The Importance of Social Development
Social development can be distinguished as one of the main elements that ensure a child develops wholly. One definition determines the process as “the adoption of the behaviour patterns of the surrounding culture” (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/socialisation, 30/11/2008), thus promoting the need for norms and values to encourage moral development, which effectively helps children learn and understand themselves as an individual. It undertakes the importance of play to allow children to draw away from their egocentric traits, whilst also addressing the influence of family backgrounds. The family and background in which children are brought up have long been recognised as the foundation to children’s social development, since it’s here children begin to find shared interests with an older authority “through history of shared experiences, have a continually growing awareness of the salient and significant parts of their environment for each other” (Messer, 1997, p.306). Therefore, this notion is raised that the family prepares children to explore their surroundings, although parents tend to push children towards their own preferred values. This can often hinder development, as Messer highlights an example that children with disabilities can face problems with communicating “children who are born to hearing parents seem to be more at risk for long term problems related to communication” (Messer, 1997, p.302), effectively this issue needs to be counterbalanced when children find themselves in the school environment, which can be done by promoting equality between peers. Other than parents much can be gained from siblings in the family setting, in particular when addressing prosocial behaviour. This voluntary conduct is encouraged in the school setting to build upon social values, yet it has been recognised that children with younger siblings are at an advantage in the process. Howe and Ross (1999) draw attention to the notion that “preschoolers who have a younger sibling will often comfort them if they show signs of distress” (Harris and Butterworth, 2002, p.227), yet this cannot be the case all the time. For instance, when my younger sister was born I became jealous and had little intention of comforting her, but was more interested in causing her distress, yet when my youngest sister was born I took on a more maternal role toward her. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean that only children face a weakness in the pace at which they develop, as Lindon mentions how “only children have as much chance of positive emotional and social development as children with siblings” (Lindon, 1998, p.48), yet with this assumption fails to offer substantive evidence with this reflection. Yet, in today’s society it has now been accepted that the ‘nuclear’ family isn’t necessarily the most efficient layout, but rather “family functioning i.e. the quality of interpersonal relationships, that determine adjustment rather than family structure” (Schaffer, 2006, p.119), perhaps due to the rise of a less secularised society cohabitation and single parenting being considered a norm. As a child from a single parent household I can safely say that I have never felt myself at a weakness compared to my peers from other family situations. Up till now the importance of childhood in the western family is very much a part of social development as, “Western childhood has become a period in the life course characterised by social dependency, asexuality, and the obligation to be happy” (James, Jenks and Prout, 1998, p.62). This an important feature to address when aiming to provide children with a suitable environment, as the relevance of cultural values is to be recognised. This along with cognition is highly regarded in the western society with much being placed upon the benefits of play although childhood in this setting is often recognised as having been cut short. Social cognition is fundamental when understanding...
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