It has become widely appreciated that infants are
socially interactive from the first days of life. The strong tie that parents
feel for their infants has been referred to as the parent–infant bond. Between
7 and 9 months of age, infants develop separation protest and a negative reaction
to the approach of a stranger. During the second half of the first year, the
attachment of the infant to his or her parents evolves. The primary role of the
attachment figure is the provision of a secure base from which the infant can
begin to explore a wider social environment (Ainsworth et al., 1978). It is within the context of the attachment
relationship that the first Eriksonian state of “basic trust’’ is achieved.
Attachment is the affectional connection that a
baby de-velops with its primary caregiver, most often the mothering person,
which becomes increasingly discriminating and enduring. It is the availability
and responsiveness of the mother or other caretaker that is ultimately the most
influential in determining the strength and safety of the attachment system.
The infant’s attachment behavior is an attempt to bring stability,
predict-ability and consistency to his or her world through drawing the mother
closer. There is an extensive literature on and theories about what occurs in
the mental life of infants and children dur-ing the attachment process. At the
risk of over-simplifying, the most intriguing and clinically useful of these
theories focuses on the process of internalization. Internalization is the
mechanism for building psychological structure. More specifically, it is an
attempt to describe how the child achieves an increasingly stable and
sophisticated view of himself and the world around him. The acquisition of
internal representations of the infant and those who care for him are the
building blocks of identity formation and in-dividuation. The former includes
the capacity for relatedness and cohesiveness of self and the latter refers to
the establishment of autonomy or separateness. Table 7.4 summarizes patterns of
at-tachment. There is an extensive literature on attachment patterns and
subsequent development of psychopathology (Kay, 2005).
By 18 months, play begins to be more directed toward peers, but this does not become the predominant form of play until the third year. Along with the striving toward autonomy that characterizes Erikson’s second stage, there emerge more negative affective interactions within the context of the attachment relationship. This phenomenon is widely recognized within the popular culture as the arrival of the “terrible twos’’. However, the quality of the attachment relationship earlier in life has been shown to predict better preschool social adaptation and a stronger sense of self-worth. Included in it is the observation that patterns of social dominance become established during the third year of life and that insecurely attached preschoolers exhibit more conflict and aggression in the establishment of their social status. These early social strivings are compatible with Erikson’s third stage, which has as its central developmental objective the achievement of initiative within the context of potential failure and guilt.
Gender differences emerge by 2 years of age. Boys
are more aggressive and tend to play with toys that can be manipu-lated. Girls
prefer doll play and artwork. However, boys and girls also engage in both types
of play. By the end of the third year, gender preference in play has emerged,
and the preference is to play with children of the same sex. This preference
remains throughout childhood. Associative play, which refers to play that
involves other children and the sharing of toys but does not include the
adopting of roles or working toward a common goal, becomes more prominent
during the preschool years. Coopera-tive play also emerges along with a strong
tendency to include elements of pretend play into the cooperative sequences.
The cul-tural context begins to shape the nature of social interaction even at
these earliest stages of development.
During the school years, the role of peers in
shaping so-cial behavior becomes predominant. Small groups form, and the
concept of clubs becomes important. Shared activities, including the collection
of baseball cards or doll clothes, are a common
and important characteristic of this period.
Sharing secrets and making shared rules also serve as organizing social
parameters. Social humor develops, and appearance and clothing become an
important social signaling system. It is a time of practicing and developing athletic,
artistic and social skills that are associated with Erikson’s fourth stage of
achievement of industry within the context of a sense of potential
In adolescence and throughout the adult years,
social and sexual relationships play a complex and powerful role in shap-ing
experience. With the onset of strong sexual impulses and in-creasing academic
and social demands in adolescence, the role of peer influences in shaping both
prosocial and deviant behav-ior becomes powerful. Adolescence is the period
during which Erikson described the central objective to be the establishment of
an individual identity, and there has been wide acceptance of this sense of
self-occurring within the context of the social and cul-tural experience. Table
7.5 describes the tasks of adolescence.
The roles of adulthood are complex and focused on
the most basic issues of marriage, parenting, working and dealing with death.
The key to understanding the sequential nature of adult development lies in the
appreciation of both the relative complexity and the inner threat of the tasks
and commitments that must be mastered. The twin anxieties of young adulthood
involve the abilities to commit to one person and one job without sacrificing
autonomy. Prospective studies suggest that by midlife a major developmental
task for women is to achieve traits of in-dependence, rationality and
self-direction. Similarly it becomes equally enriching for men in midlife to
achieve warmth, emo-tional expressiveness and relatedness (Vallant, 1977;
Gutttman, 1977). Individuals who achieve generativity almost always have
evolved to stages of identity formation, achievement of intimacy and career
consolidation. It is important to note that within the various Eriksonian
stages, a selfless generativity reflects a clear capacity to care for and guide
the next generation. The final stage of adult development, achieving integrity,
may be compared to putting a garden to bed for the winter. Reflection on one’s
life facilitates coming to terms with it and accepting the past.
A timeline of social development during the course
of the lifespan is presented in Figure 7.6.