The social relations of the community in which the child develops are very important for the formation of a young person. Factors of the social environment in the earlier years of child development mostly act indirectly, through the family and school. The structure of these two environments, the process of adults and interpersonal relationships depend a lot on the general social relations in the wider community to which individual families and individual school groups belong. Therefore, through their attitude towards the child, the influence of the whole society on the mental development of a young person is well manifested. However, these two basic educational environments – the family and the school – can to a certain extent change, distort, or weaken the influence of society on the upbringing of an individual child. This is especially true for the family. In an unjust, exploitative social system, a relatively healthy family can somewhat mitigate the negative impact of unhealthy social relationships. But in an advanced, free, socialist society, a conservative family environment can also to some extent inhibit the positive influence of society on the formation of a young personality.
As a child gets older, especially when he or she reaches adolescence, the direct influence of society on his or her mental development becomes stronger. It grows in parallel with the increasingly intense liberation of the young person from depending on their family. During this process, the youth are looking for new objects of identification, so they find them on an increasingly broad social level. They strive to expand their social living space, so along that line they increasingly fit into the wider community and leave the narrow circle of their family and school.
The basic social factor that affects the mental development of a child is social order. In every society, the family and the school have the task of raising such a person who will adapt as much as possible to the social community and its organization. In an exploitative society, a young person must accept the existence of social classes, the existence of an exploitative minority and an exploited majority as a social norm, as a natural or “divine” law, if they does not want to come into conflict with that society and face all the consequences of their social maladaptation.
In a socialist society, the task of the family and the school is to build a free personality in a young person, a healthy individuality that will contribute to the progress of the community in which they live and the continuous improvement of interpersonal relations throughout their life. But the mentality of the average family and the relations among its members change more slowly than the relations of production and social order. Many of our families are still more or less conservative, which makes it difficult for them to fully fit into advanced social relations. That is why the remnants of the old are encountered both in the attitude towards children and in educational procedures, which today are an anachronism, an absurdity, but are dragged through family upbringing as a meaningless legacy of the past.
In the former patriarchal family, the father was the undisputed authority. Since the society of the time required him to rule over other family members, both over the woman and over the children, and not to cooperate with them on an equal basis, it was natural for the father to be the bearer of an authoritarian regime in the family. This was then manifested in the authoritative upbringing of children. It depended on the father’s personality, his own upbringing, the level of his culture, the mentality of the environment whether the father’s attitude towards children would be harsher or less rigid, but in essence he was always authoritative and could not be different.
The mother was regularly neglected in the patriarchal family, pushed into the background, more or less disenfranchised. In such a situation, she often tried to find compensation for her neglect in excessive sentimentality towards children, in a somewhat painful emotional attitude towards them. This led her to a series of educational procedures that constitute the essence of cuddling. But it does not mean that every mother in a patriarchal family spoiled her child and that each did so equally, but such an upbringing was typical of a mother’s attitude toward her child.
Even today, we encounter authority and spoiling in the attitude of many parents. These are major educational mistakes that are directly aimed against what advanced society considers the goal and content of the proper upbringing of a young person. Once upon a time, parental authority went in favor of an unjust social order; today, parental authority makes it difficult for a child to become a full member of society. It used to be in the interest of society for the family to produce weaklings, invertebrates and conformists by spoiling them; today spoiling in the family directly damages society when it gives it weak and frail personalities.
Although to a lesser extent than the family, the school also suffers from the legacy of the past. The school has not yet completely got rid of the traditional authority of teachers. The psychological abuse of students, which is still present in our schools, is a remnant of the former belief in the inequality of people, the need for power over one another, the right of the stronger to insult and humiliate the weaker. There are also remnants of the past in the insufficient efforts of some teachers and other professional educators to understand the child, to get along emotionally with it and to enable it to fully mature, mentally and socially.
