Psychology ETDs


Mary Bancroft

Publication Date



The current study investigated the development of cultural self-concepts in children and relationships between self-concept, social behavior and maternal parenting and cultural values. Preschool and kindergarten Mexican and Euro-American children (N =56) participated. Children described themselves in response to open-ended questions, mothers completed self-report measures and teachers completed questionnaires regarding childrens social behavior with peers and authority figures. Overall, significant differences were found in children's self-descriptions between the two groups. Mexican children's self-descriptions were balanced between private, relational, and descriptions of significant others whereas Euro-American children's self-descriptions were dominated by private descriptors such as personal attributes, preferences and possessions. Contrary to prediction, there were no differences between Mexican and Euro-American children in the valence of self-evaluation and both groups tended to describe themselves in neutral terms. Mexican mothers endorsed a higher perceived degree of collectivism in their country, and endorsed 'cooperation' as a developmental goal for their children as significantly more important than did Euro-American mothers. Further, endorsement of cooperation was related negatively to independent orientation in children's self-descriptions for both groups. Lastly, though significant differences were found in teacher ratings of children's cooperative and prosocial behavior, I failed to find associations between teacher ratings of child behavior and orientation in children's self-descriptions. These results are discussed in terms of the emphasis on cooperation and 'the family' in Mexico, and subsequent implications for the self in contrast to the emphasis on an individualized self in the United States. Shortcomings are discussed including: importing methodologies which birth from western psychology; categorizing countries dichotomously as collectivistic or individualistic and difficulty capturing the degree of variation along this dimension; and the lack of indigenous psychologies to inform knowledge of children's development of self-concepts. Future research is needed in order to investigate children's development of self-concept across cultures and potential parenting goals and behaviors which may transmit cultural values and influence the form of self.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Advisor

Erickson, Sarah

First Committee Member (Chair)

Witherington, David

Second Committee Member

Verney, Steve

Third Committee Member

Graeber, David

Fourth Committee Member

Goldsmith, Tim




Children, Self-representations, Cultural goals, Mexican children, Parenting goals

Document Type