The Development of Self Concept in the Child: Model Theory Versus Mirror Theory


Child Development, Childhood, Childhood Attitudes, Children, College Students, Family Influence, Family Life, High School Students, Parent Child Relationship, Parent Influence, Parents, Self Concept, Self Evaluation


The focus of this study was to compare the relative influence of the two theories commonly utilized to explain the development of a child's self-concept and to examine some contingencies under which one or the other process is more important. The "mirror theory" looks to the reflected appraisals of significant others as the important influence on a person's self-concept. The "model theory" holds that, the child's self-concept is modeled after the images of the significant others in his environment.. Questionnaire data were obtained from four family members for 219 families. The findings consistently showed that mirror relationships are stronger than model relationships. This means that the parent's evaluation of the child was more strongly related to the child's self-evaluation than was the parent's self-evaluation. The results do favor the "looking glass" conception of self-concept formation, but because the correlations were somewhat low, findings are more suggestive than conclusive of the relative importance of mirroring versus modeling process.

Original Publication Citation

"""The Development of Self Concept in the Child: Model Theory Versus Mirror Theory,"" Journal of Social Psychology 92:67-76 (with V. Gecas ·and J. Calonico)."

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Journal of Social Psychology




Religious Education



University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor