Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

high self-definition with those of low self-definition. In these dyads, boys of high self-definition 
used “mine” more often and claimed toys more often than boys of low self-definition. This 
decreased as the interaction progressed, leading Levine to argue that possession is not 
anti-social, aggressive behavior, but a socially positive and necessary act of defining and 
communicating the domain of the self. Newman (1978) similarly found that preschoolers’ 
expressions and actions of possession were used to define in-groups of joint owners of toys to 
whom the out-groups must defer and ask permission. A frequent justification of ownership 
given and accepted by children was, in spontaneous support of Locke, “we made it”. Corsaro 
(1979), too, found that preschoolers resisted intruding children by making claims of ownership. 
Because these studies of child linguistic and social development cite neither James nor Cooley, 
nor even one another, they represent quite independent substantiations of the claim that the 
origins of self and self-reference are intimately linked to assertions of possession. 
Furby’s (1980) review of “The Origins and Early Development of Possessive Behavior” 
explicitly links the development of the child's sense of self, the use of self referent language, 
and possessiveness to control of the environment. 
Possessions become integrated with the child’s developing concept of self because they 
offer a very high degree of contingent control, almost as great as the control one 
experiences over one’s body. (Furby, 1980, p. 35) 
Furby uses White's (1959) concept of effectance to argue that the child is essentially motivated 
to achieve control over the environment and that it is the security of control that facilitates 
exploration and further development. More particularly, early object relations mediate social 
development, since the actions of others impinge on the object one is using. 
Not only is there a social component to object related behavior, but that social component 
is, among other things, one of interpersonal control and power. The control of an object 
becomes closely tied to the control of other people.... (Furby, 1980, p. 38) 
Furby (1980) reinforces this with a review of the research by McGrew (1972), Gage and 
Lieberman (1978), Krebs (1970) and Strayer and Strayer (1976), all of whom argue that 
possessive behavior in children is a component of interpersonal dominance relationships. 
Belk (1987) has reviewed other research on the role of possessions in the self concept. 
For example, McClelland (1951) hypothesized a hierarchy of distances of self-referents from the 
central malt 
There seem to be stages of control by the self defining a true perceptual dimension of 
distance from the self which might be summarized as follows:

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