Social Emotional Development 101

This month, MCA will explore the topic of social and emotional development of young children on our blog every Thursday. This week’s post is an overview on social and emotional development.

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Our children are our future, and with the right tools, they can lead Maine into prosperity. The question is, what are the right tools?

While much attention has been paid to cognitive development, social and emotional development is a critical component of brain development. Research tells us that these early years lay the foundation for future development. As a result, our children need to develop essential cognitive, social and emotional skills to thrive throughout their adolescent and adult lives.

What is Social Emotional Development?

Social and emotional learning and development is not a new concept but is receiving a lot of local, state and national interest. Social emotional development refers to a child’s ability to appropriately deal with their emotions and interact with other individuals. Whether it is on the playground or in the workforce, key social and emotional skills are vital to success.

Why is it important?

In a recent 20-year study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, researchers found a strong connection between a child’s social and emotional skills in kindergarten and success later in life. The study examined children who demonstrated “social competency,” which included sharing and cooperating skills, to those students who did not, and the results were fascinating.

For every one-point increase on a 5-poiont scale in a child’s social competence score in kindergarten, he/she was:

  • 2x more likely to attain a college degree
  • 54 percent more likely to graduate high school
  • 46 percent more likely to have a full-time job by age 25

The results of the study pointed to a clear correlation between social competency and future success.

Core Social Emotional Skills

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Image Source: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning

Many social and emotional skills overlap and can be difficult to define. However, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) identifies and defines five areas of “core competencies.” These core competencies paint a comprehensive picture of what skills and abilities children require for healthy social and emotional development.

CASEL’s SED & L Core competencies:

  • Self-Management – The ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior.
  • Self-AwarenessThe ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations.
  • Social AwarenessThe ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior, and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.
  • Relationship SkillsThe ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups.
  • Responsible Decision MakingThe ability to make constructive and respectful choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on consideration of ethical standards, safety concerns, social norms, the realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions, and the well-being of self and others.

What’s Next?

Now that we know just how important social and emotional development is to a child’s future development and success, the question is, how can we make sure they are mastering these critical skills? This is especially important as both Maine and the US have experienced an increase in the reporting of challenging behaviors in very young children. These children often lack the social and emotional skills that are required for them to adjust to group or classroom settings. We need to promote evidence-based practices to assist teachers, providers and parents help children gain the skills they need to be successful in school and in life.

In Maine, there are several programs in communities throughout the state working to promote early childhood social and emotional development. This month, the Maine Children’s Alliance is going to spotlight some of these innovative organizations and practices on our blog. Our goal is raise awareness about the importance of social emotional development in Maine’s young children and highlight some of the great work that is already going on in Maine. Please continue to check out our blog every Thursday to learn more. This week, we will be featuring Portland Defending Childhood.


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