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Children's self-evaluations fall into two categories: evaluations of their competence or adequacy in particular life domains (for example, scholastic competence, physical appearance), and evaluations of their overall worth as a person, which is referred to in this entry as self-esteem. An analysis of the effects of parental variables on children's self-evaluations and personality development is timely given claims (see Harris 1998) that parents have little influence on their children's psychological development other than their genetic contribution. There is considerable research to the contrary, which is not to negate the role of genetics. What is needed is a balanced perspective on the nature-nurture controversy, namely, an appreciation of both genetic contributions and the critical role of parent-child interactions beginning in infancy and continuing through adolescence and beyond. Two theories have dominated the study of the effects of parent-child interactions on children's self-representations: William James' (1890) formulation on the determinants of one's level of global self-esteem—that is, the overall evaluation of one's worth as a person (see Harter 1999a)—and Charles Horton Cooley's (1902) theory of the looking-glass self.

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & ParenthoodDevelopment - Cognitive, Self - EMOTIONAL, MORAL