The complex process of self-development across the early lifespan is both fascinating and frustrating. Just when you think you know yourself, like a fault in the earth, something shifts, and you’re back to trying to recognize the landscape once again! As Hilgard reminds us:
…self-awareness is…most illusive. You find yourself as between the two mirrors of a barber-shop, with each image viewing each other one, so that as the self takes a look at itself taking a look at itself, it soon gets all confused as to the self that is doing the looking and the self which is being looked at.
At any one point in time, you may see yourself as daughter or son, grandchild, sibling, extended family member, boyfriend or girlfriend, employee, and/or university student faced with making important decisions about your life. Affecting each of these self-views are multiple, interrelated psychological, biological, cultural, and social influences. Cognitive extensions of these self-understandings, including the ideal self (the me I’d like to be), the feared self (the me I’m afraid of becoming), the actual self (the me I truly am), and the false self (the me I sometimes present!) add further scope to the tasks of self-understanding and goal setting for the future.
This course is structured to help students understand the developmental origins of the maturing self-concept by addressing three basic questions: (1) What do children and adolescents know of themselves? In the first unit, we will learn about the behavioral expression of self-knowledge across infancy, childhood, and adolescence, analyzing age-related constraints on the ability to understand the self at various stages. (2) What maturational and environmental forces impinge upon the developing self-concept? In unit two we will explore the multi-faceted roots of the developing self. What are some of the bio-physiological, evolutionary, cultural, gender, relational, and moral processes that affect the development of the self? (3) Who are the leaders in this field and how do they study the self? In the third unit, we will take a look at some of the researchers who have prominently informed our current knowledge. Who are these people? What methods, instruments, and techniques do they use to go about studying the nature of the self?
• Evaluation will be based on participation in seminar discussions of lecture and reading material, plus grades on weekly reaction papers and an end of semester small group presentation.
There is no textbook for this course. Readings will be compiled by the instructor into a course packet and will include, but are not limited to, work by the following authors: Albert Bandura, Jonathan D. Brown, Erik Erikson, Susan Harter, William James, James Marcia, Hazel Markus, Jean Phinney, Allan Wigfield