Child Emotional and Social Competence Development

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Vera and Gaubatz (2002) describe emotional/social development of children to be a set of interpersonal skills that leads to the achievement of social and interpersonal objectives, wherein one’s feelings, thoughts and actions, even in the face of conflict, difficulty or any negative circumstance. Over the past few decades, developmental theorists and clinical psychologists had studied the interpersonal nature of a child’s emotional life and had searched for early indicators of the individual differences that could improve our understanding and ability to predict later adaptations and socially appropriate behavior in human beings.  Yet, there were still many questions that remain unanswered.  A considerable number of studies had found that predictive indicators of later adaptations were indivisible from the domains of intelligence and personal characteristics or temperament.

At the same time, an increasing number of researchers emerges, who had drawn more attention to the development of children’s emotional/social competence, as it was believed that emotional/social competence had a great impact on children’s later achievement.  It was known that when a child enters the social field of preschool, he or she encounters the complex demands of teachers and peers.

Children with emotional/social competence were observed to be more willing to develop positive relationships with their peers and teachers, which were necessary to succeed in both academic and non-academic settings (Anthony, Anthony, Glanville, Naiman, Waanders & Shaffer, 2005; Mendez, McDermott & Fantuzzo, 2002).  Emotional/social competence includes the ability to express oneself through facial expressions and being willing to accurately identify the emotions and feelings of others.  It had also been found that deficits in emotional awareness, such as incomprehension of anger cues can lead to children having social and behavioral problems, while accurate emotional recognition gives children greater opportunities to navigate their social surroundings effectively.

Vera and Gaubutz (2002) noted that family, peer, and cultural contexts affected social competence.  Vera and Gaubutz (2002) moved that social competence be influenced by person-environment, wherein individuals were not only affected by personal traits, such as one’s temperament and intelligence, but with family interaction patterns by which they were exposed to, as well as the cultural factors that society ingrained in them. This implied that the personal traits of the individual were not the only factors for emotional/social competence development of young children, but parenting styles and the teachers’ interactions with preschoolers being the sources of major adult relationships.

According to Vera and Gaubutz (2002), developmental outcomes were measured by counting the number of friends of the children, as well as their involvement in peer activities. However, many children did not live in neighborhoods and attend schools without extracurricular programs. Thus, these circumstances limited the opportunities in the environment, not the lack of social competency skills, restricted their development (Vera & Gaubutz, 2002). Thus, if children were not exposed to opportunities they could acquire limited social competence. Social interactions were provided in the context of the household or early childhood education.


Anthony, L., Anthony, B., Glanville, D., Naiman, D., Waanders C. & Shaffer, S. (2005). The relationships between parenting stress, parenting behaviour and preschoolers’ social competence and behaviour problems in the classroom. Infant and Child Development. 14, 133-154.

Mendez, J., McDermott, P. & Fantuzzo, J. (2002). Identifying and promoting social competence with African American preschool children: Developmental and contextual consideration. Psychology in the Schools, 39, 111-123.

Vera, E. & Gaubatz, M. D. (2002). Promoting Social competencies in school-aged. In C. L. Juntunen & D. R. Atkinson (Eds.). Counseling across the lifespan: Prevention and treatment. California: Sage Publication.

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