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Social and Emotional Development in Children

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Social and emotional development in children has to do with a child’s experience, expression and management of emotions. It relates to the ability of establishing positive and rewarding relationships with others, as it encompasses both intra and interpersonal processes.

This series has to do with a child’s ability to understand the feelings of others, control his or her own feelings and behaviours, as well as getting along with other children, and build relationships with adults

Related: “Emotional Abuse – It’s Impact on African Children

INFANT(s) [1 Day – 1 Years]

  • According to the Differential Emotional Theory, new born’s posses only a limited number of emotions. These innate emotions include; Interest, disgust, physical distress and startle.
  • In the fourth month, most infants have the capacity for anger, surprise, joy and sadness.
  • Infants starts feeling fear from the age of five months and 7 months respectively
  • At the age of 4 months and 5 months, their sense of what others are feeling start developing very quickly.
  • According Erik Erikson, a child’s general attitude towards people develop from their early relationships or attachment. Erikson sees an attachment as an emotional tie binding people together over a space of time. A child’s mother is his or her primary attachment, while the father, grandparents and siblings will generally become secondary attachments.
Social & emotional development in infants
Toddler Source: Pixabay

TODDLERS [1-3 years]

  • At the age of two, secondary emotions begin to form; it includes shame, envy, guilt, contempt, and pride. These emotions require an elementary understanding of a sense of self and of others.
  • Children at this stage begin to develop a keen awareness of their peers and develop relationships outside their families. They subsequently develop an awareness of rules and social conduct necessary for friendship such as sharing. However, children at this stage of development do not have a firm grasp on this skills, so there may be some struggles.
  • Toddlers develop a sense of independence. They want to do more for themsleves, they infact gain the ability to accomplish these goals. However, sometimes their aspirations can be larger than their ability, resulting in frustrations.
  • At this stage of development, children develop a firm sense of gender. They have an understanding of what it means to be a baby boy and what it means to be a baby girl. Children at this stage begin to form friendships with members of the same sex and are generally attracted to gender specific clothes and toys.
  • Children at this stage experience increase in their sense of morality. They understand what is right and what is wrong, and generally understand what is socially acceptable and what is not.
  • At this stage of development, the self esteem of a child is very sensitive. An innocent remark made by another child may leave a child feeling sad. Children at this stage have an intense need to feel liked and valued by their peer.
Social & emotional development in children at middle childhood
Children Source: BabyCenter


  • This stage of development for a child is marked by more gradual changes than those of infancy and early childhood.
  • At this stage, social network for a child expands dramatically. The child now participates in friendships based on trust, loyalty, faithfulness and value.
  • Children in this stage of development now receive feedback from many sources, thus forming a greater sense of their abilities, strengths and weaknesses. Erikson believed that if children received positive feedback, that they would develop a sense of industry and feel that their work and opinion were valued and if the opposite was to be the case, they would feel not valued or not appreciated.
  • At this stage, there is a subtle change in relationships with parents. Children are more independent and responsible.
  • Children in this stage of development show an increase in the development of their sense of morality. They experience an increase in the ability to experience empathy; an emotional response resulting from understanding another persons’ condition.

Also Read “Child Development

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