The social and emotional development domain is composed of two areas: 1) positive self-concept, and 2) social competence. The first domain area, positive self-concept, includes the following elements: sense of self-worth, body image, acceptance by others. The second domain area, social competence, includes the following elements: social skills, social responsibility, empathy.
When considering self-concept and social competence in infants, toddler, and children developmental age brackets (i.e., 6 weeks to 23 months; 24 months; 2 years; 3 years; 4 years; 5 years), it is important to note that observational research shows many children of this age are already showing signs of a secure attachment to their parents or primary caregivers. In other words, children with positive self-concept and social competence have an increased sense of emotional security which includes the following elements: positive feelings about self as loveable and competent, the ability to interact positively with others, being motivated/determined to master new tasks.
A child’s level of emotional security is based on trust formed between children and their primary caregiver(s). When a child has a good relationship with its parent(s), it will lead to a greater sense of self-concept and social competence.
Positive self-concept leads to healthy body image, acceptance by others, friendships/relationships, learning how to deal with losing as well as winning situations (i.e., sports, board games, etc.), and developing prosocial (i.e., helping others) behaviors which are all key ingredients for effective social relationships throughout the lifespan. Hence, it is important to note that children who have positive self-concept/positive social competence tend to be more liked by their peers than children who lack these elements thus creating a sense of emotional security where the child feels accepted and supported by his or her family unit as well as peers.
Children achieve a secure attachment with their caregiver(s) around this developmental age bracket. A caregiver who responds promptly to an infant’s distress often establishes emotional security in that infant which results in the ability to engage in interactions with other people, including strangers without experiencing excessive stress. Because of this, children who achieve secure attachment often have a healthy sense of self-worth, acceptance by others, body image and are able to maintain positive feelings about self as loveable and competent throughout their lifetime.
Parents provide the foundation for both physical and emotional security to their young child(ren). The first area of physical security includes providing infants with proper nutrition, comfort when they are tired/hungry/distressed, clean clothes/diapers, etc., whereas emotional security includes giving attention (i.e., eye contact), smile at infant thus creating a mental representation of what it means to be valued/loved thus making an infant feel safe and secure which increases its resiliency factor in future life situations.
DEVELOPING A POSITIVE SELF CONCEPT
It is important to note that the majority of infants are born with good vision, hearing and are able to visually discriminate between people. For example, if an adult is smiling at an infant, the infant will prefer looking at someone who is smiling at them instead of someone who has their head down. When a child smiles back at this adult, this is how a positive relationship/communication begins and then continues to grow and develop.
The second area that contributes positively to infants’ self-concept includes the following elements: physical appearance (e.g., crying, eating, moving arms/legs), auditory discrimination (i.e., sucking on mother’s breast; sucking on pacifier), olfaction (i.e., smell of mother; familiar smells), and touch (i.e., warm, soft skin; touching/holding infants).
The third area that contributes positively to infants’ self-concept includes the following: physiological (e.g., seeing/hearing mother’s voice; biological smells), and cognitive (e.g., infant is aware of movements; thinking about/planning functioning of objects).