The Development Of Self Concept Psychology Essay

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Present researches provide a mixed background on how the new setting or school transition influence psychological functioning and self concept of adolescents (Wallis & Barrett, 1998). In a study by Downs and Cook (2002) it was found that although there was initial incongruence between the freedom of home life and boarding environment, it could be argued that it has been easier for most students to adjust into the routine of each term, as they established more positive cognitions about the school than negative and had a good self' concept.

Self concept has been broadly defined as a person's perception of him or herself. These perceptions are formed through ones' experiences with and interpretations of environment, and are influenced especially by reinforcements, evaluations of significant others, and one's attributions for one's own behaviour (Shavelson, Hubner, & Stanton, 1976).

Carl Rogers (1959) proposed that humans exist in their phenomenal field. Self concept emerges out of this whole of experience and has been defined as "the organised, consistent set of perceptions and beliefs about oneself". Two primary sources that influence self-concept are childhood experiences and evaluation by others (Rogers, 1959).

The self- concept includes three components, self worth, self image and ideal self. Self worth refers to what people think about themselves and develops from interactions with significant others. Self image refers to how the individual sees himself and has an effect on how a person thinks and behaves in the world. Ideal self is what a person desires to be consisting of goals and ambitions in life and it is dynamic. According to Rogers (1959) an individual wants to experience, feel and behave in ways that are consistent with his self image and reflecting ideal self. A person will have congruent Self concept when his self-image, self worth and ideal self are consistent with each other.

Self Concept will be studied considering three perspectives on the development of construct of self-concept. The first perspective lf-concept in terms of a social comparison, private self, perspective taking self and a narrative self. Social comparison starts from the age of 5 or 6 onwards where children increasingly begin to compare their skills and abilities with those of others. They are either better or worse than others around them (Baumister, 1997). During this time children also learn that they can lie and keep secrets. This is generally based on the realization that there is a hidden side to self, a side that includes private attributes, such as thoughts, feelings and desires. The development of this inner private self-concept is a major and often difficult development in growth of self concept. It is this aspect of self concept that gives children the privilege to decide whether to share about certain aspects of themselves.

A final unfolding of the self concept occurs during adolescence. Adolescents have been seen to go through a period of extreme self-consciousness focussing much of their energy on their perceived appearance by others (Berk, 2006). They gain the ability to take the perspectives of others, or start seeing themselves as others view them. This is seen as emergence of perspective taking self. They see themselves as objects of others attention and go through strong periods of objective self-awareness.

Some psychologists have also proposed that self takes on a narrative quality, a story in making. This narrative self is the person's sense of his past present and future, basically their own story (McAdams, Josselson, &Lieblich, 2001). People's life stories may be viewed as one aspect of a constellation of internalised constructs (McAdams, 2001). These constructs include dispositional traits, characteristic adaptations and integrative life stories. Thus the self concept is a distinct knowledge structure, made up of many different elements and stored in ones' memories as they might store a cognitive map of home town (Berk, 2006).

A second perspective views self concept as hierarchical, multi-faceted and related to achievement (Shavelson et al., 1976; Marx, & Winnne, 1978). Self-concept thus has seven critical features:

It is organised or structures in which people categorise the vast information about themselves.

It is multifaceted and the particular aspects reflect category system adopted by a particular individual.

It is hierarchical with perceptions of behaviour at the base moving to inferences about one self in subareas like academic and non-academic areas. And then proceeding to general self concept.

General self-concept is stable, but as descending the hierarchy self-concept grows up to be more situations specific.

Self concept becomes increasingly multifaceted as the individual develops from infancy to adulthood.

It has both descriptive and evaluative dimension

It can be differentiated from other constructs such as academic achievement.

The third perspective that this study is incorporating for understanding the development of self-concept revolves around the idea that the beliefs and perceptions of children of their abilities, values, self-regard and their competence for achieving personal and academic goals are derived from reflections of interactions with the environment and significant individuals in one's life (Bandura, 1986; Huitt, 2004). Self-concept thus in a whole consists of commonly including three components; Physical self-concept, a perception of an individual's physical attributes, academic self concept refers to how well an individual performs in his school, social self-concept refers to how an individual relates with his peers and others. It is also then important that individuals can make both global assessment of themselves and assessments about their specific skills and abilities (Taylor et al. 2007).

