chapter  7
8 Pages

The conservation of selfhood: A developmental analysis of children’s changing conceptions of self- continuity

The object of this chapter relates to the general process of identity formation, and our particular aim is to explicate the usual developmental course by which young persons come to achieve a stable sense of selfhood. The orientation which we have followed in pursuit of this purpose has been cognitive-developmental in its focus, and the specific target of our remarks will be the changing ways in which young persons, characterised by different levels of intellectual maturity, differently undertake to warrant their own sense of numerical identity. The thrust of our argument is that the maintenance of a satisfactory sense of numerical identity first demands access to some successful means of warranting personal continuity in the face of inevitable change and, second, that the level of one’s current cognitive-developmental maturity sets limits upon the particular form of warranting practice that can be called into play in an effort to interpretively rationalise the differences which set apart one’s past and present selves. Our work has consisted of attempts to outline a formal typology of such alternative continuity warrants, to specify the nature of their dependence upon supportive cognitive competencies and, through a series of empirical studies, to evaluate the match between this proposed developmental model and the actual struggles toward identity achievement which we have observed in our subjects.