Social changes that inevitably affect the life of the family bring many innovations in education that enable a healthier development of the young person. Greater gender equality, a more natural relationship between spouses, the ability to separate parents who cannot achieve a happy marriage, are some of the moments that allow the child to gain more positive experiences in the family about gender relations than was previously possible. The mother’s employment outside the home reduces the child’s ability to be too attached to the family and to remain involved in creating interpersonal relationships outside the home. The decreasing social isolation of the modern family, the increasingly intensive engagement of all its members in social life enables the child to engage in social activity. The child, relatively early, much earlier than before, has the opportunity to learn the rules of interpersonal relations in the wider community.
Thanks to the advanced social organization, the child has the opportunity to gain a scientific view of the world at school, free from prejudice, religiosity and mysticism. This allows it a healthier life orientation, but sometimes brings it into conflict with a conservative, religious-minded family environment. There are young people in whom emotional conflict arises in this way. It can manifest itself in neurotic disorders. But the conflict between the religious prejudices of the family and the progressive views it has acquired under the influence of the wider community can encourage a young person to separate more quickly and completely from the family and to free themselves from its social backwardness.
The socialist social order enables older children, and especially young people, to take an active part in social life. In the pioneer organization and in various youth organizations, the young person has the opportunity to learn to cooperate with people on a wider social level, to take responsibility for the team, to learn management and also discipline. That is why well-run children’s and youth organizations can contribute a lot to a young person’s social maturation.
The social factor that is largely responsible for the formation of a child’s personality is the economic standard of its family. The physical health of the child, nutrition, and the course of general development depend a lot on the degree of material possibilities. A stunted, frail child suffers more often and more severely than a strong, well-fed child. That is why it suffers more often from various defects, deformations and chronic damage to its physical condition.
In a cramped, overcrowded apartment, where conflicts between family members occur on a daily basis, the child is increasingly exposed to emotional damage because it attends frequent adult quarrels or is directly attacked, which can cause neurotic disorders. A child living in very bad family conditions develops night terrors, bedwetting, and other neurotic reactions.
Average, standard parents can provide much more variety of joys than parents living in poorer conditions. Toys and picture books, attending various events, trips and travels – all this not only makes the child happy, raises its life satisfaction, and thus self-confidence, but also encourages the development of its intelligence, giving it food to enrich it. A child of parents of more modest living conditions, sometimes has a feeling of social deprivation. When such a child sees its friends with various toys or wearing clothes that its parents cannot provide for its, it becomes jealous and feels neglected. The accumulation of such emotions can provoke a specific attitude towards society called social resentment. It consists in the fact that a person carries a certain aggression, intolerance and impartiality towards anyone who has greater material means of subsistence, i.e. a higher standard of living. Social resentment can encourage a person to fight for a more just social order, but it can also make them less social if they turn into a generally repulsive attitude towards people.
Poor economic conditions of development make it difficult for a child to go to school and thus sometimes make it impossible for it to achieve in life what it could achieve according to its innate abilities. That kind of person will work with dissatisfaction from their social status, and an even longer-lasting dissatisfaction will inevitably damage their psyche.
The growth of the culture and level of education of parents and other educators stimulates the intellectual activity of the child, enriches its mental life and refines its emotionality. The more cultured educators are, the more they think and know about raising a child. The growth of a community’s culture also increases society’s general concern for the younger generation. There is a growing recognition of the need to ensure the healthiest possible physical, mental and social development for children and young people. In this regard, social organizations for child care are being established, kindergartens, day-care, summer resorts and other children’s institutions are being set up, parents are being trained for the proper upbringing of children, and school teaching is approaching the interests and needs of the child. Satisfactory education enables parents to help them master the school material, to better understand the child’s needs and to support them in learning and intellectual work in general. A more cultural environment enables healthier development of young people.
The mental development of the child is significantly influenced by the mentality of the environment. It is a series of deeply ingrained attitudes towards life, views, customs, prejudices, ways of thinking, life interests and values that are passed down from generation to generation in a certain environment for decades. In most cases, the child more or less identifies with the mentality of its environment and accepts it. Only in exceptional cases does a person find in themselves so much strength to resist it, to reject it, and to build for themselves a different, usually more positive and more advanced philosophy of life.
