What Are the Major Milestones Related to Socioemotional Development in Early & Middle Childhood?

Early and middle childhood are vital times for a child’s physical, social, emotional, intellectual and language development. Socio-emotional milestones during this time are often harder to pinpoint than physical, intellectual and language milestones, but the major phases of this aspect of a child’s development are very important for parents to know and understand.

  1. Moral Reasoning

    • The development of moral reasoning is vital during early and middle childhood. It is how your child learns what is morally right and wrong and how to make responsible choices. There is little evidence of the development of moral reasoning in very early childhood, but by the age of four your child should begin to show some understanding, as she may start to explore ideas about fairness and good and bad behavior. By middle childhood, between the ages of six to eight, your child should have a stronger sense of right and wrong. As a parent, when your child's behavior becomes unacceptable it is important to explain to your child why her actions were wrong and what she should do better next time rather than simply punish her and make her feel bad about herself; children who feel good about themselves are more able to resist negative peer pressure, which can influence children during middle childhood especially, and subsequently make better choices for themselves.

    Self Awareness

    • Self awareness occurs as your child becomes conscious of her mind and body and gains more perspective of the world around her. By the age of one, your child should begin to develop self awareness and should be able to recognize herself in a picture or a photo. At the age of three your child is more aware of her physical needs and should start to do more things by herself, such as helping to dress herself or washing her hands unassisted. By middle childhood your child should start to compare herself to others and become more aware of the future and her place in the world. As puberty approaches in the later stages of middle childhood, your child will become even more aware of her body, and it is at this time when body image and eating problems sometimes start.

    Peer Relationships

    • Your child’s relationship with his peers is extremely important for his social development. From about the age of four, your child will become more interested in other children and will gradually want more independence from the family. It is likely that he will enjoy imaginative play with other children, such as adventure games, and start to show caring attitudes towards other people. Around the ages of six to eight, your child will pay more attention to friendships and teamwork, and will have a growing desire to be accepted by friends. By late middle childhood, at ages of nine to eleven, he will form stronger, more complex friendships and peer relationships. It will become more emotionally essential to have friends, especially of the same sex.

    Primary Caregiver Relationship

    • A child’s relationship with the primary caregiver is a significant milestone related to socio-emotional development during childhood, as this relationship often affects that child’s approach to all other relationships in the future. From birth to early childhood, to about the age of three, this relationship is especially vital. At this age your child should bond with the primary caregiver, often the mother, and be comforted by her. Your child should recognize this person and will show anxiety, such as crying, when apart from her. During early childhood your child is emotionally dependent on that familiar adult and demands constant attention from her. This changes from about the age of four, when your child will start to make her own friends away from the family. By middle childhood, she should be able to cope better with her personal needs and will be able to handle more independence from the caregiver.

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