Children may develop a sense of self-esteem even before they begin kindergarten, reveals an interesting research. “We found that by as young as five years of age, self-esteem is established strongly enough to be measured using sensitive techniques,” said lead study author Dario Cvencek, research scientist at University of Washington.
The study conducted in January 2016 used a newly developed test to assess implicit self-esteem in more than 200 children up to five-year-old. “Some scientists consider preschoolers too young to have developed a positive or negative sense about themselves,” study co-author Andrew Meltzoff from University of Washington noted. Until now, no measurement tool has been able to detect self-esteem in preschool-aged children as the existing self-esteem tests require the cognitive or verbal talk.
Researchers created a Preschool Implicit Association Test (PSIAT), to measure how strongly children feel positively 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 with objects. They used small unfamiliar flags, and where told about “yours” and “not yours”. Using buttons on a computer, children responded to a series of “me” and “not me” flags, using words and pressing the buttons.
The results showed 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 children’s sense of whether they are a boy or a girl, called a “gender in-group preference”. Children with high self-esteem and strong sense of gender identity showed preferences for members of their own gender. The study was published in the journal Experimental Social Psychology.