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The Beginnings of a Child’s Emotional Life

  • Post category:Emotions
  • Reading time:10 mins read

What Are the First Emotions a Child Experiences?

According to Watson J. B.: Psychological care of infant and child, three basic emotions are already present in a newborn: fear, anger and love. Subsequent research on affective reactions in early life has shown that Watson is wrong. The emotional reactions of the newborn express only the general state of pleasure or discomfort, satisfaction or dissatisfaction. In the first case, the child is calm and asleep or turns to the source of the stimulus because it accepts it. In the second case, it cries and activates the musculature to a greater extent, which is a stronger unpleasant stimulus, because it repels such external influences. In these reactions, individual-specific emotions cannot yet be distinguished. The rejection reaction occurs when the child is exposed to sudden and intense stimuli when it feels pain, when its digestion is disturbed, or if there is any disturbance in maintaining the internal functional balance of the child’s organism (homeostasis). When this balance is established, because the child is full, clean, coated, or treated in an affectively warm way, a pleasure reaction occurs.

How the Child’s Brain Maturation Affects Its Emotional Development?

The newborn is said to be a subcortical being because the cerebral cortex has not yet taken the lead over lower, more primitive brain functions. That is why all its functions are primitive, dispersed, general, without any finer differentiation, and so are its emotional reactions. Since the cerebral cortex, the seat of human consciousness, does not yet participate in the child’s first emotional reactions, it is unlikely that its brain can register them, that is, remember them. That is why they do not enter the inventory of life experience, neither conscious nor unconscious. It is only in parallel with the maturation and activation of the cerebral cortex that certain specific emotions begin to stand out from the group of affective reactions.

In What Order Do the Emotions of the Child Appear?

Bridges K. M.: A genetic theory of the emotions, examinations showed the order in which emotional reactions occur. Already in the 1st month of life, the child shows extreme dissatisfaction, which is manifested in crying. Gesell A.: An atlas of infant behavior, argues that at that age, an infant cries differently if it is hungry, when something hurts, or if it generally feels reluctant. At 3 months, the child shows pleasure when caressed, carried or played with. By the end of the 6th month, three negative emotions appear in children at intervals of an average of 1 month: anger at 4 months, disgust at 5 months, fear at 6 months. In the second half of the first year, distinct joy at 10 months and emotional affection at 12 months are differentiated from the general reaction of pleasure. At 15 months the child is capable of being jealous, and at 21 months it expresses cheerfulness and is in a joking mood.

How Do Emotions Begin to Differentiate in a Child?

Constant sequence in the extraction of individual emotions from the primary general affective reaction indicates that this process largely depends on the gradual development of the nervous system. But the process of adapting the child to the environment, i.e. learning and gaining experience, inevitably contributes to this as well. It causes the child to project individual feelings onto more and more different objects, people and life situations. Already in the earliest childhood, individual differences in the intensity and quality of emotional reactions are noticed among children. Thus there are newborns who are more irritable and others less so, there are those with faster, more frequent and slower, more accurate reactions. This can probably be attributed to their innate differences in the susceptibility of the nervous system to various stimuli. The individual set, of this way of reacting of the nervous system, is called temperament.

How Do a Child’s Emotional Reactions Mature?

Initially, the child reacts only to events that are physically related to it. The older the child, the more it reacts to the experiences it can imagine; it now anticipates the events it expects with emotional reactions. Along with the expansion of the child’s interests and the increase in the number of its activities, the areas in which the child reacts with certain emotions, expand. The general mental maturation of a child brings with it more and more situations that have emotional value for it. The first affective reactions are regularly very lively, explosive, but short-lived. Over time, they become less turbulent but more enduring. This contributes a lot to the child’s richer life experience, which teaches it that on many occasions it is useful for it to alleviate its feelings, to inhibit them or even suppress them.

What Is the Relationship Between the Frequency of Crying of the Child and Its Emotional State?

