Developing Emotions And Sociability

It is difficult to conceive of early social development apart from the emotions that color social interactions in infancy. Emotions have been called the language of infancy, and infants as "emotion detectors" (Tronick, 2001). Infants signal their emerging social discriminations and preferences according to which partners can most readily evoke smiles and cooing, and adults become engaged in social play with babies because of the animated, exuberant responses that they receive. Caregivers attune to the preemptory sound of the infant cry and the hunger, pain, or startled fear it reflects, and the baby's developing sensitivity to the emotional expressions of others reflects achievements in an emerging understanding of people. In short, the study of "socioemo-tional" development reflects how interwoven are the processes of early social and emotional growth, each of which provides a window into psychological development.

Although it is common to view emotions as disorganizing, unregulated influences on infant behavior, it is more appropriate to regard their influence as both organizing and disorganizing (similar to how emotions affect adults). The image of a 3-month-old in a raging, uncontrollable tantrum must be joined to the image of the same child who has been motivated to learn how to make a crib mobile spin because of the interest and pleasure it evokes. Even a toddler's angry conflict with a parent can motivate and organize new understanding of another's thoughts, feelings, or motives.

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