In this essay I am going to show my understanding of a child's early emotional development based on the psychoanalytical view of child development. I will show how emotional skills gained in the early years can be of a significant relevance to later life. I will show my understanding by illustrating it with the clinical material. Although I am focusing on the psychoanalytical approach to child development I believe that it is beneficial to present also some general background knowledge of child development.
The Child as an Individual
The child has not been perceived like an individual until the work of eighteen century philosophers Locke and Rousseau, who expressed their thoughts on paper about the child's ability to interact with the surrounding world (Cunningham, 1993). The research on child development has commenced followed by the observational work of changing behaviours in organisms by Charles Darwin.
There are few fields within the child development science. One of them is represented by the psychoanalytical theory, which looks at the child emotional development within the context of social interaction and early attachments. This framework is called psychosocial as it looks on the emotional and social aspects. Running in parallel and influencing each other there are two more main areas, cognitive and physical. Although I am focusing on the aspects of the psychosocial development, it is important to remember that all these areas are being affected one by the other, where the development of the emotional skills plays central role in a regular development of cognitive and physical skills.
The psychoanalytical view on child development showed how early childhood experiences have significant influence on later life and personality. At first Sigmund Freud observed early childhood development in stages, based on their biological instincts (Cunningham, 1993). Other psychoanalytical theorist – Erikson – contradicted Freud's idea based on biological stages by introducing child development in the context of social and cultural influences (Cunningham, 1993). Therefore we would talk about the psychosocial development as staged - the changes occur rapidly and each stage would be different from the previous one.
Years on, many researches and observations have been undertaken and new psychoanalytical theories started to reject Freud's and Erikson's staged view on child development and replaced it by introducing child emotional development in the context of development of self and attachment with significant others.
Observation of an infant in the family setting 'provides the observer with an opportunity to encounter primitive emotional states in the infant and his family...' (Rustin in Miller, 1989, 7). According to Rustin infant observation allows to 'explore the emotional events between infant and mother' and 'the aim is to describe the development of the...