It is common and common to observe selfish behaviors in childhood. Young children tend to want to have their needs and desires met immediately, without regard for others.
These types of behaviors that are normal and that can have an adaptive function in the first years of life, however, if they are maintained over time, they can end up damaging interpersonal relationships in the future. Therefore, it is important that we help them to adequately overcome this stage, so that they can adapt correctly in all social areas of their life.
Although it is true that children can learn to behave selfishly by imitation, the reality is that selfishness is part of normal evolutionary development. It is around the first year of life when this type of behavior can begin to appear more frequently and it is usual for it to continue until the age of six.
The explanation that such behaviors appear in all children and that they occur more frequently in this time interval, has its basis in the brain development of children and especially, in the development of the prefrontal lobes that are the brain areas responsible for regulating emotions and social behaviors:
- Between 3 and 8 months of age: primary emotions appear in children.
- At two-three years: this is when children begin to effectively recognize emotions in themselves and in others. Until they are four years of age, their cognitive development does not allow them to represent the mental state of other people (until that age they do not fully understand that others may have intentions, interests or feelings different from their own), so they are tremendously egocentric, continually believing themselves to be the center of everything.
- At four years of age they begin to be able to represent the mental state of others.
- At six years of age: the development of the prefrontal lobes are already mature enough so that children are able to put themselves in the place of the other more easily and also, they already have a increased ability to control impulses and their own needs in favor of respect for social norms, and they understand that this is necessary to maintain play and relationships with other children.
- After six years: the development of these areas of the brain continues to advance, allowing children to refine their social skills, especially based on a greater capacity for empathy, greater emotional self-regulation and a better ability to solve interpersonal problems .
Álava Reyes Psychology Center
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