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

Socioeconomic Stratification, Class Structure, and Inequality on Self-Concept and Imposter Phenomenon

By Jen L’Insalata

Socioeconomic status includes aspects of ownership, wealth, and class identity. Gradients between rich and poor highlight the variation of outcome linked to mental and physical health outcomes, access to resources, opportunity, and education. Socioeconomic status provides a pathway to power through access and acceptance in a status-driven western economy. As socioeconomic differences increase, so does the subjective emphasis on the importance of status and income (Wilkinson, & Pickett, 2017).

Dominance hierarchies form a social organizational structure through which individuals are stratified into a class system. Stratifications encompass more than financial status, further dividing individuals based on cultural drivers and social values. Stratified societies maintain a ranking system used to evaluate and maximize perceived value within the hierarchy. Social ranking is based on access to valuable or scarce resources and the accumulation of resources provides a pathway to power (Wilkinson, & Pickett, 2017). 

Egalitarian framework counterbalances resource-based social ranking systems to a small degree through the value of generosity and selflessness. Cultural aspects associated with selflessness and community provide an avenue through egalitarian endeavors provide recognition and prestige. However societal inequality increases internal status-driven anxiety as socioeconomic based access becomes a valuable attribute (Wilkinson, & Pickett, 2017). 

According to an intrapersonal perspective, global self-esteem is based on an individual’s perception of performance in domains deemed important. American societal constructs emphasize a high degree of value and prestige associated with socioeconomic status and occupations. High education, income, and status-based occupations are valued in American society and serve as a basis of assessing an individual’s worthiness (von Soest, Wagner, Hansen, & Gerstorf, 2018). This in turn serves as a validation for self-esteem in adults. 

Interpersonal framework emphasizes the role of social interaction and social symbolism on self-esteem. Individuals who maintain healthy social interactions experience higher self-esteem outcomes. On the contrary, individuals with poor social connections experience low self-esteem outcomes. The internalization of the perceptions of others establishes a framework for self-evaluation. Individuals with low socioeconomic status are often marginalized and alienated in professional roles. Threats of social exclusion negatively influence self-perception (von Soest, Wagner, Hansen, & Gerstorf, 2018) leading many individuals to increase socioeconomic standing as a form of social inclusion.

Social mobility becomes restricted by socioeconomic class origins as cultural worldviews are influenced by economics and access to resources. The expectations and demands that culture places on the individual limits the ability to transcend socioeconomic stratifications. Awareness of the degree in which socioeconomic stratification impacts self-esteem drives many high achieving individuals to pursue avenues to socioeconomic advancement (Sánchez, Liu, Leathers, Goins, & Vilain, 2011).

Individuals experience class mobility in three directions, their class or origin, their current class, and their class as others ascribe them. Throughout life, individuals move between classes shifting their sense of self and belonging. Individuals of lower or working classes find themselves straddling class divisions and developing the need to operate between two distinct class identities. Lower income classes are often faced with the choice to be loyal to their class of origin, while striving to achieve career goals. In order to achieve career goals, individuals are often forced to assimilate into cultural norms and expectations of a higher socioeconomic class. This frequently results in the individual feeling alienated from both class environments (Ardoin, 2018). 

Imposter Phenomenon relates to one’s desire to appear in a particular manner within a peer group (Langford, & Clance, 1993). Individuals shift between social classes throughout educational and career progression. Transitioning socioeconomic class is a source of anxiety for many individuals. Individuals in working classes find themselves to be out of place when working toward financial and occupational advancement. There is a lack of comfortability and belonging to both the aspirational social class and the social class of origin (Ardoin, 2018). Straddling socioeconomic classes results in behavioral adaptations of separate personas when interacting in each class.  

American mythology maintains the belief that higher education is a pathway to upward mobility despite the socioeconomic stratifications of one’s origin (Sánchez, Liu, Leathers, Goins, & Vilain, 2011). Socioeconomic position encompasses aspects of education and the prestige associated with institutions of higher education. Higher education continues to be an avenue for socio-economic mobility by serving as a training ground for the labor market. Human capital theory connects educational qualifications to employee productivity and thus increased earning potential. Employers often select employees based on educational credentials (Delaney, & Farren, 2016). 

