Essay on Children’s Social and Emotional Development

Although there are considerable data on the relation of positive and negative social behaviors such as friendly interaction and aggression to social sociometric status, there is relatively little information on the role of individual differences in children’s emotionality (i.e., intensity and valence of emotion) and emotion-related regulation in their social status. This is surprising given that individual differences in emotionality and regulation have been viewed as causes (or at least correlates) of many of the positive and negative behaviors that have been linked to social competence and peer status. Thus, the relations of prosocial or aggressive behaviors to social status are likely to be due in part to individual differences in regulatory skills and emotionality that underlie positive and negative behavior.

Help with Essay on Children’s Social and Emotional Development
Help with Essay on Children’s Social and Emotional Development

However, it also is possible that social  status affects opportunities to learn how to regulate emotion and emotionally driven behavior. Thus, the possible relations between emotionality/regulation and social status that are most probable (but are not necessarily mutually exclusive) include: (a) Dispositional regulation and emotionality predict and cause subsequent social status (when controlling for initial regulation/emotionality); (b) social status predicts subsequent regulation and emotionality when controlling for initial social status; and (c) the effects of regulation and emotionality on social status are mediated by quality of social behavior. The primary purpose of the present study was to examine the relations of dispositional emotionality and regulation to social status over the school year and possible directionality of links between emotionality/regulation and social status.

There are numerous reasons to expect dispositional differences in emotionality and regulation to predict social status. Rothbart et al. (1994) suggested that temperamental differences in emotionality and regulation influence and bias children’s reactions in social situations, influence learning in social contexts (e.g., affect sensitivity to rewards and punishment), and affect tendencies to approach or withdraw from others. In addition, children who are easily aroused emotionally and are unable to regulate the arousal or resultant behavior would be expected to engage in more nonconstructive behaviors (e.g., reactive aggression, disruptive behavior) and fewer constructive behaviors (e.g., using constructive social problem-solving skills) than would less emotional and better regulated children. For example, the ability to modulate strong emotions such as anger or excitement within peer encounters likely is associated with a child’s skill at resolving conflicts and maintaining play activities. Moreover, expressions of anger by a child are likely to elicit antagonism from peers, and thus to lead to negative interactions and rejection of that individual as a playmate. In addition, unsociable children who are poor emotion regulators appear to be more behaviorally anxious, wary, reticent, and prone to internalizing problems, all of which may undermine children’s social relationships and status with peers.

Emotion-relevant regulation is hypothesized to involve a variety of processes and mechanisms, including the following: (a) the regulation of internal emotional and physiological states (i.e., emotion regulation–the process of initiating, maintaining, modulating, or changing the occurrence, intensity, or duration of internal feeling states and emotion-related physiological processes); and (b) the regulation of emotionally-driven behavior (i.e., the process of initiating, maintaining, inhibiting, modulating, or changing the occurrence, form, and duration of behavioral concomitants of emotion). Both of these types of regulation are expected to be associated with peer status. Children who can regulate their emotional reactions and moods by means of attentional and cognitive processes such as shifting and focusing attention as needed are expected to be relatively emotionally regulated, positive, and appropriate in their emotional reactions. Moreover, children who can inhibit the inappropriate expression of emotion, but are not so highly inhibited that they have difficulty dealing with new contexts and people, are expected to exhibit constructive behavior and to be liked by peers. Various types of regulation tend to be intercorrelated.

In regard to behavioral regulation, the repeated finding that aggressiveness is linked to lower peer status is consistent with the notion that the ability to modulate anger contributes to peer sociometric status. In fact, children who can regulate their arousal engage in fewer aggressive interactions with peers than do other children; this finding may hold especially for sociable children. Somewhat more direct evidence also has been obtained; for example, popular boys (but not girls are less likely to vent emotion when angered than are their less popular peers. Further, children who tend to display appropriate expressions of emotion engage in more complex (e.g., cooperative or associative play. Children low in social status often are low in cognitive and behavioral self-control and are impulsive; they also tend to display excessive motor behavior. Moreover, elementary children who are emotionally immature–who express their fear and sadness rather than controlling it–are relatively likely to remain rejected over time. Thus, although some rejected boys appear to be average in self-control but high in withdrawn behavior, behavioral regulation usually has been related social status, especially peer rejection.

Children’s relations with their peers play an essential role in their psychosocial development. Consequently, it is critical for researchers and practitioners to understand the factors that impede the development of healthy peer relations during childhood. Perhaps the most extensively studied factor linked to peer relationship difficulties is children’s aggressive behavior. Another, albeit less studied factor that might present an obstacle for establishing satisfying social relationships with others is children’s depression. As suggested by the interactional theory of depression, depressed individuals exhibit certain maladaptive behaviors in interpersonal interaction, such as frequent complaints or a focus on negative themes, which may induce a negative mood in others. This might eventually cause others to reject the depressed person and to avoid future interactions. Both aggression and depression may thus promote relationship difficulties with peers.

As we begin to understand the origins of childhood behavior, especially aggressive behavior, we find that success in a social context is related to emotional stability – the origins of which are in early infancy.

Bibliography:
1.    ASHER, S. R.  reliable sociometric measure for preschool children. Developmental Psychology,SINGLETON, L. C., TINSLEY, B. R., & HYMEL, S. (1979).
2.    DODGE, K. A. (1983). Behavioral antecedents of peer social status. Child Development, 54, 1386-1399.
3.    Goldfried, M. R., & d’Zurilla, T. J. (1969). A behavioral-analytic model for assessing competence. In C. D. Spielberger (Ed.), Current topics in clinical and community psychology, 1, New York: Academic

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