The Role of Adults in Social and Emotional Development
Parenting styles affect the development of temperament in their infants and toddlers. There are ethnic differences in how parents approach child rearing. American mothers work for their babies to become autonomous, whereas Japanese mothers teach their babies to become dependent on them. Parents perceive male infants to be better coordinated and strong, encouraging them to be physically active. Female infants are regarded as weaker and more delicate. They are encouraged to be dependent and close to the parents.
An important element of the parental role in emotional development is the development of attachment, the emotional connection between the infant and adult caregiver. It is hoped that the infant will achieve a secure attachment in which he will become close to the caregiver and develop confidence in exploring the environment. Unfortunately, some infants experience an insecure attachment that is troubled. The infant exhibits fear and anger toward the caregiver and has less confidence. These children were not readily comforted by the parents as infants and can exhibit lack of interest in the parent or overdependence (Berger, 2000; Lott, 1998; Waters & Cummings, 2000).
The relationship between parents and infants and toddlers can be described as a partnership. Temperament, attachment, and parenting styles interact in the developing relationship. The social partnership develops during the first months of infancy. By the age of 2 months, the infant is able to respond to the parent. Smiling and cooing in response to the parents deepen the attachment process. As face-to-face interactions proceed, the mother and infant are able to synchronize the relationship, thus deepening the social partnership. Both partners initiate and respond to the social behaviors of the other. They also adapt to repairing the synchrony when social interactions are not successful (Honig, 2002; Tronick, 1989).
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