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Attachment security, self concept, and self evaluation in response to feedback: Extending the internal working model in early childhood

Rebecca Goodvin, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Attachment theorists often describe internal working models, constructed from a history of interactions in the parent-child relationship, as “interpretive filters” for new information. Although a growing number of studies have confirmed links between secure attachment and more positive views of the self in early childhood, little empirical research has examined the corresponding proposal that young children interpret or integrate information about the self in light of their attachment security. This dissertation examined the hypothesis that young children’s attachment security would relate not only to the global positivity of their self concepts, but also to patterns of self evaluation in response to positive and negative feedback, and in a challenging task. Additionally, this study proposed a process model in which children rely on underlying beliefs about the self in responding to self relevant information. In other words, children’s existing self concepts would mediate links between attachment and self evaluation. This study examined hypotheses in a sample of 76 four- and five-year old children (44 girls). Children completed measures of self concept, made self evaluations in response to hypothetical criticism and praise scenarios, and were observed in a challenging puzzle task. Additionally, theory of mind and emotional understanding were assessed. Attachment security was measured using maternal-report Attachment Q-Sorts (Waters & Deane, 1985). Findings confirmed a link between security and a more positive self concept for girls. Attachment security was related to children’s self evaluations in the challenging puzzle task, but was unrelated to self evaluations in hypothetical scenarios. Associations of self concept and self evaluations were apparent only for older children in the sample, suggesting that they may become increasingly interrelated over time. Data did not support the hypothesis that self concept would mediate links between attachment and self evaluations. Additionally, security was positively linked to children’s theory of mind, but was unrelated to emotional understanding; neither theory of mind nor emotional understanding showed associated with self evaluations. Results point to the importance of considering in developmental context the role of attachment security in children's existing self views, and in children’s integration of new self relevant information. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Developmental

Recommended Citation

Goodvin, Rebecca, "Attachment security, self concept, and self evaluation in response to feedback: Extending the internal working model in early childhood" (2007). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3273471.