Cognitive Development in childhood: Language and Emotions

Cognitive Development in childhood: Language and Emotions

Children can communicate a long time before they are able to use spoken words. The search reflex indicates the ability to breastfeed and eat. Different types of crying indicate discomfort, pain or tiredness. Nonverbal body language includes postures, facial expressions, relaxation or muscle tension, movement, tears, perspiration, tremors or shivering. Alert parents learn to interpret these bodily cues and give them the correct meaning.

Therefore, language represents only one of the methods of communication, although it is the most important, since it allows human beings to exchange information, ideas, attitudes and emotions.

After all, with thousands of words, language is an efficient means for one to communicate to others an unlimited amount of information, thoughts, ideas and feelings.


  • 1 Elements and rules of language
  • 2 Theories about language development
  • 3 Language development sequences
  • 4 Emotional development
  • 5 Development of trust and security
  • 6 Differences in temperament
  • 7 Self development, autonomy, self-concept and self-esteem

Elements and rules of language

To fulfill its functions accurately, the language contains a finite set of elements that are used according to a set of rules. Among the basic elements of language are phonemes, morphemes, syntax and grammar, semantics and pragmatics.

  • Phonemes: The smallest unit of sound in a language.
  • Morphemes: The smallest unit with linguistic significance.
  • Syntax: The grammar rules of a language.
  • Semantics: The meaning of words and sentences.
  • Pragmatics: The practical use of language to communicate with others in various social contexts.

Theories about language development

I. Biological theory

Biological theory (known as the nativist approach) says that the child inherits the predisposition to learn language at a certain age.

II: Learning theory

Learning theory suggests that language is acquired like any other behavior, by imitation, conditioning, association and reinforcement.

III. Cognitive Theory

Cognitive theory underlines the idea that language develops from mental images, that is, that it is a direct result of cognitive development. Piaget (1926) said that children form a mental scheme to which they then apply linguistic labels.

IV. Interactionist theory

Interactionist theory highlights the similar importance of biological maturation and the role of environmental influences and language development experience.

Language development sequences

Pre linguistic period

  • Lullabies: The first vowel emissions, made by infants.
  • Babbling: Emissions of a syllable that contain combinations of vowels and consonants.

The first spoken words

  • Holophrases: Simple words that infants use to communicate different meanings.

Two word emissions

  • Duets: Two word emissions.

Talk telegraph

  • Emissions of several words that carry meaning.


From 2 and a half to 4 years, children use sentences that contain several words (from 3 to 5 words is common), each with subject and predicate and few grammatical errors.

Emotional development


Attachment is the feeling that unites the father and his son; It is the emotional bond that exists between them, the desire to keep in touch through physical closeness, to touch, look, smile, listen or talk.

The formation of this attachment is of vital importance for the full development of children, as it provides them with security, allows the development of the sense of self and makes their socialization possible. Children who manage to form that attachment are less shy and inhibited in their relationships with others; they can get along better with other children, siblings, and other children outside the family. Children begin to identify, imitate and learn from people or those who feel closest, and it is through those contacts that they learn what society expects of them; These relationships become the basis for the formation of personality and character.

  • Multiple attachments Children can develop close attachments to more than one person. The fact that children can form multiple attachments does not mean that the people who take care of their care can constantly change. The important factor in the development of attachment is the total dialogue that takes place between the parents and the child.
  • Specific attachments On average, it is not until 6 or 7 months that attachments to specific people are formed. Before this age there is no disturbance in children because of the separations, it is an important one, such as hospitalization, or a minor one, such as the fact that the mother leaves the room.

Trust and security development

Erick Erikson suggested that the "cornerstone of a vital personality" is formed in childhood as the child interacts with parents or other caregivers. This cornerstone is the basis of trust as infants learn that they can trust that the people who care for them will have to meet their needs for subsistence, protection, well-being and affection. If these needs are not met, the children become distrustful and insecure.

Requirements for the development of trust and security in children

In order for trust and security to develop, a series of requirements must be met:

  • Receive adequate food on a regular basis. A chronically hungry child becomes an anxious child.
  • Babies can suck enough.
  • Receive caresses and physical contact.

Some causes of distrust and insecurity

  • Parental Deprivation
  • Tension.
  • Exposure to frightening experiences
  • Critics.
  • Overprotection
  • Excessive indulgence

Differences in temperament

Personality and temperament

Psychologists make a difference between personality and temperament. Personality is the total sum of the physical, mental, emotional and social characteristics of an individual.

Temperament refers to the basic, relatively consistent, inherent, and underlying provisions that modulate much of the behavior.

Components and patterns of temperament

Buss and Plomin (1984) specified three traits as elements of temperament:

  • Emotionality, which consists of the intensity of emotional reactions.
  • The second feature is activity, of which the main components are rhythm and vigor.
  • The third feature is sociability, which consists in the preference to be with others instead of alone.

Self development, autonomy, self-concept and self-esteem

  • Self awareness. The development of self-consciousness means that the child begins to understand his separation from other people and other things.
  • Autonomy. Erikson affirms that the main psychosocial task to be fulfilled between the year and 2 years of age is the development of autonomy.
  • Separation and individualization. Infants gradually develop a self separated from that of the mother. Infants still depend on the mother, but as they develop greater physical and psychological separation, they need to strike a balance between their dependency-independence conflict while developing a sense of self.
  • Self Definition and Self Concept. As children begin to develop a real consciousness, they also begin to define themselves, to develop the concept of themselves, to develop an identity. By 3 years of age, personal characteristics are defined in childish terms and are usually positive and exaggerated. "I am the fastest runner." For half of elementary school, most children begin to develop a more realistic concept.
  • Self-referral and self-efficacy. Self-reference has to do with ourselves and the estimation we make of our abilities, how capable and effective we are in dealing with others and with the world. The estimates we make of our effectiveness are called self-efficacy. It does not refer so much to our real ability and effectiveness in dealing with situations and with others, but to our perceptions of those things. Bandura (1986) suggested that the judgment that children make of their personal efficacy arises from four main sources.
    • First, self-efficacy depends on personal achievements and the child's opinion of those achievements.
    • Second, self-efficacy derives in part from the child's comparison of himself with others.
    • Third, self-efficacy is also influenced by persuasion.
    • Fourth, self-efficacy is influenced by the level of activation of the person.
  • The self-esteem It is closely related to self-concept and self-efficacy. When children perceive their value, skills and achievements, do they have a positive or negative view of themselves? Everyone needs to feel loved, liked by others, accepted, valued, capable and competent. Self-esteem is the way children feel about themselves. There are four main sources of self-esteem: the child's emotional relationship with the parents, their social competence, with their classmates, their intellectual progress in school and the attitudes of society and the community towards them.

Ariel Delgado

Developmental or Developmental Psychology