29 About This Module: Emotional and Self Development


Have you ever wondered why some adults seem to have relationships that are ‘successful’ and others seem to repeatedly have relationships that are not so successful? If you could wave a magic wand and predict whether a person had ‘what it takes’ to be in a lasting relationship, would you use it? If you learned better ways to have a healthy bond in a relationship, would you be open to doing them? First, before peeking into the underpinnings of our attachment styles, it is important to look at how our emotions develop in the first place.

This module addresses one of the most fundamental aspects of the human experience: Emotion. What emotions are we born with? Are we programmed to be emotional? Yes! When we are born, we all seem prewired to be able to experience a few basic, universal emotions. As we mature and continually grow cognitively more complex, we begin to experience an even wider array of emotions. The adult human, as compared to other animals, is a highly emotional being. We experience joy, boredom, surprise, rage, peace, thrill, disgust, and a list of emotions that is well over 300 words. Just how and when do our experiences of emotions come into being?

More importantly, how to we learn our culture’s rules and expectations for displaying emotions? Every culture has a wide variety of emotions, but there is also wide variety in what each society views as acceptable and unacceptable displays of emotion. For example, think about grief. In the European-American tradition, grief is commonly experienced solemnly, quietly, and under a black veil, hiding the deepest pain. In African-American traditions, however, grief is more commonly expressed openly, and shared among family members to ease the burden of pain. The same emotion (grief) is experienced by two cultures, but they each have two very different set of rules about expressing it.

You will also learn about caregiving and attachment styles. If anything is true about human relationships, it is that they are complex and different — and it seems our relationships with our early caregivers affect the types of relationships we create as adults. That being said, psychologists have been studying attachment bonds between parent and child scientifically for a few decades and have discovered a few simple, basic truths about the parent-child relationship and how it does and doesn’t affect us. If you want to know more, keep reading.

So, how do we connect with other people emotionally and what types of attachments do we form to them? Do the emotional bonds we have with our parents when we are young children have any bearing on the emotional aspects we have with our romantic partners as adults? Yes! This material is among the most interesting in developmental psychology because everyone can, in some way, connect to it. What type of person are YOU emotionally and how did you develop into that? These are just a few of the questions you will ponder as you read through this material.

One thing that college students commonly struggle with is choosing the right major. What is the right major, anyway? Well, first, to know the “right” major, you would first have to know yourself. You might first want to know, for example, do you prefer to work alone in solitude or in social settings? Do you crave creativity and change, or do you prefer consistency and routine? These are just a few questions one might consider as they ponder the type of career they wish for after college. But, “wait, what does this have to do with Self, Identity, and Child Psychology?” you ask. Well, it has everything to do with it.

The noted psychologist Erik Erikson famously said adolescence is the prime time to ask the question, “Who am I?” By this, he suggested that asking questions of oneself during early adulthood is not only normal, but it is essential to becoming a fully-emotionally-mature adult. He argued that in a society of free choice (such as ours), we have so many choices in front of us, and that to ensure we don’t just go through life half-hearted and unfulfilled, we must get to know ourselves before we make major life decisions about career and relationships. If we don’t get to know ourselves, we are likely to jump into roles that don’t truly fit us, which will lead to despair and dissatisfaction down the road.

So, back to choosing a major — If you don’t know yourself well, or you haven’t explored various sides of yourself fully yet, you are not alone. Many people spend their youths trying to fit in, trying to live up to their parents’ or society’s expectations for them, or trying to be something they’re not without pausing to figure out what is authentically true for themselves. Erikson argued that it takes purposeful effort — in the form of exploration of one’s choices actively — to achieve full knowledge of self and to establish identity . If you have been told by your mother that being a nurse is the best job for you, and you choose that path without exploring whether it is truly a fit that YOU believe in, then you’re in for trouble in the long term. However, if you tried 3 other majors, did an internship at a hospital, and discovered a love for nursing, then you will be on your way to a fulfilling and long term path of reward.

Before we are establishing an identity, however, the development of our sense of self is in full swing quite early in life. In this module, you will learn about more than establishing identity. You will also learn about self-esteem and some surprising facts about its consequences; in addition, you will read about how we come to understand others, not just ourselves.

Learning Outcome

1.  Students will be able to explain the important milestones encountered within the biological/physical, cognitive, and socioemotional domains from infancy throughout adolescence. (1)


Upon completion of this module, the student will be able to:

  • Explain the primary function of emotions.
  • Describe the development of emotional regulation.
  • Explain attachment theory.
  • Discuss the major theories of temperament and personality.
  • Explicate the development of identity. (1)


Online Learning Unit


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