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    describe Attachment and discuss the relationship between Attachment and Psychological Development in childhood

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    describe Attachment and discuss the relationship between Attachment and Psychological Development in childhood. Why is it important? What happens if Attachment does not securely develop?


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    Emotional and Social Development

    The emotional and social development of infants and young children is essential to lifelong mental well-being. In this lesson, you will learn about Erikson’s psychosocial theory of development, the components of temperament, the features of attachment, and the emergence of self-awareness. These components come together to form the child’s personality and are impacted by parental care, socioeconomic status and other factors.


    · The first two stages of Erikson’s psychosocial theory, noting the personality changes that take place during each stage.

    · The three underlying components of temperament.

    · The unique features of the ethological theory of attachment.

    · The emergence of self-awareness in infancy and toddlerhood, along with the emotional and social capacities it supports.

    Fundamentals of Emotional Development

    Both emotional development and social development contribute to a child’s psychological well-being throughout life and are influenced by biological traits and experiences in the environment, particularly those involving important others such as parents and close caregivers.


    · Social and emotional development are very closely linked to one another; in fact, they share many of the same traits and behaviors. For instance, think about an interaction with a happy baby. The baby smiles and laughs, so you continue playing. The smiles and laughter represent emotional development; however, these are also social behaviors.

    Both emotional development and social development contribute to a child’s psychological well-being throughout life and are influenced by biological traits and experiences in the environment, particularly those involving important others such as parents and close caregivers.


    · Social and emotional development are very closely linked to one another; in fact, they share many of the same traits and behaviors. For instance, think about an interaction with a happy baby. The baby smiles and laughs, so you continue playing. The smiles and laughter represent emotional development; however, these are also social behaviors.

    The social smile or intentional smile that reflects happy feelings appears about six to 10 weeks and laughter at about three to four months of age.

    Anger begins to increase at around four to six months old. Babies want to their control own actions at this time and may express significant frustration.

    Fear also begins to increase at around four to six months old. Stranger anxiety and separation anxiety are the most common early manifestations of fear

    More advanced or higher-order emotions emerge in toddlerhood with a sense of self-awareness and growing emotional range, such as shame, guilt, pride, and empathy.

    Social Development

    Social development includes learning the values, knowledge, and skills needed to relate to and get along with others while getting one’s needs met in appropriate ways. Infants have rudimentary social skills largely focused on bonding with parents and caregivers, such as eye contact, smiling, and “conversational” turn taking. Conversational turn taking occurs when the infant and parent “talk” to one another, or the infant waits for a response before continuing to babble, make faces or laugh. Advances in toddlerhood and beyond to form attachments and relationships and help learn skills such as self-control, cooperation, assertion, and responsibility.

    Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory





    The foundation of personality is laid down early in life as seen in Erikson’s psychosocial theory of personality development. During infancy and toddlerhood, this is driven by the establishment of trust versus mistrust and autonomy versus shame and doubt.

    Trust versus Mistrust

    The first stage of psychosocial development is defined by the conflict between trust and mistrust. The stage lasts from birth to 18 months of age. At this stage of physical, social, cognitive and emotional development, infants are completely dependent on their parents (and other primary caregivers).




    Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt


    · The second stage of psychosocial development is defined by a conflict between autonomy and shame or doubt. From ages 18 months to three years, toddlers have strong need or drive for autonomy. Autonomy is independence of action, thought and will. Toddlers need to be allowed and encouraged to explore and use new skills and abilities, like dressing, choosing toys and making choices about food to explore self-confidence.


    Early individual biologically-based differences in disposition known as temperament are organized by a number of aspects, particularly emotion, attention, and action which interact with the child’s experiences with his or her primary caregivers.

    · Temperament

    · Reactivity

    · Self-Regulation





    Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess

    Two early major researchers in personality development and temperament were Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess. Starting in the 1950s, they followed a group of children from infancy to adulthood. They found temperament can increase chances of psychological problems or can help to protect the individual from stress and a poor home life.


    Thomas and Chess identified nine dimensions yielding three temperament types.

    · Easy Child

    · Difficult Child

    · Slow-to-Warm-Up Child

    · Blend

    Mary Rothbart’s Temperament and Personality Model

    Today, the most accepted model on children’s temperament and personality is the one created by Mary Rothbart. Rothbart’s theory combines traits from Thomas and Chess and other researchers to identify six dimensions of temperament. Rothbart focuses less on body functions and more on the intensity of reactions which can be positive as well as negative than Thomas and Chess did.


