Social Context in Child Development

The founder of the socio-cultural approach, Lev Vygotsky, emphasizes that a child's thinking is influenced by the environment in which s/he grows up rather than developing in a vacuum. Vygotsky thought that learning to utilize language, mathematical systems, and memory techniques common in a community are all part of the development of memory, attention, and thinking. Thus, it is evident that each culture offers its citizens a specific set of mental skills. Different languages embody how people from different cultures pass on knowledge to future generations, shaping thoughts.

What is Social Context?

Psychosocial development may be defined as a child's emotional growth within his or her social milieu. It encompasses both the emotional and social components of development. The emotional element involves an individual's feelings toward various items, people, or circumstances. The interaction between the child and the social setting into which she is born is included in the social element of development. It must be acknowledged that a child's social and emotional growth is inextricably linked to his or her physical and cognitive development.

The mobility and control he or she gains in his or her physical and motor growth, as well as his or her rising cognitive ability to perceive the world around him or her, play an important part in social and cognitive development. Recognising that a child's psychosocial development occurs in unique and distinctive ways dependent on the interplay between biological processes and one's immediate surroundings is critical. However, certain observable development patterns give insights into a child's psychosocial surroundings.

The immediate physical and social setting in which people live or anything occurs or develops is the social environment, social context, socio-cultural context, or milieu. It comprises the social groups and organizations an individual interacts with and the culture in which they were raised or currently reside. These can be divided into three relevant areas−

Physical Environment

Housing, places of employment, centers for education and healthcare, and open spaces for recreation make up the physical surroundings of a social environment. The quality of the physical environment, including how well-kept the buildings are and how clean the open areas are, can have an impact on parenting style, which in turn can have an effect on the health and well-being of the children who live there.

Community Resource

Resources within the community include organizations and structures (such as political governance), information, and assistance. The level of resources available in the community has an impact on the health of its residents. Child development is negatively impacted by living in a socioeconomically underdeveloped, underdeveloped community.

Social Relationships

Social interactions take place between different people or groups. In every culture, people form bonds with one another to help them accomplish their objectives. These connections can be made intentionally or instinctively (e.g., by striking up a conversation with a stranger while standing in line or by meeting a child's teacher). The obligations, expectations, trust, and conventions of each relationship impact how much "social capital" an individual can acquire due to such relationships. A person can access the emotional and material resources needed to achieve their goals when part of a strong, encouraging social network. The social network is the term used to refer to all social connections. Greater social cohesion, informal care, and enforcing healthy habits like not consuming alcohol or safe sexual practices are all correlated with good social networks.

Theoretical Perspective

One of the most relevant theories that connect child development with social context is that of Bronfenbrenner. Widely known as Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory, it states that several interconnected systems are present throughout a child's growth. He names five interconnected systems that surround the lives of children and young people and have intricate interrelationships. These systems are an extension of the earlier mentioned social environment and provide a better understanding of the social context that influences the development of children. The five systems are as follows −


The system that most closely resembles a child's regular life is this one. It comprises the people, organizations, and services the individual directly interacts with within their immediate surroundings. Parents, siblings, and other family members are a few examples. Schools also include instructors, other staff members, and classmates. Other examples include places of worship, health services, neighborhood or refugee camp play schemes or projects, and (for some children and young adults) workplaces.


This system focuses on the interactions and connections between the individuals within the various microsystems surrounding the child. A teacher might visit a child's house to find out why they cannot get to school on time. Other examples include a child's parents attending a school event, the leader of the child's place of worship organizing an activity in the child's neighborhood or school, or a child's place of worship. The interactions between these various microsystems in a child's environment have a direct impact on their learning and welfare.


This sub-group takes into account the child's entire neighborhood. It covers everything from extended family to parents' workplaces, neighbors, relatives, friends, the media, social welfare agencies, health and education programs, political institutions, and laws. Even though the child may not have any direct interactions with this system, the exosystem still has an impact on the people in the other plans that are closer to the child.


This system considers societal developments on a larger scale and how they affect the other systems surrounding the child. A specific culture or subculture's ideology, values, attitudes, laws, and practices are included. These macrosystem variables profoundly influence how people are regarded and reacted to in host countries for those who have been displaced.


This framework describes how people encounter things throughout their lives. It includes significant life changes like moving from one location to another, as well as more commonplace occurrences like marriage (and divorce), the birth of a child, etc.


This theoretical perspective helps us understand social context's influence and interactions on a child's development. This has given way to important research and led to a better understanding of the resources necessary for a child's healthy physical, mental, and psychological development. Most important research has been around various sectors of a child's life, like familial relationships, school environment, economic class, cultural context, and exposure to media.

For instance, studies have shown that from infancy, it is important for babies to form secure attachments to their primary caregiver for them to have healthy development in the future. Studies related to the school environment have highlighted teachers' and peers' roles in a child's development. Similarly, poverty or low-income backgrounds have been shown to play a negative role in a child's development. In contrast, children from middle-class and high-income families are relatively better off. These studies highlight the necessity of intersectional cross-cultural perspectives in studying development.

Updated on: 13-Apr-2023


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