Development of a Child's Sense of Self

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Subjective Self-Awareness

Birth- children feel sensations of warmth and fullness.

2 Months- have some sense of personal agency, they recognise they are responsible for the movement of their own limbs.

5 Months- Bahrik showed that children knew what their legs were doing.

5-8 Months- Babies looked a pictures of other children longer than pictures of themselves.

Subjective Self Awareness- percieve oneself as different from others.


Freudians believed that at birth an infant has no sense of steadfastness from his or her mother. Individuation develops of the first few months of life.

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Objective Self-Awareness

Lewis argued this was an ability to reflect upon oneself.


6-12 Months- Babies behave as if it is someone else in the mirror

13-24 Months- Babies look warily at the image

24 Months- Babies clearly identify and recognise themselves, at a similar age children begin to use personal pronouns ("me" or "mine") 


Self recognition occured quicker in securely attached infants and in those encouraged to be independent

Basic emotions have already developed, more complex ones now appear: empathy, jealousy and embarrassment

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Psychological Self

4 Years- children refer to themselves by physical features, " I have blonde hair" or "I can ride a bike"

They are beginning to develop a psychological self, questions such as "do you prefer to play by yourself or with your friends?" showed an early indications of this. The responses were stable over time.

Self Esteem also develops at this stage


Securely attached children have higher self esteem, this is stable over time.

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Theory of Mind (ToM)

ToM is a set of beliefs developed by each individual, suggesting everyone has a different mind.

2Years- some understanding of the mental state of others, they know to comfort others and begin to use deceit.

3-4 Years- ToM first appears.



Autistic children lack ToM but those with Down 's Syndrome have ToM showing social abnormalities are linked to a ToM deficit.

Children from large families develop ToM quicker.

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