Social and emotional development

Why is it important for the school to concern itself with children’s social and emotional development? Examine ways in which this could be attempted. In light of the current climate and the pressure on schools to improve standards, it may seem a strange question to ask. However it is such a fundamental issue that it is not only important but also vital for the school to concern itself with children’s social and emotional development. This duty is now no longer an option.

The aims of the National Curriculum as set out in the1988 Education Reform Act states that a school’s curriculum should:”promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society. ” (Kyriacou,1995)(p. 18) Before elucidating on this question, it is important to know exactly what is meant by social and emotional development. Daniel Goldman defines ‘Emotional Intelligence’ as an ability firstly to understand why we behave the way we do and secondly to control those actions that are inappropriate to the situation. It is also the ability to empathise and understand the emotions of others (Goldman 1996).

Hence, the ultimate aim in this area with regards to child rearing is for a well-balanced and centred human being. The majority of people also generally accept that to have been loved and accepted unconditionally by just one other human being, as a child is enough for them to grow to be normal and well balanced adults. It is therefore very clear that parents have a large influence over this area of development. So, why should schools concern themselves with the social and emotional development of children?

Bandura, one of the main exponents of social learning theories argues that there has been an underestimation of the importance of modelling, particularly with regards to learning social skills (Fontana, 1988). Children have a great tendency to imitate the behaviour of others. This imitation tends to be of people who enjoy status and standing. This starts with parents first. It then includes outside people such as teachers who in the majority of cases for children are the first outside relationship that holds a position of authority.

Teachers act as role models for children. It is not so much what a teacher tells a child but more the way he/she behaves towards the child that has the influence. Bandura held that children learn social behaviour through social contacts. In particular he made a study of aggression. He showed how children who were exposed to adult aggression, were more likely to become aggressive themselves. It was not the fact that these children were exposed to aggression but the fact that the aggressive behaviour seemed to be sanctioned by the adults.

Therefore if this type of behaviour was all right for adults it must be fine for them also. However where the children already had a strong sense of values gained from parents and teachers, they were far less likely to adopt this unconventional behaviour This process by which children learn acceptable and unacceptable behaviour is called socialisation. Socialisation depends on the inter relationship of others and through this process a child forms a view of him or herself.

For the opinion that others have of a particular person and their reaction to that person will affect the way in which that person performs. Parents and teachers therefore hold a great responsibility. Within the classroom there are three forms of social interaction with the individual, which contribute to the whole socialisation of the child. These are interaction with the individual and the teacher, interaction with the whole group and the teacher and finally interaction of the individuals with each other.

If the child is treated as worthwhile and an important human, this helps the child develop a positive self-image. Through his research Stanley Coopersmith has shown self-esteem to be a better indicator than intelligence tests results as to a child’s future academic success. He also found that children were affected by the environment in which they were raised. Those reared in an environment, structured by definite controlled limits tended to develop more self-esteem than those brought up in a more permissive atmosphere. (Borba1978)

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