Perception and Socio-Emotional Development

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Question 1: Socio-emotional development

Every parent wishes to see that his or her child is well adjusted both socially and emotionally. However, the process of developing this socio-emotional competence is a complex concept encompassing input from various aspects of personal and interpersonal interactions. Socio-emotional development refers to a process where a child can gain control over its feelings and actions (Huhtala et al., 2013). Additionally, this process allows children to initiate positive relationships with peers and adults arising from increased awareness and understanding of other’s feelings. Developing this competency requires the establishment of social and emotional skills. The benefit of socio-emotional development includes increased adaptability to any environment due to enhanced interactions and relationship-forming tendencies. An evaluation of the concept of socio-emotional development realises the value and contribution of numerous developmental psychology theories.

Developmental Psychology Theories

Various developmental psychology theories play a vital role in Harlow’s theory of socio-emotional development. Harlow separated the stages of socio-emotional development into parental, peer, and sexual affection systems of the process during childhood and adolescence. This section offers an evaluation of this process based on various developmental psychology theory.

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Freud’s Psychosexual Theory

Freud’s developmental theory focused on sexuality as a primary factor influencing psychological development. To this effect, the scholar defined five basic stages of personality development that involves pleasure and erogenous zones (Garcia, 1995). However, sexual activity is only evident after puberty. Nevertheless, the first five stages indicate a progression towards maturity by facing different pleasure stimulants. Each of these stages plays a vital role in shaping the child’s personality. As such, this theory has a vital function in the development of social and emotional capabilities among children.

The first stage of oral stimulation refers to the creation of a feeling of trust and comfort between the child and its primary caregiver. The step takes place in the first year of life and involves feeding, which a pleasurable experience for the child.  In this stage, the child learns how to trust or distrust other people depending on a conditioning process (Simon & Gagnon, 1998). Learning how to trust people is vital in the formation of interpersonal relationships with peers. However, the child also experiences a conflict during weaning, which is indispensable in promoting the child’s dependency. Each of these aspects of this stage is essential in determining the child’s behaviour. For instance, if a child realises a fixation at this stage, they have the potential of developing impatient, anxious, and clingy tendencies as they grow up.

Another crucial aspect of Freud’s theory is the development of self-control through various stages. In the anal phase, the child has to learn how to control their bladder and egestive processes. The phallic step involves the development of feelings of possession for the parent of the opposite sex albeit covertly. In either situation, the child is required to express self-control. In the anal stage, a child who is facing strict direction during toilet training can develop an anal-retentive personality while the absence of structure in this stage can develop an anal-expulsive personality (Garcia, 1995). Similarly, retention of feelings towards parents also helps to improve self-control. This self-control is vital in socio-emotional development. It is valuable for children to exercise restraint in adverse situations as a measure of maturity. Problematic parenting during these stages can lead to antisocial personalities that make it challenging to establish interpersonal relationships with peers and adults (Ong et al., 2018). Therefore, a successful completion of each phase contributes to a healthy personality, which translates to socio-emotional wellness.

Erikson’s Psychosocial Development

Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development focuses on interpersonal and intrapersonal interactions to develop the personality. Unlike Freud’s theory, Erikson’s views social interactions in the environment as vital drivers for human development. Each stage represents a conflict with the potential for success or failure in their completion. Just like Freud’s theory, Erikson claims that failure to achieve success in on stage leads to complications in life. Therefore, parents need to ensure that their children succeed through the social interactions that shape one’s socio-emotional personality.

Trust and autonomy are the first respective stages under this model that have substantive value to socio-emotional development. Each of these stages integrates to create an individual who feels secure and safe in the world to develop some level of independence. The trust arises from the interactions between the child and adults who provide every essential for development (Dunkel & Harbke, 2017). Failure to offer these necessities suggests a child who will develop with trust issues. On the other hand, the development of this trust should be accompanied by moderated autonomy. As children cultivate control over their actions and lives, they begin to achieve liberation from their parents. Each of these situations plays a vital role in motivating and shaping peer-to-peer relationships. Children with trust issues will always be suspicious of others, while the absence of autonomy undermines the child’s ability to form relationships away from parents. They may express repressed behaviour such as lack of confidence and security, which are vital in achieving socio-emotional development.

The third and fourth stages concern initiative and industry. Initiative refers to the level of control that a child asserts to interpersonal interactions. These include the demonstration of leadership during play. On the other hand, failure to achieve initiative leads to a loss of effort and confidence in communications (Rosenthal, Gurney & Moore, 1981). The stage of industry seeks to apply this initiative and willingness to work that develops during preschool to increase the competence of a particular skill. The opposite is the development of a feeling of inferiority that involves self-doubt and lack of confidence. These aspects define the value of confidence at personal and interpersonal levels during growth. Confidence is a vital aspect of one’s behaviour, thereby implying that they are valuable to the socio-emotional process of growth. Children with initiative and industrial tendencies tend to be apt leaders while those with little confidence act as followers. Successful completion of these stages involves striking a balance between the two extremes to create a socially adept individual due to appropriate socio-emotional development.