The maturation of the human personality is much bothered by the primitiveness of the environment in which it develops. The primitiveness of the mentality consists in the fact that people are prone to various prejudices, that they easily accept the mystical interpretation of various phenomena in nature and society, and are less accessible to a rational, scientific view of the world. Primitiveness is also manifested in the underestimation of intellectual work, in the lack of interest in higher aesthetic values, in the lack of vocabulary, in the absence of richer, refined emotions, in the limitation of life interests; then in a certain vulgarity of behavior, of expression in relation to other people, especially to the other sex. The inability to have full-fledged sexual love is also one of the signs of a person’s primitiveness.
The primitive mentality of the environment hinders the child’s mental development, narrows its life perspectives, does not allow it to get to know many life values, precisely those achievements of the human spirit in science, art and literature that give life a lot of charm. But the primitiveness of the environment damages the young person’s emotional maturation and does not allow them to build so much sensitivity in themselves that they could experience the feelings that give life the greatest value. The supreme achievements of enjoying the beauties of life, of love and creativity, remain inaccessible to primitively educated persons.
A special problem is the religiosity of the environment. A person’s loyalty to the precepts and moral principles of any religion and belief in its dogmas inevitably deforms the human personality to a greater or lesser extent. Religion commands people to believe in certain propositions which cannot be improved by anything. In this way, it prevents them from developing in themselves a critical, rational, scientific form of thinking that forces them to constantly explore the unknown, to reconsider their attitudes, to change their beliefs.
Religion provokes stativity, conservatism of opinion, servility to authority, leads to adaptation to the current situation in the world and develops aversion to any innovation, fear of reform and hatred of everything that is revolutionary. This, of course, deprives a person of the ability to understand the essence of the progress of human society, to support it, to fight for it. This drives them into social stagnation, into individualism, into a lack of interest in social problems, or into an apparent sociality in the form of charity and inappropriate generosity.
Religion imposes rigid moral norms that are often surviving, inappropriate, or completely unnatural. This happens mostly in the sexual realm. Every faith sees in sexuality a force that distracts a person from metaphysics, from mystical fantasies, from illusions about the afterlife. That is why every religious system considers sexuality as its worst enemy, so it tries to restrain, capture and, if possible, completely destroy it. This is manifested in the regulations of sexual morality which restrict sexual freedom and much of it is declared inadmissible. Strictly religious upbringing makes it difficult to cope with sexual life. Such upbringing instills in children and youth a fear of sexuality, distrust of it, tepidness in front of the opposite sex, inability to fully sexually surrender to one’s friend in love and marriage. Then sexuality is distorted, it remains incomplete, it does not provide real pleasure, it causes conflicts in the emotional life, so the person becomes neurotic, mentally tense and disordered.
A very religiously educated young man does not dare to approach his girlfriend sexually because he considers it a sin, although the girl shows full readiness for sexual intercourse. In it, natural sexual desire and religious prejudices clash. As he does not know how to find a way out of this conflict, the young man suffers from a series of psychogenic disorders: he has a constant headache, sleeps poorly, has difficulty concentrating while learning, and has a feeling that he does not remember anything. When he got married he was impotent for a long time. The consequences of years of repression of sexuality could not suddenly disappear. Although it was no longer a “sin” to enter into close physical contact with a woman, the young man’s sexuality remained restrained. Only psychotherapy freed him from the shackles of neuroticism and enabled him to express himself in full force.
An analogous case is that of a young woman whose extremely religious upbringing restrained all manifestations of femininity, prevented her from getting used to men, instilled in her the belief that everything sexual is essentially low, dirty and unworthy of a man. One day, however, she married. She imagined she loved her husband. But until recently, the religious upbringing proved to make that woman’s sexuality severely disabled. Although her husband tried hard to sexually conquer, arouse and satisfy her, she remained cold, passive and uninterested in intimate contact, she could not love him in a full-fledged way. True love necessarily involves sexual desire for a loved one. If this is not the case, love remains incomplete, and then complete sexual merging with a partner is impossible.
