sex individuals.