Boarding school is a school where some or all people study and live during the school year with fellow students and possibly teachers. Boarding schools are schools in which children generally stay 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. The word boarding has been with respect to bed and board which is lodging and meals. A typical modern fee charging school has several separate residential houses. People generally need permission to go out of bounds, although they may be allowed to travel off campus at certain times. A number of senior teaching staff is appointed as house masters, housemistresses, dorm parents or wardens, each of whom takes quasi-parental responsibility.

Conceptual Map

This research aims to study the development self-concept of children who have lived in boarding school. The research will aim to study the development of self concept through phenomenological view of individual's lived experiences and their view of themselves.

Diagrammatic Conceptual Map.

Self Worth

General Self concept

Middle Childhood experiences

Self Image

Ideal Self

Physical Self concept

AcademicSelf concept

Evaluation By others

Social self concept




Perspective taking self and social comparison


Of Residential School Students


A paradigm is a comprehensive belief system, world view or framework that guides research and practice in field. An approach of interpretivism to social sciences rejects the positivist idea that the same research methods can be used to study human behaviour as successfully as in fields like chemistry, physics etc. What is more important here is that humans are influenced by their environment through their subjective realities. The belief of this paradigm is that reality is socially constructed. Thus to fully understand human behaviour researcher must understand the view of world around the person being studied as the knowledge is situated in context of the individual (Gall, et. al., 1996).

In this particular study, where the researcher is trying to understand the development of self concept, the reality of an individual's self-concept is socially constructed. Wilhelm Dilthey added that understanding (verstehen) was the goal of social science research and the proper topic of social science research was the lived experiences of humans. Thus the meaning of research is to understand situation in context and see multiple perspectives on the topic (Wills, J. 2007)

Major research question

To understand how self-concept, the understanding of people in context of their environment about themselves, develops in children who have live in boarding schools during their major pre teen and adolescent period.

Specific research objectives

To understand if self-concept is influenced by education in boarding schools.

To see the perceived roles of Parent, teachers and Peers.

To find whether males and females boarding school students differ in the development of self concept.

Review of Literature

Self-concept is derived from the perceptions people hold regarding their personal attributes and the roles they fulfil in life (Meggert, 2004). According to Taylor, Davis-Kean, and Malanchuk (2007), it is "the cognitive representation an individual has of him- or herself". Children's perceptions of their abilities affect their values, self-regard, and beliefs about their competence to achieve personal and academic goals (Bandura, 1986). The beliefs and expectations of one's abilities stem from reflections of interactions with the environment and significant others in people's life (Huitt, 2004). 

Self-concept often consists of various components or dimensions, most commonly including physical, academic, and social (Huitt, 2004). Various dimensions of self concept emerge when an individual can make both global assessments of themselves and assessments about their specific skills and abilities (Taylor et al., 2007). 

Parental and peer interaction and Self concept

Parental and peer attachment have been associated with well-being and self-esteem (Kenny & Sirin, 2006) Attachment to parents has seen to play an crucial role in the adolescent's formation and evaluation of self-identity which in turn influences the adolescent's psychological wellbeing (Wilkinson, 2004). Deep attachments with parents decrease potential negative impacts of peer attachment, which in turn has been linked to low self-concept (Armsden, & Greenberg, 1987).

Peers influence the adolescent's social competence aspects of self-esteem, perhaps because this is an area in which parents has little impact. Peer attachment plays different role for adolescents than parental attachment, to some extent due to the divergent roles parents and peers play in adolescent's lives (Paterson et al., 1995). A research conducted in this area showed that adolescents increasingly transfer their emotional attachment from parents to peers in a process called individuation. Same sex and opposite sex peer relations were more influential in formation of adolescent's emotional stability than their parental relationships. A reciprocal relationship was revealed between general self concept and emotional stability (Hay, I., & Ashman, A. F., 2010). Indian adult children show stronger attachment to their fathers and weaker attachment to their peers as compared to adult children from Puerto Rico and U. S. Respectively (Pearson, & Child, 2007). Peer relations despite gaining importance in adolescence, they cannot be avoid parental attachment continue to build ideas of self in them (Brown, Mants, Lamborn & Steinberg, 1991).

Teacher Interaction and self concept

The necessary frequency of student-teacher interactions means that the student-teacher relationship is a critical aspect of the school environment. It has been found in literature that there is a relation in teacher's expectation and child's self concept. Studies have demonstrated that student perceptions of positive relations with teachers and other school staff contributed to their success in academic settings (Marchant, Paulson, & Rothlisberg, 2001). Research by Roeser et al. (2000) demonstrated that adolescent who perceived their teachers as caring and respectful showed improved academic, social and emotional functioning over time. Similarly, Midgley et al. (1989) found evidence suggesting that the quality of the student-teacher relationship may be important during adolescence when seeking adult role models outside the family.

