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Kids reflect on self-perception

This month, LiveWire surveyed 175 kids ages eight to 12 about a fascinating topic: Self-perception. Given the myriad concerns and opinions in society about the future of this generation, we wanted to take a closer look at how kids see themselves,...
October 1, 2000

This month, LiveWire surveyed 175 kids ages eight to 12 about a fascinating topic: Self-perception. Given the myriad concerns and opinions in society about the future of this generation, we wanted to take a closer look at how kids see themselves, measure their own self-worth, and express it in their selection of defining possessions. We were pleasantly surprised to find there is no shortage of opinions on these topics.

What we found:

Overall, the kids on our panel have well-defined notions of who they are and who they are striving to become. When asked to name their favorite personal qualities, the boys and the girls answered in a similar fashion. The top three answers for both were personality, intelligence and athletic ability.

However, when it came to talking about the things kids would change about themselves, two distinct camps emerge, with equal numbers of boys and girls on both sides. Half the panel exhibited full personal satisfaction, saying they would change nothing about themselves. The other half gave witness to budding body image concerns as they cited height, weight and muscles as the main things they would like to change.

Asked what they thought it meant to be attractive, the kids primarily stuck to physical traits. Interestingly, most of the boys gave answers that were open to interpretation, often reciting the generic statement that ‘being attractive means looking good.’ The girls were quicker to give lists of precise attractiveness measurements such as being pretty, being skinny and dressing well.

When asked how well they think they measure up to their own standards, the panel showed a good degree of physical confidence. The majority of both the boys and the girls thought they were somewhat to very attractive.

We then asked the boys and girls to tell us which celebrities they most wanted to emulate and why. The overwhelming answer from the girls was Britney Spears, with looks and physique being the characteristics they aspire to. The boys were quick to name a variety of athletes and actors, such as Michael Jordan, Adam Sandler and Tiger Woods, citing their talents and abilities.

What kids said:

Do kids feel the things they own reflect who they are? We asked kids to take a look around their rooms at home, pick out the one thing that says the most about themselves, and tell us why. Their responses were varied, rich and thoughtful.

‘My leopard pillow that has beads on it says I am unique.’ Danielle, 9, Massachusetts

‘My soccer awards show I am an achiever and I strive for excellence.’ Amanda, 11, Wisconsin

‘A poster with articles from the newspaper about my dad. He is a policeman, just like I want to be. I think I am like him.’ Gerry, 9, Wisconsin

‘My books. I love to read. With reading, you can go anyplace and be anybody and do anything you want to do. I read a lot, and maybe someday I will be an author.’ Jeff, 11, Minnesota

‘An old wolf picture I’ve had for three years. I feel like a wolf because I’m bossy, a leader with my friends who like me, beautiful and loyal to my friends.’ Siara, 10, California

‘My CDs. I have lots. I love to sing and try to be happy and dance and pretend I am in S Club 7 singing when I grow up.’ Ryan, 9, Australia

‘Pictures of my family and friends. It tells people that I love them.’ Lauren, 12, New York

‘Stuffed animals. They say that I am still little and have a long way to go.’ Brandon, 9, Maine

‘All my shopping bags hung up on my mirror. It says that I love shopping and that I have good taste in which stores to shop in.’ Katie, 11, Quebec, Canada

‘The computer. Because it’s smart like me.’ Kristen, 9, Louisiana

‘The holes in my walls because I like to wrestle with my friends.’ Justin, 12, New York

‘My soccer and singer posters. My soccer posters are of Mia Hamm and my singer posters are of Britney Spears, and they’re both people I want to be like when I grow up.’ Kayla, 9, Pennsylvania

‘My makeup. It says that I like to look pretty.’

Jessica, 9, Alabama

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