A Case Study Reflecting On Key Factors Influencing Children’s Physical, Social And Emotional Development

Published: 2019-12-31
Views: 1486
Author: jordan96
Published in: Reference & Education

Keenan, et al (2016) explain a child’s development as “patterns of change over time which begin at conception and continue throughout the lifespan” (Keenan, et al., 2016). This definition has been broadened to include the various types of development; physical, social and emotional. Physical development – also identified as motor development – relates to the growth of a child’s muscles and bones defined social development as the “changes in our social relationships”, they also defined emotional development as the “changes in our emotional understanding and experiences” (Keenan, et al., 2016). NSPCC (n,d,) describe safeguarding as “the action that is taken to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm” (NSPCC, n.d.). The case study I have chosen for this article is six year old ‘Susan Miller’.

There are numerous factors that influence a child’s physical, social and emotional development. The physical factors can be either genetic or environmental. Teratogens are described as the environmental risks towards an unborn baby. Susan Miller’s upbringing has a mixture of genetic and environmental factors affecting her physical development. Environmental risks towards an unborn baby are called teratogens. The teratogens that have affected Susan’s birth and upbringing are; her mother’s mental health and substance abuse, which has possibly caused Susan’s learning and mild physical disabilities.

German psychologist Erik Erikson (1902-1990) created a theory of development which highlighted the role of social and cultural influences within a person’s development. In 1963, Erikson devised the eight stages of development; basic trust vs mistrust, autonomy vs shame and doubt, initiative vs guilt, industry vs inferiority, identity vs identity diffusion, intimacy vs isolation, generativity vs stagnation, ego integrity vs despair  (Erikson, 1963). Each stage is relevant to a period of person’s life whether it be infancy, childhood or adulthood. The individual must successfully pass through each age related task, Keenan, et al (2016) note “Successful resolutions lead to healthier developmental outcomes while unsuccessful or incomplete resolutions lead to less optimal outcomes” (Keenan, et al., 2016). Six year old Susan has just begun Erikson’s ‘industry vs inferiority’ stage. This stage is described as ‘children eager to master intellectual and social challenges but failure can lead to feelings of inferiority and incompetence’. Susan is quite isolated at school as well as in her home environment. It is reported that she is often seen alone during school time, and very rarely is she picked by others to participate in their games.

Through Erikson’s influence, Robert Havighurst produced the Development Task Theory. Within this theory, there is six major age periods for specific development; infancy and early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, middle adulthood and later maturity (Havighurst, 1952). Susan is within the middle childhood stage; in this current stage she should be learning physical skills for games. However because of her mild physical abilities Susan may struggle to be successful in this stage. The term motor development encompasses gross motor development and fine motor development. Gross motor development involves the skills which assist children to move around their environment. This includes crawling and walking. Whereas fine motor development is defined as the smaller motions a child makes such as grasping or reaching. At the age of six, Susan has poor fine motor skills which has resulted in her not being able to hold a pencil.

In addition, Susan has a poor diet and lifestyle at home, in the study Susan explains ‘most nights we have a plate of chips for tea but sometimes for a treat, my dad lets us have just sweets… sometimes we don’t have anything at all for tea and I go to bed with a rumbling tummy’ this in an obvious sign of neglect towards Susan which is causing her to be malnourished. Having a balanced diet with nutritious food is key for children of all ages (Keenan, et al., 2016), Susan's poor diet will lead to her getting insufficient nutrients, causing a lack of focus in her school work.  The teacher’s at Susan's school have a duty to report any signs of neglect they notice to a safeguarding or welfare officer within the school. Pollitt (1994) suggested that “Anaemia, the condition where a person suffers from low levels of iron in the bloodstream, has been associated with a slowing of intellectual development” it could possibly be argued that Susan may have an underlying condition – that her parents and the school may not be aware of – that could be affecting her concentration skills in the classroom environment (Pollitt, 1994).

Emotion is defined by Saarni, et al (1998) as “the person’s readiness to establish, maintain or change the relation between the person and the environment on matters of significance to that person” (Saarni, et al., 1998). Emotional understanding is, for Source, et al (1985) means “The use of another’s expressions as a source of information, allowing a person’s to interpret events or situations that are either ambiguous or too difficult to grasp” (Sorce, et al., 1985). At Susan's age, she should be aware that she can feel two emotions one after another. I.e. Sadness followed by anger. Kennan, et al (2016) uses the term emotional regulation to refer to “the processes by which an individual’s emotional capacity to cope” (Keenan, et al., 2016). These processes can either be intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic processes involve Susan reflecting about a stressful situation and thinking how she should react to it. It could be argued, that Susan is unable to display her extrinsic processes as from infancy her parents control her emotions but as she gets older, she takes over this control. This is not the case with Susan as she struggles to regulate her intrinsic processes, and for her emotional regulation to be effective both processes need to work together voluntarily. At school, Susan is often laughed at by her peers because of her poor dental and bodily hygiene; however she seeks constant reassurance from her teacher who tells off the other children, ‘My teacher is really kind to me and she looks after me’ also, ‘She tries really hard and continually seeks reassurance and praise from the teacher’. Susan sees her teacher as a mother figure, to make up for the lack of comfort she receives at home from her own mother. Furthermore, Susan's mother, Claire is isolated from her own network of friends, as they do not approve of her relationship with Darren. It could be implied that Claire distances herself from Susan, as Darren is her biological father and he is a reminder of the community she is no longer apart of with her close friends, which may be the cause to her increase of drug and alcohol abuse recently.

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James & James (2012) use the term socialisation to describe “the process whereby children are taught, and learn, to meet the expectations of, and to fit into a given society” (James & James, 2012). In 1932, educational theorist Jean Piaget explained that a child’s relationship with their parents could either be vertical or horizontal. A vertical dimensional relationship meant that parents had the power over the children; on the other hand a horizontal dimensional relationship included equilibrium between parent and child. (Piaget, 1932). Susan’s relationship with her parents could be described as vertical – as she is young her parents still need to have some control over her – however in the study her father, Darren is portrayed as a bully as there has been concerns of domestic violence against Susan's mother and older sister. At school Susan is socially outcast from her peers due to her appearance, however American psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan highlights the importance of having friendship circles during childhood. Sullivan (1953) point out “Children’s early relationships help to shape their personality and the later relationships they form into adolescence and adulthood” (Sullivan, 1953). However Susan has not managed to form any friendships in her early childhood, which may result in her not forming any successful relationships in her adolescence and adulthood.

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Children often socialise with their classmates through play. Play is, for, “pleasurable activities freely engaged in by children; freedom from work; to act frivolously or capriciously”. Susan hasn’t experienced much outdoor play due to having poor fine motor skills as well as not having the ability to concentrate; she would struggle in cooperative, associative and parallel play which involves playing alongside or with peers around you.  At Susan’s age, having school friends and establishing relationships through common interests will help her socially as she transcends into adolescence.


The key factors that are influencing Susan's development are; physical, social and emotional. These three factors are interlinked. Susan’s physical welfare is worrying as she is physically being neglected from body and dental hygiene to having nutritional meals, and because of this she is struggling to concentrate in her lessons. Furthermore, as Susan has hygiene issues she is struggling to make friends, which is affecting her social development. This means Susan isn’t getting the chance to experience play with peers and learning how to develop her social skills. Thus, affecting her emotional development. Due to her lack of friends, and poor relationship with her mother in particular she seeks endless comfort from her teacher, which raises a safeguarding concern that the teacher must report.

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