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Milestones in Social Development

Milestones in Social Development

Author: Erick Taggart

Identify aspects of social development.

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Source: Baby Smile; Public Domain: Toddler; Public Domain Girl in Dress; Public Domain

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Hello, class. So today we're going to be focusing on the social development side of developmental psychology. Now what social development means specifically is the development of self-awareness, attachment to parents and caregivers, and relationships with other children and adults.

As a sequence, it's easy to think of it first as an idea of an awareness of self. Which then leads to an awareness of parents or caregivers, those immediately related to the child. And then outwards, to an awareness of others, of friends and coworkers, and things like that. So this is the spectrum of social development.

Now social development is tied to other key terms and ideas within developmental psychology. Things like paternal and maternal roles and attachment theories by Mary Ainsworth. So this idea of parents are obviously key to social development.

Also the development of language and emotion, which are ways to communicate with others. Very important in social development. And also, finally, it's also tied to cultural development and social development, things like Vygotsky's sociocultural theory and the ideas of cultural relativity.

Now when we're talking about social development, we're going to be talking specifically about developmental tasks, which is to say certain skills that have to be mastered. Or certain changes that have to occur for the development to occur in the correct and optimal kind of way. Or as we're going to call it today, these are the milestones in social development. So there's certain things that have to occur in certain steps.

Now it's important to remember when we talk about developmental tasks and milestones that all of these are within a range, which is to say that individuals develop at their own pace and their own time. So generally they fall within the ranges we're going to talk about. But sometimes they don't. And that doesn't mean that the person is abnormal or deficient in some way. It just means that they're developing at their own rate.

For example, a friend of mine didn't read seriously until he was five or six. And his parents thought that there was some kind of learning disability that was occurring. But after that age, he developed his reading and his grammar at such a voracious rate. And he's, in fact, one of the fastest readers that I know nowadays. So that early development isn't necessarily indicative of his later skills and abilities.

So we're going to be focusing today specifically on milestones within early social development. So we're talking specifically infancy all the way up to early childhood. So first, we'll be talking about early milestones, which is to say these are milestones that occur within zero to six months of a child. So just after they're born basically.

So during this early stage, children are developing a physical awareness and understanding of their bodies. So they recognize that this is their hand and this is their leg. There are also developing a kind of tactile awareness. They respond to touch very much. And they like to be held.

Now in the early part of developments, when a child smiles it might not actually be what we consider to be a smile. It might be from something physical, like gas. It's around the fifth month that the child develops what's called a social smile. And this is a smile in response to another person, like a parent. This is one of the early forms of communication that a child has. And this is one of the first ways that they develop as a social being.

Now next we're talking about the middle milestones, which is to say from 6 to 12 months of age. And during this time the child is developing more complex forms of communication. So not just that sort of thing like a social smile. But they start to recognize language and respond to it in certain ways.

They also begin to imitate the actions of their parents and other people. They develop a range of emotion. So not just that smile that's happiness. Now they're starting to show anger or sadness or fear.

And they also start to show separation anxiety, which is a distress that they show as a response to when their parents or caregivers leave a room or leave an area where they see them. And this is a normal thing in development to occur. So separation anxiety isn't something necessarily to worry about. This is something that they need to develop over time.

In later development, there are still certain important milestones that need to occur. Around 18 months of age children start to develop what's called self-awareness. Self-awareness is a bit of a tricky concept. It's one that's been popularized in a lot of media and science fiction, things like that. Essentially what self-consciousness, or self-awareness, is is a conscious knowledge of one's own self, their character, their feelings, their motives, and their desires.

So you begin to think of yourself as a person in some way. Or as Descartes said, I think, therefore I am. OK. Children, we know, recognize this around 18 months of age. Again, that can change a little bit. Because of experiments that are done where children see themselves in a mirror or are filmed on camera and shown television version of themselves. And they don't treat the image that they see as another child. They begin to recognize that's, in fact, them that they're saying in that mirror. This also helps them to develop ideas of themself versus others and concepts like empathy later on.

Also during this time around the same age, children are starting to develop as more independent people. They play independently. They begin to try to direct others. They try to show their parents what they want to do.

And around two to three years of age, they begin to show preferences and things. They begin to prefer certain types of food or colors. And they begin to say no to things, which I'm sure if you're a parent you're very aware of.

At around three to four years of age, they begin to establish relationships with people outside of their caregivers. These are things like friends or more distant relatives, things like that. They begin to share their toys with other children during this time. And they begin to show an awareness of other people.

So this is the general range of milestones in social development. And obviously there are other ones to touch upon, especially later in life. And we'll get to those later.

Terms to Know
Developmental Task

Any skill that must be mastered for optimal development.

Social Development

The development of self-awareness, attachment to caregivers, and relationships with others.

Social Smile

Babies begin smiling deliberately at about 2 months, but by 8 to 12 months, babies smile more frequently when another person is nearby. This action is rewarding to parents; may communicate interest in an object.