Social and emotional development in babies and children
It is easier to understand how important physical growth and development is for kids – but what about the emotional development? When our kids grow taller, or learn to walk, it’s so obvious to see. Yet when our kids understand how to share, take turns or make their own friends, it’s often not noticed. In fact, we’re more likely to notice the lack of social and emotional skills in our children than how accomplished they become as they grow.
The emotional aspect of development relates to a child understanding and controlling their internal emotions while balancing external social elements of interacting with other people and family.
Healthy social and emotional development allows children to:
- Develop relationships
- Master the ability to initiate, discover, play and learn
- Develop persistence and attention
- Self-regulate their behaviour
- Develop emotional range
What is social and emotional development?
The development of the social and emotional health of a child is essential to his appropriate behaviour, understanding of life and transition to adulthood. Social emotional development helps shape a child into what he will become later in life by teaching proper reactions to emotional matters. Social skills are all about a child's ability to cooperate and play with others, paying attention to adults and teachers, and making reasonable transitions from activity to activity. Emotional development is the process of learning how to understand and control emotions.
The eight stages of social and emotional development from baby to adult
The developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst Erik Erikson argued that the emotional and social development of a human being takes place in eight phases, "the eight stages of man." The first four stages deal with early childhood's emotional and social development.
First stage: Hope (up to two)
Learning Basic Trust Versus Basic Mistrust:
If a baby and toddler is nurtured, and loved, he will develop trust and security and a basic optimism. Badly handled, he becomes insecure and mistrustful.
Second stage: Will (18 months – four)
Learning Autonomy Versus Shame:
Erikson believes social and emotional development occurs as people reach “psychosocial crisis” and are prompted into the next stage of development. The well-adjusted child emerges from this stage sure of himself, elated with his new found control, and proud rather than ashamed. The early part of this psychosocial crisis, includes facing up to self- will, tantrums, stubbornness, and negativism. So the two year old yelling "NO!" every second of the day is going through his entry into the second stage of social and emotional development, according to Erikson. Mothers know this is annoying, but you can take heart that it’s a sign of emotional and social development.
Third stage: Purpose (three – six)
Learning Initiative Versus Guilt:
Erikson believes that this third psychosocial crisis occurs during what he calls the "play age” and the well-developed child learns:
- to imagine, to broaden his skills through active play of all sorts, including fantasy
- to cooperate with others
- to lead as well as to follow
- If the child is immobilised by guilt, he is fearful, hangs on the fringes of groups, continues to depend unduly on adults, and is restricted both in the development of play skills and in imagination.
Fourth stage: Competence (5.5 – 12)
Industry vs Inferiority:
Erikson believes that the fourth psychosocial crisis is handled, for better or worse, during what he calls the "school age”. Here the child learns to skills like:
- relating with peers according to rules
- progressing from free play to play that may be elaborately structured by rules and may demand formal teamwork.
- mastering social studies, reading, maths at school and creating self-disciplined approaches to learning.
- The well-developed child is trusting, autonomous, full of initiative and will learn easily enough to be industrious. However, the mistrusting child will doubt the future. The shame and guilt-filled child will experience defeat and inferiority.
Fifth stage: Fidelity (12-20)
Learning Identity vs Identity Diffusion:
During the fifth psychosocial crisis the adolescent learns how to answer satisfactorily and happily the question of "Who am I?". But even the best-adjusted teenager experiences some role identity problems and starts rebelling and filling with self-doubt. The young person acquires self-certainty as opposed to self-consciousness and self-doubt.
Sixth stage: Love (18+)
Learning Intimacy vs Isolation:
The successful young adult, for the first time, can experience true intimacy - the sort of intimacy that makes possible good marriage or a genuine and enduring friendship.
Seventh stage: Care (adulthood)
Learning Generativity vs Self-Absorption:
In adulthood, the psychosocial crisis demands a person becomes more emotionally and socially generous, both in the sense of marriage and parenthood, and in the sense of working productively and creatively.
Eighth stage: Wisdom (adulthood)
Integrity vs Despair:
If the other seven psychosocial crises have been successfully resolved, the mature adult develops the peak of adjustment - integrity. He trusts, he is independent and dares the new. He works hard, has found a well-defined role in life, and has developed a self-concept with which he is happy. He can be intimate without strain, guilt, regret, or lack of realism, and he is proud of what he creates - his children, his work, or his hobbies. If one or more of the earlier psychosocial crises have not been resolved, he may view himself and his life with disgust and despair, according to Erikson.
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