People go through several changes over the course of their lives, from the time of their conception to the time they die. Even though some are normal and expected, they can lead to challenges that necessitate extra assistance to manage. Professionals are able to identify potential problems and offer early interventions, which can lead to better results. Developmental psychologists can work with people of all ages to treat issues and support growth. This study focuses on social-emotional development problem. Negative early experiences can harm behavioral, cognitive, social-emotional developments. Social-emotional development is a child’s experience, management and expression of emotions and ability to create rewarding and positive relationships. These aspects can be destroyed by negative early experiences that can lead to the inability of a child to succeed academically and in relationships, and have a good health. The paper focuses on two development periods, which are infancy and early childhood, in the life of Jane Noel, a 7-year old girl with inadequate development of self-identity.
Jane Noel is a primary school student aged 7 years. She seems a normal child but she has one key social-emotional developmental problem with regard to her self-identity. Inadequate development of self-identity leads to poor self-esteem in young children and adolescent, which is associated with school underachievement, depression or suicide, risk-taking behaviors, and substance use (Sanders, 2017; White & Walker, 2018). Although she does not abuse drugs, she has low self-esteem and she fears speaking in front of people, including her classmates. The behavior of Noel can be understood by looking at different stages of development of an infant.
Noel at Infancy
Environmental conditions affect emotional and social development of infants. Infants and young children require consistent interaction and provision of basic needs to develop well and robustly. Failure to meet these needs leads to the failure of children to develop the ability to bond properly, both socially and emotionally (Alakortes et al. 2017). Therefore, children who grew up in orphanages or under different foster parents might lack the ability to have adequate social-emotional development. For example, Noel lost her parents in a road accident when she was 3 years old and had to be raised in a foster home with five other children. Even though Noel has loving foster parents, she cannot develop these important skills and abilities because she cannot learn again to bond, trust, and show affection and empathy toward her foster parent and their other children.
The early years of life are a great time for establishment of healthy development. However, it is also a great time of vulnerability. Evidence has shown that negative early experiences can have a negative impact on social-emotional development of children. Young children are susceptible to biosocial-emotional development because in their infant-toddler years, the psychological and biological plasticity is at its highest point (Alakortes et al. 2017). Therefore, the brains of an infant can be influenced by any experience, whether positive or negative.
Noel’s problem did not begin at the first stage of infancy because this is a stage a child has not established a bond with anyone, including her primary caregiver. John Bowlby came up with an attachment theory to explain the stages of attachments (Bretherton, 1992). The theory postulates that there are preattachment phase, attachment-in-making phase, clear-cut attachment phase, and formation of reciprocal relationships stage. The preattachment stage begins at birth to when a child is about 6 weeks old, and it is the time the youngster mainly uses his/her automatic reflexes such as crying, rooting, and grasping. These reflexes motivate caregivers to get attached to infants as they make them feel needed. However, at this stage, children are not attached to any one and so they would not mind who cares for them. The children might or might not respond to the interaction with their caregivers and other people, but the interactions are important for emotional, mental, and social growth.
Noel’s problem did not begin at the second stage because by then children have not established any bond with their caregivers. The second stage is the attachment-in-making stage; it begins when a child is about 6 weeks old to when he/she is about 8 months old. The stage is the period infants react differently to caregivers and strangers. They also start to build trust, but even though they are beginning to recognize their primary caregivers, they are not distressed when left by them, as they have not bonded with them.
The problem could have begun at the third stage because children have established a bond with their caregivers. During this stage, the clear-cut attachment begins when the child is aged 6 to 8 months to when he/she is aged 18 to 24 months, and by then they have established solid affections. Children at this stage want to maintain contact with their caregivers and so any separation can lead to anxieties. For instance, a child will cry when his/her dad leaves for work. However, it is less likely that Noel’s problem began at this stage because by then she was still living with her parents.
Noel’s problem probably began later at stage four when attachment is well established, starting from 18 to 24 months and beyond. At this stage, infants are able to negotiate with caregivers when they need assistance or anything. They will express their feelings and desires with the view that their caregivers will meet them (Hooper, Tomek, & Newman, 2012). Noel probably had a strong bond with her biological parents, but when the bond was terminated, her developmental problem set in. Even though foster parents could show love to the youngster, Noel already knew her biological parents and so found it difficult to relate well with the newly found caregivers.
Noel is currently 7 years old and has a problem with her identity for the last 4 years since the death of her parents through a road accident. She does not remember her parents well but it is possible she had a strong bond considering she was aged three at the time. Even though she loves her foster parents, Noel does not identify with them. The lack of identity has made her lose self esteem and as a result, she does not like being at any center of focus. Noel prefers being alone and far away from spotlight. Her lack of self-confidence has made her distance herself from others, and this has led to her academic failures. She seems to distrust everyone as she thought her parents ran away from her. Such perceptions have led her to believe that she is not good in anything including her looks. She is thus dealing with her problem by distancing herself from others and so it is difficult for her to deal with the situation effectively.
Self-confidence is necessary for one to succeed in life. As such, most people with high self-esteem are high achievers (Lew & Harklau, 2018). It is thus important for Noel to establish self-esteem especially because she is still young. Noel’s foster parents, teachers, and other people who are close to her can help her develop her self-confidence and identity by taking several actions. First, they should avoid blaming, criticizing, and shaming Noel. In normal situations, relationships between people are characterized by judgment and criticism, which can lead to feelings of shame (Peixoto & Almeida, 2010). Therefore, those close to Noel should avoid making any comments that can exacerbate her low self-esteem and as a result impair her self-actualization.
Secondly, people should accept Noel as she is. As such, attempts should not be made to change who she is, as doing so would farther worsen her self-esteem. Therefore, her close associates should accept her personality, including accepting her traits. Thirdly, her loved ones should praise her genuinely. In any case, there is need to speak to her genuine words of appreciation to show her love and encourage her to do what she does. Moreover, appreciation will make Noel feel valued and as result value herself. Lastly, people around her should avoid perfectionism. Notably, perfectionism is not good for strengthening one’s self esteem as it makes one have a sense of inability to perform as required. Furthermore, perfectionism makes a person fear and avoid making mistakes (Lew & Harklau, 2018). Therefore, people closer to Noel should appreciate her attempts even when she fails to achieve her goals. She should be made to feel valued in spite of her mistakes so that she can have confidence to try once more.
Negative early experiences can harm behavioral, cognitive, social-emotional developments of an infant. Therefore, Noel’s problem is attributable to her experience at her young age. She lost her parents at a younger age and she has had difficulty establishing a bond with her foster parents. The loss of her parents made her feel unloved because she could not understand why her biological parents left her. The thought led her to lose her self-esteem and identity, and she cannot find this through her foster parents because they have not bonded. Noel can be assisted to deal with her problem by helping her feel valued and loved. She should not be criticized and should be supported and appreciated as these actions will make her love herself and accept who she is. Her parents, teachers, and other people close to her should work on building her self-esteem.
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