Emotional development

All emotions play an important role in adjustment an individual makes in life. The ability to respond emotionally is present in the newborn infant. The first sign of emotional behaviour is general excitement due to strong stimulation. In 1919 the psychologist claimed that infants are born with three major emotions-love, rage, and fear-which are natural responses to stimuli. After a decade it was suggested that emotional states are generalized in infants and not so specific as psychologists had believed.

It is believed now that newborns show only one emotion, an undifferentiated excitement (also termed distress). The general excitement of the newborn becomes differentiated into simple reactions that suggest pleasures and displeasures. Even at the age of one year, the number of emotions has increased and the child shows joy, anger, fear, jealousy, happiness, anxiety, curiosity and envy. The emotions are present at birth and their development is due to maturation and learning.

Babies’ emotions differentiate as they grow older, proceeding from general to specific. From the first week of life they cry because of hunger, cold, pain, being undressed, and having their sleep interrupted, when their feedings interrupted, when stimulated in a fussy state, and when left alone. A baby’s smile is a basic means of communication that sets in motion a beautiful cycle. At about four months babies start to laugh aloud. They laugh loudly at all sorts things in an excited manner.

In the emotional sphere, the adolescent is capable of directing his emotions at abstract ideas and not just toward people. Many adolescents feel under constant scrutiny from everyone and think that others are as admiring or as critical of them as they are of themselves. They are continually constructing, or reacting to an imaginary audience. They spend hours before the mirror imagining how they look in the eyes of others.


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