Early Social Development, Part 1



o  What determines how children learn to interact in a social world

n  Emotion

n  Personality

n  Attachment

n  Self

n  Peer relationships

n  Personality

n  Gender

o  Will initially focus on infancy/preschool period and will discuss social development in older children later in the cousrse



Infant Social Development

o  How much impact do parents have?

o  What is important for parents to do?

Psychoanalytic Theories

o Sigmund Freud and Erik Erikson 

n Freud:  Behavior is driven by the need to satisfy drives and motives that are largely unconscious.

n Erikson:  Development is driven by a series of age-related developmental tasks that individuals must resolve to achieve healthy development.

Sigmund Freud

o  Freud was a neurologist and a founder of developmental theory (1856–1939).

Freud’s Theory of Psychosexual Development


o His lasting contributions to developmental psychology:

n Role of early experience

n Discovery of the unconscious

n Emphasis on the role of emotional relationships in development

Basic Features of Freud’s Theory

o There are five biologically determined stages of development, three of which occur during the infancy and preschool period

o Motivation springs from drives and the reduction of these drives.

o There are three basic structures of personality:  the id, ego, and superego.

o Freud’s theory is called “psychosexual” because it posits that psychic energy (biological drives) are focused in different erogenous zones of the body.

Freud’s Parts of Personality

o Id:  The earliest and most primitive of the personality structures, ruled by the pleasure principle (to obtain maximal pleasure as quickly as possible).  Stands for “untamed passions.”

o Superego:  The conscience that enables a child to control behavior and develop morally. The superego develops through internalization of parents’ standards

o Ego:  The mind’s link to the external world of reality. Stands for “reason and good sense.”


Freud’s Stages of Development

o Oral stage, birth to 1 year:  Primary source of satisfaction is oral pleasure, such as sucking and eating. The id controls.

o Anal stage, 1 to 3 years:  Primary source of pleasure is defecation.

n Beginning of superego and ego

o Phallic stage, 3 to 6 years:  Children become interested in their own genitalia and curious about parents’ and playmates’. 

n True Development of superego

Early Theories of Infant Social Development


o  Erikson (1902–1994) had enormous influence on developmental psychology



Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development

o Proposed eight age-related development stages that span infancy to old age.

o Each stage is characterized by a crisis, or task, that the individual must resolve.

o An unresolved task will impede progress in the next stage.

Erikson’s Stages

o Basic trust vs. Mistrust, birth to 1 year:   corresponds to Freud’s oral stage. 

n The task is to develop an essential trustfulness of others as well as a sense of one’s own trustworthiness. 

n Development of basic trust requires warm, consistent, reliable caregiving that leads the infant to trust the mother or caregiver.

Erikson’s Stages (continued)

o Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, 1 to 3 years:   corresponds to Freud’s anal stage.

n Children gain motor skills, cognitive abilities, and language, which enable them to make choices and decisions for themselves.

n Children need a supportive atmosphere that allows them to gain a sense of self-control that enhances self-esteem.

n Severe punishment, shame, or ridicule will impede achievement of autonomy.

Erikson’s Stages (continued)

o Initiative vs. Guilt, 4 to 6 years:  Children identify with and learn from their parents.

n Corresponds with Freud’s phallic stage.

n Children set goals and learn to achieve them.

n Children internalize parents’ rules and standards and develop a conscience. 

n Children need to achieve a healthy balance between initiative and guilt.

Current Perspectives on Psychoanalytic Theories

o Freud’s emphasis was on the importance of early experiences and emotional relationships.

o Erikson’s reinterpreted without emphasis on sexual drives.

o The weakness of both theories is that they are not testable and not verifiable.  Doesn’t make them invalid


Early Social Development, Part 2


Learning Theories

o Emphasize the role of external factors in shaping personality and social behavior.

o Wanted viewable and testable theories

Watson’s Behaviorism

o Watson believed that children’s development is determined by their social environment, especially their parents.

o Ignored mental states and emphasized conditioning.

o Proved with his famous “Little Albert” experiment that fear could be conditioned.

Watson and Little Albert

Skinner’s Operant Conditioning

o Skinner believed that behavior was under environmental control.

o A major tenet is that we tend to repeat behaviors that lead to favorable outcomes (reinforcement) and suppress those that result in unfavorable outcomes (punishment).

Skinner’s Contributions to Child-Rearing

o Skinner showed that attention is a powerful reinforcer.

o The behavior-management strategy of “time-out” focuses on the withdrawal of attention.

o Skinner showed the difficulty of extinguishing behavior that has been intermittently reinforced (that is, sometimes rewarded and sometimes not).

o Skinner’s work led to behavior-modification therapy, which is useful for changing undesirable behaviors.

