Early Childhood Intervention: Module One – Typical and Atypical Development

Social and Emotional Development: A Brief Overview

Social and emotional skills are key to child’s overall development.  Babies, even at birth, are social beings! Newborns are hard-wired to get the attention, love and care of their parents, or anyone else who may be taking care of them. They are biologically programmed to be near people.

Emotional development is a broad term that describes how a child develops, displays, regulates and understands feelings and emotions. It also includes the way a child feels about him- or herself. The development of a child’s self-concept and self-esteem (see full Glossary) are part of emotional development.

Social development is also a broad term that describes how a child relates to others around them, including people they know, strangers, children their age and older or younger children. The ability to share, take turns, understand someone else’s perspective, and carry on a conversation is part of social development.

Babies are also born with distinct personality features or temperaments (see full Glossary). Babies are different also from their siblings in sleeping and eating habits, arousal level and how much stimulation they can tolerate. These are qualities that we all have when we are born. They develop as we grow older to form the adult personalities that we will later have.

Social and emotional development is the area of development more likely to be influenced by the environment. The different temperament styles and how babies learn to relate to their parents and others around them are greatly influenced by the kind of care they receive.

  • A child growing up in a healthy, loving and nurturing environment has a better chance to develop into an emotionally healthy and well-adjusted adult.
  • On the other hand, a child growing up in an environment where their basic needs for love, food, shelter, and safety are not met, has less opportunities to feel secure and to develop good relationships with others.

Although these are important factors, not all children growing up in adverse situations will show atypical development or will become maladjusted adults. As we have seen earlier in Module 1, development is a complex process that includes a combination of biological and environmental factors.

Providing security, love and support is essential for our children to ensure their well-being and optimum development.

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