Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft by Mary Hopkins-Best

Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft by Mary Hopkins-Best

Author:Mary Hopkins-Best [Hopkins-Best, Mary]
Language: eng
Format: azw3
Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Published: 2012-03-15T04:00:00+00:00

Social/emotional development

In many toddler adoptions, a child’s social and emotional development is a primary area of concern, especially in regard to grief and attachment issues. While attachment is primarily a function of social/emotional development, the capacity to form a healthy relationship with the primary caregiver(s) also affects all other areas of development. Therefore, attachment issues cannot be divorced from any discussion of the overall physical, cognitive, or emotional well-being of the adopted toddler. Two important developmental tasks of the early toddler are to have achieved a sense of trust in others and to begin the long journey toward autonomy. Development of trust and autonomy are both an outgrowth of healthy attachment and are, in turn, related to greater mobility skills, improved language, and higher levels of cognitive functioning. Therefore, attachment becomes the overriding concern for healthy social/emotional development in all areas.

Attachment theory, characteristics associated with secure, insecure, and ambivalent attachment, and strategies to enhance attachment are explored in detail in Chapter 7. Therefore, this chapter focuses only on the developmental tasks associated with attachment and other areas of social/emotional development.

In addition to attachment, social/emotional development is also influenced by physical and environmental factors. Children are born with an inherent temperament, but it is shaped and influenced by what happens to them as they grow and develop. Such characteristics as passivity, irritability, sociability, impulsiveness, adaptability, and activity level are part of a child’s temperament.

There is an increasing interest in studying the relationship between inherent temperament and the way in which caregivers react to their children. There is some evidence to suggest, for example, that children who are easily irritated are at higher risk of being physically abused. It is often difficult, however, to determine the relative effect of nature vs. nurture on a child’s temperament. For example, many children who are physically abused learn passivity as a coping mechanism. Inherent personality characteristics such as irritability and activity level are normally displayed within the first hours of life. However, even then, prenatal environmental influences such as maternal drug abuse, the circumstances of birth, and immediate postnatal care affect the child’s behavior. It is especially difficult to differentiate the effect of nature vs. nurture with adopted toddlers because adoptive parents don’t have the opportunity to observe their children’s infant behavior and temperament, and the information parents receive about their children’s infancy is often sparse to nonexistent. Adoptive parents of toddlers can speculate about their children as infants, but they can never retrieve the opportunity to know them from birth.

Social/emotional characteristics and health are very affected by the style of authority practiced by our children’s former caregiver(s). Some adopted toddlers may have been fortunate enough to have caregivers who established clear parameters of acceptable behaviors but were also empathetic and supportive. This parenting style is associated with optimal social/emotional development.


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