From the beginning of life to its end, the self is a product of varied social experiences. Across the life course, interactions between and among humans differ in character; thus, they are not the same for everyone. The unavoidably varied significance of social, psychological, and physical environments is due to individuals’ wide-ranging levels of both accessible support and impactful challenge. Important to remember, then, is that all humans confront some level of vulnerability (i.e., supports and challenges). It is confronted in the pursuit of a healthy sense of self.

Accordingly, in providing a description of how the self develops, this entry considers both the specific life-course stage of development and individuals’ unique characteristics. Emphasized is that human variation due to group membership including gender, race, ethnicity, ...

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