chapter  6
7 Pages

Identity constancy in children: Developmental processes and implications

The question of how we know that we remain ourselves despite the transformations we undergo in appearance, thoughts, values and behaviours has intrigued philosophers and psychologists for many years. It is the question of personal identity constancy. Perceptions of continuity and consistency of different aspects of self are believed to be crucial to emotional and interpersonal stability. Mental health problems associated with a fragmented personality and identity loss are widely recognised (Erikson, 1968). Even experimental procedures have been used to demonstrate that when their identifiable features are masked by covering the head and body with nondescript material, people tend to act in unusual ways, often asocial and irresponsible (Dipboye, 1977). One interpretation is that loss of identity is an unpleasant experience, and that the bizarre behaviour is an attempt to restore some individuality. It was therefore with considerable surprise that developmental psychologists discovered how fragile was the young child’s identity constancy.