Self-Identity Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2117 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Children

¶ … self-identity as part of the field of social psychology. The author presents the idea that self and identity are two different concepts one must consider separately and then in tandem with each other before one can truly define what self-identity is and how it will and does affect them in life. Many factors including ones environment, experiences during infancy, and attitudes and behaviors are explored to support the notion that self-identity is something one forms later in life as they become more familiar with their self. The self then searches for an identity among other people that share similar interests, beliefs and customs, and also segregates its identity from objects, occasions or situations that may not support the growth of the self or expansion of the identity in a given context. The researcher also acknowledges the possibility that self-identity can and does change throughout the course of life, as it is a combination of life experiences and the "self's" interpretation of those experiences that ultimately shape their identity in the present and future tense.


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Lesko (2002) discusses many topics of interest in the field of social psychology including social perception and cognition, social identity, discrimination, prejudice behaviors, aggressions, group behavior and more. This paper will focus on the subject of social identity; with an emphasis on how people form a social identity and what factors influence social identity positively and negatively. The researcher proposes social identity is the result of "complex factors" including one's perceived gender, socio-economic status, race, culture and religious beliefs (Lesko, 2002: 134).

TOPIC: Term Paper on Self-Identity as Part of the Field of Assignment

The author also proposes that people first must identify who their "self" is before they can find out what they identify with or the people and environments they identify with. Once this happens, as a person grows they begin to form a sense of self-identity, which reflects their opinions and reactions to live events based on their own sense of self and identity. Lastly, the researcher provides evidence that self-identity may change throughout the course of ones lifetime, and that it is possible for someone to have a private identity and a public identity for various reasons. These reasons may include the need for them to "fit in" or the need for them to acquire jobs in fields that may conflict with their inner sense of identity.Many might refer to this process as putting on a "show" for others. The literature review below provides an analysis and interpretation of the research available on the subject of self-identity in modern society.

Analysis of Self and Identity

To understand self-identity one must first define self-identity. Many, according to Lesko (2002), suggest self-identity is an aspect of the self, or personality, related to one's gender, experiences, environment, peers and psychological health and wellness. Self-identity if broken into the parts "self" and "identity" is more easily defined as the manner in which and individual presents their self to the world and the way people perceive this self and thus assign it an identity. It is important when discussing the idea or sociological concept of self-identity to also review the idea of social identity. Social identity differs from self-identity in that it relates more to the persona or sense of self an individual is more likely to present to the public compared with the self-identity, which is the way a person typically views their own "self" as compared to others that are like minded or share similar characteristics.

Some attempt to combine the terms self-identity with social identity, however on careful analysis of the literature it soon becomes evident that self-identity is not the same as, but rather very different from social identity. Social identity may be defined as the collective or shared experiences of a culture or the people that live within a given culture. Social identity suggests the idea that many individuals or 'selves' have grown to accept certain rules and regulations which they live by. Those that adapt and agree with this identity become members of the same social group, whereas those that do not seek out other social groups with whom they might identify with.

Self-identity is not something that a person is born with necessarily, but rather something an individual gradually develops throughout the course of their lifetimes. This is not to say however, that the neonate cannot perceive a sense of "self" while in the womb. Quite the opposite is true, as shown below.

Children, from the moment they are capable of perceiving sight and sound, and their placement in the world. Social identity or one's sense of self may begin according to some researchers, during the neonatal period, and throughout infancy into adulthood, when one continues to mature cognitively and emotionally (TenHuisen & Standish, 2004). Interestingly, many hypothesize that self-identity begins in the womb; this supposes that the neonate is capable of picking up or sensing the emotions of the mother carrying it (TenHuisen & Standish, 2004). If the mother welcomes the pregnancy and spends time nurturing her body, talking to her baby while in the womb, and enjoying pregnancy, some have suggested the infant born may be much more secure in their surroundings, cry less, and have a greater need for time with the mother that cared for them so well while they were growing inside the womb.

This may also however, according to some negate some of the benefits associated with creating ones identity, suggesting a neonate that is nurtured too often may lose their sense of self because they derive so much of what they need from their caregiver; this argument however, is rarely emphasized or noted in the literature, and is according to most, more hypothetical than empirically based (TenHuisen & Standish, 2004).

TenHuisen & Standish (2004) offer a guide for caregivers of children especially those in the hospital, whether because of injury or for other reasons the child may find it difficult to assert or own an identity one can actually realize. According to this chart, the neonate begins to form perceptions of self that he or she may later associate with "identity" through various means including the sucking reflex which may provide knowledge about one's environment and provide a tool for comfort, and through hearing (supposing the child hears calm and cohesive sounds one is lead to believe the baby will identify better with calm surroundings).

Other factors that suggest the baby or neonate once born is growing into their sense of self include the sounds an infant begins to make including cooing or gurgling and coping behaviors the child uses to communicate with others include, "crying, sucking, smiling" (TenHuisen & Standish, 2004). It is much more likely given the evidence provided one may hypothesize that children are more likely to understand their "self" rather than form their "identity" during these early years. Nonetheless, considering the number of people that seek therapeutic counseling on issues of self and identity, it seems prudent to consider the possibility that self and identity begin to form during the earliest stages of life.

If one accepts this, one may also accept the premise that as children grow them may change in self and in identity; they may for example, "loose' their sense of self if they are abandoned or grow up in a broken home. This is an example of how one's self can relate to one's identity later in life, if one assumes self and identity are different aspects of one's personality.

Jenkins (2004) describes social identity (rather than self-identity) as the "knowing of who is who" (p. 1) referring to the ability of an individual to know who they are in relation to themselves, to their peers, parents, foes and others. This concept of social identity is intriguing and meaningful, suggesting that one may blend their self-identity with their social identity so the two align. If this happens, Jenkins hypothesizes that people will lead happier lives, because their intrinsic sense of self is not directly opposed to the social self the person identifies with. It suggests that social identity is largely the result of one's self-identity, which includes the reactions and interactions to the people, environment and world around them.

This argument fully opposes traditional scientific proposals suggesting social identity is something individuals are born with, much like self-identity is something individuals carry around with them from the time they are born. While this claim may be made for gender, it is not one an individual can use when defining social identity according to Jenkins. One CAN ascribe this definition to self-identity because self-identity does not have to align with social identity. However a very fine line exists within the literature between the two, so it is important one examine the two and come up with their own conclusions with respect to the origins of self and social identity.

Jenkins (2004) goes on to note the term identity is one "of the unifying themes of social science" at least throughout the 1990s, suggesting social identity is something that people acquire, a combined result of their… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Self-Identity" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Self-Identity.  (2007, November 3).  Retrieved October 16, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Self-Identity."  3 November 2007.  Web.  16 October 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Self-Identity."  November 3, 2007.  Accessed October 16, 2021.