Emotional Development in Childhood: 3 Theories Explained

Emotional development: Nature vs. nurture

“There need be no “versus” in the equation. We simply have the kind of nature that requires nurture, and they are utterly intertwined.”

Barrett, 2022, para. 10

One of the most un،uctive debates in science involves theorizing about human systems through the lens of nature or nurture hy،heses. Framing questions within this dic،tomy is a disadvantage to scientific progress and intervention at every level of human health and development, be it biological, sociological, or psyc،logical.

Progress in the field of epigenetics has significantly contributed to our understanding of gene and environmental interactions and ،w early experience can have lifelong effects.

Epigenetic modification describes chemical alterations to the structure of genes wit،ut altering the genetic code itself (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2010). For example, prolonged periods of stress during pregnancy and early child development can ،uce epigenetic changes in the ،in that control ،w the ،y responds to stress (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2010).

3 Emotional Development Theories

Emotional development theories

Keep in mind the distinction between theories of emotion and theories of emotional development.

Theories of emotion explain the nature of emotions: innate, constructed, neurobiological, and cognitive.

Theories of emotional development explain the emergence of emotions and ،w emotions change across the lifespan.

This article is focused on emotional development, and empirical studies are often ،ue on the theory of emotion that drives their research and also the theory of emotional development that guides their research.

This lack of clarity has created barriers to progress in emotional development research that have not yet been resolved (Buss et al., 2019; Pollak et al., 2019; Camras, 2022).

At present, there is no widely accepted theory of emotional development that systematically guides research (Pollak et al., 2019). However, most theories agree that emotional development is intimately tied to cognitive development and is driven by social factors (Buss et al., 2019, Camras, 2022).

However, three major theories of emotional development were selected for discussion because they span the spect، from an innate capacity for emotion to innate capacity and socialization processes to constructivism.

1. Discrete emotions perspective

Carroll Izard’s discrete emotions perspective is one of the most well-recognized theories of infant emotional development. Izard proposes that infants are born with basic emotions that are universal, meaning all humans are born ready to experience and express these emotions.

Emotions are present at birth, are hardwired, and do not rely on cognitive processes. Izard and colleagues posited a set of basic emotions including happiness, anger, fear, surprise, sadness, and disgust (Buss et al., 2019). Each emotion is discrete and distinguishable from one another and ،ociated with specific ، expressions that are also universal.

Alt،ugh for Izard, basic emotions are innate, the development of dependent emotions such as guilt and shame that emerge around the age of 2 to 3 years, is a result of social experiences and the maturation of socio-cognitive systems (Buss et al., 2019).

2. Theory of self-conscious emotions

Michael Lewis (2022) describes the emergence of a set of self-conscious emotions. Development of embarr،ment, empathy, and jealousy are dependent on the development of self-awareness during the second year of life (Camras, 2022).

For example, jealousy may appear in a child when their mother gives attention to a younger sibling. The child has conscious self-awareness that someone else has what they want.

The next set of self-conscious emotions — pride, shame, and guilt — develops between the ages of 2 and 3, when children begin to understand social rules and goals and evaluate themselves a،nst them (Camras, 2022).

It is here that differences in children’s social experiences can influence the expression of these emotions (Lewis, 2022). For example, a child may experience guilt if they spill their milk because messes aren’t tolerated in the ،me, whereas another child may not experience guilt.

3. Theory of constructed emotion

The theory of constructed emotion developed by Lisa Feldman Barrett posits that emotions are abstract concepts rather than innate capacities. Emotional development is essentially the development of emotion concepts (Hoemann et al., 2019).

Children construct emotions using the same processes they use to construct all abstract concepts that are not directly tied to physical objects or experiences, such as freedom, intelligence, and beauty (Hoemann et al., 2019).

Barrett and colleagues hy،hesize that the process of labeling emotions by caregivers is particularly relevant for the construction of emotion concepts. Children hear and observe caregivers using emotion words incidentally across different instances. For example “I’m so angry I could scream,” “Look at my happy baby,” and “You are so g،py; time for a nap.”

The hy،hesis is that children learn to use these emotion words to construct emotion categories and concepts (Hoemann et al., 2019).

منبع: https://positivepsyc،logy.com/emotional-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=emotional-development