Child Socio-Emotional Development


Developing a sense of self and others

Erikson’s stages continue to develop out of the earlier strengths of Hope and Will where now children become more focused on task mastery with seeking Purpose and Competence

Initiative vs guilt is the thrir psychosocial stage of development where one's action can be self directed to specific tasks as begins in pre-school and kindergarten.Focusing on taking the initiative to do things for themselves rather than feeling guilty for non-action or misdirected action children can come to develop a sense of purpose to direct their will towards.

This progression continues through elementary school age where Industry vs Inferiority arises as the significant challenge for children to work hard, not just playing, but applying themselves to specific goal-directed tasks (as learned with having a purpose). Thus Industrious child are able to achieve goals and master school and other such tasts without developing a sense of inferiority or doubt about their abilities. As such, a sense of competence and confidence in oneself emerages out of the appropriate psychosocial development at this age.


As late childhood comes about children will be moving toward adolescence and the challenge of identity formation, a sense of ego and self within the social relationships that we have.

Self development

Self-concept  involves one's conceptualization of a sense of self. By age 4 to 5 children start to describe themselves and others in terms of psychological traits.

Self understanding continues to develop during the elementary school years where an increase in self-reference and social comparison unfolds. At this age children are more likely to identify themselves from others in comparative rather than absolute terms

Self-esteem (self-worth or self-image)  involves global evaluations of the self and sense of self-worth.
Low self-esteem is correlated with obesity, anxiety, depression, suicide, drug use, and delinquency among children.

Self-efficacy  is similar and invovles one's belief that one can master situations or circumstances having good outcomes.

Self-regulation involves one's deliberate efforts to manage one’s behaviour, emotions, and thoughts. It is associated with increased social competence and the achievement of Emotional and Moral Development

Perspective taking is a process involving understanding the perspective of others and their thoughts and feelings, including joint commitments and that sometimes people see things differently. It is associated with frontal cortex development in middle to late childhood and results in a decline of ego-centrism and a growth in socio-moral judgment making.

Emotional and Moral Development  

There is evidence that emotion recognition develops slowly during infancy and early childhood  towards the experiencing of self-conscious emotions.

Parental influence also occurs through:

Emotion-coaching  - when a parent views children’s negative emotions as opportunities for teaching them about emotions.

Emotion-dismissing  when parents deny, ignore, or change negative emotions.

Parents and close social contacts shape emotional experience through the imposition of such display rules (expectatoins of how and when to experience emotions). This is basis of the cultural construction of emotions and how some cultures experience emotions not found elsewhere, such as Amae (a feeling social connection) found in Japan.

Moral development  - development of thoughts, feelings and behaviours regarding rules and conventions about what people should do in their interactions with other people

social cognitive theorists - identify that the ability to resist temptation is tied to the development of self-control

Piaget (1932) Cognitive & Moral Reasoning continue to develop along with concrete and formal operations, having the ability to consider the abstract and hypothetical notion or action.

Egocentricity may still be present, but understanding of the arbitrary (constructed) nature of social convention may be the first step beyond the conventional social world.

Kohlberg's (1969) work built on Piaget's and distinguished among six stages of moral reasoning. Each stage is characterised by a distinct form of moral argument or justification in dilemmas.

Three levels of moral reasoning are comprised of the six stages where there are two stages at each level.

Level One is preconventional where self-serving or egocentric reasons are given for what makes an action moral.
    Stages:  1) Punishment & Obedience
                    2) Instrumental Relativism (gain rewards)

Level Two is conventional where social reasons are given, usually with reference to the importance of following the rules or laws.
    Stages:  3) Good-Boy, Nice-Girl
                    4) Society Maintaining

Level three is post-conventional where rational beyond the social system or frame-work are given in justification.
        stages: 5) Social Contract
                       6)  Universal Ethics

 E.g., when there is a recognition that social laws are relative or arbitrary and thus not binding or that there are rational principles such as justice, liberty, equality, right to life, golden rule,

Classic Examples: Piaget: child and the broken cookie jar.   ~  Kohlberg: Heinz & the drug Justice   1 2 3

Cultural Critique (Snarey, 1985) found massive cultural differences (others at stage 3) while Miller & Bersoff (1992) found alternative forms of post-conventional reasoning in India -Obligation.

According to Haidt (2000) we act "morally" based upon gut feelings not reasoning.
Thus morality is based upon social intuition.

Carol Gilligan (1982) Criticised Kohlberg's work as being too dominated by masculine view.

Women regularly scored as conventional and more men as post-conventional on Kohlberg's data (Care-based).

