Social Development

By nature, people are social creatures—it is evolutio-narily adaptive that, during all periods of life, interaction with others occurs. From infancy to adulthood, however, the way in which the interaction takes place, as well as with whom, changes. During infancy, interactions occur primarily with parents and family members. During childhood the frequency of interactions with same-age peers increases, though parental support is still important. Adolescence marks the increased centrality of interactions with peers and the emergence of romantic relationships. Both of these events forecast the progression into adulthood, during which individuals become autonomous from parents and often begin families of their own.

The developing person is affected by multiple socializing forces, including biological, parental, peer, and cultural factors. The results of these forces include one's views of the self and others, one's personality, and one's behaviors (e.g., aggression) when interacting with others. Moreover, these socializing forces and the complex array of outcomes show both normative trends and interindividual variability across development.

Biological and familial factors are important socializing agents in infancy, while peer relationships become more important in childhood and adolescence. This is not meant to imply, however, that other socializing agents play no role during certain periods of development. Similarly, the focus in this article on particular topics during only one period of development should not be taken to mean that these topics are not salient aspects of social development during other periods.

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