3-Year-Old Has Identity Confusion

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

My 3 year old daughter is called two different names depending on who in the family is talking to her. Some people call her by her real name and some by her self appointed nickname. She also refers to herself by both at different times. Recently she asked for a snack, but the way she stated it was ‘(nickname) gets one type of treat and (her real name) gets another type of treat. Basically asking if she gets a healthy snack under one name and junk food under the other. My concern is how she referred to herself almost like she feels she is two different people depending on the name she uses. I am worried about split personality or some kind of identity disorder? Should i be concerned or is this normal confusion for a 3 year old?

A. Perhaps the confusion stems from her being called two different names by family members. It might also be that she is attempting to please certain people or attract attention. Calling herself by two different names helps her to achieve those goals.

There is no such thing as a split personality. What some people refer to as split personality was formerly referred to as multiple personality disorder and is now called dissociative identity disorder (DID).

According to the literature, DID can be diagnosed at any age. It’s commonly associated with trauma. The defining feature of the disorder is the presence of two or more distinct personality states. Among children symptoms include problems with memory, concentration and traumatic play. DID affects, on average, 1.5 percent of the population.

It’s unlikely that DID is the problem but I do not have enough information to determine if anything is wrong. If this continues to be a concern, have her evaluated by a mental health professional who can observe her behavior and determine if your concerns are valid. Having an evaluation might bring you peace of mind. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Feb 2014

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2014). 3-Year-Old Has Identity Confusion. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/02/11/3-year-old-has-identity-confusion/