Self esteem

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How do children develop social cognition? That is, how do children come to understand the social world into which they’re born? Well, social cognition develops in about the same way as cognition in general. Concepts shift from the concrete to the abstract. Information gets better organized. Yes-or-no, black-or-white evaluations come to be replaced with more subtle understandings. “Maybe” is added to “yes-or-no.” Gray is noticed between black and white.

Emergence of Self and Development of Self-Concept


Even at birth, by way of their actions and responses, infants appear to recognize that they’re physically distinct from things and objects in their environment. By way of perception, neonates feel their own touch, watch their limbs move, and hear themselves cry. Also, within the first few months, they learn to distinguish their own visual image—as on a videotape— from that of others.

At about age two, children have developed self-recognition. They recognize themselves as physical entities unlike other physical entities. Experience in differentiating self, objects, and other people contributes to self-recognition, as does interaction with warm, loving caregivers.

As self-awareness develops, it becomes a central focus of a child’s social and emotional experiences. As this happens, children also make their first efforts at trying to understand the perspective of other people. Interestingly, to the extent that children have a firm self-image, they’re inclined to claim ownership of things. They’re more likely to use the word “mine.”

The Categorical, Remembered, and Enduring Selves

The categorical self develops between 18 and 30 months, as children acquire greater and greater language capacity. They learn to see themselves in terms of benchmarks, like boy or girl, age, and even goodness and badness.

The remembered self develops along with the development of autobiographical memory. Relating personal experiences identifies autobiographical memories with a sense of self.

The enduring self emerges as cognitive and linguistic development leads children to see themselves as entities that persist over time. A child can now define his or her actions along a continuum of past, present, and future.

The Inner Self: Children’s Theory of Mind

Recalling what you’ve learned about metacognition,note that young children are definitely aware of having an inner self composed of private thoughts and things imagined. This section focuses on that inner world and the ways in which children develop a theory of mind.

During a child’s first year of life, he or she manifests an appreciation that caregivers are animate (living and moving) beings motivated by intentions, feelings, and desires. Initially, these ideas are implicit (beyond what a child can say). Yet, as linguistic development advances, this implicit stage becomes a platform that allows a child to form mental representations that can be verbalized. However, even as two- and three-year- olds learn to integrate mental states, their theory of mind is pretty much based on a pleasure-pain calculus, called the desire theory of mind.

Between ages three and four, children increasingly refer to their own and others’ thoughts and beliefs. After age four, this capacity expands to embrace a belief-desire theory of mind. Now a child recognizes that both beliefs and desires can inform actions.

Belief-desire reasoning, based on mental inferences (assumptions), evolves during the early school years. When a child can attempt to assess the false beliefs of a second person, the child understands that people form beliefs about other people’s beliefs. So, now we can speak of second-order beliefs.

You can probably come up with some good guesses about the consequences of the development of belief-desire reasoning. Joint planning is now an option. Hence, the learning of cooperative social skills is encouraged. Also, having a sense of what other people may believe makes a child more capable of persuading others or reflecting on, and possibly altering, his or her own beliefs.

Factors in a young child’s theory of mind include

  • The use of language ability to reflect on one’s thoughts
  • The ability to inhibit inappropriate responses
  • A warm attachment to one’s primary caregiver
  • A facility for make-believe play
  • The richness of social interaction

Constructing an Identity: Who Should I Become?

Ideally at least, an adolescent has a well-organized sense of self, a distinct (and adequate) level of self-esteem, and cognitive development sufficient to establishing an identity. Recall that Erikson saw the establishment of identity—as opposed to identity confusion—as the primary challenge or crisis of adolescence. Today, while some theorists no longer see adolescence as a period of crisis, they tend to drift in Erikson’s direction.

