The self-concept in adolescent girls
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The purpose of this study was to investigate two dimensions of the self-concept of girls in successive phases of the developmental process. One dimension was self-satisfaction, that is, the degree to which the girl is content with herself. The second dimension was identification with mother, that is, the connection between the girl's self-picture and her image of the major identification figure available to her, her mother. The hypotheses investigated related to the expected fluctuations in self-satisfaction and identification with mother in prepuberty, early puberty, and late puberty. They were based on certain theories about the characteristics of these periods. Prepuberty is a period during which the girl experiences relatively little acute internal tension, and her dependence on her parents is still accepted by herself and them. In early puberty, however, physical maturation is well under way and the girl is confused by the upsurge of internal drives. At the same time that she strives for independence, she also fears it. She tries to be different from her mother but is still closely identified with her. By late puberty more adequate ways of coping with the internal drives have been developed and independence has become less frightening. While it is no longer so threatening to be like mother, identification with other persons from a wider world of experience has reshaped important aspects of the girl's ego-ideal. On the basis of these theoretical considerations, the following hypotheses were generated: 1. In the course of female development, there will be a decline in-self-satisfaction from prepuberty to early puberty and a rise in late puberty. 2. In the course of female development, there will be a decline in self-moth~r identification from prepuberty to early puberty and a rise in late puberty. 3. In the course of female development, there will be no marked difference in ideal-mother identification in prepuberty·and early puberty, but there will be a decline in late puberty. A Q-sort technique was employed to test these hypotheses. Descriptive statements were sorted three times to reflect the self image, the ideal image, and the image of mother respectively. Correlations between the sorts served as measures of self-satisfaction, self-mother identification, and ideal-mother identification. To represent the developmental periods, three groups of girls, whose ages were 11, 14, and 17 years, were originally included, and a fourth group of 20 year old girls was added in the course of the study. The results based on the data from the original three groups did not support the hypotheses. Responses of the 17 year old group, however, approximated those predicted for 14 year olds. On the premise that adolescence extends for a longer period than originally postulated, a transposition of the developmental hypotheses was tested by the addition of a 20 year old group. The findings from the extended study in general supported the hypotheses except for a conspicuous departure from the prediction regarding self-mother identification. Self-satisfaction declines continuously through the adolescent period until the end of adolescence when it rises slightly. This suggests that the self-concept is most severely shaken in later adolescence3 defined as age 17, and that its reintegration has only begun at the end of adolescence, defined as age 20. Self-mother identification declines continuously through the entire adolescent period, reaching its lowest point at the end of the adolescent period. This result is contrary to the prediction. Ideal-mother identification remains high until the end of adolescence when it declines sharply. Thus, it would appear that overall identification with mother is not significantly loosened until the end of adolescence. The patterns of the fluctuation of the two measures of identification are quite different and give rise to various interpretations of adolescence.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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