Social and Emotional Development

social-emotional_landingSocial and emotional development encompasses young children’s evolving capacity to form close and positive adult and peer relationships;

to actively explore and act on the environment in the process of learning about the world around them; and to experience, regulate, and express a full range of positive and negative emotions in socially and culturally appropriate ways. These skills, developed in early childhood, are essential for lifelong learning and success. A child’s temperament (traits that are biologically based and that remain consistent over time) plays a significant role in every child’s development and should be carefully considered when determining when and how a child should meet social and emotional learning goals. Healthy social and emotional development depends on consistent, positive interactions with educators and other familiar adults who appreciate each child’s individual temperament. This appreciation is central to promoting positive self-esteem, confidence, and trust in relationships. The components within this domain address children’s relationships with others—adults and other children—their sense of personal identity and self-confidence, and their ability to regulate their emotions and behavior.

Children with disabilities may demonstrate alternate ways of meeting social and emotional goals; for example, children with visual impairments may never make eye contact but rather demonstrate their interest in and need for human contact in other ways (through acute listening and touch); and children with cognitive disabilities may initiate play at a different pace and with a different degree of articulation and accomplishment. In general, the presence of a disability may cause a child to demonstrate alternate ways of meeting social and emotional goals. However, the goals for all children are the same, even though the path and the pace toward realizing the goals may be different. When observing how children respond in relationship, teachers must consider appropriate adaptations and modifications, as necessary. Principles of universal design for learning (UDL) offer the least restrictive and most inclusive approach to developing environments and curricula that best support the social and emotional development of all children.


While this domain represents general expectations for social and emotional development, each child will reach the individual learning goals at his or her own pace and in his or her own way.