Relationships and Development

Relationships and Development

Relationships and Development

Relationships and Development

Excerpt

It has become a truism that children's social and emotional development emerges from their relationships with other people, especially parents, siblings, teachers, and friends. The central importance of these relationships has been assumed by most major theoretical approaches to child development. Psychoanalytic theory, for example, views children's early relationships with their parents as the primary determinants of personality development. Conceptions of attachment, as elaborated by John Bowlby and others, emphasize the importance of the child's early attachment to a primary caregiver. Social learning approaches focus on reinforcement, modeling, and instruction in the context of the child's social world. The importance of children's social relationships is assumed by caretakers and educators, as well. Parents and teachers are highly attuned to their children's social adjustment--or "getting along" or "relating"--not only because it contributes to a peaceful home or school but also because it enriches the child's social and emotional growth.

Despite this universal acknowledgment of the central role of social relationships in children's maturation, those who research social and emotional development have applied relatively limited conceptual and methodological approaches to the study of early social interaction. There has been considerable research on the nature of parent-infant relationships, and more recently a renewal of interest in children's peer relationships, but for the most part, students of development have taken relationships for granted. They have not systematically explored the various dimensions of children's relationships: the nature and measurement of such aspects as intimacy, hierarchy, reciprocity, and loyalty; the ways in which specific encounters or interactions are organized in relationships over time; the social and emotional resources provided by these relationships; the . . .

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