Self-concept development is influenced by numerous factors including biological, brain structure, neurotransmitter, socio-cultural and psychological elements. Each element has a differential quantity and quality of impact on an individual and combined they create a unique self-concept. Consequently, individuals demonstrate differences in motivated attitudes, emotions and behaviour which produces varying levels of self-concept change, management and stability (Deckers, 2004).
Biological elements, including genotype and phenotype, play an important role in the development and maintenance of an individual's self-concept (Ross, 1992). The genotype describes the internal genetic code which uniquely controls the inner-workings of each individual. The primary link between genotype and self-concept is the ability for the genotype to control the phenotype. The phenotype defines the outward manifestation of an individual via physical appearance, personality and behaviour (Maltby, Day & Macaskill, 2007). Thus, genetics influence the development of particular self-schemas, such as in social, physical or academic domains, which interact to form an individual’s self-concept.
Box 1.1 Big-5 Personality Traits
(Maltby, Day & Macaskill, 2007)
Physical attractiveness has firstly been shown to influence an individual’s self-concept. Adams and Read (1983) demonstrated that attractive individuals perceived themselves as possessing significantly more positive personality traits than unattractive individuals, such as a superior analytical and critical thought ability and a warm, extraverted social manner. Conversely, unattractive participants perceived themselves as possessing more negative than positive qualities, such as poorer control of interpersonal situations. Similarly, Marks, Miller and Maruyama (1981) found participants were biased when rating others, for example, attractive samples were deemed more intelligent, thoughtful and open-minded than unattractive samples. Interestingly, even psychological therapists have been found to exhibit this bias when evaluating a new client (Hobfoll & Penner, 1978).
Intelligence and Self-Concept
Intelligence also plays a role in self-concept development, such as shaping social, physical and academic-domain self-schemas.. (Maltby, Day & Macaskill, 2007)
Physical attractive bias does appear to partly comprise a biological component as Langlois, Roggman and Rieser-Danner (1990) demonstrated that infants displayed positive affective tone, less withdrawal behaviour and high play involvement with an attractive confederate or doll as compared to an unattractive confederate or doll. Socio-cultural elements tend to stimulate and consolidate the presence of physical attractive biases. For instance, Salmivalli (1998) found school yard bullies often contained a high but negative social and physical self-concept and victims a low social and physical self-concept. Bias is also evident within occupational domains with attractiveness positively correlated with higher income (Judge, Hurst & Simon, 2009), flexible benefits and individual-based pay rates (Cable & Judge, 1994). Individuals also tend to engage in romantic relationships of similar physical attractiveness which is argued to partly reflect an evolutionary basis to maintain survival (which in contemporary society can relate to status and wealth) and reproduction (Horton, 2003). Thus, attractiveness influences how an individual perceives themselves in addition to how others perceive them. The consequences of this bias shapes self-concept development and maintenance. At its most extreme, attractiveness bias can lead individuals to unrealistically distort or evaluate their physical self-schema which plays a role in the development of eating disorders (Jansen, Smeets, Martijn & Nederkoorn, 2006).
Personality traits also influence an individual’s self-concept as they energise and direct approach or avoidance behaviour toward particular self-schemas (Maltby et al., 2007). Twin, adoption and family study research indicates personality traits are partly hereditary, accounting for approximately 20-50% of the variance in self-concept (Lounsbury, Levy, Leong & Gibson, 2007). The big-5 theory of personality provides a common framework for understanding hereditable traits, as displayed in Box 1.1. McCroskey, Heisel and Richmond (2001) demonstrated that extraverts were more assertive and self-accepting than introverts and tended to approach social and arousing occupations and relationships. Conversely, introverts have a tendency to be socially inhibited and apprehensive, preferring predictable and independent occupations and relationships. van der Zee, Thijs and Schakel (2002) found neuroticism to be negatively correlated with emotional intelligence which subsequently appeared to weaken academic intelligence and research on interpersonal conflict suggests individuals high on agreeableness are more responsive to conflict and enact strategies to diffuse these situations (Jensen-Campbell & Graziano, 2001). Research therefore indicates that personality traits predispose individuals with certain abilities and tendency which subsequently influence self-concept development.
Brain Structure Elements
Specific brain structures influence self-concept development, depending on individual differences, which can be illustrated through Eysenck's biological model of personality and arousal (Lounsbury et al., 2007). The model asserts that extraverted and neurotic personality dispositions trigger specific brain structure activity which influences behaviour and self-schema development. The model firstly claims that individuals attempt to maintain an equilibrium between their excitatory (alert, active and aroused) and inhibitory (inactivity and lethargy) mechanisms. Equilibrium is achieved through the ascending reticular activating system (ARAS) which controls arousal via the reticulo-cortical circuit (incoming stimuli) and reticulo-limbi circuit (emotional stimuli). The ARAS is situated in the brain stem and connects the thalamus (switchboard), hypothalamus (metabolism & autonomic processes) and cortex (neural processing) to provide an integrated response to information and stimulation (Maltby et al., 2007).
The second component of the model relates to individual differences based on extraverted and neurotic personality types. Extraversion is associated with arousal of the reticulo-cortical (incoming stimuli) circuit in which low arousal levels are present in extraverts (as they are under-aroused and desire stimulation) and high arousal levels are present in introverts (as they are over-aroused and attempt to avoid stimulation). This assertion is supported by literature mentioned in the biological section, such as extraverts preferring social and arousing environments and introverts preferring independent and predictable environments (McCroskey et al., 2001). Alternatively, neuroticism is associated with the arousal of the reticulo-limbic (emotional stimuli) circuit in which neurotics tend to be more aroused by emotional stimulation than stable individuals. Again, this is reflected in aforementioned literature such as neurotics' inability to demonstrate emotional intelligence (van der Zee et al., 2002).
