“I’m not big now, but I’m growing. I can ride a bike and run and jump and skip, and next year I’ll learn to read, too,” answers Domingo when asked to tell about himself. Domingo’s answer reveals his attitude about himself—not very big but growing, an “I can do” attitude, and an attitude that says, “I will grow, I will learn, I can do it!”
Self-esteem, self-identity, and self-concept—educators use these terms to denote the totality of meanings, feelings, and attitudes that children maintain about themselves. Self-concept refers to cognitive activity: children’s awareness of their own characteristics and of likenesses and differences between themselves and others (Marsh, Craven, & Debus, 1998). Self-esteem refers to children’s regard for and feelings about themselves. Self-identity has a social connotation; it includes awareness of group membership.
Whatever definition or terminology they use, scholars have long recognized the importance of feelings of self-esteem in human behavior. As a theoretical construct, the self has been an object of interest since the 17th century, when René Descartes (1646) first discussed the cogito, or self, as a thinking substance. Throughout the ages, prominent theorists and researchers have recognized the importance of feelings of self-esteem in human behavior. Theories of Sigmund Freud (1949), Carl Rogers (1961), Abraham Maslow (1969), and others have been directed toward understanding the conduct of human beings by examining the feelings and beliefs that individuals hold about themselves.
The theories of these scholars differ greatly. However, amid the diversity, some assumptions are basic to all theories of self. One assumption is that self-esteem begins to be established early in life and is modified and shaped by the children’s succession of experiences with significant people in their environment. Another assumption present in all theories of self is that self-esteem has a predictable effect on behavior. The theories also hold that self-concept, self-esteem, or self-identity is multifaceted: children’s self-concepts about their social, academic, physical, and other facets may differ (Marsh et al., 1998).
Finally, theories of the self generally agree that an early childhood program can foster children’s self-esteem and build the foundation for future relationships with others (NICHD Early Childcare Research Network, 1998). Teachers can structure the classroom and respond to children in ways that contribute to their feelings of general identity, their physical and academic self-competence.
© ______ 2005, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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