Development of Self

The development of a sense of self is a process that begins through the emotionally based relationship between parent and child from birth (and some would argue prior to birth based on exciting new research on prenatal-maternal development). It is described beautifully in Peter Hobson’s seminal work ‘Cradle of Thought’. Within the early parent-child relationship, the dance of ‘intersubjectivity’ (between us, subjective)(Fogel) begins to unlock our genetics based on our experiences which are primarily affective (emotional-non verbal) and sensory based. This process is universal and happens in every culture since the beginning of human history. This intuitive process is what Barbara Rogoff (Apprenticehsip in Thinking) has described as the ‘guided participation relationship’. It is through this guiding relationship that mental development and development of a sense of self begins to form, first within the coregulatory intersubjective parent-child relationship, then internalizes as a gradual mental transfer of responsibility occurs from parent to child and finally becomes strengthened as the child becomes more self aware, self reflective and able to self regulate (sense of self) and is able to practice their new capacities in the self-other relationship with trusted adults and within peer relationships. This is one of primary focuses in RDI, to re-establish the emotionally based intersubjective guiding relationship to begin to allow for the guided mental development of a sense of self. This process cannot be taught as a skill or behaviour, it is a process and needs to be deliberately redone by training teh primary agents of change in a child’s life, ‘their parents’.