The development of the self-concept in urban Chinese children

Zhang, Zemin
Major Professor
Jacques D. Lempers
Committee Member
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Child Development

The development of the self-concept was studied in urban Chinese children. Of 390 subjects aged 9 through 14, 207 were male and 183 were female. The "Who Am I" Test and the Sentence Completion Test served to investigate three dimensions of the self-concept of these subjects, content, structure, and self-evaluation. Information on the children's family background, such as parental educational level and occupation, and on parents' expectations towards children, was collected. The responses were analyzed using a set of coding manuals, which called for matching responses to criteria descriptions;The results supported the hypothesis that children of different ages would tend to choose different content categories to define themselves. The older children focused less on physical attributes and active aspects and more on psychological aspects and personal values. For all age groups, a frequently chosen content category dealt with their interpersonal relationships. Structurally, these Chinese children moved from a state of lacking systematic logic exigencies towards integrating fragmentary experiences into specific trait labels, then towards making higher-order abstractions, thus enabling them to solve apparent contradictions in the self-concept. In the dimension of self-evaluation, several trends emerged over age. While the younger Chinese children evaluated themselves with respect to specific skills and activities, the older (11 to 14 years) subjects developed a more global and abstract self-evaluation. It was also found that the self-evaluation of the older children was more instable and oscillating between positive and negative. Finally, there was a change over ages in the reference groups children used in their self-evaluation. The children's self-concept was not found to be significantly influenced by the factors of family background and parental expectations.