Personal, Social and Emotional

The Stages and Sequences of Personal, Social and Emotional from Birth to 7 Years Old

How we develop our self-esteem and self-identity, and how we feel and relate to others, are necessary skills we need to learn if we are going to be accepted by others and have positive, lasting and rewarding relationships. One of the factors to look at is temperament. Temperament can be described as the way we view the world and how we approach or respond to it, is what makes our personality later in life. We are all born with unique physical characteristics (hair/eye/skin colour, body type/shape), and we are also born with our own individual temperament. However, whilst we keep our physical characteristics, our temperament can be significantly altered by what we experience as we grow. How our parents interacted with and responded to us has been a great influence on how we see ourselves and how we behave.

Individual differences are in place at birth and are just as real in babies and children as they are in adults – ask anyone with baby twins. There are a variety of temperament traits that make up an individual’s personality. Thomas, Chess, Birch, Hertzig and Korn developed nine categories of typical temperamental traits in 1963 – activity, regularity, approach/withdrawal, adaptability, intensity, sensory threshold, distractibility, persistence and mood. Acknowledging this, and understanding how our babies respond in different situations can help us avoid frustration or ‘blaming’ children for behaviour that is different to what we might expect, but which for them, is quite normal. We can also learn to anticipate, prepare and help children cope with situations they find difficult.

Babies are also born with a wide range of basic emotions such as pleasure, enjoyment, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, excitement, surprise and interest. But they are not born with those that develop through experience – shame, guilt, self-consciousness, embarrassment, jealousy and resentment, or those learned by example – racism, stereotyping, prejudice and phobias. Babies also show behaviours that appear to be empathic, they cry when they hear another baby crying. Baby’s emotions are very real and learning about their subtle changes in behaviour enables us to respond to and meet their needs appropriately. This helps our babies feel secure and leads to the development of secure attachments, positive self esteem and in time, independence and seeing the world as a warm, safe place. However, babies who receive angry, negative or minimal responses to their attempts to communicate e.g. are left to cry or ignored, grow up lacking positive emotional interactions and become insecurely attached. They fail to develop a sense of wellbeing, security and trust, which can result in self-doubt, increased dependence and an increasingly negative view of a hostile and threatening world. As the child grows this can have severe consequences, leading to poor self-image, difficulty in making and keeping friends, lack of understanding and empathy, high stress levels and hyper­sensitivity to perceived danger and risk, that limits the child’s mental and motor abilities, and physical wellbeing. 


At Birth


Babies are born social ready to engage with those around them

Born with a full range of emotions (apart from prejudice)

Can imitate facial expressions

Use total body movements to express pleasure e.g. being fed or bathed

Enjoys feeds and cuddles


1-4 months







Smiles in response to adult either familiar or a stranger

Gazes and is attentive when being fed

Turns in response to a voice

Begins to show temperament - whether placid or excitable

Shows enjoyment during caring routines

Shows pleasure to a loving cuddle or when given attention

Stays awake for longer periods of time


4-6 months

Shows trust and security

Has more regular sleep patterns


6-9 months




Can feed themselves using fingers

May offer an object to another

Shows distress at leaving their mother

Begin to be wary of strangers (stranger danger)

More mobile allowing independence to get an object or go to a place or person

Becoming aware of other peoples feelings and copy it – recognising an emotion


9-12 months

Enjoys songs and rhymes with actions – imitating and being spontaneous

Likes to be near and reassured by familiar adult and still shy with strangers

Affectionate with familiar people

Play alone for longer periods

Everything still goes to the mouth

May have a comfort object

Enjoys pointing and banging objects together

Can drink from a cup

Shows likes and dislikes and fluctuating moods

Likes to look at self in mirror

Loves to join in conversations

Co operates with dressing and other daily routines


1-2 years


Repeatedly throw an object on the floor 

Can remember where an object belongs

Content to play on their own, by or near a familiar person – solitary play

Carry a doll, or similar, by limbs or clothing

Becoming independent – ‘me do it’ 

Aware of others concerns when doing something which can potential hurt them

May become frustrated and have temper tantrum

Express their needs in words and gestures


2-3 years


Begin to express how they feel – but often frustrated when not understood

Can dress and go toilet independently. Maybe dry during night

Are curious about their environment

Go from being clingy to independent

Try to help others

Plays along side other children but will not share toys – parallel play

Can use spoon and maybe fork

3-4 years


Enjoy family meal times.

Becoming empathic – can see things from another persons viewpoint

Shows affection for younger sibling

Likes to do things independently

Begins to learn to negotiate – gives sense of control and power

Enjoys being helpful

Can now share toys and begin taking turns

Becoming aware of male and female gender

May develop fears – maybe due to imagination and pretend play

Begin making friendships with their peers


4-5 years


Can eat with spoon and fork

Can dress, undress (not laces), wash, dry hands and brush teeth

Empathic to others

Enjoys a sense of humour

Very independent

Very social with peers


5-7 years


Has definite likes and dislikes – may appear not logical.

Be by themselves longer

Enjoy caring for a pet

Can hide feelings and keep thoughts to themselves

Choose friends because of their interests and personality – mainly the same sex

Take turns in conversation with peer or adult

Carry out simple tasks

Begin to compare themselves to others

Think about themselves and who they would like to be

Completely independent toileting, dressing and washing

Can be self-critical


The Children's Project Ltd
Changing the World - one baby at a time
08450 94 54 94