Characteristics of Social-Emotional Development
During the preschool years, children increasingly understand themselves as individuals; in addition, they understand themselves as part of a social world. They are becoming more autonomous, and their cognitive abilities permit them to understand how they fit into their family and a group of friends. Important characterizations of social and emotional development are self-concept, self-esteem, and self-regulation of emotions. Relationships with others are exhibited through the development of empathy and social competence. The nature and direction of social-emotional development are affected by relationships with their parents, siblings, and peers. They are in Erikson’s stage of initiative versus guilt. If they can become secure about separating from their parents and feel competent in their abilities, they can develop autonomy and eagerly participate in new tasks and experiences.
Self-Concept A major social accomplishment between the ages of 3 and 6 is the development of self-concept. Young children develop a firm awareness that they are separate from others and have individual characteristics. Their self-concept is partially defined by physical characteristics but more significantly by mastery of skills and competencies (Berger, 2000; Berk, 2002).
Self-Esteem Preschoolers begin the task of making judgments about their own worth and competencies, their self-esteem. They tend to overestimate their mastery of new skills and underestimate how hard new tasks are. They feel that they are liked or disliked depending on how well they can do things and are easily influenced by parental approval or disapproval. They are rapidly acquiring new skills and translating these accomplishments into positive or negative feelings about themselves (Harter, 1990).
Self-Regulation of Emotions Children develop an awareness and understanding of their feelings in the preschool years, the self-regulation of emotions. As a result of their greater understanding of the causes of emotions in themselves and others, they are able to initiate behaviors that permit them to cope. Children pick up strategies for coping with emotions from their parents. Those whose parents have difficulty controlling anger and hostility have similar problems (Gottman & Katz, 1989). Children who have difficulties in controlling negative emotions also tend to get along poorly with peers (Berk, 2002; Eisenberg et al., 1993).
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