Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Morris Rosenberg on Self - Dictionary of Arguments

Upton I 114
Self/Method/Rosenberg/Upton: Arguably one of the most important studies of the development of sense of self was carried out by Rosenberg (1979)(1). He conducted open-ended interviews with individual children to find out about their self-perceptions. He interviewed a sample of 8—18 year olds about various aspects of their sense of self.
Upton I 115
1. find a way of sorting the children’s replies into meaningful categories
2. search for patterns in the kinds of replies that were given by particular age groups.
A. Physical:
- objective facts — e.g. ‘1 am eight years old’; overt achievements — e.g. ‘I can swim 25 metres’;
-manifested preferences — e.g. ‘I like milk’;
- possessions — e.g. ‘I’ve got a blue bike’;
- physical attributes — e.g. ‘I’ve got brown hair and blue eyes’;
- membership categories — e.g. ‘I am a girl’.
B. Character:
- qualities of character — e.g. ‘I am a brave person and I think that I am honest;
- emotional characteristics — e.g. ‘I am generally happy and cheerful’;
- emotional control— e.g. I don’t get into fights’, I lose my temper easily’.
C. Relationships:
- interpersonal traits — e.g. i am friendly and sociable’, i am shy and retiring’;
- relationship to others — e.g. ‘I am well liked by other children’, 4Other people find me difficult to get on with’.
D. Inner: Inner: descriptions of self that refer to an individual’s more private inner world of emotions, attitudes, wishes, beliefs and secrets, such as self-knowledge.
Results: Rosenberg (1979)(1) found that the majority of the descriptions given by younger children were about physical activity and physical characteristics. The older children were more likely to use character traits to define the self. Rosenberg also found increasing reference to relationships.
Upton I 116
The oldest children (those aged around 18 years of age) made far more use of inner qualities, knowledge of which was only available to the individual. These descriptions were concerned with their emotions, attitudes, motivations, wishes and secrets. Rosenberg also found that older children are much more likely to refer to self-control when describing themselves, for example ‘I don’t show my feelings’.
, >Self-knowledge, >Self-awareness.
Upton I 117
1) This was a cross-sectional study, so while differences may well have been observed in terms of the self-descriptions given by children at different ages, it is difficult to be absolutely certain that these differences reflect developmental change — only a longitudinal study could really confirm this interpretation.
2) Even if these changing descriptions do reflect a developmental change, how can we be sure that the developmental change is actually about understanding of self?

1. Rosenberg, M (1979) Conceiving the Self. New York: Basic Books.

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Rosenberg, Morris
Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011

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