Behaviour, Emotional & Social Introduction

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Behavioural Emotional Social Development


It has been suggested that the human brain has not grown to its current size so that we are better able to understand the secrets of the universe, but rather, so we can understand the behaviour and specifically the intentions of people around us. Our survival as an individual is dependent on these skills and our ability to respond back appropriately. Within a few weeks of birth a new born will begin to smile and help build further the essential bond with their parent. It is first of many behaviours the child will need to learn and replicate as they grow into successful adults.

Human behaviour is largely learnt from observing others through our social experiences. The behaviour we display at any given time is, however, dependent on a wide range of factors including:

genetic pre-dispositions
motivation and mood
perceptions and understanding of the social context
dominant personality traits
experience and education
confidence and self-esteem
cognitive function and language ability
health and well-being
hormone levels
pyschotropic drug use

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The complexity of human behaviour is mirrored and shaped by the complexity of our societies. Establishing our individual role within society involves learning and accepting collective social rules. Some rules are generally fixed like not stealing money whilst others confusingly change depending on the context such as swearing. Also many social rules change for each individual depending on factors such as age, social status, religion, sub-cultures, material wealth etc. Everyone in society is not equal and its social rules are not applied fairly. It is therefore perhaps inevitable that given the intricacy of our unequal social world that many people deviate from generally accepted and commonly shared norms for behaviour. And as society grows what is considered "normal" is increasingly blurred by diverging values and beliefs.

For children education and experience are required to enable them to develop and test their knowledge and understanding of social behaviour and rules. And just as very young children test out ideas about gravity by dropping objects repeatedly they will also test out social rules by exploring what happens if they don't follow them. Clear and firm boundaries therefore help children to learn appropriate behaviours.

Emotions involve psychological, social and physiological processes that combine to direct our behaviour. Emotions can be important survival tools so that experiencing fear when near the edge of a cliff heightens our senses and we are more attentive to the risk of falling. Emotions can be powerful motivators and resisting the associated behaviours can be challenging like overcoming your fear to cross a rope bridge. In our complex society there are many social rules which govern how and when we can express emotions. Controlling our emotions or even suppressing them completely is often necessary to meet the demands of society. It may not always be healthy to do this and can lead to mental health issues. Equally, an inabilility to exercise some control over our emotions is likely to impair our ability to function in everyday life.

Even with the most favourable conditions for childhood any child can struggle at times to make sense of the bewildering social world they are growing up in. As they battle to control their emotions and learn to interact in ever more complex social interactions they require strong parental support, modelling and boundaries. Unfortunately, even when this is in place there are still many other factors that contribute to the development of behavioural, emotional and/or social difficulties.

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You may also be interested in the following pages:


Emotional Regulation

Relationship between language development and behaviour

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