Parents, guardians and other primary caregivers provide the main influences on the social and emotional development of a child. Brain development in children continues throughout the teenage years, although parental influences appear strongest during preschool years. Several types of influences impact children during these formative years.
Type of Care
The type of care a child receives from his earliest days, and even while in the womb, impacts his social and emotional development. Children respond and develop positively when they receive consistent and prompt care. As an infant, the child knows his parents will come when he cries, feed him when he is hungry, provide him with shelter, keep him clean and comfortable and generally respond to his needs. This type of caregiving helps the child develop confidence as he knows that his parents will provide security to his little world. On the other hand, unresponsive, neglectful or angry care teaches the infant that the world is not a safe place emotionally.
Type of Caregiver
The type of caregiver and her emotional state also influences the social and emotional development of children, especially infants and babies. When a parent is emotionally available, she can appropriately respond to the needs of her child. If the parent deals with excessive anger, depression, ambivalence, stress or other negative emotions, the child will react accordingly. Positive emotional connections form beginning at the child's youngest days. Parents model appropriate conflict resolution, verbal communication and other emotional responses.
Type of Environment
The type of environment a child is exposed to also influences the child's social and emotional development. Children need an environment that abounds with a variety of positive language stimulation. This includes verbal connections such as talking, listening, laughing, singing and reading. Positive reinforcement during skill development, such as putting together a puzzle or potty training, encourages children with a "can-do" attitude. Appropriate toys and play materials encourage the child to explore and learn in his environment. On the other hand, an environment stripped of these influences will prove detrimental to the child's well-being.
Type of Peer Relationships
Peer relationships, including siblings, or a lack thereof, also influence the social and emotional development of a child. The young child has an opportunity to engage with others close to her own age in play and language development. Other factors such as birth order, the amount of interaction siblings have with each other and blended families all impact the child differently. Interactions could range in scope from nurturing, to aggressive, to supportive, to depressed, to isolated.