The Eccentric Child [Part 2]: Self-Identity in Childhood

Interestingly, by the age of five, children acquire the ability to think in terms of simple narratives, and to make up fantasies of their own. However, this comes before other, perhaps more intellectually rational, abilities.

It is not until about the age of seven that children are able to compare their inner attributes and differences of personality with those of other children. Until then they are usually unprepared to seek out such comparisons, and engage in simpler, more concrete comparisons with parents, teachers, and other children and adults. Picking up the differences between the self and others helps to build up and to confirm the child’s self-identity. Figuring out the main differences between other children also helps the child to work out ad hoc descriptions and theories about human personality, though not all children go on to develop these into more abstract terms.

More sensitive to their immediate social environment, by the age of seven or eight most eccentrics (at least two-thirds of my sample) realized, or were told by friends and relatives, that they were different. While communicating their social and personal values, parents provide and reinforce similar and dissimilar social comparisons.

A society’s social order, whatever it is, begins to make itself known early, and begins to influence young minds, at first perhaps not deliberately, but sooner or later begins its efforts to perpetuate its core beliefs and priorities, by words, suggestions, demonstration, example, formal education and the inculcation of certain disciplines, for instance the use of foresight, delayed gratification, and simple ethics. This adds up to a rather prolonged and intense social upbringing, amounting to social programming.


It would not be wildly speculative to suggest that other out-of-the-ordinary events or situations intervened to bring out any eccentricity in the early years, in both girls and boys. One candidate for this could be gender confusion.

The parents of the future eccentrics had often tended to relate to them as if they would have preferred them to fit into a contrary gender role. This would lead to some gender confusion, bringing about androgynous feelings or more pronounced and stereotyped masculine or feminine roles, more frequently than homosexual or bisexual orientations. This also contributed to later feelings of difference.

Part 1: The Eccentric Child: An Introduction (Charlotte Buhler & Childhood Non-Conformity)

Part 3: Raising An Eccentric Kid: Advice for Parents