Self-Concept and Personal Attributes

by Jen L’Insalata

The question ‘who am I?’ is at the fundamental core of humanity (Broderick, & Blewitt, 2010). One’s self concept is how seeks to answer that question by formulating a description and mental representation of that individual (Niepel, Brunne, & Preckel, 2014). William James discussed the differences of “I” and “Me” when discussing the self-system. He made the distinction that “me” centers on defining an individual’s self-concept and who they project to others (Broderick, & Blewitt, 2010).

Charles Cooley’s looking-glass-self metaphor is derived from the idea that we gain a sense of self, and therefore self-concept by observing the appraisals or criticisms from others, particular attachment figures. The influence of such interactions impact outward behaviors and social awareness (Broderick, & Blewitt, 2010). Within a culture there are varying themes including gender roles, social connections, academic, and career expectations that shift and impact an individual’s self-concept (Broderick, & Blewitt, 2010. & Wagner, Gerstorf, Hoppmann, & Luszcz, 2013).

Self-concept internally as an external description of features, characteristics and attributes through interactions with others (Broderick, & Blewitt, 2010). The role of early care givers is important in establishing self-concept in that secure attachments allow a child to develop positive self-worth and self-concept (Broderick, & Blewitt, 2010). Studies show that there is a strong correlation between self- concept and achievement. Individuals with a positive self-concept show tendencies toward continued self-enhancement and motivation in several domains throughout life (Niepel, Brunne, & Preckel, 2014). On the contrary, individuals with poor self-concept show trajectories toward maladaptive behaviors, delinquency, and substance abuse (Steiger, Allemand, Robins, & Fend, 2014).

Self-concept possess elements of stability and change throughout an individual’s lifespan and eventually begins to differentiate form others with maturity (Broderick, & Blewitt, 2010). Adolescence is marked by a period of rapid changes throughout multiple domains. Transitions such as those in adolescence are marked by shifts in domain competencies and the development of new skills that shape social interactions and identity (Wagner, Gerstorf, Hoppmann, & Luszcz, 2013).

Self-concept cannot completely be isolated from the self-system. Self-concept helps to shape and formulate self-esteem and self-regulation. The interaction of biopsychosocal and spiritual domains continues to impact fluctuations in the self-system (Broderick, & Blewitt, 2010). Individuals with a positive self-concepts show tendencies toward an overall higher self-esteem and self-regulation through transitional life phases (Steiger, Allemand, Robins, & Fend, 2014).


Broderick, P. C., & Blewitt, P. (2010). The lifespan: Human development for helping professionals (3rd. ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Niepel, C., Brunner, M., & Preckel, F. (2014). The longitudinal interplay of students’ academic self-concepts and achievements within and across domains: Replicating and extending the reciprocal internal/external frame of reference model. Journal Of Educational Psychology, doi:10.1037/a0036307

Steiger, A. E., Allemand, M., Robins, R. W., & Fend, H. A. (2014). Low and decreasing self-esteem during adolescence predict adult depression two decades later. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 106(2), 325-338. doi:10.1037/a0035133

Wagner, J., Gerstorf, D., Hoppmann, C., & Luszcz, M. A. (2013). The nature and correlates of self-esteem trajectories in late life. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 105(1), 139-153. doi:10.1037/a0032279

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