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Social Development in Early Childhood

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Social Development in Early Childhood

Our social abilities are something that we are not born with. Part of our abilities stem from who we are as a person, but a large percentage comes from our surroundings. How we are raised, who we interact with, and what we are exposed to are all factors that impact our social and emotional development.

  • What is social development?
  • What are Erikson's stages?
  • What are different theories that affect social development?
  • What are examples of social development in childhood?

Social and Emotional Development Stages in Early Childhood

Social development is the evolution of someone's social and emotional abilities that can either positively or negatively impact someone's life down the road.

Erikson's Stages

Erik Erikson put forth eight stages of psychosocial development that have served as an outline for psychologists' understanding of these concepts. Each stage has a conflict that must be overcome to move on to the next developmental stage.

These stages highlight the different hurdles that a child has to clear, including understanding the safety of their environment, the development of independence, becoming curious about their surroundings, developing complex skills, and figuring out who they are. The stages help outline the different social and emotional developments during childhood.

For more on Erik Erikson's stages, click here!

Social Development Theories in Early Childhood

Along with Erikson's theory, there are other concepts crucial for social development during childhood.

Attachment

When you hear the word attachment, what do you think of? Are you attached to your phone, your friends, or maybe your parents?

In psychology, attachment is a close emotional bond that happens between people. These attachments can make us feel comfortable and safe in our relationships.

Attachment develops as we grow, but it is also present from the time we are born. When a newborn enters this world, one of the first things they do is bonding with their caregiver. This could be their biological parents, adopted parents, or grandparents - whoever is there providing food and warmth.

The Harlows

It was initially believed that infants and children only bonded with caregivers who provided them with food, but that changed after Harlow and Harlow's study. The Harlows examined a baby monkey's preference for "caregiver." One of these makeshift caregivers was a wire "mom" with a bottle, and the other was a "mom" made out of blankets but with no food. The monkeys overwhelmingly preferred the comfortable mom despite her not having any food, showing it is not the nutrition they prefer but the comfort and safety.

Psychologists believe that children who are more often exposed to a person will become more likely to get attached to them. They also think that there is a sensitive attachment period during early childhood. Some have stated it occurs around 2.5 years old, and others have said around 5 years old, but all agree on the importance of attachment around this time. Without attachment, children are more likely to be less intelligent and have higher anxiety levels.

Unfortunately, not all attachment is positive. People who experienced attachment to abusive figures during childhood have reportedly higher levels of depression, are startled easier, and are more likely to continue the cycle of abuse.

Parenting Styles

Parenting styles also play an essential role in social development. The way in which a parent interacts with their child directly affects their ability to develop socially and their ability to build social skills to use in social situations.

Parenting styles are the ways in which parents interact with and raise their children.

There are three main types of parenting styles that psychologists agree on. Each parenting style affects the child's social development.

Authoritarian

Authoritarian parenting relies on rules and obeying the rules. These parents will follow through with strict consequences and punishments and often leave little room for the child to have any input.

Children raised in an authoritarian household will often have lower levels of self-esteem and lack social skills.

Have you heard of an authoritarian government? Same idea!

Permissive

Permissive parenting is lax and has little to no enforced rules. These parents will allow their children to dictate anything they want and cave if they try to employ any sanctions.

Children with permissive parents will often be immature. Their lack of consequences and authority figures also cause them to be more aggressive than those not raised in permissive houses.

Authoritative

Authoritative parenting enforces rules and explains the reasons for the rules and consequences. These parents will encourage discussion about the limits they set and allow for input from their children.

In general, authoritative parenting is understood to be the one that produces children with the highest self-esteem and social abilities. However, these results rely on studies whose participants were primarily middle-class white people. Additionally, just because children from authoritative backgrounds are the most socially adjusted does not mean this correlation causes the social abilities. There could be other factors!

Social Development in early Childhood, Photograph of two parents and their toddler walking on the beach. StudySmarterAuthoritative parenting sets rules but also lets the child be themselves. pixabay.com.

Self-Concept

While attachment is a critical step in developing relationships when younger, it is the development of self-concept that is the key during childhood.

Self-concept is someone's ability to understand who they are.

