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4.10: Psychosocial Development

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    Emotional Development (Ob12)

    At birth, infants exhibit two emotional responses: attraction and withdrawal. They show attraction to pleasant situations that bring comfort, stimulation, and pleasure. And they withdraw from unpleasant stimulation such as bitter flavors or physical discomfort. At around two months, infants exhibit social engagement in the form of social smiling as they respond with smiles to those who engage their positive attention. Pleasure is expressed as laughter at three to five months of age, and displeasure becomes more specific: fear, sadness, or anger between ages six and eight months. This fear is often associated with the presence of strangers or the departure of significant others known respectively as stranger wariness and separation anxiety which appear sometime between six and fifteen months. And there is some indication that infants may experience jealousy as young as six months of age (Hart & Carrington, 2002).

    During the second year of life, children begin to recognize themselves as they gain a sense of self as object. This is illustrated in the fifteen month old child’s ability to recognize one’s own reflection in a mirror. (The classic mirror test or rouge test involves showing a toddler a mirror after having secretly rubbed red coloring on the child’s nose. Children who are younger than fifteen months of age may try to wipe the color from the mirror. But a fifteen month old child may wipe the color from his or her own nose.) Once a child has achieved self‐awareness, the child is moving toward understanding social emotions such as guilt, shame or embarrassment as well as sympathy or empathy. These will require an understanding of the mental state of others that is acquired at around age three to five and will be explored in our next lesson (Berk, 2007).

    Forming Attachments (Ob10)

    The significance of early attachments: An attachment is desire for physical closeness with someone. The formation of attachments in infancy has been the subject of considerable research as attachments have been viewed as foundations for future relationships, as the basis for confidence and curiosity as toddlers, and as important influences on self‐concept.

    Measuring attachment styles

    The classic model for studying styles of attachment involves having a caregiver and child come into a strange room filled with toys and observing the child’s reactions. A securely attached child will play with the toys and bring one to the caregiver to show and describe from time to time. The child is content and secure as he or she explores the situation. An insecurely‐resistant child will cling to the caregiver and refuse to go and play. An insecure‐avoidant attachment style is indicated by a child who is neither curious nor clingy; rather the child sits and waits until it is time to go.

    Attachment styles vary in the amount of security and closeness felt in the relationship and they can change with new experience. The type of attachment fostered in parenting styles varies by culture as well. For example, German parents value independence and Japanese mothers are typically by their children’s sides. As a result, the rate of insecure‐avoidant attachments is higher in Germany and insecure‐resistant attachments are higher in Japan. These differences reflect cultural variation rather than true insecurity, however (van Ijzendoorn and Sagi, 1999), keep in mind that methods for measuring attachment styles have been based on a model that reflects middle‐class, U.S. values and interpretation. Newer methods for assessment attachment styles involve using a Q‐sort technique in which a large number of behaviors are recorded on cards and the observer sorts the cards in a way that reflects the type of behavior that occurs within the situation.

    As we explore styles of attachment below, be thinking about how these are evidenced also in adult relationships.

    4.10: Psychosocial Development is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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