"Our work provides the earliest glimpse to date of how preschoolers sense their selves," said lead author Dario Cvencek, a research scientist at the University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS).

"We found that as young as 5 years of age self-esteem is established strongly enough to be measured and we can measure it using sensitive techniques," said Cvencek.

Researchers used a newly developed test to assess implicit self-esteem in more than 200 five-year-old children, the youngest age yet to be measured.

"Some scientists consider preschoolers too young to have developed a positive or negative sense about themselves. Our findings suggest that self-esteem, feeling good or bad about yourself, is fundamental," said co-author, Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of I-LABS.

"It is a social mindset children bring to school with them, not something they develop in school," Meltzoff said.

Until now no measurement tool has been able to detect self-esteem in preschool-aged children. This is because existing self-esteem tests require the cognitive or verbal sophistication to talk about a concept like 'self' when asked probing questions by adult experimenters.

The results showed that the 5-year-olds associated themselves more with 'good' than with 'bad', and this was equally pronounced in both girls and boys.

Researchers also found that children who had high self-esteem and strong own-gender identity also showed stronger preferences for members of their own gender.

The findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Latest News from Lifestyle News Desk