Institutions of higher education have a longstanding history of inequality and exclusionary practices based on socioeconomic status. The increasing cost of education, ranked and selective admissions, and tuition assistance contribute to contribute to illusion of education as a privilege. Students are often expected to conform and assimilate in order to “catch up” to more well-off peers (Ardoin, 2018). 

Many individuals from lower socioeconomic classes choose avenues of distance learning or pursue lower level higher educational qualifications in order to balance financial and academic responsibilities (Delaney, & Farren, 2016). Those who do gain entrance to prestigious institutions or purse high level educations experience a marginalization and find difficulty connecting to peers in higher socioeconomic positioning (Ardoin, 2018). As higher education is a prerequisite for many forms of employment, individuals from lower socioeconomic standing are forced to assimilate with a new socioeconomic culture while mitigating the dissonance of class identity. 

Aspects of social expression through dress, dialect, and manners contribute to the perception of a particular social standing sending a message that is then affirmed by society (Ardoin, 2018, & Wilkinson, & Pickett, 2017). Individuals with low self-esteem rely on the validation of others and are often compelled to adopt the behavioral patterns and appearance of the aspirational social class. Straddling socioeconomic class divisions contribute to additional dissonance surrounding one’s identity. The feeling of fraudulence may be increased due to conforming with social class expectations of two groups in varying environments. The desire to be validated within the aspirational in-group is compounded by intense fear and anxiety that that group will recognize an individual’s fraudulence (Gibson & Schwartz, 2008) which ultimately increase the occurrence of Imposter Phenomenon at the socioeconomic level. 


Ardoin, S. (2018). Helping Poor‐ and Working‐Class Students Create Their Own Sense of Belonging. New Directions for Student Services, 2018(162), 75–86.

Delaney, L., & Farren, M. (2016). No ‘self’ left behind? Part-time distance learning university graduates: social class, graduate identity and employability. Open Learning, 31(3), 194–208.

Gibson-Beverly, G., & Schwartz, J. R. (2008). Attachment, Entitlement, and the Impostor Phenomenon in Female Graduate Students. Journal of College Counseling, 11(2), 119–132.

Langford, J., & Clance, P. R. (1993). The imposter phenomenon: Recent research findings regarding dynamics, personality and family patterns and their implications for treatment. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 30(3), 495–501.

Sánchez, F. J., Liu, W. M., Leathers, L., Goins, J., & Vilain, E. (2011). The subjective experience of social class and upward mobility among African American men in graduate school. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 12(4), 368–382.

von Soest, T., Wagner, J., Hansen, T., & Gerstorf, D. (2018). Self-esteem across the second half of life: The role of socioeconomic status, physical health, social relationships, and personality factors. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 114(6), 945–958.

Wilkinson, R. G., & Pickett, K. E. (2017). The enemy between us: The psychological and social costs of inequality. European Journal of Social Psychology, 47(1), 11–24.


Considering Socioeconomic Status in Treatment

By Jen L’Insalata

Socioeconomic status encompasses more then just income. It includes aspects of ownership, wealth, and class identity. Social gradients between rich and poor showcase varying degrees of well-being linked to mental and physical health outcomes, access to resources, opportunity, and education, and provide a pathway to power through the existence of a status-driven western economy (Wilkinson, & Pickett, 2017).

Individuals residing in a higher socioeconomic status have access to healthcare and education which present opportunities for global wellbeing. Education and career endeavors associated with higher income offer a sense of prestige that is often unavailable to those of lower socioeconomic standing (Wilkinson, & Pickett, 2017). Individuals in lower socioeconomic classes are often considered ‘disadvantaged’ in terms of health outcomes, access, and opportunity. The association with being ‘disadvantaged’ leads to social isolation and alienation (Smith, 2005).

