Cultivating self-awareness in young children (part 2)Role of the family and the society [Archives:2007/1070/Education]

July 23 2007

Bijayalaxmi Mohanty
[email protected]
Kendriya Vidyalaya, Jatni
Orissa, India

Family plays a crucial role in chiseling out the total, essential or particular being of a child. It significantly contributes to the growth, development and enrichment of his/her individuality and helps him/her to be conscious of his/her own identity. Adults and older siblings help young children to make sense of the world, the environment, the relationships and sensitize them how to deal with them appropriately. In fact, the family teaches the child how to put the first step in the world.

Children lack exposure, experience and understanding of the affairs of the world. So they tend to be easily influenced by people in their immediate environment who include parents and siblings. Children naturally look upon the ones with whom they are familiar and imbibe their characteristics, the matrix of values and other systems of behavior of parents and other key adults. In this sense, parents become children's first educators. The kind of behavior meted out to the child helps in the child's understanding of who he/she is and how he/she relates to others.

This constitutes the child's initial phase of education or what is called 'primary socialization' during which the values, morals, prejudices, world view, stereotypes and attitudes are transmitted from one generation to another giving credence to the adage: “Charity begins at home.”

When the child attains the age of four, he/she develops a stronger identity relating to his/her personal name and perceptions about his/her identity with respect to the larger society and the wider community. This process of socialization helps children to develop a sense of 'self' that broadly defines their personality which is otherwise known as their 'ego.'

The family influence on individual children can be both positive and negative depending on the kind of stereotypes held by the key members of the family. In certain social contexts, such as in India, parents sometimes make comments like, “You're only a girl, what can you do?” adversely affects the self-concept of the girl child whereas remarks such as “My boy will be the crown of the world” boosts the child's self-image. So, the family's role in the building up of the child's self-concept can never be underestimated.

Role of the Society

The society plays the role of secondary socialization in nurturing the child's personality. It helps the child cultivate an awareness about the social demands, expectations, rules, regulations, constraints and so on. This process takes place outside of the family in the wider community. Children learn the established social values and conventions as a result of their interaction with peers, exposure to the media and so on. In the process they develop a sense of themselves and others around them.

Peer influence in the promotion of children's self concept merits a more detailed discussion. Children develop relationship with their peers effortlessly through one or more of the following stages

1. Parallel play or playing independently alongside another child.

2. Coordinated play or play that involves interaction with another child.

3. Cooperative play or play that is in cooperation with his playmate.

In course of their play, children develop a sense of self and an awareness of their gender identity. This interaction also helps them shape their attitudes to others along with their self-awareness.

According to Ramsey (1991), children can be classified into the following four categories according to the degree and nature of their relationship with other children. These are:

1. Popular children: These children easily and freely get along with other children. So many children like to play with them.

2. Rejected children: These children are interested in playing with others, but are spurned, or repulsed by the peers. As a result, they virtually become outcasts.

3. Neglected children: These children shy away from the company of their peers. They are withdrawn and choose to be loners. Since they don't try to interact with others, naturally their company is not sought by the peers who tend to avoid them.

4. Controversial children: These children are naughty and often break rules or show aggressive behavior to peers. They usually get mixed response from peers. Sometimes they are popular among peers and are sought after, but quite often their company is avoided as well.

To conclude, social skills of children do affect their sense of self. It is a bounden duty of parents and teachers to make conscious, coordinated and consummate efforts to promote a positive attitude and self-awareness among young children.


Ramsey, p (1991) Making Friends in School. London: Teachers' College Press