Problems with Traditional Social Learning Theories

o  Ignored role of the child

o  Children play an active role in their development

o  A Learning theorist who took this into account was Albert Bandura

Bandura’s Social/Cognitive Learning Theory

o Places the emphasis on the observation and imitation of others, as well as on the cognitive processes of attention, encoding, storing, and retrieval of information to reproduce the behavior observed.

o Bandura emphasized “reciprocal determinism” between children and their social environment, which emphasizes the active role children have  in their own development.

Reciprocal Determinism

Bandra and Observational Learning

Problems with both Psychoanalytic and Social Learning Theories

o  Ignores the role of individual differences in children– children are born with different temperaments

o  Social development is actively evolving over development– Transactional View


Individual Differences in Emotions and Regulation

o Temperament:  Individual differences in emotional reactivity that are seen shortly after birth. 

o Temperament is biologically based:  Heredity, neural, and hormonal factors affect response to the environment.

o Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas developed three categories of temperament.

Thomas and Chess’s Temperament Types

o Easy babies:  40% of infants; adjust easily to new situations, quickly establish routines, are generally cheerful and easy to calm.

o Difficult babies:  10% of infants; slow to adjust to new experiences, likely to react negatively and intensely to stimuli and events.

o Slow-to-warm-up babies:  15% of infants;  somewhat difficult at first but become easier over time.

Examples of Thomas and Chess’s Temperament Dimensions

Temperament Dimensions (continued)

Six Dimensions of Infant Temperament (Rothbart & Bates)

o Fearful distress

o Irritable distress

o Attention span and persistence

o Activity level

o Positive affect

o Rhythmicity

Temperament and Social and Psychological Adjustment: Nature and Nurture

o “Goodness of fit” refers to the compatibility between temperament and the demands and expectations of the social environment.

o Parents can modulate children’s temperament by their influences on the environment.  If parents are supportive and consistent with  difficult children, negative behaviors may moderate.  If parents are harsh and punitive, undesirable behaviors can worsen.


Temperament and Social and Psychological Adjustment:  Nature and Nurture (continued)


o The role of temperament in social and psychological adjustment is complex and interdependent on parents and the environment.


Jerome Kagan:  Innate Temperament and Stability


o Attachment: The close and enduring bond between children and their parents or other primary caregivers.

o Early research on attachment was done with children separated from their parents early in life (Spitz).

o Freud– attachment the result of mother’s being the source of food and drive reduction

Harry Harlow (50’s and 60’s)

o  Importance of mother as a “social stimulus”

o  Monkeys raised without social interaction of mother never developed normal social behaviors and had limited interactions with “peers”



Theories of Infant Attachment

o John Bowlby: Ecological Theory

n Infants have innate characteristics that promotes attachments

o Looks

o Sounds

o Behaviors

Mary Ainsworth’s Research

   Devised the Strange Situation test to assess attachment: Research is conducted in an unfamiliar context (a laboratory playroom) likely to heighten the child’s need for a parent.

o  Objective: To observe mother infant relationship under moderately stressful situations

The Strange Situation

Ainsworth’s Three Attachment Categories

o Securely attached: 65% of infants

n Use the mother as a secure base, but leave her side to explore the room.

n Happy to see the mother return.

Secure Attachment

Ainsworth’s Three Attachment Categories (continued)

o Insecurely attached - Avoidant

Insecure/avoidant (20% of infants): Avoid the mother in the Strange Situation, ignore her when she is in the room.

Often don’t greet mother when she returns

Insecure Avoidant Attachment

Ainsworth’s Three Attachment Categories (continued)

o Insecurely attached- resistant or abivalent

n Insecure/resistant or ambivalent (15% of infants): Clingy often staying close to mom and ignoring toys

n upset when the mother leaves

n When mother returns, they greet but then often resist the mother’s attempts at offering comfort

Insecure Resistant Baby

Attachment Groups –
American Children

Factors Associated with Security of Attachment

o Parental sensitivity in child rearing

o Mothers of securely attached infants respond readily to their children’s signals.

o Mothers of anxious/resistant infants are inconsistent in caregiving.

o Mothers of anxious/avoidant infants tend to be indifferent and emotionally unavailable.

o Disorganized/distressed infants tend to be frightened by or confused by their mothers.

Do these predict later behaviors

o  Yes, in that securely attached babies have closer and better relationships with peers and are generally more successful later in life

o  To some extent this is because “good parenting” during infancy predicts better parenting later in development

o  However, there also can be change.  Parents can change and reverse effects seen in early insecure babies