Poverty is complex and can be addressed from framework spanning several disciplines including psychology. However psychological services often fall short when providing services for low income populations. Classism and negative biases often influence the service provider and distinctions between white collar and blue-collar mentalities are not acknowledged in the therapeutic setting. This further exacerbates alienation and leads to a breakdown in understanding between the therapist and the client (Smith, 2009).

Historical movements have attempted to provide access to psychological services to lower income individuals through means of community mental health programs. Clinicians trained through higher education observed that individuals from lower socioeconomic status appeared unable to “grasp” concepts addressed through therapy (Smith, 2009). Misconceptions surrounding relatability and priority further alienate the client from the therapist.

When developing psychological services for lower income populations, once can utilize Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs as a framework. Maslow suggests that in order for individuals to address higher level concerns, basic needs must be satisfied (Wedding, & Corsini, 2014). In application, psychologists must recognize that individuals at lower socioeconomic statuses often struggle to secure basic needs such as food and shelter. Thus, priorities differ from individuals who have obtained security in low level needs and are able to focus on higher level motivators such as belonging, emotional wellbeing, and self-actualization.

Strength based client centered approaches are likely benefit those at lower socioeconomic levels as the focus on a client’s strengths rather then limitations and encourage the client to take an active role in the course of their program. Strength based client focused approaches rely heavily on collaboration when treatment planning and recognizing that clients may experience challenges unforeseen to the therapist. Strength based approaches also place the client in the position as the expert shifting the power differential between client and psychologist (Snyder & Lopez, 2006).

Similarly, family systems theory incorporates both the systemic and structural framework when working with low income individuals. Family systems therapy addresses poverty as it effects the individual and conceptualizes a client’s relationship to poverty when formulating a treatment approach (Smith, 2005). The therapist becomes aware of their interactions as a component of the system structure and thus the impact on the client.


Smith, L. (2005). Psychotherapy, Classism, and the Poor: Conspicuous by Their Absence. American Psychologist, 60(7), 687–696.

Snyder C.R. & Lopez, S.J.(2006). Positive Psychology: The Scientific and Practical Explorations of Human Strengths” SAGE.

Wedding, D., & Corsini, R. J. (Eds.). (2014). Current psychotherapies (10th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole. ISBN: 9781285083711.

Wilkinson, R. G., & Pickett, K. E. (2017). The enemy between us: The psychological and social costs of inequality. European Journal of Social Psychology, 47(1), 11–24.

Latino/a Interpersonal Connections in Therapy

by Jen L’Insalata

The term Latino/a refers to anyone with ancestry from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and other Spanish speaking countries in Central and South America. Phenotypes of individuals of Latino/a descent show great variation due to historical mixing of European, African, and Asian Ancestry. Individuals often identify with their country of origin, as “Hispanic”, and as “American”. Identifying as American is most common among third generation youth. As a result, Latino/a culture demonstrates multiple dimensions of between-group and within-group variation (Sue, &Sue, 2016).

In general, Latino/a culture places a high degree of emphasis on the development and maintenance of interpersonal relationships. Cultural traditions demonstrate a deep tradition of unity, respect, and affection between communities, families, and extended families from which the term familismo originates.  Latino/a culture embodies a sense of collectivism in which interdependence forms the concept of familismo (Campos & Kim, 2017, & Sue, & Sue, 2016). Interpersonal relationships form the core of societal wellbeing and establish a harmony among community and family members.

Culture is recognized by psychologist as a driving force in all human behavior and relationships, as it influences social life. Recognizing the deep understanding of culture on interpersonal relationships provides a framework for how such relations impact mental health. Expectations of one’s self and their role in relation to other’s is influenced the collectivistic nature of Latino/a culture (Campos & Kim, 2017) and provides a framework for evaluation and treatment of psychological distress.

Research suggests that despite the socioeconomic disadvantages facing Latino/a communities in America, there is a statistically low prevalence of negative health related outcomes compared to white counterparts. This has become known as the Latino Paradox in which close interdependent relationships provides a protective factor. However; when traditional Latino/a values surrounding interpersonal relationships conflict with western individualism, the practice cultural norms break down. This breakdown leads to feelings of loneliness and increased rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide (Gallegos & Segrin, 2019). Individuals loose the cultural protective factor of connection which increases and compounds psychological distress.  

