Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Toddler Years

How does a child develop the concept of the self?

Another critical development during the toddler years is the development of a representation of the self. This is not to say that babies have no awareness of themselves prior to this period. From birth, infants have some sense of their physical selves based in part on the correspondence between their movements and physical sensations. When they kick the blanket, they feel the cloth on their feet. However, infants lack a 6 concept of the self, a mental image of “Me.”

In the toddler years, the child develops a mental concept of the self as a unique individual who has goals and desires, who acts upon the environment, who interacts with other people, and to whom other people have emotional responses. This gigantic psychological leap is evident in the first use of personal pronouns (I, me, mine), the emergence of self-conscious emotions (shame, embarrassment) and the recognition of the mirror image.


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