Paths to Identity

Erikson identified four identity positions, or identity statuses, in adolescence:

  • A young person who has managed identity achievement has weighed alternatives, worked out his or her priorities, and carefully chosen ideals and goals.
  • In an instance of identity moratorium, the teenager has decided not to decide. He or she has opted to drift for a while, exploring options, before making final commitments to goals or values.
  • Identity foreclosure happens when a teenager is committed to goals and values without having explored alternatives or options. Imagine the son of a coal miner who simply can’t imagine not being a coal miner like his dad and his granddad before him.
  • Identity diffusion is a lack of clear direction. A teenager in this status isn’t looking for goals, much less alternative goals. A teenager in this state of mind may remind one of a possum frozen in the glare of headlights from an onrushing car.

Identity Status and Psychological Well-Being

In general, moving from moratorium to identity achievement is a healthy progression. Both identity statuses are marked by open-minded, active quests for information about one’s self and the world.

By contrast, an identity foreclosure is associated with a dogmatic, inflexible cognitive style and a compulsive, reactive dependency on people from whom one gets approval and emotional support. Meanwhile, teens locked into a diffusion status may strike us as lost children—lonely, anxious, and hopeless— wandering gloomy paths in a forest of doubt. The diffusion status is associated with aimless pleasure-seeking, drug abuse, and a high risk of suicide.

Thinking About Other People

As has already been strongly suggested here, the ways in which we view other people and their perspectives is an essential part of how we learn to see ourselves and our place in our social world. In that context, this section challenges you to understand ideas about the nature of person perception and perspective taking.

The way you read and sum up the attributes of other people is what we mean by person perception. The ways in which we come to understand people in terms of their personality proceeds in stages. The stages correspond to our level of emotional and cognitive development. After about age eight, personality references are expressed in terms of observed behaviors (“Johnny draws good pictures.” “Mavis talks in class.”). In a somewhat later stage, children refer to others in terms like “nice,” “smart,” “funny,” or “dumb.” Internal attributions replace references to objective behavior. By adolescence, thoughts about others take on the form of personality narratives, or character sketches.

Person perspective also takes account of ethnic and racial differences. As you’ll note in your text, children tend to pick up implied signals about ethnic or racial differences from what they observe, such as the ways in which children of any ethnic group hang out together on the playground or in the lunchroom. Therefore, explicitly conveyed racial or ethnic stereotypes aren’t necessarily the source of discriminatory mental representations.

White children in Western countries begin to develop in-group and out-group prejudices at around age five or six. In effect, white children tend to evaluate their racial group as superior while, in the same process, they learn to evaluate the racial out-group as inferior. That is, they develop in-group favoritism.

Sadly, minority-group children absorb the cultural signals around them and are inclined to develop out-group favoritism. White children see themselves as superior even as black children learn to view their racial group as inferior.

According to studies, the extent to which children express ethnic, racial, or social class biases is dependent on the following personal and situational factors:

  • A fixed view of personality traits is observed when a child believes that personality or behavioral traits are fixed and unchangeable. For example, if the new child in class, Rene, who just arrived in Ottawa from French Canada, has some problems pronouncing English words, some of his classmates may assume thereafter that Rene is “stupid.” Furthermore, this assumption may continue even as Rene steadily masters English.
  • Children or adults with overly high self-esteemtend to hold ethnic and racial prejudices.
  • In a social world where people are sorted into groups, children are more likely to hold ethnic, racial, or SES prejudices to the extent that their parents, teachers, or others call attention to the differences. Imagine, for example, an elementary school that divides students into groups based on achievement scores. Because such tests tend to be both racially and class-biased, lower-class or minority children are encouraged to see themselves as weak students, while upper-middle-class children tend to see themselves as smart.

Understanding Conflict: Social Problem Solving

An information-processing approach to social problem solving was developed in a model proposed by Nicki Crick and Kenneth Dodge. The model is seen as circular because children have to deal with several informational domains at the same time, such as problem evaluation and formulating social goals.

Research different self-esteem activities for children who are preschool age (3 to 5 years old).

Write a paper that is at least 2 pages in length (about 500 words) and uses at least 2 sources cited in APA citation style on the following:

  1. Locate 5 self-esteem activities for preschool age children (3 to 5 years old) and describe each of the activities.
  2. Explain how each of the activities will help to build the self-esteem of a child who is of preschool age.

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