When treating members of the Latino/a community it is important to understand the bond established between family, extended family, and friendships. Often members of this community rely on one another to help in decision making processes surrounding life, finances, and day to day function. It is also important to be aware of a Latino/a reciprocal obligations to their familismo (Sue & Sue, 2017). It may be beneficial to the therapeutic alliance to incorporate extended family and community in the treatment process to encourage the reestablishment of connection to others.


Campos, B., & Kim, H. S. (2017). Incorporating the cultural diversity of family and close relationships into the study of health. American Psychologist, 72(6), 543–554.

Gallegos, M. L., & Segrin, C. (2019). Exploring the mediating role of loneliness in the relationship between spirituality and health: Implications for the Latino health paradox. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 11(3), 308–318.

Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2016). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice (7th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. ISBN: 9781119084303

Book Review: Tar Beach from a Multicultural Perspective

Tar Beach by Faith Ringold. (1991) Tar Beach. Dragonfly Books, NY. ISBN: 978-0-517-88544-4.
by JenL’Insalata

Tar Beach is an illustrated children’s book set in Harlem in 1939. The story follows an eight-year-old African-American Immigrant by the name of eight-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot adjusting to her new home. She imagines herself flying over her apartment building where her family is playing a traditional card game, and her brother is asleep on a rooftop mattress (Ringgold, 1991).

The story uses colorful images that mirror artwork from her home as a metaphor. She imagines herself being the master of her new city with her prize possession being the George Washington Bridge. She flies over the rooftops and experiences the wonder of New York lights and sounds. She finds them exciting and new as she imagines herself being part of her new environment. Throughout the story she finds herself being both connected to her family and reminiscing about home, while intrigued by her new environment(Ringgold, 1991).

Multicultural Aspects

The book addressed the mixed emotions many immigrant children feel when moving to a new country. Immigrant children often struggle to adapt to their new culture and values surrounding creativity and individualism. Many struggle to learn the new language and orientating to the new environment (Ozer, 2015).

In the book, Littlefoot is surrounded by patterns bordering each page that reflect African artwork. The metaphor connects her to her traditional home. Throughout the narrative, she mentions viewing the sky and the lights with wonder, indicating a child-like excitement and possibly some apprehension. Floating over her family on the rooftop suggests that she might be reflecting on traditional gender roles of her native culture (Ringgold, 1991). Often, females and considered nurturers and caretakers. In the story, Littlefoot takes watch over her family and her new city in a loving and gentle manner.

The story does not show Littlefoot interacting with anyone outside of her family (Ringgold, 1991). This might suggest the social isolation she experiences due to a language barrier and differing cultural values. The constant sense of excitement and wonder suggests that she wants to acculturate and own her new environment as she mentions feeling rich and owning all she can see (Ringgold, 1991).

Personal Reflection

Tar Beach creates a safe and colorful word for readers to experience an immigrant child’s point of view. Rather than addressing the discrimination that is often associated with the immigrant experience, it utilizes a universal sense of childhood wonder and imagination. As with illustration, color, symbolism, and metaphor are used to further enhance the story and connect a deep emotional meaning.

Children experiencing the book might look on the main character as themselves or a playmate on an adventure in the sky. By creating a universal connectives, readers are able to internalize and relate to Littlefoot’s experience. Children might not recognize distinct cultural differences, and gravitate to the colorful, and textural illustrations. This allows Tar Beach to emphasize universal emotions and connect children of various cultures through a story about flying over a Harlem skyscape.



Ringgold, Faith. (1991). Tar Beach. Dragonfly Books, NY. ISBN: 978-0-517-88544-4.

Ozer, S. (2015). Predictors of international students’ psychological and sociocultural adjustment to the context of reception while studying at Aarhus University, Denmark. Scandinavian Journal Of Psychology, 56(6), 717-725.