How do children form an image of themselves? Social relationships are crucial. In this way, children develop higher self-esteem when they receive heat from their parents. And they develop lower self-esteem when they receive too many inflated compliments from their parents. These and more findings are in a Special Section, edited by Eddie Brummelman (University of Amsterdam) and Sander Thomas (Utrecht University), which will shortly appear in the journal ‘Child Development.’
In a series of articles, now as an early view online, the researchers share the results of their research into the origin of the self-image in children.
Who am I? Children are born without an answer to this pressing question, but that will change quickly. Within a few years, they can recognize themselves in the mirror, call themselves by name, assess themselves, and know what other people think of them.
Research by Christina Starmans (University of Toronto) shows that even pre-school children already have an idea of what it means to have a ‘self.’ Preschoolers think that it is unique, separate from the body, remains unchanged and is located in the head, behind the eyes. Research by Andrei Cimpian (New York University) and his colleagues have shown that pre-school children are also capable of forming self-esteem: how satisfied they are with themselves as individuals.
Over time, vast differences between children arise in their self-image. Some children are content with themselves, while others feel bad about themselves. Some children see themselves as superior to others, while others see themselves as equal to other children. Some children believe that they can improve themselves, while others think their skills are carved in stone. Where do these differences come from? What makes children see themselves as they do? ‘Surprisingly little is known about how the self-image of children develops,’ says Brummelman. ‘It is high time that this changes. With this collection of articles, we want to showcase the future research in this area. ‘
‘What these articles show is that social relationships have a crucial influence on the self-image of children,’ says Brummelman. Research from Michelle Harris (University of California) and her colleagues shows that children develop higher self-esteem when they receive heat from their parents. Warm parents show interest in what their child does and share the fun with their child, making the child feel seen and appreciated. Brummelman’s research shows that children can develop lower self-esteem and sometimes narcissism if they receive a lot of inflated compliments from their parents, such as ‘What did you do fantastically well!’ Such compliments can give children the feeling that they are fantastic, but at the same time raise the fear that they can fall off their pedestals.…