Developing an identity


ATL: Essential understandings

The emotional bond that a child forms with his/her caregiver is important for healthy emotional and social development.

One's gender is the result of an interaction between biological, cognitive and social factors.

Empathy is the result of a child's development of a theory of mind, allowing them to understand the beliefs and desires of others.

This final section of the development chapter looks at the development of one's identity. Identity is a combination of how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. Identity may be acquired indirectly from parents, peers, and other role models.

Part of identity formation is about our relationship with others.  Psychologists have found that how we interact with others has a lot to do with our early relationship with our parents.  The quality of the infant-parent attachment is a powerful predictor of a child's later social and emotional behaviour. Attachment is defined as a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects two people.

Another aspect of identity formation is determining one's role in society.  This may be on several levels.  In this chapter, we will look at the role that gender identity and social roles play in identity formation.

Finally, part of our ability to interact with others is the ability to understand the perspective of other people.  This ability to understand that others have beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives that are different from one's own is called theory of mind. The ability to not only understand that this is true but to be able to adopt that perspective and understand an individual's feelings or position is called empathy.

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