Emotional Development in Atypical Children

By Michael Lewis; Margaret Wolan Sullivan | Go to book overview

Preface

Since the 1970s, there has been a significant increase in interest in emotional development. Research on the emotional lives of infants and young children has been recognized as important in understanding the nature of children's development. In general, children's functioning in relation to their peers, teachers, parents, and themselves requires that we pay attention to their emotional well-being. Recently, a handbook of emotions was published ( Lewis & Haviland, 1993), perhaps the best acknowledgment that the study of emotions now occupies an important place in our intellectual exploration. Although research in emotional development continues, most of our studies have involved emotional development in children without disabilities. Little research has been conducted in terms of emotional development in children with atypical needs. This is surprising for at least two reasons. To begin with, without an appreciation of atypical emotional development, any theory about emotions will be incomplete. Thus, there is much to learn from the study of children with disabilities that will bear on our general theories of emotional development. Second, and perhaps of equal importance, is the fact that without an understanding of emotional development in children with disabilities we are unlikely to either understand fully the causes of their difficulties or to ameliorate these difficulties. Imagine for example the feelings of an 8-year-old child with learning disabilities who has trouble reading or those of a child who has motor impairment and cannot run and play with other children. It is not difficult to realize that their emotional lives are affected by such disabilities. Certainly, their feelings of embarrassment and shame are bound to have profound affects on their learning, on their social adjustment, and on how they think about themselves. It is not too far fetched to argue that most disabilities cause secondary problems for these children, problems having to do with their inability to cope with the emotions associated with the stigma of the disability.

Early emotional development, emotional regulation, and the links between emotion and social or cognitive functioning in atypically developing children have not received much attention. This lack is due in part to the priorities given to the educational and therapeutic needs of these chil

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