Self and Identity: Perspectives across the Lifespan

Self and Identity: Perspectives across the Lifespan

Self and Identity: Perspectives across the Lifespan

Self and Identity: Perspectives across the Lifespan

Excerpt

‘Self’, and its counterpart, ‘identity’, are currently receiving a significant renewal of interest from social scientists and those working in related disciplines. It is not surprising that this is particularly reflected in the human development literature, given the relatively consistent interest in such concepts for an understanding of adolescence. However, this book explores different perspectives across the entire lifespan, from the neonate within the context of an intersubjective relationship with a caretaker to the elderly adult standing alone but expressing his or her identity in response to the interest of a researcher.

The organisation of this book into four parts is not simply a convenient chronological breakdown, nor is it meant to necessarily implicate an argument for several different ‘stages’ in development. However, it does reflect a clear difference in theoretical foci and choice of research method. Three of the four contributions in the first part draw on new developments in psychoanalytic theory that incorporate ‘self as the key concept. They are heavily dependent upon rich resources of clinical observation and empathic interpretation. A particular strength of such work is its consideration of the infant’s psychological vulnerability in the context of the primary ‘intersubjective’ relationship. Moreover, the propositions that emerge from this work are integrated with the developmental psychology orientations to be found in this volume.

With the advent of the child’s language and the typical attainment of an explicit sense of self/other boundaries, the research emphasis, reflected in our second part, switches to using children as research subjects. A concern with the child’s developing cognitive competencies (and cross-referencing into the Piagetian tradition) is a feature of much of this work. Moreover, an important bridge is made with the sociological and social psychological literature on accounting through the concepts of ‘self-narrative’, and ‘intention’ which reaffirm the significance of the interpersonal context for understanding selfhood.

The changes heralded in childhood point to adolescents’ newly emerging

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