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The fourth and fifth stages of Erikson’s model address identity development and intimacy respectively. Just like the other stages, these two interact to create a socially capable individual who can handle a long-term relationship. Identity development is essential as it provides the child an opportunity to establish a personal identity that involves the creation of values and behaviours that prevail throughout life after a period of experimentation (Christiansen & Palkovitz, 1998). The stage of intimacy refers to one’s ability to sustain a long-term relationship with a partner that arises from having a full grasp of oneself. The development of personal identity allows the individual to have a singular belief and value system that guides their actions. As such, they possess a consistent behaviour that is definitive of their identity. Failure to do so leads to actions that are irregular and inconsistent since the individual is experimenting to find their identity. Therefore, the creation of committed relationships is one example of the application of personal identity and behaviour to interpersonal interactions. Thus, successfully developing an identity has a vital function in determining types and longevity of relationships. The personal identity influences that nature of social interactions.

Piaget’s Cognitive Development

Jean Piaget proposed a foundational philosophy of human growth. This theory focuses primarily on the cognitive or mental processes that take place as a child grows into adulthood. The cognitive approach investigates changes that take place in the brain as well as the rationality of thought processes as one grows older. The foundational principle of this theory is that thought processes, and cognitive skills change as an individual advance through age.

The preoperational stage is valuable to the socio-emotional development of a child compared to the infancy stage that involves automatic activation of sensorimotor skills. The preoperational stage includes the process of socialisation where the child can learn a language and communicate their needs (Brown & Desforges, 2013). It also allows them to express their imagination through play where they can undertake different personas or representative objects. During this stage, the children learn the basics of interpersonal interaction by playing with others. They develop social competence that is vital to sustaining meaningful relationships in the future. As such, it is possible to identify the value of this stage to the socio-emotional development of children. Interacting with peers provides a perfect arena to develop their interpersonal skills.

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The third stage called the concrete operational phase involves the comprehension of logic as a foundational principle of life. The application of logic can comprise inductive reasoning where the child can make connections in their environment to reach a particular conclusion (Miller, 2010). Children also develop conservation where they understand that an object remains the same despite the shape and size. The child demonstrates socio-emotional growth by being able to read and respond to emotions. For instance, the child can identify the anger from the parent and will be in a position to question their actions. Additionally, they may examine their behaviour before doing it and understand the appropriate interpersonal response based on previous experiences.

Finally, the formal operational stage involves the ability to develop deductive logic as well as understanding abstract concepts such as love and ethics. At this stage, the adolescent can think of behaviours and their outcomes without relying on the previous results of similar situations (Brown & Desforges, 2013). For example, the child may understand that peer bullying is wrong since it leads to negative implications for the victim. Such thinking is valuable in the regulation of emotions and develops interpersonal relationships. For example, an individual can determine the dos and don’ts of interpersonal relationships. It enhances socio-emotional development by allowing the individual to apply critical thought to any behaviour or interaction.


Socio-emotional development is a function of an interaction between numerous developmental psychology theories. An assessment of Freud’s theory indicates that the aspects of trust and independence shaped by pleasure play a massive role in influencing a child’s ability to form trusting bonds and control their emotions respectively. Further evaluation of Erikson’s theory suggests that social interactions from childhood to early adulthood are essential determinants of behaviour and emotional control. Finally, Piaget’s theory suggests that thought processes improve with age to accommodate complex ideas that help shape one’s awareness and interaction with the social environment. Therefore, it is evident that socio-emotional development is the result of psychosexual, psychosocial, and cognitive aspects of growth.

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Question 2: Case Study

It would be impossible to understand the world without the development of perception. Perception is a process where humans interpret sensory information to form specific, concrete ideas. The process involves identifying an object and matching it to previous experiences or ideas to develop an understanding (Shams & Beierholm, 2010). One perfect example of perception refers to images with dual perspectives. The brain through visual input can identify each of the ideas presented in the image due to the existence of a conceptual or perceptual template. However, the brain can only see one of the perceptive at a given time. The way that humans understand their environment involves the considerable application of perception. However, this perception can be defined through developmental psychology. Additionally, this information is of significant value to the education profession since learning involves the creation of mental of the conceptual template in preparation for practical application. An assessment of perception of these theories can help to identify its development based on the interactions between the environment and the individual.

Developmental Psychology Theories

Piaget’s Cognitive Theory

Piaget’s theory of cognition in the developmental process is perhaps the most important about the development of perception. The first stage of this theory, lasting up to two years after birth discusses the formation and coordination of body sensors and motor functions. The relationship between these aspects plays a vital role in defining perception (Brown & Desforges, 2013). As explained before, the sensory organs and motor reflexes are essential in determining perception. The stage involves the development of these fundamental functionalities to pave the way for cognitive interpretations of the environment.

Piaget’s theory addresses perception as a gradual process that begins in infancy. In fact, an evaluation of the argument further suggests the development of language in the second preoperational stage. At this stage, the child can attach meaning to certain words that they are habitually exposed. For example, the child will be able to talk in a way that connects the conceptual understanding of words to their utterances based on speech stimuli (Miller, 2010). The third stage involves further development to include inductive logic where the child understands the connections between two phenomena. For example, the child learns that they have allergies and any contact with furry animals leads to adverse reactions. Therefore, they gain a better understanding of the sensory information they receive from the environment. Finally, the child at adolescence can engage with abstract concepts due to the definition of a clear conceptualisation of the society. For example, the child can make connections based on indirect experiences from sensory information.

