Emotional Development and Human Emotions

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Emotion can be understood from a neurological, cognitive, or behavioral point of view. Neurological perspective focus on both the patient and the medical practitioner. The patient who has a disorder of emotion following a brain damage, to the doctor who has been so busy over night without rest. Cognitive approaches explain emotion in ways that enable people to understand their experiences of them. Finally, the behavioral point of view is that behavior may be chosen to pursue (or avoid) anticipated emotional outcomes.In psychology, emotion is a complex state of feeling that result in physical and physiological changes that influence thought and behavior. There are many other definitions of emotions proposed by different theorists. For me it is Scherers definition that encompasses what emotion is.Emotion is an episode of interrelated, synchronized changes in the states of all or most of the five organismic sub-systems in response to the evaluation of an external stimulus event as relevant to the major concerns of the organism (Scherer, 2004).

Emotional development has to be examined across the lifespan, from birth to adulthood. Strictly speaking, one should also include development until death (Magai, 1996).Emotional development is the ability to recognize, express and manage feelings at different stages of life. Both positive and negative emotions are developed. These emotions are affected by relationships with parents, siblings and peers (Otieno, 2017).Children raised with parents and caregivers are able to respond with love, understanding, and clear common-sense guidance. They find excellent chances of learning how to relate to other people. First, the child discovers other people are fun to be with, that they will look after you, and make you happy. Then later, the child learns others have rights and needs of their own, and that, by studying the feelings of these others, its possible to make them happy too (Thorndike, 1985).There are several theories that have attempted to explain emotional development in children. These theories include Freuds psychosexual development, Bowlbys Attachment theory, Banduras Social learning theory, Vygotskys Social cultural theory, Piagets Cognitive development, Eriksons Psychosocial theory and Skinners behavioral theory.


1. Theoretical Perspectives of Emotional Development.Bowlbys attachment theory postulates that bonding between the child and its mother begins in the womb. This special bonding impacts their emotions. Attachment is a lasting psychological connectedness between human beings (Bowlby, 1980). This is manifested in four characteristic features. Proximity maintenance which is the need to remain physically close to those the child is attached to. The second feature is separation distress. This is the typical anxiety which results from the absence of the attachment figure. Bowlby also talked of secure base which he described as the safe base for exploring the immediate environment that is provided by the attachment figure. Finally, the fourth feature in this theory is safe haven. This is the tendency to seek out the attachment figure for comfort and security when fearful or threatened.In support of his observations, Bowlby noted a child who is able to rely on a primary caregiver was less fearful than those lacking such reassurance. He asserted it to healthy development from infant to adolescent stage and had a lifelong effect.Banduras social learning theory emphasized the significance of modeling in emotional development. Children learn about emotions and how to express them appropriately by watching others. These include parents, caregivers, peers and teachers. Showing children, the ways you understand and manage emotions help children learn from your examples.Sigmund Freuds five psychosexual stages were suffused with emotions. For instance, during the oral stage, deprivation may evoke emotional dependency and early weaning may elicit aggression.Sociocultural theory focuses not only how adults and peers influence individuals emotional development, but also on how cultural beliefs and attitudes impact how instruction and learning of a variety of emotions take place.Erick Erikson referred to each of his stages as a "psycho-social crisis," meaning that in order for a child to move on to the next stage, they first must overcome the crisis that came before it and failure to do so is detrimental on future development.What is important recognize as a parent with Erikson's stages is how they will determine your child's attitude as they progress and grow. It is crucial that you pay special attention to the crisis in adolescence, as this can be a very difficult time for the adolescents and could last longer than other stages in Erikson's psychosocial development theory.

2. Development of Emotions in childrenEmotional development is a complex task that begins in infancy and continues in adulthood. The very first emotional expressions to be exhibited by infants include joy, anger, sadness, and fear. As they grow older, children begin to develop sense of self. Self-awareness in children facilitates the development of complex emotions in them (Greenhalgh, 1994). These include shyness, surprise, elation, embarrassment, shame, guilt, pride and empathy. While in primary school, pupils are still learning to identify emotions, to understand why they happen and how to manage them appropriately. As children develop, the things that provoke their emotional responses change, as do the strategies they use to manage them (Wilson, 2014).Babies emotions are mainly made up of physical reactions and behaviors. As they grow, children develop the ability to recognize feelings. Their emotions are also increasingly influenced by their thinking. They gain insight on their feelings and better able to understand other peoples feelings. Thus an emotional reaction of a ten-year-old is complex than of a three-year-old.