    1. Gross Motor

    2. Attention Span

    3. Fearful Distress

    4. Irritable Distress

    5. Positive Affect

    6. Rhythmicity








    Some children’s temperament remains stable through early childhood and later, sometimes even into adulthood. This is particularly true if the child scores on more extreme ends of high or low on attention, irritability, sociability, shyness, and/or effortful control. The temperament of many other children changes as they get older. The reason for these changes is simple; temperament is impacted by both nature and nurture. The temperament of children is shaped by both their inborn genetics, and the environment in which they are raised.


    · While some aspects of temperament are set at birth, many others develop with age, especially gaining effortful control, like delay of gratification or ignoring distraction. These are related to prefrontal lobe development, particularly in areas of the brain that help suppress impulses.

    Cultural Differences





    Cultural Differences can also have a significant effect on the development of temperament. Comparisons between Japanese and Chinese infants and North American infants illustrate these in significant ways; however, it is important to note that in this comparison, there is a correlation between genetics and environment. The children in these two groups share not only environmental factors within the group, but also genetic ones.

    Gender Differences

    Gender differences can also impact temperament; however, it is important to note that temperament is highly individual, and that parenting can impact the connections between gender and temperament.

    In the west, we typically identify boys as being more active, daring, irritable, frustrated, high-intensity, and impulsive.

    Girls are generally thought to be more anxious, timid, and to have better effortful control.

    Parents encourage each gender along these lines aligned with stereotypes about gender. Studies have shown, for instance, that parents spend more time talking to female children and engaging in active play with male children.


    The formation of attachment to special people is important for both physical survival and in humans sets the stage for emotional and social well‐being. It is highly related to the type of child‐rearing and caregiving received. The ability to form healthy attachments is essential for lifelong well-being.




    Ethological Theory of Attachment

    John Bowlby’s theory of attachment, the Ethological theory of attachment, is based on his work in ethology, or the scientific study of human and animal behavior. According to Bowlby, the infant’s emotional tie to the caretaker is strongly connected to survival. The infant has innate or inborn behaviors that keep the parent close to protect and care for the newborn. Over time, the relationship becomes deeper and fuller with both cognitive and emotional elements for the parent and child.


    · Imprinting

    Bowlby’s theory is influenced by psychoanalytic theory and Konrad Lorenz’s ethological theory of imprinting. Ethology supports the idea that behavior under natural conditions is evolutionarily adaptive–humans and animals behave the way they do because it offers benefits. Lorenz suggested that humans, like other animals, imprinted or experienced a sensitive period in animal infancy where social bonds form. The theory is divided into several distinct stages, marked by different behaviors

    Measuring Attachment

    Researcher Mary Ainsworth worked closely with Bowlby. Ainsworth developed the Strange Situation technique to observe and the assess quality of attachment between one and two years of age. The Strange Situation technique is based on reasoning that a securely attached child would use the parent as secure base from which to explore their surroundings. When the parent leaves, an unfamiliar adult is less able to fill this role.

    Bailey identified one secure attachment pattern and three insecure attachment patterns.





    The child uses the parent as secure base; when separated the child may or may not cry. If the child cries, it is because he prefers the parent to a stranger and shows pleasure and happiness when the parent returns.


    The child is unresponsive to the parent. When the parent leaves, the child is not distressed. Insecure-avoidant children behave in the same way toward a stranger as toward the parent and are slow to greet the parent or avoid greeting the parent.


    The child seeks closeness before the parent leaves and often fails to explore. The child might appear clingy or unhappy. The child is visibly distressed when the parent leaves, and shows anger, resistance, or anxiety when the parent returns.


    When the parent returns, the child seems confused, and engages in contradictory behaviors. The child may let the parent hold them but look away. This reflects the greatest insecurity and is found most with infants raised with very negative caregiving.






    Stability is an essential attachment quality. It can vary depending upon the quality of parenting, as well as socioeconomic status. Infants born into a mid-range socioeconomic status (SES) typically have good life conditions and experience stable attachment. Children of well-adjusted mothers become more secure over time, as they experience high-quality caregiving.

    For children born to low SES families under stress, attachment often moves from secure to insecure or changes among insecure patterns, including disorganized attachment, insecure-resistant attachment and insecure-avoidant attachment.

    Cultures that value independence may be more likely to have babies with insecure attachment. In cultures that value independence, parents may be pushing infants and toddlers away too soon. Cultures that value dependence tend to have fewer insecurely attached infants. In these cultures, parental care is more intense

    There are a number of factors related to secure versus insecure attachment specifically connected to early experiences and care. Regular, early availability of consistent and sensitive caregiving helps children to form secure attachments. In addition, babies that are less emotionally reactive in temperament may have an easier time forming attachments.