Have you ever seen a dog look at itself in the mirror? It might jump, growl, or sniff the mirror to figure out who that dog is staring back. Because of a lack of self-concept, it won't realize that it is actually its reflection in the mirror.

It is shown that only when babies are around 18 months old can they recognize their reflection. Through childhood and their social development, they begin to understand who they are and their own identities. They will be able to compare themselves and their characteristics to their peers and understand the differences between each person.

Importance of Social and Emotional Development in Early Childhood

Just like other aspects of our being, our social and emotional development during childhood is crucial for setting us up for the best possible future. How we develop when we are young sets out the blueprint for how we will be when we are older. It impacts who we are, what we believe in, our emotional abilities, social skills, attachment to and relationships with other people, and even our intelligence.

Maybe it's time we cut our parents some slack for the pressure they've been under. They know that childhood is a super important time in our lives for developing and laying the groundwork for our future selves. They are such crucial figures in our lives for all of our development. They can show us what attachment is (can be good or bad), their parenting style can affect our socialization skills down the road, and they can be pivotal in our development of self-concept. That's a lot of work!

Examples of Social Development in Early Childhood

As we now know, many factors contribute to a child's social development. Even though different aspects of childhood affect someone's upbringing, certain elements are universal.

During childhood, kids will learn and gain independence. This starts when children are around two years old and begin to do things independently, such as opening doors and feeding themselves. This social independence they develop is crucial for later on when they have the confidence to act on their own.

Another development that happens during childhood is sharing. Initially, children are egocentric and are unable to think past themselves. They can't understand that other kids may want to play with the same toy they do. As they socially develop, they begin to realize that they can take turns, share the toy, and still end up with it. Sharing is caring!

Social Development in early Childhood, Drawing of two squares sharing a toy car, StudySmarterRemember to share! pixabay.com.

A key element in social development in childhood is self-concept. As stated before, this is the ability to understand who we are as individuals. As children develop, they are able to understand their own identities, feelings, and interactions. These developments are crucial for leading the children to form their own sense of self and identity.

Social Development in Early Childhood - Key takeaways

  • Social development is the evolution of someone's social and emotional abilities (can be a positive or negative thing)
  • In psychology, attachment is a close emotional bond between people. A lack of attachment can lead to lower intelligence and limited social abilities.
  • Parenting styles affect the child's social abilities, with authoritative being understood as the best.
  • Throughout childhood, children develop self-concept, which is their understanding of who they are.

Frequently Asked Questions about Social Development in Early Childhood

Social development in early childhood is the evolution of a child's social abilities. 

Social and emotional development in early childhood is the growth that a child undergoes during their childhood, allowing them to improve their social abilities and emotional competence. 

To foster social development in early childhood, take an authoritative parenting style. Have rules in place and ensure the child understands why those rules are established. Encourage the child to develop independence. 

The definition of social development in early childhood is the evolution of a child's social and emotional abilities that lays the groundwork for their future lives. 

To support social development in early childhood, encourage the child to ask questions, explore their environments, and develop their own self-concept. 

Final Social Development in Early Childhood Quiz

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What is attachment?

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Attachment is a close emotional bond or relationship between a baby and a caregiver.

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What are the four styles of attachment?

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Secure attachment, avoidant attachment, ambivalent attachment, and disordered/disorganized attachment.

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What is secure attachment?

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Secure attachment is defined by Maitland 2020 as, “After absence baby is happy to see mother, receptive to her contact. Securely attached babies tend to become socially competent children”. (Maitland 2020.)

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What is avoidant attachment?

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Avoidant attachment is defined by Maitland 2020 as, “after absence baby is angry and rejecting of mother, avoids her, ignores her, or behaves inconsistently” (Maitland 2020).

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What is ambivalent attachment?

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Ambivalent attachment is when an infant knows that their parent or caregiver is not reliable.

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What is ambivalent passive attachment?

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Ambivalent passive attachment is when the child has limited explorations and may not seek attention or interaction from others that are not the caregivers.

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What is ambivalent resistant attachment?

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Ambivalent resistant attachment is when the child will not seek the caregiver and may be angry with the caregiver.