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Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory

Erikson’s theory presents social interactions at both interpersonal and personal levels to be a function of internal thought processes such as perception. According to Erikson, every conflict leads to personal growth, which can be considered as an expansion of one’s perceptive capacity (Dunkel & Harbke, 2017). However, it is vital to limit the scope of Erikson’s perspective to primarily mental rather than neurological. As such, it is possible to consider the development of personal belief and value systems as a form of developing perception. The identity and conflict stage of life experienced during adolescence involves experimentation to establish a conscious personal identity.

This personal identity can be considered a template for understanding and respond to stimuli in the environment. The values and beliefs that one creates and abides to act as a template for which an individual evaluates the behaviour of others and themselves (Kim, 2012). For example, the perceptual aspect of peer relationships can suggest sadness in others due to sensory stimulations such as crying and frowning. To this effect, the individual can formulate their understanding of the situation based on his or her mental conceptualisation and context. For instance, the source of sadness can be punishment for a horrible action, necessitating an ethical evaluation of the situation to determine the most appropriate feeling. Therefore, Erikson proves perception as an interaction between conceptualised belief and value systems and their interaction with the environment.

Freud’s Psychosexual Theory

The Freudian approach has a foundational understanding of pleasure at an unconscious scale. The sexual aspect of the theory suggests that the infant or individual can form conceptual templates of life, based on the concept of pleasure (Ehrenzweig, 2013). For example, a child develops an oral fixation to breastfeeding due to conditioning. The child forms the conceptual template that breastfeeding presents an opportunity for pleasure. In doing so, the child can learn about the possible benefit of breastfeeding hence the fixation. A similar rationale can be applied to other aspects of the theory such as oral and phallic stages where the child establishes mental ideas of particular phenomena in the environment and the processes for appropriate responses.

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In summation, the concept of perception interacts significantly with developmental psychology theories. According to Piaget, perceptual development is a gradual and lifelong process that begins with the formation of sensorimotor skills, language development, and logic in assessing concrete and abstract ideas. Erikson suggests that the construction of a personal identity creates a consistent template for interpreting sensory information and employing the right response. Finally, Freud’s theory indicates substantial interaction with perception throughout the development process as the child makes connections between the environment and their conceptualisations resulting in fixations at almost every stage. This assessment suggests that perception and developmental psychology theories operate in tandem. Therefore, these developmental theories can be used to explain the concept of perceptual development.

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  1. Brown, G., & Desforges, C. (2013). Piaget’s theory. Routledge.
  2. Christiansen, S. L., & Palkovitz, R. (1998). Exploring Erikson’s psychosocial theory of development: Generativity and its relationship to paternal identity, intimacy, and involvement in childcare. The Journal of Men’s Studies7(1), 133-156.
  3. Clay, Z., & Frans B. M. de Waal. (2013). Development of socio-emotional competence in bonobos. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(45), 18121-18126. 10.1073/pnas.1316449110
  4. Dunkel, C. S., & Harbke, C. (2017). A review of measures of Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development: Evidence for a general factor. Journal of Adult Development, 24(1), 58-76. 10.1007/s10804-016-9247-4
  5. Ehrenzweig, A. (2013). The Psychoanalysis of Artistic Vision and Hearing: An introduction to a theory of unconscious perception. Routledge.
  6. Garcia, J. L. (1995). Freud’s psychosexual stage conception: A developmental metaphor for counselors. Journal of Counseling & Development, 73(5), 498-502. 10.1002/j.1556-6676.1995.tb01785.x
  7. Huhtala, M., Korja, R., Lehtonen, L., Haataja, L., Lapinleimu, H., Rautava, P., & PIPARI Study Group. (2013). Associations between parental psychological well-being and socio-emotional development in 5-year-old preterm children. Early Human Development, 90(3), 119-124. 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2013.12.009
  8. Kim, E. (2012). An alternative theoretical model: Examining psychosocial identity development of international students in the United States. College Student Journal46(1), 99-114.
  9. Miller, P. H. (2010). Piaget’s theory. The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive Development, Second edition, 649-672.
  10. Ong, M. Y., Eilander, J., Saw, S. M., Xie, Y., Meaney, M. J., & Broekman, B. F. P. (2018). The influence of perceived parenting styles on socio-emotional development from pre-puberty into puberty. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 27(1), 37-46. 10.1007/s00787-017-1016-9
  11. Rosenthal, D. A., Gurney, R. M., & Moore, S. M. (1981). From trust on intimacy: A new inventory for examining Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 10(6), 525-537. 10.1007/BF02087944
  12. Shams, L., & Beierholm, U. R. (2010). Causal inference in perception. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 14(9), 425-432. 10.1016/j.tics.2010.07.001
  13. Simon, W., & Gagnon, J. (1998). Psychosexual development. Society, 35(2), 60-67. 10.1007/BF02838129
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