Early Years Social Development

Early Years Social Development: The Early Development of the Self

The concept of self has a dual meaning. The first meaning refers to the self as a subject, usually called the self-as-subject, the agent that does, the “doer.” There is another meaning associated to the concept of self as well, the self as we observe it, the subject our own observation, the self-concept. In another word, our subjective self has the ability of observing ourselves, i.e., “I” observing “ME.” We build the concept of self through interactions we have with others. Ironically, it seems that we learn to observe ourselves (building self-concept) the way others, especially caregivers, observe us. Our self image is a reflection of what we think others think of us.

This process starts with the development of pre-self that in infancy is closely related to our understanding of our body’s boundaries (body permanence) and by being separated from other bodies, mostly caregivers. Naturally the consistency and reliability of infant-caregiver interactions will be a key component in development of the concept of pre-self. Only with the presence of a reliable caregiver would the baby take the risk of endangering self to wander off away from the safe base to explore the world.

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