Another study aimed at finding the self-perception outcomes of 256 students using Self Description Questionnaire-1 (SDQ-1; Marsh, 1990) at the beginning and end of 1 year. It was found that in the beginning of year there were no statistically significant differences in academic and teacher opinion areas. But significant differences occurred in academics and teacher opinions scales mainly due to a decline in the self-perceptions of students with low expectation teachers (Christine, M., 2006). There is an increased perceived student teacher interaction in residential school. Thus it is seen teachers should strive to improve simultaneously both academic self-concept and achievement (Marsh, & Martin, 2011).

Academic achievement and Academic-self concept

Studies of relationship between self concept and achievement in educational settings have been a major focus of research and theory for many years (Hamachek, 1995). A significant relationship between self concept and academic achievement (Kumar, 1972) has been found. Self concept has been seen as a predictor of academic achievement by affecting achievement levels (Calsyn, & Kenny, 1977; Sharma, 1979). Pathani, R.S. (1985) in her study of 700 adolescents found that self-concept among identity versus role confusion and need for actualization was a significant predictor of academic achievement.

Bracken (2009) defines academic self-concept as a person's feelings about himself or herself within a school or academic setting, or in relation to as his/her academic progress. Academic self-concept is hierarchically organized, and multifaceted in nature (Marsh & Shavelson, 1985). It has been important to understand whether academic self concept causes academic achievement or vice versa (Marsh, & Koller, 2003). In a Meta analysis of 55 longitudinal studies it was found that after controlling for the effects of prior achievement, there is a significant positive effect of prior academic beliefs on subsequent achievement (Valentine & DuBois, 2004).

School and self concept

In the recent research findings a new construct of social connectedness has been introduced to explain attachment of students to their school. School connectedness has been defined by Goodenow (1993) as 'the extent to which students feel personally accepted, respected, included and supported by others in the school environment". It has emerged as a significant predictor of adolescent psychosocial and mental health (Shochet, Dadds, Ham, & Montague, 2006).

With relevance to co-ed and single gender schools Colley and his colleagues (1994, p. 384) found that gendered patterns of students' beliefs and course choices differed according to whether students were learning in a single-gender classroom versus a mixed-gender (co-educational) classroom. Girls from single-gender classrooms choose higher levels of mathematics courses, while girls in mixed-gender schools are more likely to choose upper-level English courses. The female-stereotyped subjects of language, music, and art are higher in the preference order of boys from single-gender schools than in boys from mixed-gender schools, who report a stronger preference for the male-stereotyped subjects of math and physics (Colley et al. 1994). Boys in all boys' school might have superiority of male gender reinforced due to absence of girls.

In a study by Beth Kurtz-Costes, Nikul Patel and Dana Wood (2008) on Indian 10th grade students there were no emerging gender differences in self-concept, but both boys and girls reported lower self-concept in mathematics and science than in Guajarati. Although in western sample, students rate their own abilities in certain academic domains in a manner that is consistent with gender stereotypes, boys rating themselves higher in mathematics and science where as girls rating themselves higher in verbal ability these beliefs do not reflect differences in academic performance. Boys rated boys as more competent than girls across domains whereas girls reported no gender differences.


The developmental stage from early to late adolescence is unique in its multitude of concurrent changes that exist across various contexts. Changes occur as a result of puberty and cognitive development, school transitions, and changing roles with peers and families (Gutman, L. E., & Eccles, J. S., 2007). According to a stage-environment fit perspective, adolescents whose environments change in developmentally regressive ways are more likely to experience difficulties. In contrast, adolescents whose social environments respond to their changing needs are more likely to experience positive outcomes (Eccles & Midgley, 1989; Eccles et al., 1993). Self-concept is a construct that emerges as an evaluation of one's beliefs values and accomplishments with respect to their environment (Huitt, 2004). Boarding school students develop their concept with respect to their perceived environment. Thus, it is important to understand how the self concept develops in students who live in boarding schools. Since co-ed and single gender school have shown to impact self-concept (Colley et al. 1994), it is also necessary to see whether the development of the construct of self concept is different in boys and girls who have studied in different same sex boarding schools.


