Stages of social emotional & behavioral development of a child

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From birth through adolescence, a child will experience various obstacles which pave a way toward success or failure in social and emotional development. When an obstacle is overcome the development of social and emotional characteristics is achieved, supporting appropriate behavioural development.

According to Erik Erickson, a distinguished psychologist, author and Pulitzer Prize winner known for his theory of social-emotional development, the obstacles are defined as eight phases of psychosocial development that strengthen a child's development, personality and behaviour throughout his lifetime.

Development In Infancy Through Preschool

An infant innately gains trust or mistrust of the adults in his life depending on the consistency of their care. If his basic needs are met in a rather consistent manner, then he learns to trust, feels secure and acquires a sense of hope. Behaviorally, he will learn to control his actions to obtain his needs from his caregivers. However, with this comes the development of willpower as the child strives for independence, typically between the ages of 1 and 3. Learnt independence is necessary but too much can create a battle of the will between him and his caregiver. For this reason, a balance of autonomy and dependence is needed to induce will and independence and to make way for the final developmental stage in early childhood. A hopeful and independent child can develop a sense of purpose in his life if he can balance initiative and guilt. His caregivers help develop this by providing him with some responsibility, such as dressing himself, but guide him to understand that the clothing he chooses serves a purpose (i.e., for protection against the elements of the weather).

Development In Childhood

Between the ages of 6 and 12, considered the school-age years, various social, emotional and behavioural obstacles are presented as the child engages in play with peers. The child has to learn basic skills to appropriately socialise and relate to her peers, engage accordingly in play that requires rules, structure and teamwork, and at the same time master cognitive and academic skills needed to progress in school. Although the child will invariably succeed and fail during this stage, a balance of all the skills is necessary to help in the development of competence. If a child cannot balance her social and emotional world, she will not be able to engage in appropriate behaviours that are needed to move into the next stage of development.

Adolescent Development

With the increase in hormones, adolescents begin to experience a new aspect of social and emotional development. They are frequently trying to find their identity and will often times change their looks as well as their behaviours to conform to what they feel is normal. The questions asked during this stage in development are typically "Who am I?" and "Why do I exist?" This social and emotional stage in development, if not balanced properly, impacts behaviour significantly because it causes the adolescent to either withdraw or act out in defiance. Successful accomplishment of this stage of development will aide in developing a mature and respectable young adult.

Development In Young Adulthood

By the time a child reaches young adulthood the caregivers have experienced the range of social, emotional and behavioural development and are adequately prepared to provide support for their child when intimacy and isolation can occur. Although children can arrive at this level at a much younger age, they are not cognitively prepared for the pitfalls involved in love and intimacy. If the child achieved a balance of social, emotional and behavioural development from infancy to young adulthood, then the transition into the adult world will be much smoother. However, if the child could not overcome a social or emotional obstacle during his childhood or adolescence, then it is likely he does not have the appropriate tools to engage in appropriate behaviours as an adult. A balance of intimacy and isolation is a key component in establishing a strong marriage and enduring friendships.