|STUDIES OF CHILDHOOD.|
V.—PSYCHOLOGICAL AND THEOLOGICAL IDEAS.
GROTE PROFESSOR OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF MIND AND LOGIC AT THE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON.
WE may now pass to some of the characteristic modes of child-thought about that standing mystery, the self. There is reason to suppose that a good deal of terribly earnest thinking goes on in the childish head respecting the problem of "my" nature, "my" existence, "my" origin.
The date of the first thought about self, the first dim self-awareness, probably varies considerably in the case of different children according to rapidity of mental development and circumstances. The little girl who was afterward to be known as George Sand may be supposed to have had an exceptional development, and the accident to which she refers as having aroused the earliest form of self-consciousness was, of course, exceptional too. There are probably many robust and dull children, knowing little of life's misery, and allowed in general to have their own way, who have little more of self-consciousness than that, say, of a young, well-favored, well-supplied porker.
The earliest idea of self seems to be obtained by the child through an examination with the senses of touch and sight of his own body. A child has been observed to study his fingers attentively in the fourth and fifth months, and this scrutiny goes on all through the second year and even into the third. Children seem quite early to be impressed by the fact that in laying hold of a part of their body with a hand they get a different kind of experience from that which they obtain when they grasp a foreign object. Through these self-graspings, self-strikings, self-bitings, aided by the very varied and often extremely disagreeable operations of the nurse and others on the surface of their bodies, they probably reach during the first year a dim idea that their body is different from all other things, is "me" in the sense that it is the living seat of pain and pleasure. The growing power of movement of limb, especially when the crawling stage is reached, gives a special significance to the body as that which can be moved, and by the movements of which interesting and highly impressive changes in the environment—e. g., bangs and other noises—can be produced.
- For the facts see Preyer, Die Seele des Kindes, cap. xxii. Tracy, The Psychology of Childhood, p. 47.