The Relationship Between Self Concept and Children's Figure Drawings

Marta Lynn Severson Campbell, Utah State University


The present study investigated the relationship between self concept and children's figure drawings. The principle variable under consideration in each child's drawing were (a) size of the drawing and (b) number of colors used. The Tennessee Self Concept Scale (Fitts, 1965) was administered to 80 students selected from the seventh grade at Logan Junior High School, Logan, Utah.

The subjects were then instructed to draw a picture of themselves. No further instructions were given regarding specific details of the requested picture. Ten colored pencils along with a regular pencil were made available to each student. No instructions were given as to the type or number of pencils to be used in their figure drawing. After the subjects completed their respective drawings, the experimenter rated each picture in terms of (a) number of colors used for the drawing, and (b) the height or vertical size of the drawing measured in millimeters from top to bottom of the drawing.

It was hypothesized that students who obtain high scores on a measure of self concept (positive self concept) will use a greater number of colors in drawing a picture of themselves than will students who score low (negative self concept) on the same self concept measure. Students with high score on the measure of self concept will also draw a picture of themselves which is larger in size (height) than will students with low scores on the self concept measure.

In addition to the two major hypotheses, it was also hypothesized that: (1) the high self concept group will have more smiles on the faces of their drawings than the low self concept group; (2) the high self concept group will draw more full figures than the low self concept group; (3) the high self concept group will use more total space on the paper than the low self concept group; and (4) the high self concept group will draw their figures more in the top two-thirds of the page and the low concept group will draw their figures more in the bottom two-thirds of the page.

All of the subjects were ranked from high to low scores obtained on the Tennessee Self Concept Scale and were then divided into a high self concept group (top 20 scores) and a low self concept group (bottom 20 scores). Scores for the total sample of 80 students ranged from 193 to 394. Thus, the high self concept group was comprised of students with scores from 314 to 394. The low self concept group scores ranged from 193 to 246.

The figure drawings of high and low scores on the Self Concept Scale were then compared to determine any apparent relationship between measured self concept and (a) number of colors used in the drawing and (b) overall size of the drawing.

Analysis of the figure drawings indicated no significant differences, either in number of colors used, or in size of figure between high and low scorers on the Self Concept Scale. the mean number of colors used by high scorers was 3.5 millimeters. Thus, the basic hypotheses of the study were not substantiated by the results obtained. However, subjective inspection of the pictures in terms of the four sub-hypotheses did produce two significant findings in terms of projective-type ratings of the pictures and statistical analysis by the chi square method. In brief, these particular differences were that students who scored high in self concept drew more pictures with smiling faces and utilized the top two-thirds of the drawing paper, while students with low self concept drew pictures with sadder-looking faces and more toward the bottom of two-thirds of the paper. The data also showed a significantly higher number of boys than girls in the high self concept group.