Woman Caring for her mother - Move out or care?


Gender Development

Gender  invovles characteristics of being female or male or some blend of the two.

Gender identity  - sense of being male or female, which most children acquire by the time they are 3 years old

 Gender Identity &, Hormones provides a biological basis of gender identity along with socialization.

Gender roles  are normative sets of expectations that prescribe how females or males should think, act, and feel. During the preschool years, most children increasingly act in ways that match their culture’s gender roles.

Androgyny involves having both masculine and feminine characteristics in the same person  and forms the basis of non-binary gender identities.


Social Theories of Gender  

Three main social theories of gender have been proposed:

Social role theory indicated that gender differences result from the social roles of women and men proscribed in various societies.

Psychoanalytic theory, Freud’s viewis that preschool childs develop a sexual attraction to the opposite-sex parent through the oedipal and electra complexes and the proper resolution of which is an identification with the same sex parent. 

Social cognitive theory indicates that a child’s gender development develops through observation and imitation of others including the social rewards and punishments that arise for gender-appropriate and gender-inappropriate behaviour.


Parental influences

Mothers’ socialization strategies - Many cultures expect that mothers socialize their daughters to be more obedient and responsible than their sons while they also place more restrictions on their daughters’ behaviours and opportunities.

Fathers’ socialization strategies  - Fathers tend to pay more attention to their sons than daughters and engage more often in activities with sons while also promoting intellectual development for them.

By about age 3, children demonstrate a preference for playing with same-gender children, this trend increases until about age 12.



Parenting Styles

Dianne Baumrind (1966, 1991) describes foud basis forms of parenting wach with variouos impacts on the social development of their children.

Authoritarian: Too much power & too little nurturance, one way communication ->

-children tend to be less socially skilled, lower self esteem, poor at school.

Permissive/ indulgent: Nurturant but too little control. Don't demand responsible action, inconsistent in administering authority.

-children tend to be impulsive, immature, irresponsible, academically unmotivated.

Authoritative: middle of the road. Set high but reasonable expectations, teach children how to meet them, give emotional support, 2-way communication

-children tend to be self-controlled, high self esteem, self efficacy, independent & cooperative, above average in school, socially mature.

Neglecting or indifferent parents are uninvolved or not caring.  you tube?


Changing families

Families come in various types and forms, from traditional nuclear families of mother and father and children, to extended (multigenrational families) through to blended families where re-marriage after divorce often leads to children having multiple parents and step siblings.

While divorced and step families may be more prone to have adjustment problems (re-working family rules and expectations), parental care and support remains and will help children through their developmental processes without significant challenges.

Today, same-sex marraiges have also led to gay and lesbian parented families that are just as loving and caring as other forms, including single parent families.

Culture & ethnicity also play a role on family dynamic as to whether or not traditional cultural values are maintained or some more contemporary collections are adhered to.

Mixed cultural families may have more challenges with respect to establishing a unified set of family values.

Peer relationships, Play and media / Screen time


As children move through the school years they spend more time with their peers who tend to have a growing influence on them.

Strong peer relations contribute to good socioemotional development, especially in middle to late childhood where reciprocity becomes especially important in peer interchanges.


Friends provide immense support for people from childhood through to old age and offer support for the development of self-esteem and well-being  ,

Hartup's (1983, 2009) Six functions of children’s friendships:

1. Companionship - familiar partners to spend time with and do shared activities

2. Stimulation - in terms of interest, excitment and amusement

3. Physical support - sharing their time, resources and assistance

4. Ego support - encouragement and emotional support for self esteem

5. Social comparison - a point of camoparison for what is expected and correct action

6. Affection and intimacy - emotional support and someone to share personal expereinces and thoughts with



Functions of play

Play helps children overcome anxieties, conflicts and pent-up tensions can be released while helping to learn to cope with and solve problems  often using fantasy and imagination.

Types of play

Sensorimotor play  - invovles behaviours that allow infants to develop pleasure from actively exercising their sensorimotor schemes

Practice play  - involves the repetition of new skills

Pretense or Symbolic Play  - occurs when the child transforms the physical environment into a symbol; having objects or places represent meaningful artifacts or circumstances

Social Play  - involves interaction with peers and the development of social skills like turn taking and cooperation

Constructive play  - involves sensorimotor or practice play along with symbolic representation

Games  - are specific activities that are engaged in for pleasure and have rules


Media and screen time

Reports are that free play is on the decline where children are more likely to engaged in organized sports, following the directions of adult coaches

Technological change in our times have led to greater use of electronic devices and increases in “screen time” which limit genuine and necessary social interaction  and conversations.