My individual characteristics, qualities, and abilities make up my identity. My identity makes me special and unique.
How does identity develop?
When we are first born, we are not aware that we are separate and individual beings. From about the age of two, we begin to understand the concepts of ‘I’ and ‘You’. At about 18 months, we are able to demonstrate our ability to be self aware when we can recognise ourselves in a mirror.
From about 3 years of age, we start to form a sense of who we are. This is called self concept, and it develops as we make our own decisions and act on them. This new independence helps us to learn about ourselves and our capabilities. We start to identify ourselves by how we feel about our abilities, for example: ‘I am good at running’. We see ourselves in concrete terms, such as how tall we are, or what colour our hair is.
Middle childhood (from about the age of 7 till puberty), is a time when we are very aware of the people and the environment around us. As we try more activities and gain more skills, we compare ourselves with our peers and realise that we are more competent at some things than at others. This helps us to form a well-rounded sense of ourselves. As we compare our capabilities (sports, academics, social skills) with others around us, we develop a concept of self competence. Having positive and encouraging role models will also help us to develop a healthy sense of self worth.
During adolescence, we begin to establish our adult identity. This includes re-evaluating what we feel about who we are, and retaining or rejecting ideas and values from our childhood. We are free to experiment with different personalities and roles. We are now capable of abstract thought, (ideas and concepts that are not concrete) which means that we can think of ourselves in terms such as ‘loyal’ or ‘kind’. It also means that we can imagine a future for ourselves, and make new use of our skills and abilities to help us to plan and prepare.
If we think of our sense of identity as a muscle, then we can think about things that will give it a workout and help it to be stronger and healthier.
• Positive People – who are my role models? How do they do encourage me?
• Resilience – when things go wrong, can I try again?
• Success – what am I good at? How does it make me feel?
• Community – what are the values of my school/culture/family/country? What do they mean to me?
Thinking about who we are and about the influences that surround us helps us as we mature and develop our sense of self, so that we can make positive decisions about our lives for the future.
YourDictionary.com ‘Identity’ n.d. Retrieved from http://www.yourdictionary.com/identity 11 June 2015
Princeton University ‘The Development of Children aged 6 to 14’ 1999. Retrieved from:
http://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/docs/09_02_02.pdf 24 June 2015
Education.com ‘Identity Development’ 23 December 2009. Retrieved from:
http://www.education.com/reference/article/identity-development/ 24 June 2015
With support from JSB Education
LET NZ 13 July 2015