Developmental Psychology: An Advanced Textbook

By Marc H. Bornstein; Michael E. Lamb | Go to book overview

6

Social and Emotional
Development in Infancy

Michael E. Lamb

University of Utah


INTRODUCTION

Over the last century, the attention paid to emotional phenomena and to social and emotional development has waxed and waned. These increases and decreases in the popularity of social and emotional issues among researchers and theorists have coincided respectively with optimism, occasioned by the emergence of new theoretical perspectives, and with pessimism, attributable to the apparent empirical intractability of emotions and emotional phenomena. Empirical advances have also been hampered by the absence of a clear, consensually acceptable definition of "the emotions." Because each investigator or theorist appears to have had an idiosyncratic definition and focus (see for example Plutchik, 1980) each pursued her or his unique questions in near isolation. Where conflicts or disagreements have arisen, they might often have been avoided if researchers had shown greater awareness of differences in emphasis, definition, and approach. As I show in this chapter, many of the competing theories address different questions and are thus not necessarily inconsistent with one another. Thus a synthesis of the most useful contributions of each approach is not only possible, but necessary.

Although I describe other perspectives, let me briefly provide my definition of "the emotions." Following the approach taken by researchers such as Campos (e.g., Campos & Stenberg, 1981; Klinnert, Campos, Sorce, Emde, & Svejda, 1983), I view emotions and emotional expressions as phenomena having two important purposes. First, emotional states or affects facilitate and potentiate behavioral reactions to external events. Second, emotional expressions serve a communicative function, alerting others to the emotional state, and thus to the

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