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Theories about emotional development in early childhood

Updated July 19, 2017

A child constantly learns and develops as she grows. It can be beneficial to understand what your child is capable of understanding at a given point in her life. The emotional development of a child is just as crucial to her overall outcome as is her physical development. Through the years, many people have contributed theories as to what is an accurate portrayal of early childhood development in regard to emotional well being.

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Erik Erikson, a psychiatrist, developed Eight Stages of Development. Stage one pertains to early childhood development. The first stage is called "Learning Basic Trust Versus Basic Mistrust." Simply stated, Erikson believed that if a child was treated well and love and nurtured when young, he would grow to be that same type of loving individual. He believed the opposite to be true as well, that if a child were mistreated, he would grow to be mistrustful and would not be secure of himself.

Speech and Emotional Development

As a child is exposed to more language she also learns to better verbalise her emotions. This is important as it allows the child to show others around her specifically what she is feeling. Instead of just crying when something is wrong, the child can speak and verbalise the precise issue and the parents and begin to create a solution to this problem. If a child is unable to verbalise her emotions, it is thought to slow the emotional development.


Game playing is not merely good for a child's creativity and physical development, but also for the emotional development. Learning to play with other children will allow a child to learn and understand better the appropriate ways to interact with others. Managing emotions while in social settings is a tough lesson for some children to learn, and some adults for that matter. Playing alone is important as well, as it teaches a child to be independent and comfortable with himself.


Jean Piaget believed that a child learn through a combination of biological factors as well as through her environment. It should be noted then, that a child's development not only requires attention to her biology and inherited traits, but also to the environment in which she is being raised. A child being raised in a happy home, in theory, should be happy. But Piaget would argue that it is possible for this child to still be emotionally unhappy if she is biologically predetermined to be a sad individual.

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About the Author

Laura Simpson

Laura Simpson began writing in 2010. She has been published on various websites, specializing in politics, music and child development. Simpson holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science with minors in psychology and music from Indiana University.

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