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Social and Personality Development in the Preschool Years
Chapter 8
Robert S. Feldman
Psychosocial Development
Erikson’s first stage:
Autonomy vs. shame and doubt (18 mo. to 3 yrs)
Become more independent & autonomous if parents encourage exploration
Restriction & overprotection lead to shame & doubt
Psychosocial Development
Erikson’s second stage:
Initiative vs. guilt (3 – 6 years)
Similar to autonomy, initiative is promoted by parents encouraging it
When children take initiative & fail, may experience guilt of unintended consequences
Self- Concept
Identity, set of beliefs about what we are like as individuals
Preschooler self-concept
Not “accurate”
More optimistic
Overestimate abilities

Cultural Influence
View of self culturally bound

Collectivist Orientation: View of self family tied, interdependent

Individualistic Orientation: View of self individually directed
Developing Racial and Ethnic Awareness Developmental Diversity
Racial and ethnic identity begins to formalize
Differences in skin color noticed early in life
Cultural meaning attached to differences comes later
Developmental Diversity
By age 3-4 years many preschoolers:
Differentiate races

Mirror social attitudes
Race Dissonance
Minority children indicate preferences for majority values or people

Result of powerful influence of dominant white culture

NOT disparagement of own racial characteristics
Ethnic Identity
Emerges somewhat later than racial identity
Usually less conspicuous than race
Preschoolers who were bilingual, speaking both Spanish and English, are more apt to be aware of ethnic identity
Gender Identity
Sense of being male or female

Well established by preschool years

By age 2 years:
Consistently label themselves and others as male and female
Gender Constancy
Kohlberg (1966)
By age 4-5, children develop understanding of gender constancy

Belief that people are permanently males or females because of fixed, unchangeable biological factors

Gender schemas occur well before gender constancy is understood
Gender Constancy
Gender and Play
Differences noted in play of male and female preschoolers
More rough and tumble play
Same sex playmate preference around 3
Organized games and role playing
Same sex playmate preference around 2

Gender Expectations
Expectations about gender-appropriate behavior more rigid and gender-stereotyped than adults up to 5 years

Gender outweighs ethnic variables
Gender Roles
Preschoolers expect boys to demonstrate:

Gender Roles
Preschoolers expect girls to demonstrate:

Theoretical Perspectives on Gender
Inborn, genetic factors produce gender differences
Gender differences result of moving through series of stages related to biological urges

Social learning
Gender related behavior learned from observations of others’ behaviors
Gender schemes form lens through which world is viewed
A Move to More Flexible Roles
Sandra Bem and androgynous children

Encouraged to follow gender roles that encompass characteristics thought typical of both sexes

Male-appropriate and female-appropriate traits
Preschoolers’ Social Lives
Increased interactions with the world at large
Peers with special qualities
Relationships based on companionship, play, entertainment
Friendship focused on completion of shared activities
Preschooler Friendships
View of friendship evolves with age and older preschoolers
See friendship as continuing state and stable relationship
Begin to understand concepts such as trust, support, shared interest

Playing by the Rules: The Work of Play

Children are interested in maintaining smooth social relationships with friends

Children try to avoid and/or solve disagreements
Learning to Play… Playing to Learn
Play is critical to the overall development of young children
Changes over time
Becomes more sophisticated, interactive, cooperative
Gradually more dependent on social and cognitive skills
Some children are more readily liked by peers than others
Popular children
Physical attractiveness, outgoing, social and speaking more, smiling more, empathetic
Unpopular children
Aggressive, disruptive, imposing, less cooperative, less turn-taking
Categorizing Play
Functional play: simple, repetitive activities typical of 3-year-olds that may involve objects or repetitive muscular movements
Constructive play: activities in which children manipulate objects to produce or build something
Building…inside and out!
By age four, children engage in constructive play that:
Tests developing cognitive skills
Practices motor skills
Facilitates problem solving
Teaches cooperation
Social Aspects of Play
Parallel Play
Children play with similar toys, in a similar manner, but do not interact with each other
Onlooker Play
Children simply watch each other play
Solitary Play
Children play by themselves
Social Aspects of Play
Associative Play
Children interact with one another in groups of two or more
Children share or borrow toys or materials, but do not do the same thing
Cooperative Play
Children play with one another, take turns, play games, and devise contests

Make-Believe Play
Nature of pretend, or make-believe, play changes during the preschool period:
Becomes increasingly unrealistic and more imaginative
Change from using only realistic objects to using less concrete ones
Preschoolers’ Family Lives
Increased number of single parent headed families
10% in 1960, 21% in 2001
35% Hispanic families, 55% African-American families
Still most children do not experience upheaval and turmoil
Strong, positive relationships within families encourage relationships with other children
Effective Parenting: Teaching Desired Behavior
Exhibit controlling, rigid, cold style
Value strict, unquestioning obedience

Set firm, clear, consistent limits
Allow disagreement and use reasoning, explanations, consequences
Supportive parenting
Effective Parenting: Teaching Desired Behavior
Uninvolved in children’s lives
Set few limits
Involved with children
Place little or no limits or control on children’s behavior
Does parental discipline style result in differences in child behavior?
See how they grow…
Authoritarian parents = withdrawn, socially awkward children
Permissive parents = dependent, moody, low social skilled children
Uninvolved parents = emotionally detached, unloved, and insecure children
Authoritative parents = independent, friendly, self-assertive, and cooperative.
Child Abuse and Psychological Maltreatment
Five children are killed daily by caretakers

140,000 are physically injured

Three million are abused or neglected annually in U.S.

