EveryDay Leaders begin their journey early in life

How do you define leadership? Do you believe that you have the capacity within your own life to become a leader? Did you know that psychologist tell us that our personalities are formed by the age of 5 and that at this age, we believe we can do anything.

Here's an interesting research study from November 2, 2015

Children’s self-esteem already established by age 5, new study finds

Molly McElroy

Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences

By age 5 children have a sense of self-esteem comparable in strength to that of adults, according to a new study by University of Washington researchers.

Because self-esteem tends to remain relatively stable across one’s lifespan, the study suggests that this important personality trait is already in place before children begin kindergarten.

“Our work provides the earliest glimpse to date of how preschoolers sense their selves,” said lead author Dario Cvencek, a research scientist at the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS).

“We found that as young as 5 years of age self-esteem is established strongly enough to be measured,” said Cvencek, “and we can measure it using sensitive techniques.”

The new findings, published in the January 2016 issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, used a newly developed test to assess implicit self-esteem in more than 200 5-year-old children — the youngest age yet to be measured.

“Some scientists consider preschoolers too young to have developed a positive or negative sense about themselves. Our findings suggest that self-esteem, feeling good or bad about yourself, is fundamental,” said co-author, Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of I-LABS. “It is a social mindset children bring to school with them, not something they develop in school.”

Meltzoff continued: “What aspects of parent-child interaction promote and nurture preschool self-esteem? That’s the essential question. We hope we can find out by studying even younger children.”

Until now no measurement tool has been able to detect self-esteem in preschool-aged children. This is because existing self-esteem tests require the cognitive or verbal sophistication to talk about a concept like “self” when asked probing questions by adult experimenters.

“Preschoolers can give verbal reports of what they’re good at as long as it is about a narrow, concrete skill, such as ‘I’m good at running’ or ‘I’m good with letters,’ but they have difficulties providing reliable verbal answers to questions about whether they are a good or bad person,” Cvencek said.

To try a different approach, Cvencek, Meltzoff and co-author Anthony Greenwald created a self-esteem task for preschoolers. Called the Preschool Implicit Association Test (PSIAT), it measures how strongly children feel positively about themselves.

Adult versions of the IAT, which was first developed by Greenwald, can reveal attitudes and beliefs that people don’t know they have, such as biases related to race, gender, age and other topics.

“Previously we understood that preschoolers knew about some of their specific good features. We now understand that, in addition, they have a global, overall knowledge of their goodness as a person,” said Greenwald.

The task for adults works by measuring how quickly people respond to words in different categories. For instance, the adult implicit self-esteem task measures associations between words like “self” and “pleasant” or “other” and “unpleasant.”

To make the task appropriate for preschoolers who can’t read, the researchers replaced words related to the self (“me,” “not me”) with objects. They used small unfamiliar flags, and the children were told which of the flags were “yours” and “not yours.”

The 5-year-olds in the experiment—which included an even mix of 234 boys and girls from the Seattle area—first learned to distinguish their set of flags (“me”) from another set of flags (“not me”).

Child’s view of the apparatus used in the test.University of Washington

Using buttons on a computer, they responded to a series of “me” and “not me” flags and to a series of “good” words from a loudspeaker (fun, happy, good, nice) and “bad” words (bad, mad, mean, yucky). Then, to measure self-esteem, the children had to combine the words and press the buttons to indicate whether the “good” words were associated more with the “me” flags or not.

The results showed that the 5-year-olds associated themselves more with “good” than with “bad,” and this was equally pronounced in both girls and boys.

The researchers also did two more implicit tests to probe different aspects of the self. A gender identity task assessed the children’s sense of whether they are a boy or a girl, and a gender attitude task measured the children’s preference for other children of their own gender, called a “gender in-group preference.”

Children who had high self-esteem and strong own-gender identity also showed stronger preferences for members of their own gender.

Taken together, the findings show that self-esteem is not only unexpectedly strong in children this young, but is also systematically related to other fundamental parts of children’s personality, such as in-group preferences and gender identity.

“Self-esteem appears to play a critical role in how children form various social identities. Our findings underscore the importance of the first five years as a foundation for life,” Cvencek said.

The researchers are following up with the children in the study to examine whether self-esteem measured in preschool can predict outcomes later in childhood, such as health and success in school. They are also interested in the malleability of children’s self-esteem and how it changes with experience.

Grants from the UW’s Ready Mind Project, and the Implicit Cognition Research Fund supported the research.


For more information, contact Cvencek at 206-543-8029 or, Greenwald at 206-543-7227 or, Meltzoff at 206-685-2045 or Image available of the apparatus used in the experiment.

This article speaks to those of us that are searching for the capacity to become fulfilled in our lives, searching for purpose. What I am learning is that LEADERSHIP is INFLUENCE, nothing more and nothing less, and this idea BEGINS with being a LEADER of OURSELVES EVERYDAY. This means that everything we have been exposed to up until today influences your personality. So where ever you are in your life, you have been influenced to lead your own life because of your beliefs and experiences you are exposed to.

My Personal Reflection on being 5

My personal connection to this article stems from having experiences during my early life that changed my beliefs about my life forever. At 5 years old, I my 30 year old father passed away from battling lung cancer. At this crucial point, I believed in my faith that was taught to me by my father. It was as simple as if I believed in the higher power of God and good in the world, that I would go to heaven and get to see my father again. My beliefs about myself in the world developed from that point on. I learned how to exist in the world as an only child, not afraid of anything, I existed with a strong sense of faith that kept me focused on the good in the world. I watched my mother struggle as a single parent to provide the neccessitites in life for us, all the time knowing that we would survive each phase and become stronger through it, and we did. My grandparents, my fathers parents, were Nazarene Song Evangelists and they took me under their wing and provided loving support and continued to reinforce and help me develop my beliefs, courage and attitudes about life. Every phase that we experienced as a family we learned from together and we kept trying to create a better tomorrow. That's what life is all about. This experience at 5 years old impacted my life forever. This experience allowed me to be begin to believe in the ability to overcome obstacles and to be stronger than my fears, this belief is what has allowed me to live my life everyday with success.

January 12, 2018, I turned 50! I had now lived and experienced 20 more years of life than my father was able to. I have always felt that I was being pulled into a bigger calling. My strength needed to be shared with others. When I was 5 years old, my father was 30, my grandparents were 50. I realized in turning 50 that it was time that I connected to my past in a way that I had never experienced before. It was my time, like what my grandparents did for me, to help others stay true to their beliefs and become stronger to overcome everyday obstacles. This was the creation of my journey in 2018. EveryDay Leaders 50in50 Podcast was created to inspire others to develop strategies to overcome everyday obstacles in their lives. I have been so humbled this year with the opportunity to learn from each of my guests, what has inspired them to become stronger has allowed them to be an EveryDay Leaders in their lives. Many of these interviewees are simply living their lives everyday without titles, they are leaders because they have tremendous strength and influence in their own lives.

Everyone has their own unique journey and story that has made them who they are today. Think about when you were 5, what did you believe about yourself? How are you using those beliefs today to influence your outcomes? EveryDay Leaders 50in50 Podcast 2018, is my way to use my beliefs to inspire others, sharing stories of inspiration, this is how I am trying to add value to the world, one day, one story at a time.

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