Developmental Trends: Social Cognition and Interpersonal Skills at Different Age Levels (page 3)
What You Might Observe:
- Emerging awareness that other people have desires, goals, and intentions different from one’s own
- Increasing engagement with other infants (e.g., watching and touching them, vocalizing, smiling at them, imitating them)
- Appearance of simple prosocial behaviors (e.g., offering a teddy bear to a crying child) in the second year
- Anger at caregivers who frustrate efforts toward desired goals
- Conflicts with peers about toys and other desired objects
- Infants who have frequent contact with age-mates (e.g., in group child care) tend to be more sociable.
- Infants may be more inclined to show prosocial behaviors when caregivers model these behaviors.
- Some children have “difficult” temperaments; they may be especially contrary in the second year, biting others or exhibiting frequent temper tantrums.
- Use words such as like, want, and think regularly in descriptions of yourself and children.
- Allow infants to interact with one another under your guidance and protection.
- Verbalize expressions of empathy and sympathy within earshot of other children.
- Praise prosocial behaviors.
- Set up the environment to reduce frustration and aggression; for instance, provide duplicates of favorite toys, and create separate areas for quiet play and active movement.
- Explain to aggressive toddlers that some actions are unacceptable, and impose appropriate consequences (e.g., by placing a child in a short time-out).
Early Childhood (2–6)
What You Might Observe:
- Increasing use of “feeling” and “thinking” words (e.g., want, sad, know)
- Growing realization that the mind does not always represent events accurately (e.g., that a person may have a false belief)
- Growing ability to take others’ perspectives, with some signs of empathy for people in distress
- Increasing sharing and coordination of play activities (e.g., sociodramatic play)
- Attempts to comfort people in distress, especially those whom children know well; comforting strategies not always effective
- Some aggressive struggles with peers about possessions; increasing ability to inhibit aggressive impulses
- Children whose parents talk frequently about thoughts and feelings tend to have a more advanced theory of mind.
- Children with certain cognitive impairments (e.g., Asperger syndrome) and those with reduced exposure to language as a result of hearing impairments tend to have a more limited theory of mind.
- Children are more apt to behave prosocially if they are consistently reinforced for such behavior.
- On average, boys are more physically aggressive than girls.
- Talk often about various people’s thoughts, feelings, perspectives, and needs.
- Recognize that selfish and territorial behaviors are common in early childhood.
- Model sympathetic responses; explain what you are doing and why you are doing it.
- Encourage children to give one another comfort when they can.
- Praise any gentle, controlled, and constructive responses to frustration or provocation.
- Comfort the victims of aggression, and administer appropriate consequences for the perpetrators. Explain why aggressive behavior cannot be tolerated.
Middle Childhood (6–10)
What You Might Observe:
- Recognition that people’s actions do not always reflect their true thoughts and feelings
- Growing realization that other people interpret (rather than simply remember) their experiences
- Decrease in rigid stereotypes of particular groups of people (for most children)
- Growing repertoire of conflict-resolution skills
- Increasing empathy for unknown individuals who are suffering or needy
- Increasing desire to help others as an objective in and of itself
- Decrease in overt physical aggression, but with an increase in relational aggression and more covert antisocial behaviors (e.g., lying, stealing)
- Children with certain disabilities (e.g., ADHD, autism, mental retardation) are more apt to have difficulty making accurate inferences about people’s motives and intentions.
- Children whose families or communities consistently promote unflattering images of particular groups may continue to have strong prejudices.
- Children whose parents value prosocial behavior are more likely to value it as well and to have genuine concern for others.
- Some children consistently misinterpret peers’ thoughts and motives (e.g., by interpreting accidents as deliberate attempts to cause harm).
- Some children become increasingly aggressive in the elementary grades.
- Some children are bullies who regularly victimize vulnerable children (e.g., those without friends or those with disabilities).
- Assist children in their attempts to resolve interpersonal conflicts by asking them to consider one another’s perspectives and to develop a solution that addresses everyone’s needs.
- Draw attention to a comforted child’s relief when another child helps (“Look how much better Sally feels now that you’ve apologized for hurting her feelings”).
- Do not tolerate physical aggression or bullying. Make sure children understand rules for behavior, and follow through with appropriate consequences when children are aggressive.
- Be on the lookout for children who seem to be frequent victims of others’ aggression; help them form productive relationships with peers.
Early Adolescence (10–14)
What You Might Observe:
- Recognition that people may have multiple and possibly conflicting feelings and motives
- Increasing sensitivity to body language and other nonverbal cues
- Emerging ability to think recursively about one’s own and others’ thoughts
- Decline in physical aggression
- Frequent teasing and taunting of peers; emergence of sexual harassment
- Self-disclosure is more common in girls than in boys.
- Beginning at puberty, increased testosterone levels in boys contribute to their more aggressive tendencies.
- Some adolescents with social-emotional problems (e.g., those with conduct disorders) show deficits in empathy for others.
- Bullying behavior in some youngsters may temporarily increase after the transition to middle school or junior high.
- Conduct discussions that require adolescents to look at controversial issues from multiple perspectives.
- Do not tolerate ethnic jokes or other remarks that show prejudice toward a particular group.
- Communicate that giving, sharing, and caring for others should be high priorities.
- Keep a watchful eye on students’ between-class and after-school activities; make it clear that physical aggression is not acceptable on school grounds.
© ______ 2007, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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