3. Emotional Development During InfancyIn the first month, the infant makes eye contact, cries for help and responds to parents smiles and voices.During the second month, the infant begins to develop a social smile, enjoys playing with other people, prefers looking at people, studies faces and first begin to express anger.In the third month, the infant starts a conversation by smiling, the big smile involves his/her whole body and can imitate some movements and facial expressions.Fourth month of development is intrigued by children. They infants will turn toward childrens voices in person or on television. He/she loughs when tickled and when interacting with others. The infant cries when play is disrupted.When an infant is five months old, he/she becomes increasingly assertive. He/she can differentiate between family members and like to play during meals.At the sixth month of development, an infant may quickly tire of toy, his/her temperaments become increasingly apparent and cries with displeasure.During the seventh month of development, the infants starts to understand the meaning of no. He/she enjoys social interaction, expresses anger more strongly and tries to mimic adults sounds.

At the eighth month of development, the infant begins to differentiate between familiar and unfamiliar people. He/she becomes shy or anxious with strangers and cries in frustration.A nine month old infant imitate gestures, smiles and kisses own image, and likes to play near parents.At ten month of development, separation anxiety may begin, self-esteem begin to develop, the infant responds to positive recognition and shows mood.During the eleventh month of development, the infant tries to gain approval, can be uncooperative, and experiments with language.Finally, a one-year-old infant may have temper tantrums, can fluctuate between being cooperative and uncooperative, may also show a developing sense of humor and cling to the parents.

4. Development of Emotions During ChildhoodAs babies grow into children, they start to feel a strong sense of self-awareness. This means that they are aware of themselves as a separate person. It results from continuing brain development and increased social relationships. The development of language also helps here, as young kids become better able to communicate (Thorndike, 1985).This increased awareness serves to strengthen emotional experiences. Young children are more in control of their emotions as they grow and they also begin to feel new ones, as such as embarrassment. These new emotions often result from social comparison, when children begin to compare themselves to other kids (Herbert, 1974).


Human emotions can be placed into three categories. These include primary, secondary and tertiary motions.Primary emotions refer to the bodys first response and they are very easy to identify because they are so strong. The most common primary emotions are fear, happiness, sadness, disgust and surprise (Ekman, 2007).Secondary emotions are emotional reactions we have to other emotions. It is always by the beliefs we have about experiencing some emotions. For example, being ashamed as a result of becoming anxious or sad.Tertiary emotions are the most specific emotions. Strong feelings such as love are broken down into secondary emotions which are further broken down into tertiary emotions. They include humility, gratitude, agony, dismay, amongst others.

Importance of Training Children in Life Skills Particularly Using Emotions Life skill refers to a skill that is necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. Emotional learning how to manage friendship, feelings and solve problems. These are essential life skills that support wellbeing and positive mental health. Emotional skills promote childrens ability to cope with difficulties and help to prevent mental health problems. Children who have developed emotional skills find it easier to manage themselves, relate to others, resolve conflicts and feel positive about themselves and the world around them (Hasson, 2012).Emotional learning provides practical skills that all children can learn and apply to everyones situations. Learning skills such as self-awareness, effective communication, and conflict resolution help to prevent the prevalence of mental illnesses amongst the vulnerable children. In this way, teaching children emotional skills help to promote resilience. Which is the capacity to cope and stay healthy in spite of the negative things that happen through life.Hasson (2012), suggest that children learning is influenced by a range of emotional factors. How children perform in school is affected by how emotionally stable they are.


There are several reasons as to why children vary in the way they express and manage their emotions. The variation is attributed to the events that impact on children and families. They include chronic illnesses, trauma and difficult social situations. Other factors such as cultural values and temperaments may cause the variation.Children learn different ways of expressing emotions based on what is regarded as normal within their family and culture. Different families and cultures accept a given range of emotions. These differences also influence the way children learn to regulate their emotions.

Bowlby, J. (1980). Attachment and Loss. New York: Basic Books, A member of the Perseus Books Group.Ekman, P. (2007). Emotions Revealed. Carlifonia: Malcolm Gladwell.Greenhalgh, P. (1994).

Emotional Growth and Learning. London: Routledge.Hasson, G. (2012). Brilliant Emotional Intelligence. Brighton: Sue Hadfield.Herbert, M. (1974).

Emotional Problems of Development in Children. London: Academic Press.Otieno, P. A. (2017). Influence of Teachers Characteristics on the Development of Socio-emotional Skills of Pre-school Children in Atandi Zone, Homabay County Kenya. Nairobi: University of Nairobi.Thorndike, N. (1985).

First Feelings: Milestones in the Emotional Development of Your Baby and Child. New York: Penguin Book.Wilson, R. (2014). Understanding Emotional Development; Providing Insights into Human Lives. London: Routledge.

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Emotional Development and Human Emotions. (2019, May 06). Retrieved July 19, 2024 , from

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