The development of self-representations across the life span.

  • Diehl M
  • Youngblade L
  • Hay E
 et al. 
  • 7

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Abstract

This chapter focuses on the development of self-representations across the life span. The main questions addressed in this chapter are as follows: How do individuals develop an understanding of their own person and what are the developmental milestones in this process? How does the content and structural organization of self-representations change across the life span? How is individuals' development of self-representations linked to basic developmental processes in cognitive and social-emotional functioning? Are there qualitative differences in the organization and the functions of self-representations at different parts of the life span? What role do different social and cultural contexts play in the development of self-representations across the life span? These questions will be addressed within the meta-theoretical framework of life-span developmental psychology and from a perspective that conceives individuals as producers of their own development. These perspectives are chosen as guiding frameworks for several reasons. First, self-representations constitute what James defined as the self-concept, the Me-self, the self as object, or the self as known. Second, since the mid-1980s theory and research have conceptualized the self concept as a contextualized and dynamic knowledge structure with adaptive and self-regulatory functions. Third, life-span psychologists have emphasized that the self-concept gives individuals a sense of continuity and permanence, allows them to distinguish themselves and their developmental history from others, and gives their experiences meaning within a larger biography. For purposes of terminological clarity, it is important to provide a working definition of the key construct. Specifically, in this chapter the terms self-representations and self-concept are used interchangeably to refer to those attributes that are (1) part of a person's self-understanding and self-knowledge; (2) the focus of self-awareness and self-reflection; and (3) consciously acknowledged by the person through language or other means of communication. This chapter has three major parts. The first major part focuses on the development of self-representations in childhood and adolescence. Specifically, this section describes the developmental milestones from early childhood to late adolescence, the part of the life span for which the greatest amount of research exists. The second major part addresses the development of self-representations across the adult years, describing findings that cover the life span from early adulthood to late life. The third major section focuses on several key issues in the study of self-representations across the life span. These issues address to what extent and under what circumstances self-representations may serve as risk or resilience factors, what role social and cultural contexts play vis-a-vis self-representations, and whether psychosocial interventions can optimize the adaptive function of self-representations. This section also identifies the major gaps in our current knowledge and outlines future directions for the study of self-representations. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved). (chapter)

Author-supplied keywords

  • Adaptive Behavior
  • Cognitive Development
  • Culture (Anthropological)
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Life Expectancy
  • Life Span
  • Meaning
  • Psychosocial Development
  • Psychosocial Factors
  • Resilience (Psychological)
  • Self Concept
  • Self Regulation
  • adaptive function
  • cognition
  • culture
  • developmental processes
  • life span
  • meaning
  • psychosocial interventions
  • resilience
  • self concept
  • self-regulation
  • self-representations
  • social-emotional development

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Authors

  • Manfred Diehl

  • Lise M Youngblade

  • Elizabeth L Hay

  • Helena Chui

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