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Existing research in various disciplines focusing on child development indicates that the relationship between children and caregivers which include parents, siblings, and other family members as well as teachers has a considerable role in child development, particularly in terms of cognitive development, self-regulation, socio-emotional adjustment and language acquisition. Overall, the vast majority of the researchers agree that one of the major determinants of psychological adjustment and personality development of children is the quality of the relationship between infants and young children with their caregivers (NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2016). These relationships are shaped by the interactions between children and adults.
The ability of a child to respond to the environment and society is based on psychological and neurophysiological adaptations that are grounded in the regulations that children experienced in their interaction with caregivers in very early childhood (Fite, et al., 2014). Hamre, et al. (2014) concluded that when infants face disruptive or negative interactions with adults, they are forced to self-regulate negative emotional states of their own so that they can mitigate the impacts of inappropriate behaviour of the caregiver during the interaction. The authors concluded that as such interactive experiences accumulate to have a structuring impact on children and ultimately all interpersonal exchanges of the children are then dominated by the self-directed regulatory style. Furthermore, excessive desire or need of children to self-regulate is likely to limit the learning and exploration of children. Consequently, children’s competency to interact with others, not only include adults but peers, is compromised. Thus, it can be inferred that the interaction between adults and children is critically important for the development of the personality and behaviour of a child towards parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, peers, siblings, and overall society. This shows that interaction between children and adults can be used to have a positive influence on child development.
Furthermore, Benson and Haith, (2010) argued that for positive child development, it is important for children to become skilled conversationalists. The children who are good at conversations have a better ability to interact with adults and peers as compared to children whose ability to the conversation is not ample compared to the former. It has been observed that young preschoolers are typically more egocentric as compared to older children and thus during interaction with adults their contribution in the conversation may not always be relevant and they may not be able to provide clear and enough information to conversational partners as compared to older children. Young children simply assume that the listener has access to the same information as they have. So it can be inferred that one of the main differences in the interactions of adults with young children compared to their interactions with older children in conversation. Because older children are better able to converse through language, body gestures, and signs, therefore they are more likely to understand adults. On the other hand, young children, due to deficiencies in conversational skills cannot understand adults completely nor they can convey their reactions. Thus, the quality of interaction between adults and young children and the quality of conversation between adults and older children is likely to be affected by the quality of conversation.
In addition to linguistic differences in the interactions of young and older children with adults, there are also some other differences which can be categorised as social and emotional differences. It can be assumed that as the children grow (the age increase), their ability to interact with adults also grows and thus the impact of interaction on personality and behaviour becomes more profound because they are better able to understand and interpret the behaviour and actions of adults as compared to young age.
According to Waite and Creswell (2015), the theories of normative development indicate that parents need to show different responses to provide support for the emotional development of children and adolescents. This study focused on identifying anxiety disorders in children and adolescents that are caused by interactions with parents. The aim of this study is thus to understand to what degree young children differ from older children in terms of interactions with adults. They are likely to be different linguistically, socially and emotionally. This research aims to emphasise the fact that parents need to change their interaction with children as they grow older to have a positive influence on their personality and behaviour. There is a need for parents and other adults to understand that they need to adjust their interactions with children according to social and emotional changes that children undergo during their growth. Thus the main research question for this study is:
To what extent do young children differ from older children in their interactions linguistically, socially and emotionally with adults in close family relationships?
Benson, J.B. and Haith, M.M. eds., 2010. Language, memory, and cognition in infancy and early childhood. Academic Press.
Fite, P.J., Rubens, S.L., Preddy, T.M., Raine, A. and Pardini, D.A., 2014. Reactive/proactive aggression and the development of internalizing problems in males: The moderating effect of parent and peer relationships. Aggressive Behavior, 40(1), pp.69-78.
Hamre, B., Hatfield, B., Pianta, R. and Jamil, F., 2014. Evidence for general and domain‐specific elements of teacher–child interactions: Associations with preschool children's development. Child development, 85(3), pp.1257-1274.
NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 2016. Child-care structure→ process→ outcome: Direct and indirect effects of child-care quality on young children's development. Psychological Science.
Waite, P. and Creswell, C., 2015. Observing interactions between children and adolescents and their parents: the effects of anxiety disorder and age. Journal of abnormal child psychology, 43(6), pp.1079-1091.
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