Adolescence is a time of considerable increase in risk in a range of psycho-social problems. These include substance use or abuse, school misconduct, academic failure, juvenile crime, self-injury and suicide (Simons-Morton, Crump, Haynie & Saylor, 1999) as well as mental health disorders. Results of a study by Taylor, Davis-Kean, and Malanchuk (2007) suggest that, in general, students with low self-concept in achievement domains are more likely to aggress at school than those with high self-concept. This finding collaborated with reviewed researches has highlighted important clinical implications in terms of shedding some insight on how multiple systems might be interlinked in influencing wellbeing in adolescents and confirms the importance of intervening at the double platform of both the family and the school system.



Research Design

The research design that gives a blueprint print to this study is phenomenology. Phenomenology is the study of people's perception of the world as opposed to trying to learn what really is in the world. When the researcher is trying to study development of self concept is views of people about themselves in various domains of life the focus will be on understanding context from the perspective of participants of my study. This research is attempting to get at perceptions of their context and themselves in relation to their environment to understand how such perceptions emerged and what instances gave rise to such beliefs about themselves. The research looks at their lived experiences relying on their memory to obtain data for understanding self concept.


The population considered will be students who have passed out of a public boarding school completing minimum 7 years. The participants will be selected from Bangalore. The participant selection method for this study is purposive sampling, as the participants have to fulfil desired criteria for this research. Purposive sampling is also used because it targets a particular group of people. The tentative participant size is 3-5 males and 3-5 females and sampling will be carried on till theoretical saturation is reached, so the sample size might vary.

Inclusion criteria.

The participants should have studied in a boarding school for a minimum of 7 years

The participants should have completed Class 12th from their boarding school.

The participants should be in age range 19-21 and currently studying.

The boarding school should be a public school and not any religiously oriented residential school.

The early childhood should have been spent in day school living with parents.

Exclusion criteria.

The participants should have no neurological or psychological illness.

The participants should have completed all 7 years in same school without any break in middle due to dropout.


The method for data collection will be in-depth semi structures interviews. Kavle's model of in-depth interview will be used. It follows 7 stages of conducting an in-depth interview. Starting from thematizing, designing, interviewing, transcribing, analysing, verifying and reporting. The in depth interviews will be guided by an interview guide which will be based on earlier stated perspectives of development of self-concept with the help of subject matter experts The focus will be on trying to see the world from the participant's perspective. There will be one session for interview and another for member check. Video recording will be most preferred if participants give permission, otherwise audiotapes and filed notes will be jotted down along with behavioural observations.

Data Analysis

The researcher will first reflect on his own views regarding the phenomenon to suspend any biases. IPA or Interpretive phenomenological analysis will be used to analyse the data. In IPA, a two-stage interpretation process or a double hermeneutic, is involved where the participants are trying to make sense of their world, while the researcher is trying to make sense of the participants making sense of their world. This illustrates the dual role of the researcher as both like and unlike the participant. In one sense, the researcher is like the participant, is a human drawing on everyday human resources in order to make sense of the world. On the other hand, the researcher is not the participant, as she only has access to the participant's experience through what the participant reports about it and is also seeing this through the researcher's own experientially informed lens. So in that sense, the participant's meaning making is first order, while the researcher's sense making is second order.

IPA also pursues an idiographic commitment, situating participants in their particular contexts, exploring their personal perspectives, and starting with a detailed examination of each case before moving to more general claims. This is considered appropriate as the framework of the research is phenomenological in nature, and a case-by-case approach is thought to be appropriate.

A personal diary will be maintained by the researcher for reflection. Validity or issues of trustworthiness will be determined by data triangulation of filed notes, personal diary and observations. Member check which essentially means going back to participants after analysing will also be done. If possible Subject matter experts will also be approached for validity of data.

Ethical considerations

Informed consent of participants will be obtained.

Confidentiality of participants will be maintained

Relationship during an interview, between interviewee and researcher will be kept professional

At all times interviews will be guided by the research supervisor.

If during the session the client needs counselling or any help, it will be provided immediately.

Procedural ethics will be considered.

There will be debriefing session after interview if any traumatic lives incidences are shared during interview that emotionally disturb the client.


Stationary Rs. 2000

Printing Cost Rs. 1000

Travelling cost Rs 2000

Total Rs 5000

Time line

First three chapters by September

Data collection in October and November

Data analysis and validity by December and January

Final submission by February