    Parenting Styles

    Parenting styles, including attitudes, expectations, and subsequent behaviors of a parent revolving around how they raise children have a substantial impact on the child’s secure or insecure attachment. Parenting styles are related to many psychological outcomes for children.


    · Diana Baumrind is best known for identifying these parenting styles: Authoritative, Authoritarian, and Indulgent Permissive.


    Authoritative: warm, sensitive and responsive; respect preferences of the child but set appropriate expectations and limits, use reasoning and logic with the child

    Authoritarian: strict, harsh, and cold; child isn’t allowed to get angry or to question the parent; the parent may have unrealistically high expectations; does not reason with the child.

    Indulgent/Permissive: usually warm and responsive but the child makes decisions; there are few expectations or limits; the parent acts more as friend than as a parent.

    With regard to psychological well-being and both cognitive and academic outcomes, authoritative parenting has been shown to be best for children. Authoritarian and indifferent parenting styles are worst for the emotional and cognitive development of children. Indulgent/permissive parenting falls in the middle; it is not as good as authoritative parenting, but is less bad than indifferent or authoritarian parenting.


    Self‐awareness is one of the most unique and fascinating features of human beings. Self-awareness is the ability to recognize and think about oneself as a distinct, unique, and permanent being separate from others. It is essential for higher‐order emotions, managing one’s behavior, social competence, and healthy relationships.






    Self-awareness develops over time, as newborns grow. Newborn infants are aware of their own bodies in terms of recognizing hunger or discomfort. The recognition that the infant is a separate being occurs around four months of age. At around four months old, infants show more interest in videos of others than of themselves. As interest in others grows, this helps lay the foundation for understanding that the infant is separate from these others.

    A fuller sense of self emerges in the second year called explicit self-awareness. Explicit self-awareness is an objective understanding that the self is a unique object in a world of objects.

    The Mirror Test is used to assess the child’s own self awareness. In the Mirror Test, a small red dot is placed on child’s nose or forehead. The dot is placed on the child’s face in a pretense of wiping the baby’s face. The baby is placed in front of a mirror. Young babies will reach for the dot in the mirror, confused by the dot. By 18 to 20 months of age, babies touch their own faces. They know, even if something is different, that this is on their face.

    Self-recognition is another part of self awareness. Self-recognition is identifying the self as physically unique being. During the second year of life, children learn to point to themselves in photos and to identify themselves by name or personal pronoun.

    Influences on Self-Awareness






    Securely attached toddlers show more complex self-related play and knowledge of own physical features compared to insecurely attached toddlers . Advanced mirror recognition is related to joint attention.

    Joint attention is an early-developing social-communicative skill in which two people (usually a young child and an adult) use gestures and gaze to share attention. Joint attention provides opportunities for social referencing, or comparing one’s own and others’ reactions to situations. Joint attention enhances the child’s awareness of their uniqueness.

    Cultural differences can also shape and alter a child’s sense of self-awareness. For instance, urban middle SES toddlers may show signs of self awareness earlier. Parents in urban middle SES households often have ‘autonomous child-rearing goals’ promoting personal interests and preferences. Such children show earlier mirror recognition than children raised in other types of households. For instance, children raised in rural farming communities are raised in households that value “relational child-rearing”. In these households, obeying parents and sharing are more important than the development of personal interests.

    There are a number of different influences on the child’s developing sense of self-awareness. Experiences in their environment as infants lead them to begin to distinguish effects related to themselves, to other people, and to objects.

    Relationship of Self-Awareness to Early Emotional and Social Development

    Self-awareness quickly becomes a core part of the emotional and social life of the child.

    Self-conscious emotions are predicated on the sense of self so the growing child can now feel shame, doubt, and pride. These emotions require self-awareness, as they can compare themselves to others. Self-awareness is necessary to understand the perspectives of others.


    · Toddlers grow in capacity to appreciate the intentions, feelings, and desires of others. Older toddlers raised with sensitive, available parenting show early empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to the emotional state of someone else. Toddlers also learn more about how to ‘push buttons’ of others during this developmental stage.

    Knowledge Check


    Question 1

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    Lesson Overview

    Emotional and social development begins at birth and continues through infancy and toddlerhood. Basic emotions like happiness and fear are found early in infancy. These are related to survival. Complex or higher-order emotions like shame and pride emerge once the child has sense of self. Rudimentary behaviors like crying and smiling elicit relationship building with parents and caregivers. Attachment grows from this to form lasting important ties to special people in the child’s life.

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