Self-esteem reflects an individual's overall emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. A new study has revealed that children may develop a sense of self-esteem even before they begin kindergarten.
Lead study author Dario Cvencek, research scientist at University of Washington, said, "We found that by as young as five years of age, self-esteem is established strongly enough to be measured using sensitive techniques."
Study co-author Andrew Meltzoff from University of Washington said, "Some scientists consider preschoolers too young to have developed a positive or negative sense about themselves."
To make the task appropriate for preschoolers, a mix of 234 boys and girls of five-year-old from the Seattle area, replaced words related to the self ('me', 'not me') with objects. The children used small unfamiliar flags, and where told about 'yours' and 'not yours'. Using buttons on a computer, kids responded to a series of 'me' and 'not me' flags, using words and pressing the buttons.
The results revealed that the five-year-old associated themselves more with 'good' than with 'bad', and this was equally pronounced in both girls and boys. A gender identity task assessed the kid's sense of whether they are a boy or a girl, called a 'gender in-group preference'. Preschoolers with high self-esteem and strong sense of gender identity showed preferences for members of their own gender.
Cvencek said, "Self-esteem appears to play a critical role in how children form various social identities. Our findings underscore the importance of the first five years as a foundation for life."
The study was published in Experimental Social Psychology.