Developing a Sense of Self
Self-concept is a sense of an individual's identity and personal worth. Selfconcept develops by around age twelve. Developmental psychologists are not able to determine an infant's self-concept since that question is too difficult for someone barely speaking to understand. However, psychologists use the behavior of infants and children to hypothesize about their sense of self.
By around fifteen to eighteen months, a child begins to recognize himself in a mirror. When children begin to attend school, they describe themselves according to comparisons with their peers. And finally, around age eight or ten years, stable self-images are fully developed, for better or for worse.
Types of Parenting
A child's self-image is influenced by his or her caretakers’ parenting style. Psychologists have identified three different types of parenting styles: authoritarian parents, permissive parents, and authoritative parents. Authoritarian parents are those who develop rules and lay down the law, so to speak. If the rules are not followed, the parent punishes the child. The permissive parent does what the child wants and rarely punishes her for doing wrong. The authoritative parent follows a comfortable in-between style. The parent sets and enforces rules to exert appropriate control but also explains the reasons for the rules. The parent is open to (and in fact encourages) discussion and will consider a compromise or exception when making rules.
Many studies have shown that authoritative parents have children who are well adapted and happy. Children with authoritative parents have the highest self-esteem, self-reliance, and social competence. Those with a somewhat controlled upbringing are more motivated and self-confident. Children of overly permissive parents are often found to be more helpless and incompetent, with difficulties in dealing with frustration or limits.