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What is disordered (or disorganized) attachment?

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Disordered attachment (also known as disorganized attachment), is when there is a child that sees their caregiver as a source of fear or distress, but they are physically and emotionally still dependent on that caregiver.

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Who was Harry Harlow?

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Harry Harlow was an American psychologist that was best known for his research on dependency, maternal separation, and social isolation. Harlow performed experiments on monkeys and separated them from their mothers.

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Who is Mary Ainsworth?

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Mary Ainsworth was a Canadian-American psychologist that studies attachment using a “strange situation” to study the behaviors of a baby in terms of attachment to their mother.

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What is resistant attachment?

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Resistant attachment is when there are mixed reactions of babies/infants to their mothers.

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True or False: An infants attachment has long term effects into their adulthood.


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True

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True or False: Psychologists have discovered that an infants attachment is centered around feeding.


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False

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What was the attachment experiment called that Mary Ainsworth conducted?


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Strange Situation

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What animal did Harry Harlow use for his experiments on attachment?


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Monkeys

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What was Erik Erikson?

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Erik Erikson was a psychologist that developed one of the most widely used and popular theories of development, the theory of psychosocial development. 

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How many stages of psychosocial development are there?

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8

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What are the eight stages of psychosocial development?


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Infancy, early childhood, preschool, school age, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood, and maturity.

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What is the basic conflict in the first stage?


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Trust vs. Mistrust

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What is the basic conflict in the second stage?


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Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

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What is the basic conflict in the third stage?


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Initiative vs. Guilt

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What is the basic conflict in the fourth stage?


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Industry vs. Inferiority

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What is the basic conflict in the fifth stage?


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Identity vs. Role Confusion

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What is the basic conflict in the sixth stage?


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Intimacy vs. Isolation

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What is the basic conflict in the seventh stage?


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Generativity vs. Stagnation

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What is the basic conflict in the eighth stage?


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Ego Identity vs. Despair

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What did Erikson say is always present at every stage of psychosocial development?


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Conflict

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How does one build their ego strength throughout their psychosocial development?


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By having a final sense of master after each stage of psychosocial development.

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At what ages does the stage of maturity occur?


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65 to death

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At what ages does the stage of infancy occur?


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0-18 months

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Freud's five stages of Psychosexual Development are ______________.

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Oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital stage. 

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An unresolved fixation that girls experience as they pass through the phallic stage is referred to as __________. 

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Penis Envy

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This is a combination of rivalry and jealousy where the male child wrestles with desire for the mother and resentment for the father. 

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Oedipus Complex

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This is the fear of punishment for Oedipal desires. 

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Castration Anxiety

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These are areas of the body that are highly sensitive to arousal or stimulation.

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Erogenous Zones

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This basic drive is concerned with satisfying basic needs, urges, and desires.

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Id

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This basic drive develops from the id and acts to reign in the id’s impulses. 

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Ego

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This basic drive is concerned with morality and right and wrong. 

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Superego

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Weaning represents the main conflict associated with this stage.

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Oral Stage

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Potty training represents the main conflict associated with this stage.

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Anal Stage

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The conflict associated with this stage is a combination of rivalry and jealousy, and erotic attraction and resentment.

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Phallic Stage

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Freud saw this as an industrious phase where children focus on building hobbies and honing social skills. 

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Latency Stage

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In this stage of Freud's Psychosexual Development one develops a concern for community and the welfare of others. 

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Genital Stage

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A person with this type of personality 

can be perfectionists, meticulously tidy, or controlling.

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Anal-retentive personality 

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A person with this type of personality 

can be rebellious, messy, disorganized, or even destructive. 

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Anal-expulsive personality

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What is social development?

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The evolution of someone's social and emotional abilities that can either positively or negatively impact someone's life down the road

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What are parenting styles?


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The ways that parents interact with and raise their children

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What is attachment?


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A close emotional bond that happens between people (that can be a positive or negative thing)

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What did Erikson outline?

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That there are specific stages that children go through, each with a specific development that is going to happen

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What is the Authoritative parenting style?


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The Authoritative Parenting Style is warm, sets rules that are clear, has high expectations, and is supportive.

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