2 - Patterns and functions of self-disclosure during childhood and adolescence  pp. 10-56


By Duane Buhrmester and Karen Prager

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As the eyes are the “window of the soul,” so too is self-disclosure a window to people's pressing feelings, thoughts, and concerns. In this chapter, we view the complex interplay between individual development and interpersonal experiences through the window of self-disclosure. We begin with an overview of our conceptual assumptions about the role that self-disclosure plays in the larger processes of individual development and interpersonal relationships. Next we summarize the current literature on developmental changes in patterns of self-disclosure. This summary provides a jumping-off point for the final sections in which we explore possible links between changing patterns of disclosure and concurrent changes in individual development.

Self-disclosure and development

In this chapter, self-disclosure is seen as part of a larger process in which social interactions shape, and are shaped by, the development of the individual child. Our thinking about these processes represents a marriage of ideas drawn from H. S. Sullivan's (1953) “interpersonal theory” of social development and Erik Erikson's (1968) “psychosocial” theory of personality and identity development. (A full discussion of the specific ways that Sullivan's and Erikson's ideas are reflected in our thinking is beyond the scope of this chapter. Suffice it to say that our notion of “needed social input and provisions” is similar to Sullivan's notion of social needs, whereas our notion of “developmental issues and concerns” is, in spirit, similar to Erikson's notions of “crises” and “preoccupations.”)