Developmental differences in the nature of self-representations: Implications for the understanding, assessment, and treatment of maladaptive behavior

Abstract

The self has only recently emerged as a viable construct for theorists and practitioners of a behavioral persuasion. In this article, the reason for the self's late entry into the field of explanatory constructs is first examined. Critical changes in our models for predicting, understanding, and altering human behavior are explored, with special attention to the emerging role of self-representations as functional mediators of behavior. A developmental perspective is adopted, arguing that is is necessary to appreciate normative, age-related changes in the very nature of self-representations, as a backdrop against which individual differences in self-representatitons can be understood. Developmental differences in the nature of self-description, the dimensions of which self-judgements are based, the degree of differentiation and integration within the self-system, the construction of multipleselves, the emergence of a sense of global self-esteem, and the awareness of, interest in, and ability to reflect on the self are discussed in terms of their implications for the prediction and explanation of human behavior, as well as for therapeutic intervention. Finally, the importance of clearly defining and operationalizing self constructs is emphasized, highlighting those methodological issues that are particularly critical when one adopts developmental perspective.

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Correspondence to Susan Harter.

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Harter, S. Developmental differences in the nature of self-representations: Implications for the understanding, assessment, and treatment of maladaptive behavior. Cogn Ther Res 14, 113–142 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01176205

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Key words

  • self
  • self-representations
  • behavior