Children’s Conceptions of Selfhood and Others: Self-Other Differentiation

  • Louis Oppenheimer
  • Nel Warnars-Kleverlaan
  • Peter C. M. Molenaar
Part of the Recent Research in Psychology book series (PSYCHOLOGY)


In two successive experiments, the development of children’s understanding of the self and others and the nature and relationship between the development of both concepts were studied. In the first experiment, 50 children from five age levels participated (mean ages 5.6, 6.6, 8.4, 10.5, and 12.5 Years). The children were required to give descriptions of themselves. The results show that the developmental course for self-understanding is characterized by an increasing variety of selfdescriptions (i.e., divergence), rather than a convergent stage-like type of self-understanding. This divergence is caused by the continuous co-existence of different levels of self-understanding, which emerge at different periods in development as children grow older. These forms of selfunderstanding refer to the physical and material, the active, the psychological, and the social self, in this developmental order. In the second experiment, in which 60 children from three age levels participated (mean ages 8.2, 10.3, and 12.2 Years), this developmental order was replicated. In this experiment, the children were requested to describe themselves and three other well-known children (i.e., two of the same and one of the opposite gender). In addition, they were asked to describe similarities and differences between themselves and the three other children. In the understanding of others a divergent developmental course is also present, which parallels the development of self-understanding. No developmental priority for either self-, or other-understanding could be demonstrated. These findings suggest that both concept developments affect each other reciprocally and share important developmental commonalties.


Concept Development Prediction Analysis Person Perception Modal Score Opposite Gender 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Louis Oppenheimer
  • Nel Warnars-Kleverlaan
  • Peter C. M. Molenaar

There are no affiliations available

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