In principle, it should be emphasized that the topic that occupies these lines refers to the social development of children , which is inserted in the psychology of development. 

The study of ” social development ” could begin to be defined with the following question: how do children harmonize with others?

The characteristics of social development in psychology

It happens that social development is a body of study that includes the models of behavior, feelings, attitudes and conceptions that children show in their interaction with others and the way in which these very heterogeneous aspects change with age. .

Scholars of the subject are interested in the change of children over time: in how they become less and less dependent on their representatives (whether they are their own parents or not).

Likewise, the dominance that others exercise over them matters. This transforms them. Also, how they develop the ability to make friends, how understanding the patterns of social life gradually shapes their behaviors, and so on.

Foundations and characteristics of social development

In psychology , the so-called psychological functions – cognitive, affective and social – have played an essential role in the study of human behavior.

In fact, the notion of “ social development ” obeys one of these functions. But, it is important to emphasize that such a division has a more theoretical than practical sense, because it is obvious that the difference is relative, in the light of the extension of the studies in psychology .

In “social development”, children have feelings about others, which makes it clear that social behavior cannot be separated from emotions. And this is more evident in children, especially in the first years of life, whose control over their emotions is weaker.

All behavior involves an emotional component , regardless of whether it is an adult or a child, or whether it occurs in response to the social or material environment.

However, the strongest emotions are generated in the field of interpersonal relationships (family life is a good example of this) than in interactions with objects. To this end, in the world of interpersonal relationships, it makes no sense to establish boundaries between social and emotional functions.

Social functions and cognitive functions

The above is also applicable when social functions are confronted with cognitive functions .

Psychologists study cognitive functions as a perceptual issue between mind-body and reality, or in other words, cognition depends on physical stimuli.

However, cognition is not only the awareness that people have of the world of things, but what they think of others. Consequently, the definition of “social development”, set out above, had to include the idea – the concept – that children have regarding their peers.

A more determining reason for the previous assertion is that children are capable of perceiving , remembering, thinking about, interpreting and edifying the behaviors of other individuals and of themselves. Of course, children use their cognitive functions to conduct themselves in the social sphere.

At this level, the issue of social cognition is of utmost importance in “social development” research, because any activity in the social environment surely produces both cognitive and emotional experiences.

In sum, “social development” research focuses on the interpersonal issues of children’s behavior , which necessarily includes cognitive and affective issues.

Importance of social development

In child psychology , one of the core points of interest is around the reasons for change during development. Descriptive research reveals age differences and provides insight into the nature of these differences.

Some questions are interesting in the development of this topic , such as the following:

  • How do you explain that children begin to show signs of self-awareness at some point during their second year of existence?
  • How do you explain that the skills of assuming a role are clearly displayed at the end of the preschool period?
  • How is it understood that with the conquest of adolescence an accentuated increase in the intimacy that defines friendships becomes manifest?
  • What phenomena are causing these changes?

These issues, linked to the mechanisms involved in psychological growth, are the core points of developmental psychology . The answers are still not fully defined today.

Other considerations on this topic

Other questions are aimed at knowing: why are there individual differences between children?

That is, why is one child less sociable than another ? Does it depend on its nature? From his upbringing? Is it the mixture of both? Why are there children who show deviant attitudes, such as crime?

Another question: what is the importance of the influence of the representatives or parents in the development of the personality of children? On all these issues there are still many gaps, but they are research topics in developmental psychology.

The complexity raised describes the multidimensional nature of psychological development and the difficulty in unraveling the nature of children’s behavior and its causes.

Current research on social development

Earlier studies of children’s social behavior viewed them essentially as individuals . Seen like this, the child’s social behavior would be his property.

In this perspective, interest focused on the age at which children first came to specific situations, such as the initiation of fear of strangers or cooperative behavior, etc.

In addition, the aim was to determine the differences between groups of children (level of aggressiveness in children by sex, how the sociability of only children is affected versus those who are not).

Likewise, the nature of individual differences was studied, if the speed of social development goes hand in hand with intellectual development, if aggression is a unitary trait …

The most important element: the environment

All the immediately preceding factors would be insufficient if an essential element in the development of social behavior is not taken into account: the children in their environment.

In other words, the research has gone beyond the internal events of individuals , turning to the study of the mediations between them.

In this way, mother and child, for example, became the basic or initial unit of interest, rather than the individual himself. From here, it expanded to the family, the group of peers, understanding that the dynamics is multi-interactive and influential.

Obviously, the family is an integral part of larger social structures, such as the neighborhood or the cultural environment that it frequents , and in turn these elements influence what happens within families.

In this sense, the history of the study of social development in recent years has led to a greater awareness of the relevance of the context.

Children’s individual behavior acquires meaning from the relationships in which it is found, family and social. The individual behavior of the child must then be studied in a broad context of relationships.

In conclusion

The children ‘s social development has been most recently associated with the notion of social competence. Its most relevant elements have been postulated, such as:

  • The ability to interact effectively with the environment
  • The achievement of relevant social goals
  • The suitability to fulfill complex interpersonal interactions in a proven way
  • Particular skills such as making friends.

And, in addition, the acquisition of skills to stand out and be accepted by their peers. The general vision, however, is still submerged in values of judgment.

In sum, the most important factors that intervene in the social development of the child are: social learning, ethical-social norms and interpersonal relationships, in the family, school and group dimension.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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