Social emotional development
The social emotional development of infants is rooted in their relationships with their primary caregivers. In the first months of life, infants learn that actions such as crying, smiling or babbling evoke a response from the primary caregiver and others in their environments. They gradually learn the rhythm of ongoing reciprocal relationships in which they can initiate social contact and maintain, modulate or terminate it. Infants spend a great deal of time gazing at the faces of their caregivers; they begin to distinguish facial and vocal expressions and they respond to these, even as very young infants.
As they develop children begin to use language to get their needs met and to communicate with others. In the early childhood period, children explore the world and relationships through play. They gradually learn to cooperate and to manage their emotions. Through positive interactions with caregivers, family members and others, children acquire the skills they need to function at home, in school and in the wider community.
During the middle childhood years - ages six to twelve - children undergo remarkable social and emotional changes. As they mature cognitively they develop the skills to solve problems and collaborate. These skills assist them to develop and maintain relationships with peers. They are much more able than they were in the early childhood years, to regulate their emotions and to respond in ways that allow them to make friends and to cooperate with others.
Adolescents undergo rapid physical and cognitive changes as they continue to develop socially and emotionally. Peer relationships remain an important part of life and become deeper and more meaningful. During this period, adolescents often establish their identities, make plans for the future and work towards goals.