Range of Abuse and Maltreatment of Children in the US
True or False?
Child abuse can occur in any home or child care setting!
Stressful environments increase likelihood for abuse

Single-parent homes

High levels of marital discord

Substance abuse
What else?
Vague demarcation between permissible and impermissible forms of physical violence
Line between “spanking” and “beating” is not clear
Spankings begun in anger can escalate into abuse
Privacy of child care setting
Unrealistic expectations
Other Factors
Children are more likely to be victimized when they are:
Resistant to control
Slow to adapt to new situations
Overly anxious
Frequent bedwetters
Developmentally delayed
What do the experts tell us about causality?

CYCLE-OF-VIOLENCE HYPOTHESIS argues that abuse and neglect children suffer predisposes them as adults to be abusive
But the vast majority of abused children do NOT grow up to become abusers.
Psychological Maltreatment
Not all abuse is physical
Psychological maltreatment
Occurs when parents or other caretakers harm children’s behavioral, cognitive, emotional, or physical functioning
May take form of neglect in which parents may ignore or act emotionally unresponsive
Not as easily identified without outward physical signs

What are consequences of psychological maltreatment?
Some children survive and grow into psychologically healthy adults
Others suffer long-term damage
Low self-esteem, depression, suicide
Underachievement in school
Criminal behavior
Abuse and Brain Development: A Tragic Relationship
Brains of victims undergo permanent changes
Reductions in size of amygdala and hippocampus in adulthood
Changes due to overstimulation of the limbic system
Resilient Children
Ability to overcome circumstances that place child at high risk for psychological and/or physical damage
Exhibit ability to overcome circumstances that place child at high risk for psychological and/or physical functioning

Werner (1995)
Resilient infants
Temperaments that evoke responses from wide variety of caregivers
Affectionate, easy going, good-natured
Easily soothed as infants
Able to evoke whatever support available in environment
Resilient children
Socially pleasant, outgoing, good communication skills
Relatively intelligent, independent
Becoming an Informed Consumer of Development
Disciplining Children
For most children in Western cultures, authoritative parenting works best
Spanking is seldom or never an appropriate discipline technique
Tailor parental discipline to the characteristics of the child and the situation
Use routines to avoid conflict
Moral Development
Moral development = children’s reasoning about morality, their attitudes toward moral lapses, and their behavior when faced with moral issues.
Several approaches have evolved
Theoretical Approaches
4 to 7 years
Initial stage of moral development
Rules seen as invariant, unchangeable, and beyond child’s control and/or influence
Intentions not considered
Believe in immanent justice (immediate punishment for infractions)
Theoretical Approaches
7 to 10 years
Become more social and learn the rules
Play according to shared conception of the rules

Theoretical Approaches
Beginning at 10 years
Become fully aware that rules may and can be modified if people playing agree
Social Learning Approaches to Morality

Focus on how environment produces prosocial behavior
Moral conduct learned through reinforcement and modeling
Do as I say…or as I do?
Preschoolers more apt to model behavior of warm, responsive, competent, high prestige adults and peers
More than Mimicking
Children do more than simply mimic unthinkingly
By observing moral conduct, children are reminded of:
Society’s norms about importance of moral behavior as conveyed by significant others
Connections between particular situations and certain kinds of behavior
Empathy and Moral Behavior
Empathy lies at heart of some kinds of moral behavior
Roots of empathy grow early
Emotional Self-Regulation
Preschool children improve in emotional control
Around age 2,
Talk about feelings and engage in regulation strategies
Develop more effective strategies and sophisticated social skills, learn to better cope with negative emotions
Learn to use language to express wishes
Become increasingly able to negotiate with others

Intentional injury or harm to another person; relatively stable trait
Early preschool years, aggression
Often addressed at attaining desired goal
Declines through preschool years as does frequency and average length of episodes
Extreme and sustained aggression is cause of concern
Kinds of Aggression
Instrumental aggression
Motivated by desire to obtain a concrete goal
Higher in boys than girls
Relational aggression
Intended to hurt another person’s feelings through non-physical means
Higher in girls than boys

Relational Aggression
Children and Violence
What does this research tell us about children who live with violence?
The One-Eyed Monster?
Effects of Video Game Playing on Children
14% of children 3 & younger play
50% of children 4-6 play
Rewards for aggressive behavior?
How graphic is the violence?
Violence against people or objects?
In adults, video games associated with higher levels of aggression.