Religion should be excluded from the upbringing of a child. Only a dialectical-materialist view of the world is real and natural, so only on the basis of such a philosophy of life can a completely healthy and socially valuable person be built. The most negative thing that religious education builds in a young person is moral, above all sexual hypocrisy. It consists of severe psychic scotomas, of deep insincerity towards oneself, which then manifests itself in hymnal behavior towards other people. The essence of moral hypocrisy is the formal maintenance and constant emphasis on the importance of religious dogmas in interpersonal relations, especially in the relationship of the sexes. But in addition, the opposite is being done covertly, claiming to oneself and others that vulgar, antisocial and even criminal satisfaction of one’s instinctive urges is morally perfectly fine!
The social maturation of the young person is greatly hampered by the petty-bourgeois environment in which the young person develops. It is a mentality of small-scale circles characterized by conservatism, narrow-mindedness of life, limited spiritual aspects, pronounced selfishness, disinterest in the progress of society, social isolation, religious stupidity, political chauvinism and emotional shallowness. A child who develops in such an environment will find it difficult to grow into a broad-minded, emotionally mature, mentally rich, socially advanced, adaptable and healthy person. It is much more likely that a young person will identify with their petty-bourgeois environment and take on its spiritual reticence, shallowness and primitiveness.
Due to the rapid urbanization of the population, which keeps pace with the forced industrialization, many children who have begun to develop in the countryside are moving to the city. Here they have to adapt to a completely new, hitherto unknown environment. Older children usually encounter greater difficulties than young children. As more is required of students in urban schools than in rural areas, children in urban areas regularly perform less well than in rural schools. Rural children have, on average, a poorer vocabulary than urban ones, and their speech is burdened with dialect and many provincialisms. It is not uncommon for a former village child in a city school to be ridiculed by its new friends. This discourages it even more and can cause various emotional disturbances.
A 10-year-old girl, who had so far lived in the countryside and was an excellent student, ran into trouble at the city school when she began to speak in her dialect. When the teacher impatiently and ironically corrected her several times, the children started making fun of her. The girl cried every time, one day she started to stutter. Now the ridicule of the class intensified, and the girl reacted to it with complete silence. She did not answer any more questions (psychogenic mutism). Only our intervention at school, the teacher’s psycho-hygiene lessons, the parents’ counseling and the student’s psychotherapy helped her to adapt to the new environment and to speak in a normal way at school again.
And young people are sometimes mentally endangered due to the transition from the village to the city. The false “charms” of the big city easily blind the naïve rural youth. They often see the culmination of life’s endeavors in some vain parties of the city, in nightlife, in drunkenness, in superficial and irresponsible sexual life, so they uncritically indulge in such “pleasures”. It exposes young people to various disappointments, dissatisfaction with themselves, and even psychological shocks, such as sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and the like. Such experiences can seriously damage the mental life of youth and inhibit their emotional maturation.
Dormitory students who came to the city from the countryside are especially endangered, so not only do they fundamentally change their environment, but they also lose their emotional support from their families. They are exposed in the sensitive years of puberty and adolescence to a relatively cold educational process in dormitories, or ruthless exploitation by various private individuals. Many students living in dormitories, who work for private employers are often still “apprentices” in the old and infamous sense of the word. On average, they eat worse than their peers who live with their families, often live in a completely unhygienic way, are overburdened with physical work that exhausts them, and they are often abused, especially mentally. From there, it becomes understandable that the health condition of dormitory students is on average worse than the health of other youth, and their behavior shows more shortcomings.
Rural female youth, who also lost contact with their families by going to the city, face the danger of being sexually exploited in the city. Naïve young girls to whom poor upbringing in a peasant family has not provided either sufficient emotional maturity or a realistic attitude towards sexuality or knowledge about it easily fall under the influence of irresponsible young men. If they are brought up without much love they will easily fall prey to a man’s seductive flattery and false promises; if they are intellectually less developed, they are very suggestible and do not perceive the possibility of the consequences of their sexual adventure. If they were raised in an authoritative way at home, they will consider sexual promiscuity to be the ultimate achievement in freeing themselves from the shackles of parental authority. These are the paths that lead a girl into sexual vulgarity and disappointment, into psychosexual deformation, and from there it only takes one more step to prostitution.