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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


A Critique of Susan Harter's Self-Perception Profile for Children

Martell Sandra Toro.

In The Construction of the Self: A Developmental Perspective, Susan Harter, Professor of Psychology and Head of the Developmental Psychology Program at the University of Denver, asks, “how do individuals personally evaluate their sense of adequacy across the multiple domains of their lives, as well as construct a more global judgment concerning their overall worth as a person?” (p.116). How she attempts to answer this question, particularly with the use of instruments like “The Self-Perception Profile for Children,” is the focus of this paper. I present a critique of Susan Harter’s Self-Perception Profile test and attempt to unearth some of the underlying assumptions implicit in the construction, layout and use of the test. As part of this critique, I examine Harter’s views of the self system, including self-concept, self-esteem, and identity, and its related domains. I do this in relation to empirical data consisting of test scores and interviews with sixth graders from a school in the Puget Sound Region. My goal is to demonstrate some of the limits of Harter’s testing approach as a means of answering her research question.


Martell Sandra Toro  (United States)
Ph.D. student
Educational Psychology
University of Washington

Sandra Toro Martell is a Ph.D. student in the University of Washington’s Educational Psychology Department’s Cognitive Studies Program. She has received a BA and BFA from Cornell University and a MA from Seton Hall University. She has taught in museums for over 8 years and is primarily interested in how children learn in museums and other alternative environments. She a University of Washington Presidential Fellow and a AERA/Spencer Foundation Pre-Dissertation Fellow.

  • Self
  • Self-perception
  • Self-concept
  • Identity
Person as Subject
  • Harter, Susan

(30 min Conference Paper, English)