The other self and social cognition in four to nine year old children

Jones, William Garnet (1980). The other self and social cognition in four to nine year old children. PhD thesis The Open University.



A cross-sectional developmental study of 180 four to nine year old children's perceptions of themselves within their home and school environments was conducted. Two measures were developed for use in the study: (i) a measure of social cognition which taps the child's perceptions of the consequences of his actions within the social milieu and which appears to operate on a dimension of permissiveness - authoritarianism and (ii) a measure of the other-self which is an expression of what the child thinks his significant others "nearly always" think of him. The other-self measure appears to operate on a dimension of acceptance - rejection. Both measures were found to have acceptable levels of reliability and were validated using the Bristol Social Adjustment Guide (Stott, 1974) as well as by the use of case studies.

Each of the measures allows the child to relate himself to his significant others (Mother, Father, Teacher, Sibling) as well as to his School Class and the Meadian (1934) concept of Generalized Other. The two instruments appear to have both diagnostic and therapeutic value since they enable the child to structure himself within his social milieu.

The study demonstrated a strong connection between social awareness and sensitivity to others (as manifested by the social cognition measure) and the developing other-self concept. Between the ages of 4 and 9 years, a significant shift occurred from egocentric and/or narcissistic perceptions at 4 years to more socially acceptable self-perceptions from 5 years onwards. Social cognition appears to have most influence on the other-self within the four and five years age range.

An analysis of the child's hierarchy of relationships with his significant others yielded the following: Father and Teacher were perceived to be the least permissive whilst the Sibling and School Class were the most permissive. Self-esteem or notions of worth were derived especially from Mother and least from the Sibling. The position of significant others (within children's hierarchies) changed with age,in particular the Teacher who was perceived as becoming more accepting as age increased from 4 to nine years.

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