Developing A Sense Of Identity
Developing a Sense of Identity at an Early Age
During early childhood, the desire among children to ‘fit in’ with those around them is overwhelming. The developing identity has a massive impact on all aspects of a child’s life, influencing what they buy and how they use their purchases to make statements about themselves.
When a child is determining which particular product they desire, the image of a product is probably the largest factor in most children’s purchasing decision. The child will subconsciously assess the product according to numerous criteria such as whether other children will like the product or will they be better liked due to owning the product. Peer pressure plays a large part in purchasing decisions as the need to be accepted and fit in is a primary motive behind actions in group settings.
While the stereotype of the rebellious teenager is common in contemporary society, children are in fact developing a strong sense of self from as young as five. As such, rambunctious toddlers are more likely to argue with a parent about choice of clothing, the timing of a play-date or the purchase of a toy or game than ever before.
How Older Children Develop a Sense of Identity
Older children use more subtle distinctions to define themselves. Issues such as race, religion, social class all impact on a child’s sense of self as do natural abilities and preferences and reflected preferences, such as those of heroes and role models. Children position themselves in existing stereotypes such as arty, sporty or clever. Toy manufacturers can increase their sales by understanding the types of child that a particular toy would appeal to and develop a marketing scheme that is compatible with it.
One factor that influences children’s purchasing decisions is the gender split which happens around the time children start school. Boys and girls do not look past the image of a toy to see whether it is something they would enjoy playing with because they are too concerned with it being too girly or too boyish. Toys and games which are obviously targeting one gender are often actively rejected by the other gender, even though the toy or game may be enjoyable. This rejection is often offset against the added appeal felt by the targeted gender. As the gender stereotypes are being formed in the child’s mind, their desire to fit into their own gender increases. Children from four years tend to actively seek out toys and games which reinforce their gender stereotypes and help them develop their identity as a boy or girl.
Children’s use of toys and games to develop their identity has huge implications for the toy industry. Successful products are likely to be those that either fit perfectly into a particular image, (e.g. Barbie or the Power Rangers), or those that can not be rejected for fitting into any image category (creative products such as Flair’s paper FX are good examples of this). The advantage of the products that do not fit into an image type is that they allow children to develop their own identities, taking what suits them from each toy or game. This may result in a slight delay in the development of a sense of self, but the self-image that results will be more stable and a better fit for that child’s transition into adulthood.
For some children their identity is permanently defined by a disability or experience. The desire to fit in is no less strong in these children. They also represent a significant proportion of the market, so it makes sense for toy manufacturers to produce toys and games that can be enjoyed be as many children as possible and that are versatile in their use so as to encourage children to create their own identities rather than being squeezed into a mould that has been made for them.Tags: Routine
Categorised in: parenting advice
This post was written by Dr Amanda Gummer