Academic journal article Merrill-Palmer Quarterly

Adolescents' True-Self Behavior and Adjustment: The Role of Family Security and Satisfaction of Basic Psychological Needs

Academic journal article Merrill-Palmer Quarterly

Adolescents' True-Self Behavior and Adjustment: The Role of Family Security and Satisfaction of Basic Psychological Needs

Article excerpt

The Self During Adolescence

The self is a complex construct that is frequently described as a psychosocial dynamic processing system characterized by a wide array of selfrelated constructs such as self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-regulation (Leary & Tangney, 2012; Mort & Mischel, 2012). Developmental^, Harter (2012a, 2012b) described the self as a cognitive and social construction through which children and adolescents create and construct theories of the self to endow their experiences with their own meaning while relating with their significant adults, peers, and those in the wider sociocultural context. These theories include self-concepts that are continuously monitored and reflected and are aimed at generating a stable mental configuration (Côté, 2009).

During adolescence, these theories go through major changes (Côté, 2009) mostly because, as adolescents mature, they begin to search for a solid, sophisticated, and abstract sense of subjectivity regarding who they are and how they fit into the social world in which they live (Steinberg, 2013). They discover and create their own unique selfhood as separate from that of their parents and others (Steinberg & Silk, 2002). Evidence has shown that during adolescence the self becomes more complex and differentiated as adolescents actively create, define, and differentiate roles, relationships, and situations related to their selves (Harter, Bresnick, Bouchey, & Whitesell, 1997; Harter, Waters, & Whitesell & 1997; Markus & Nurius, 1986). Thus, a certain level of intrapsychic conflict over opposing attributes of adolescents' self-portraits appears to be normative (Harter, 2002).

Research has indicated that there are distinct phases in the development of self-concept among adolescents (Harter, 2012a). Early adolescents' (age 10-13) thought about the self is characterized by a single abstraction: During this period there is no ability to compare contradictions cognitively regarding the depiction of the self. By contrast, conflicts peak in middle adolescence (age 14-16), (Harter, 2002, 2012a). During this phase, adolescents become aware of these mismatches and search for true-self experiences in different settings but are unable to resolve such conflicts (Harter &Monsour, 1992; Harter, Waters, & Whitesell, 1997).

True Versus False Self

The notion that there is such a thing as a true self is a common and familiar one in Western society (Schlegel, Hicks, Arndt, & King, 2009) and the importance of an inner core or true self in psychological functioning has a long-standing history in philosophical thought, as well as in a variety of contemporary personality theorists (e.g., Kohut, 1977; Winnicott, 1965). Harter (2002) described the true self as a cognitive schema representing those aspects of the self that the person considers to be most emblematic of his or her true nature. The true self refers to "owning one's personal experiences, be they thoughts, emotions, needs, wants, preferences, or beliefs. ... [It] further implies that one acts in accord with the true self, expressing oneself in ways that are consistent with inner thoughts and feelings" (p. 382). Based on this definition, the current study refers to the true self as a psychological construct describing who a person really is (Schlegel et al., 2009) as manifested through the individual's behaviors and knowledge.

Although factors influencing the true self are present early in childhood soon after the beginning of adolescence, adolescents actively begin to be interested in and concerned about whether their behavior reflects their true selves. Adolescents' descriptions of their true selves include "the real me inside," "my true feelings," and "behaving the way I want to behave and not how someone else wants me to be." In contrast, false selves have been described as "putting on an act" and "expressing things you don't really believe or feel" (Harter, Marold, Whitesell, & Cobbs, 1996; Harter, Waters, & Whitesell, 1997). …

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