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
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
Self Concept Development in Adolescence
Failure to chart the waters successfully may result in a
number of potential psychological risks including:
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.
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.
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
What teenagers want most from parents:
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.Behavioral Indicators of Negative Self-Esteem
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.
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.
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:
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