Social development begins at birth out of necessity. The infant is unable to provide for its physical needs, or to protect itself against danger, therefore it must rely on its adult caretakers. An infant forms attachments to adults that provide care for it. These attachments can be one of three types: secure, insecure-avoidant, or insecure-ambivalent/resistant. (Gerrig and Zimbardo pp.342-356.)
A child with a secure attachment will show signs of distress when a parent leaves the room, and will seek comfort and contact upon the return of a parent. After a reunion a securely attached child will return to play. Secure attachments encourage exploration, and interaction with peers and other people. This is due to the fact that the parent, or caregiver, has instilled in the child that they will be there if the child needs comfort or protection. An insecurely attached-avoidant child seems detached from the parent and avoids or even ignores the parent upon their return. This can be due to abuse, neglect, or other turmoil in the parent-child relationship. The third type of attachment is insecurely attached-ambivalent/resistant. Children with this type of attachment become upset and anxious when the parent leaves the room, and when the parent returns the child is unable to become comforted. They show signs of anger and resistance to the parent, but crave contact. Again abuse, neglect, or underlying problems with the parent-child relationship may cause this type of attachment. (Gerrig and Zimbardo pp.342-356.)
The second stage in social development is socialization. This comes in many forms of interactions that range from structured playgroups, parallel play with peer, and sharing with peers. Preschools and daycare offer structured socialization and interaction with peers and adults and can provide the tools needed for later interactions and social responses. (Gerrig and Zimbardo pp.342-356.)
A lack of comfort and human contact deprivation has a serious effect on infants that carry on throughout its life. When an infant or young child experiences deprivation of human contact and comfort, they may exhibit illnesses and fevers of unknown origins and these may even lead to death. If these deprived infants do survive they may exhibit severe emotional and physical disorders and experience a higher mortality rate than their counterparts who did receive comfort and contact. Other affects on an infant’s social development are abuse, neglect, and dangerous environments. (Gerrig and Zimbardo pp.342-356.)
Between the ages of 2 and 6 children try to establish their gender role. A gender role is the set of characteristics and behaviors associated with the gender of male or female. During this age span children are very strongly set to gender perceptions. They tend to act according to stereotypical behaviors. Factors that effect gender roles are toys, playmates, and adult expectations that the child is exposed to. There are some biological factors that effect gender roles including genetics, hormonal influences, and physical characteristics. (Gerrig and Zimbardo pp.342-356.)
Gerrig and Zimbardo. Psychology and Life. 16th edition. Boston. 2002.