This article throws light upon the four main stages in social development of a child. The stages are: 1. In the First Two Years 2. From Two to Six Years 3. From Six to Twelve Years 4. In Adolescence.
Stage # 1. In the First Two Years:
As said above, the baby becomes aware of adults around him at one month. In the second month, the infant smiles in response to the attention of adults and is able to distinguish the mother, according to some psychologists. In the 3rd month, babies stop crying when talked to. They cry when a person leaves them.
During the fourth month, the baby makes anticipatory adjustments to being lifted. He attends to the human face, looks in the direction of the person who leaves him. He smiles in response to the person who speaks to him and laughs, when being played with.
By 5th or 6th month, the baby reacts differently to smiling and scolding and shows negative responses to strangers. When, he is in the eighth or ninth month, he attempts to imitate the speech of others, by repeating syllables heard. He also copies simple acts and gestures observed in others.
When 12 months old, he can refrain from doing things in response to “no-no”. He exhibits fear and dislike of strangers by crying or drawing away when a stranger approaches. At the age of eighteen months, the child shows negativism in the form of contrariness and stubborn resistance to the demands of adults. It may be noted that social reaction to other babies lag behind the social reactions to adults.
In the first year, the most intense social relationship that the baby develops is between himself and the mother. The mother satisfies not only his biological needs, but also his need for affection. The separation from mother, done by her death or otherwise can be very damaging or traumatic for the child. In the first 2 year, the child’s play is self-centred. He wants to do what he wants to, at his own time and in his own way. He is generally non-cooperative and has to be handled patiently, carefully and tactfully.
Imitation, timidity and shyness, rivalry, the desire for possession and manipulation of things; belonging to others are some early forms of social behaviour.
Stage # 2. From Two to Six Years:
During this period, the child progresses from being relatively unsocial to a distinctly socialised individual. He learns to adapt to others and to co-operate in group play activities. He is resistive up to the age of three years, but becomes co-operative and friendly and seeks the approval of adults by four years or so. He likes to share or exchange his toys with some of his friends. He begins to regard himself as a member of a group, shows pride about his parents and boasts about other members of his family.
His play no longer remains a solitary play. The play activity has, at once, qualities of a parallel play, an associative play and a .co-operative play, the last type of play activity becoming dominant when he is in the fifth or sixth year. Play with other children helps him to adjust himself to group life, to give and take – and to share his possessions with his playmates.
Some of the important forms of social behaviour during this period are negativism rivalry, quarrelling, teasing and bullying, co-operation, sympathy and social approval. If we want that the child should develop attitudes of cooperation, sympathy and social approval, he should have under contacts in a good nursery school.
Stage # 3. From Six to Twelve Years:
At six, most children start going to school. He comes in contact with other children. Hence, he enjoys playing with more than two or in three companions and prefers group to individual games. This period is marked by a greater degree of social awareness and ability to grasp, and conform to, the rules and customs of the school and society. His behaviour is largely influenced by his group.
Towards the end of this period in the 10th, 11th, and 12th years, the child enters the peak of ‘gang age’ with gang loyalties and friendships, rules and regulations and often comes in conflict with other gangs, parents and teachers. The manifestations of “gang age” are the increasing interest in team games and group activities, an eagerness to join a group or a gang and a pride in being looked upon as one of its members; a group consciousness, an unwillingness – to play with members of the opposite sex and some sort of secrecy surrounding all of the group activities.
Stage # 4. In Adolescence:
During adolescence, the individual learns to react to the social group in much the same manner as he will be required to react during his mature years; in speech, dress, recreational activities in relations between the sexes and in attitudes toward government, social affairs and religion.
The adolescent becomes socially conscious. He feels, he is duty-bound to make some contribution to the social organisation that prevails. His social behaviour, specially in early adolescence is marked by conventionality and suggestibility. The later adolescence is marked by self-assertiveness and snobbishness or even rudeness. Group loyalty becomes very pronounced during this period.
It is not confined only to the gang: it extends to the school, the community and to the nation. Family pride and loyalty are also very well- marked. Co-operation reaches its peak during adolescence. The adolescent boy or girl learns to sub-ordinate his own interests and to work for the group to which he belongs.
Adolescence is a period of strong friendships or of hostility. It is a period of strong emotions; these emotions permeate all social relations. The adolescent hankers after peerage status and feels frustrated, when he is denied that. He develops sympathy for the weak and interest in various social causes. He exhibits a strong desire to reform others and is critical of social injustice in the community.
One of the important aspects of social development in adolescence is the development of friendships. Studies have shown in adolescence, friendships are not determined by propinguity. Adolescents tend to choose friends of their own age and mental status and from the same socio-economic status as their family belongs to. It has also been seen that friendships, which have been based on common interests, goals and needs tend to last longer than the friendships made in early childhood.