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Some people just seem to radiate confidence. They can walk into a room and own it; everyone seems to want to be them. How do they do it, you ask?

Well, we may have to go back a couple of years–in fact, we may have to go back to when these confident people were five. Yep, that’s right. Researchers at the University of Washington have found that by age five, children seem to have established their self-esteem to a degree similar to that of adults.

“We found that as young as five years of age, self-esteem is established strongly enough to be measured,” said Dario Cvencek, who was the lead author of this project.

 Children develop their self-esteems early in life.

Image Source: Christina Kilgour

So then, is self-esteem developed in preschool?  Research suggests that before children even step foot in preschool, they develop either a “good” or “bad” social mindset. In order to test such a conceptual idea, Cvenck and his fellow researchers constructed the Preschool Implicit Association Test, which measures the degree to which children hold positive attitudes towards themselves.

First, the researchers gave 234 preschoolers flags and told them which of these flags were “theirs” and which were “not theirs.” Then, the preschoolers responded to a series of random words from a loudspeaker by indicating with their flags how they felt. The random words carried both positive and negative connotations, with words such as “nice”, “mean”, and “yucky” as some of the choices. Since the preschoolers had established a sense of identity with the flags, by indicating the correspondence of the flag with the words, they were able to indicate the correspondence of their perception of themselves with positive or negative words.

The results suggested that a majority of the five-year-olds held a generally positive attitude towards themselves.

To further their study, the researchers brought the idea of gender into the equation; they found that children with high self-esteem and a strong sense of their gender identity were likely to prefer the company of members from their own gender. This suggests that self-confidence may be associated with the strength of one’s gender identity.

In the future, the researchers hope to understand possible correlations between self-esteem and factors in later life, such as success in school and health.

Feature Image Source: Children by Adam Lai

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