Sociological Theories of Human Development
Although social scientists acknowledge the contributions of psychoanalytic and psychologically based explanations of human development, sociologists believe that it is important to bring a sociological perspective to bear on how people develop an awareness of self and learn about the culture in which they live. Accord ing to a sociological perspective, we cannot form a sense of self or personal identity without intense social contact with others. The self represents the sum total of perceptions and feelings that an individual has of being a distinct, unique person-a sense of who and what one is. When we speak of the "self." we typically use words such as I, me, my, mine, and my self(Cooley, 199811902).
This sense of self (also referred to seifconcept) is not present at birth; it arises in the process of social experience. Self-concept is the totality of our beliefs and feelings about ourselves. Four components make up our self-concept: (1) the physical self ("I am tall"), (2) the active self n am good at soccer"), (3) the social self ("I am nice to others"), and (4) the psychological self ("J believe in world peace"). Between early and late childhood, a child's focus tends to shift from the physical and active dimensions of self toward the social and psychological aspects. Self-concept is the foundation for communication with others; it continues to develop and change throughout our lives.
Our self-identity is our perception about what kind of person we are. As we have seen, socially isolated children do not have typical self-identities; they have had no experience of "humanness." According to symbolic interactionlsts. we do not know who we are until we see ourselves as we believe that others see us. We gain information about the self largely through language. symbols, and interaction with others. Our interpretation and evaluation of these messages are central to the social construction of our identity. However, we are not just passive reactors to situations, programmed by society to respond in fixed ways. Instead, we are active agents who develop plans out of the pieces supplied by culture and attempt to execute these plans in social encounters (McCall and Simmons, 1978