The first way a child expresses a feeling of discomfort is by screaming or crying. The older a child gets, the less often it cries, because it learns to solve the difficulties that lead it to cry, in a more successful way. However, in children of the same age, large individual differences in the frequency of crying during the day are observed. There are infants who do not cry even for a full hour in 24 hours, but there are those who cry for more than 4 hours a day.

What Are the Most Often Causes That Make a Child React Emotionally With a Cry?

There are different causes of a child’s crying. An infant usually cries because it is hungry, then because it feels tightness in its stomach, because its stomach hurts, it has no stool, it is cold, because it is sick or tired. In these cases, crying is an expression of a disturbed balance in the functions of its organism. But the child also cries because it has lost its balance in its relationship with the environment, for example, when it finds itself in a foreign environment or is separated from its mother.

What Are the Most Often Causes That Make a Child React Emotionally With a Cry?

After the 2nd year, the causes of the child’s crying are more emotional in nature. Then the child usually cries because adults impose certain norms of behavior that are at odds with the child’s wishes or forbid it some activity in which the child is very interested. Thus, Landreth C.: The psychology of early childhood respondents, in her study on the causes of crying in young children (2-3 years), cried for the following reasons:

At Home

  • Conflict in play with adults 21%
  • Conflict in the game with the brothers 14%
  • Eating conflict 13%
  • Personal injury 12%
  • Sleep Conflict 8%
  • Fear conflict overdressing 6%
  • Emergency conflict 6%
  • Bathing conflict 6%
  • Conflict with other children 4%
  • Physical obstacles in the game 3%

In Kindergarten

  • Child assault 33%
  • Attack on child property 25%
  • Injury 15%
  • Prevention by another child 13%
  • Physical obstacles in the game 8%
  • Conflict with adults 3%
  • Fear 3%

How Do the Child’s Emotions Contribute to Improving Its Behavior?

In most cases, the cause of a child’s cry is a disturbance of its social balance, i.e. the child most often cries because it has come into conflict with the people around it. Then crying is an expression of its dissatisfaction, but it is also a means by which the child is released from the emotional tension in which it found itself. Therefore, it is not necessary to try to calm the child as soon as possible and stop it from crying, if its tears are an expression of the child’s conflict with the justified demands of the parents. When a child cries because it has experienced the consequences of its mistake, i.e. some punishment, failure, etc., it must experience this emotional crisis to the end. The child must feel the negativity of its activities to be motivated to correct its behavior in a more positive way.

When Should Parents Be Careful Not to Bring Their Child Into a Situation of Emotional Conflict?

The parents should not make the child cry when it is not necessary. This means that the child should not be brought into such emotional conflicts which are a result of the parent’s mistakes in dealing with the child, and not the child’s defiance, negligence, or selfishness. The results of the Landreth C.: The psychology of early childhood test indicate that the adult environment mistreats the child because it is the most common reason for a child to cry. If it is brought up properly, a child’s conflicts with the parents are an exception, not a rule.

How a Child’s Emotions Affect Its Skills and Abilities?

The intimate connection of emotions with other psychic functions is already observed in childhood. The younger the child, the more complete is its behavior, imbued with emotional reactions. Thus, the experience of success, makes children’s motor skills more lively, and depression and other negative emotions, cause slower movements. In the development of speech, the child classifies under the same name the things that have the same emotional meaning for it. Among the various stimuli, the child notices those, that are in line with its current mood. The more it is overwhelmed by positive feelings, the better it remembers, that is, the easier it is to reproduce memorized material. The child’s judgment depends on whether the phenomenon to be judged is experienced with a sense of comfort or discomfort. The success of a child in intellectual work depends on its emotional contact with the examiner, but also on the general affective climate in which the child lives. The influence of emotional factors on other psychological functions of the child is best manifested in the learning process. Strong positive emotions can motivate a child to learn so much, that it quickly masters material that will be adopted much more slowly and worse if the emotional stimulus remains lukewarm or even negative. It is known, for example, that a schoolchild, learns a subject with as much diligence as the teacher knows how to interest it in it. A child’s success in school is only partly a reflection of his abilities, the pedagogical skills of teachers, and emotional relationships in the family also have a significant effect on this.