Outline of the Early Development of a Self-Concept and the Possible Effects of Different Parenting Styles on Children

As children grow they start to learn about themselves through their relationships with others and their ideas of themselves are significantly influenced by other people’s ideas and reactions to them.   Dowling (2008) suggests that their levels of confidence are affected by their early experiences, successes and failures and it is recognised that a child’s confidence is linked closely to three factors: becoming aware of the self (self concept), developing one’s identity (self esteem) and learning about one’s own strengths and weaknesses (self knowledge).

For the first several months of its life, an infant is not able to distinguish between itself and its environment.   From birth to age two the infant starts to learn about its environment, this is part of its development in the sense of self.   During the 1920s, child psychologist Jean Piaget developed a theory that young children are fundamentally egocentric, meaning that they are entirely driven by their own experiences and are unable to conceptulise abstract concepts or ideas outside of their own experience (Hayes, 2008).   Piaget suggested that children went through four stages of cognitive development using ‘schemas’ to make sense of their experiences.   Albery et al. (2008) describe Piaget’s four stages as:
• The sensorimotor stage (from birth to 2 years).   Children learn to organise and interpret the world through movement and senses.
• Preoperational Stage (from ages 2 to 7 years).   Children cannot conserve or use logical thinking.   Egocentricism beginning to reduce.
• Concrete operational stage (from ages 7 to 12 years).   Children begin to think logically but only with practical aids.   They are no longer egocentric.
• Formal operational stage (from age 12 onwards).   Children begin to develop abstract reasoning and perform logical operations.

As shown above, during early childhood, the self concept undergoes a major change and sees the start of the lifelong process of self-discovery.   From childhood to...