Cultural differences in the use of psychological and social characteristics in children's self-understanding



Western societies can be characterized as individualistic: the person is seen as a situation-free distinct agent, relatively autonomous from contextual influences. By contrast, many Eastern societies are collectivistic with a more ‘holistic’ view of the person: people are conceptualized in terms of their relation to the environment and their actions are primarily understood in terms of this relation. This difference implies that in Western cultures the ‘psychological self’ will be prominent, in Eastern cultures the ‘social self’ will be more salient. We report the results of a study carried out in the Netherlands, comprising Dutch, Turkish and Moroccan children in which these differences in self-concept and the comparison of self with similar and dissimilar others, were investigated. A strong culture effect was found in the hypothesized direction: Dutch children referred more to psychological aspects, whereas Turkish and Moroccan children referred more to social aspects. These differences were found in both the self-descriptions and the comparison measures.