Social-Emotional Developmental Delay and Disability


Social-Emotional Development

Social-emotional development involves progressive change in the way that children relate to their social world and their ability to differentiate and express emotions and perceive emotional states of other individuals. Social development refers to relating to others; the degree and quality of the child's relationships with parents and caregivers; feelings about self; and, social adjustment to a variety of interactions over time. Emotions reflect an individual's attempt or readiness to establish, maintain, or change the relation between him or herself and his or her environment (e.g., a child who overcomes an obstacle to a goal is likely to experience happiness); emotions become more differentiated as infants develop (e.g., crying behavior differs depending on whether the infant is hungry or angry); and, infants' strategies for regulating their emotions change over time (e.g., responses to distress develop from gaze aversion to self-soothing behaviors).

Children who are experiencing disorders or impairment in social-emotional development may exhibit patterns such as inability to form attachment relationships with caregivers, failure to develop joint-attention skills, perseverative behaviors, etc. Examples of disorders in this area of development may be found in Appendix B, which lists and describes psychiatric disorders that can affect young children. Diagnosed conditions such as those in Appendix B are characterized by qualitative and extreme problems and variations in child behavior and emotional development, in comparison with the "testing" or "trying" behaviors typical of most children in the two-to-three-year-old age group.

Please refer to below guidance document on social-emotional development:

Meeting the Social-Emotional Development Needs of Infants and Toddlers: Guidance for Early Intervention Program Providers and Other Early Childhood Professionals