Developmental theories that inform social and emotional development

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Hetherington, Parke, Gauvain and Locke (2006) see a child's development as influenced by factors such as genetic inheritance, the environment into which the child is born and raised, family and peer interactions and others. This paper will discuss social and emotional development in preschool children generally and specifically look at how abuse at this time may impact developmental processes. A brief discussion of toddlerhood and middle childhood will be included in order to highlight the different developmental levels and establish an understanding of the major changes that occur at these times. It must be noted that all of the developmental levels are equally important given that for normal development to take place in preschool, development in toddlerhood has to have been normal. The role of attachment in social and emotional development will be explored taking the view that it is intrinsically knitted into child development. Finally the impact of abuse on said development will then be discussed with a view to understanding how normal developmental processes of the preschool child may be interfered with.

Developmental theories that inform social and emotional development

Psychodynamic theory and Psycho social theory

A number of theories of development have been found to be particularly relevant to the discussion on social and emotional development of preschool children. While acknowledging Piaget's and Vygotsky's contribution to developmental theories ,their theories are particularly pertinent to cognitive development and although cognitive development shares a reciprocal relationship with social and emotional development, for the purpose of this paper it is important to narrow down to the developmental theories that particularly pertain to social and emotional development. It is felt that Sigmund Freud's psychodynamic theory in which he places emphasis on how early experiences particularly in the first six years of life influence later development, as well as his contribution to the role of attachment in socio-emotional development is relevant here however his views on psychosexual development are not considered as relevant. Erik Erikson's psychosocial theory of development is considered more relevant as it builds on Freud's thinking but considers the primary motivation for human behavior to be social in nature as opposed to sexual. Erikson sees the individual as developing through the lifespan, with normal development occurring in specific stages, for example in early childhood, and during what he terms play age, Erikson would say that the major tasks of these stages is the learning of self control, establishment of autonomy, and the developing of initiative and mastering of their environment. ( Hetherington et al, 2006;Santrock, 2007).

Ecological systems theory

Urie Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory is one that has been found to be particularly important to social and emotional development of preschool children. According to Hetherington et al (2006) and Berk(2006), Bronfenbrenner's theory falls into what developmentalists have termed "contextual perspectives" due to the view that the child develops within a complex system of relationships that are affected by the environment. Bronfenbrenner acknowledges the part played by biological influences such as physical attributes, personalities including a child's temperament and capacities in influencing development in what he terms the microsystem. Further to this he believes that relationships within the microsystem are bidirectional with the child being an active participant with the ability to affect behavior and be affected by the behavior of others. For example a child who generally does not listen to his or her parents, is sullen and angry will likely elicit frustration and negativity in the parents wheras a child who is sociable, and listens to them and follows directions will elicit patience and positive regard. At the same time a child who witnesses a parent being physically assaulted by the other or is themselves repeatedly physically assaulted by their parent will likely become fearful and mistrusting of the parent.

Berk(2006) believes that these reciprocal interactions when repeated over time are likely to have an enduring impact on a child's development. The mesosystem which is Bronfenbrenner's second level in his model encompasses influences on the microsystem such as preschool and neighbours . For example a difficult child at home may likely be a difficult child at preschool with behaviours, such as aggression and refusing to follow directions that are seen in the home being enacted in the preschool environment. The exosystem made up of community resources, extended family and other organizations such as parents employers and the macrosystem which is the outer circle made up of cultural values within the society a child is growing up in, their laws, customs and resources complete Bronfenbrenner's model and while their influence is seen to be indirect they can have a major impact children's immediate settings. For example families that have community and social supports are likely to suffer less stress reducing the chances of negative interactions with their children.

Ethological theory of attachment

Bowlby's ethological theory of attachment is also particularly relevant in social and emotional development of preschool children. According to Berk (2006, p. 420) the theory "recognizes the infant's emotional tie to the caregiver as an evolved response that promotes survival ". Bowlby's theory suggests that attachment occurs from 6-8 months through to 18 months to 2 years at which time babies begin to display separation anxiety. With time a child may become less dependent on the caregiver being present at all times and depend instead on the confidence that the caregiver will be "accessible and responsive" when needed. Bowlby talks extensively about secure and insecure attachment and the development of internal working models within the developing child that form part of their personality and which will serve as a guide for all future relationships. A longitudinal study carried out by Arend, Gove and Sroufe (1979) in which individual differences in security of attachment at 18 months and effective autonomous functioning at age 2 years were related to the dimensions of ego control and ego resiliency at age 4-5 years found that children that were classified as securely attached were significantly higher on ego resiliency and curiosity. According to Arend et al (1979)the data was able to provide the link between an infant's quality of attachment, the toddler's effectiveness in a problem- solving situation, and competence during the preschool years.
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Dehart, Sroufe and Cooper (2000) highlights the reciprocal nature of cognitive development and social and emotional development and suggest that for preschoolers while their cognitive advances support their social and emotional development, for example with language development comes an ability to form peer relationships, the other way is also true as social and emotional development will positively impact cognitive development , given that as preschoolers interact with peers they are cognitively stimulated gaining knowledge and an expanded view of the world. It must be noted that while this paper is specifically focusing on social and emotional development in ...

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