How does emotional development take place in childhood?

Over the past decade, the rise in the study of emotions and their influence on the psychological well-being of human beings has revolutionized the way human beings are conceived, giving them as fundamental a role as processes had. Cognitive at the end of the last century.

But … How does this ability mature in humans during the first years of life?

What do we mean by emotional development?

Since emotional development is a phenomenon that consists of many components, then when it is described and conceptualized must deal with the following axes:

  • How emotions arise.
  • What it consists of and how emotional reactivity arises in relation to one’s own temperament.
  • The evolution of emotional expression according to the stages of development.
  • How personal development and emotional hetero-consciousness occur.
  • What mechanisms are put in place in emotional self-regulation.

Since the human being is a social being, in their nature, emotional and social development is linked; through the first the second is achieved, from the identification, experience and communication of emotions (expression and understanding) and through empathy and training in social skills (the two key elements of emotional development) , the establishment of social relations between the individual and the other beings around him can occur.

All this is also possible at the same time as the development of the language takes place, Which is essential to achieve this interpersonal connection through communication processes.

    Emotional development in early childhood

    As discussed above, the ultimate goal of emotions refers to problems with communication between individuals. One could say, therefore, that it has an adaptive function to the environment and motivates the behavior of the individual to achieve certain goals.

    In the process of emotional development, so complex and multifactorial, the child begins in the first months of his life emerging associations between the external situations that occur and the emotional reactions observed in caregivers. At six months, a baby may respond to displays of affection with positive emotions, as well as in potentially dangerous situations with other less pleasant emotions.

    However, their understanding of the relationship between behavior and emotional state is very limited: their emotional reactivity has a very close relationship with the temperament of the child, so the level of internal emotional self-control is very low at times. at this stage, caregivers doing it is possible.

    Symbolic play and emotional bond

    The most important milestone that will mark a before and after in the emotional development of the child will be the realization of the capacity to play symbolically, generally around the age of two years. At this moment they begin to represent their own emotional states and those of others through language, Which involves the preliminary step in the development of empathy.

    The emotional bond established between the figure of the affection and the child becomes a fundamental factor of the emotional development of the child during this first stage of evolution. That the child perceives the safety, the trust, the affection, the care and the protection of the parents (Or caregivers) will be essential to prevent the formation of a rejection and avoidance operation towards these characters. This type of resistant or ambivalent bonding pattern becomes a risk factor in the subsequent onset of future psychopathologies or emotional alterations.

      … and in adolescence

      Although the onset of adolescence indicates the consolidation of the emotional development of the individualWhere the understanding of one’s own emotional states and those of others is done in a more satisfying and deeper way, its application is not yet complete because the very processes involved in this vital stage hinder the manifestations of the former.

      In adolescence, boys perform cognitive reasoning through hypothetico-deductive logic, from which they compare and base their understanding and emotional expression on previous personal experiences that provide them with enough information to correctly interpret this news. situation in which they are faced.

      On the other hand, however they sharpen their capacity for empathyThey are also characterized by a psychological egocentricity whereby they are very focused on the image of themselves that is transmitted to others and on the type of evaluations that can make other respects to their personal characteristics. Therefore, one of the main milestones is working and maintaining a positive self-concept to offer to oneself and to others.

      In addition, because at the neuroanatomical level, the adolescent’s brain is not yet fully completed (especially with regard to the prefrontal structures and synapses, responsible for decision-making and ensuring the expression of a “ `mature or adult behavior) in adolescence. there is great variability in the quality and intensity of emotional expressionBesides a lack of flexibility in endogenous emotional self-regulation, it is therefore common to switch to opposite moods over very short periods of time, which is called emotional lability.

      The role of the school environment

      Along with the family context, the school also becomes a very important socialization agent for the child and plays a very important role in the emotional development of the child.

      Thus, the current school it is not only understood as a body of transmission of instrumental and technical knowledgeBut it is also among its main functions to educate the student in the acquisition of values ​​and ethical and moral principles, to promote the achievement of critical reasoning, to the hypothesis of certain modes of behavior and attitudes appropriate for living in society (gaining their understanding), learning a range of social skills and abilities which enable them to establish satisfying interpersonal bonds, and even to solve life-saving problems.

      In order to consolidate all these aspects, it is essential to achieve adequate emotional development, as cognitive and emotional aspects are involved in every psychological process.

      On another side, achieving adequate emotional development also enables the child to adopt an optimistic attitude in the achievement of academic goals and a more adaptive self-perception of academic skills, which leads to the promotion of a more overt motivation for success which facilitates the maintenance of this state of motivation and the desire to improve their ability to ‘learning. All of this makes them more resilient and less vulnerable to criticism and social comparisons which, although made unconsciously, turn out to be established in relation to the results achieved by the child and his peers.

      The attributive style

      Another very relevant aspect in which the school has a considerable responsibility is the establishment of the style of attribution of the pupils. The attribution style is defined as the process by which the individual grants cause to the situations with which he is confronted.

      An internal attribution style indicates that the person knows themselves as an active agent of what is happening in their environment and understands how controllable the motivations they are evoking are. An external attribution style is identified with more passive subjects, who perceive that factors such as luck are what motivate the situations they experience. Without a doubt, the first is psychologically the most appropriate and the most connected with satisfying emotional development.

        emotional intelligence

        In recent times, there has been a paradigm shift when it comes to the importance of fostering emotional intelligence. So it begins to have empirical evidence that emotional intelligence has a very strong influence in day-to-day decision making, On the nature of interpersonal relationships or in the acquisition of a deeper and more complete self-knowledge of oneself.

        Being such a complex competition, its development takes place gradually and slowly, covering approximately the first two decades of life. Consequently, the achievement of a suitable establishment during childhood and adolescence will be decisive in the emotional (psychological) functioning of adult life.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Bach, I., I Darder, P. (2002). Seduce yourself to seduce: live and educate emotions. Barcelona: Paidós.
        • Berk, L. (1999). Child and adolescent development. Madrid: Prentice Hall Iberia.
        • López, F., Etxebarría, I., Fonts, MJ, Ortiz, MJ (Cood.) (1999) Emotional and social development. Madrid: Pyramid.
        • Trianes, MV and Gallardo, JA (coord.) (2000). Educational and developmental psychology. Pyramid.

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