Culture and Self-Concept
Socio-cultural elements play a role in self-concept development including the influence of gender roles, family, peers and religion. Research suggests that most cultures socialise individuals into particular gender roles, for example, Western society overtly and covertly encourages femininity amongst females and masculinity amongst males which continues throughout the life span (Gouze & Nadelman, 1980). Bassen and Lamb (2006) posit that gender roles sway the development of schemas in social, emotional and academic domains. For example, male participants frequently indicated their social and emotional self-schema comprised qualities such as assertiveness whereas females highlighted qualities such as affiliativeness. Furthermore, Rudman and Phelan's (2010) study demonstrated that priming females with traditional gender stereotypes (female: teacher, male: mechanic) led to less reported interest in male-stereotyped roles. Interestingly, priming of nontraditional roles (female: mechanic, male: teacher) resulted in participants reporting a lowered leadership self-schema because they engaged in upward social comparison and therefore perceived the scenario as a threat. Gender stereotype threat is a final example of how prescribed roles influence self-concept. A common example in literature is the proposal that males perform better than females on maths equations. This subsequently lowers female performance and academic-domain self-schemas due to performance pressures. Importantly, this effect appears to be limited to females who report a high-identification academic-domain schema (Keller, 2007).
Family and peer interactions also shape an individual's self-concept. Triadic family interaction refers to the social relations between mother, father and child (Brown, Mangelsdorf, Neff, Schoppe-Sullivan & Frosch, 2009). The family systems' perspective posits that the attributes and behaviours of family members, parenting techniques and the differential roles of the mother and father influences self-concept development in childhood (Brown et al., 2009; von Wyl et al., 2008). For instance, Brown et al. (2009) found harmonious interactions were correlated with children expressing positive self-schemas, such as adventurousness. Conversely, discordant interactions such as hostility or low engagement were associated with self-schemas including fearfulness and less agreeableness. Thus, a child is likely to experience constructive self-concept development if they are exposed to parents who (a) possess supportive attributes or (b) provide positive role-modelling or (c) utilise supportive and encouraging parenting techniques or (d) fulfil nurturing mother or father roles. Similarly, supportive or aversive peer interactions shape an individual's self-concept, particularly during middle childhood and adolescence (Lipka & Brinthaupt, 1992). For example, Egbochuku (2009) found that secondary school females reported higher self-concept in academic and social domains when they attended single-sex as opposed to co-educational schools. This finding was explained by the impact of differing peer interactions and subsequent influences.
Relgion, Social Class and Self-Concept Study
This particular study found:
(Bieri & Lobeck, 1961)
Lastly, the media also contributes to self-concept development. The level of influence depends on the extent to which an individual attributes importance to the medium and subsequently internalises the content (Beck, 2000). The media exerts influence in most self-schema domains including social, academic, emotional, physical and sexual. For example, Aubrey (2007) found female university students developed negative and dissatisfied sexual self-schemas from viewing soap operas, prime time dramas or excessive amounts of television. Similarly, Bessenoff (2006) found excessive television, newspaper or magazine viewing was associated with the exacerbation of actual-ideal physical self-schemas, particularly for women and thin body shapes. However, the media is also claimed to produce positive self-concept development, such as providing education outlets which develops an individual's academic self-schema (Ross, 1992).
The development of an individual's self-concept is also shaped by psychological elements which gain increasing complexity throughout the life span. A famous experiment demonstrated the ability of infants aged 12 to 18 months to engage in self-recognition through identifying rouge on their nose when looking at a mirror (Lipka & Brinthaupt, 1992). This illustrates an individual's first experience of identifying the existential self. Infants then develop self-awareness through self-perception exercises, for example, kicking a toy mobile is connected to the mobile swinging and making sounds. Subsequently, the swinging and sounds are associated with the emotion of joy. The ability to connect events and emotions therefore develops an individual's initial journey to understanding their likes and dislikes which directs their behaviour in later life (Ross, 1992).
Attachment behaviour during early childhood marks the ability to distinguish humans and develop one's social self-schema. Research suggests three attachment styles including secure (adventurous, healthy child-mother attachment), resistance (afraid of solo play, crying upon reunion with mother) and avoidant (sporadic play, avoidance upon reunion). These attachment styles are subsequently claimed to continue into middle childhood and influence an individual's understanding of their self-concept (Beck, 2000).
Throughout childhood and adolescence, the acquirement of language and learning of cognitive labels plays the key role in establishing a concrete understanding of one's self-concept. Research shows that during this period individuals learn to distinguish between purely external qualities, such as appearance and possessions, and internal qualities, such as personality traits and possible selves (Salmivalli, 1998). During adulthood psychological needs including autonomy, competence and relatedness motivate the finer distinctions within one's self-concept. For example, achieving a goal under autonomy-supportive conditions, rather than controlled regulation, has been associated with eudaimonic self-concept development (Ryan & Deci, 2000).
Cody Mize Instructor, Travis Self-Concept Essay 12 May 2011 Family Shapes You My family has helped mold me into who I am today. They all have different characteristics that I have observed and taken in. I think how you are raised plays a major role into who you become. If I was a part of a different family I would not be the person I am today. Family will always be a part of my life. My family is very close and I am very thankful for all of them. They have all helped shape me to be independent, self-motivated, and an energetic person. First, I am very independent and will always be. I never want to have to rely on someone to take care of me. For example, when I was sixteen years old I went out and got a job. My parents never told me I was required to have a job but I did not want to depend on either one of my parents for money. My mom is a very independent woman. When she was a little girl, she had a hard life and remembers at time when her parents could not afford food at times. My mom