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Age-by-Age Social Development Checklist



A child’s social and emotional development is critical to overall success in school and life. Kids with developmental delays and struggles often experience significant social difficulties due to their learning and behavioral differences. In addition, these children may not be meeting their social and emotional milestones which can further alienate them from their peers. Here is a breakdown of what to expect socially and emotionally as a child gets older. While kids mature at different paces, if your child is not meeting these milestones, it may signify an issue that should be addressed with a professional.

Infants (Ages 0-12 months)

  • Asocial
  • Soothed by rocking
  • Interprets emotional expressions of familiar adults
  • Mimics simple actions of others
  • Actively seeks to maintain interactions with adults
  • Displays separation anxiety when apart from mother

Toddlers (Ages 1-3)

  • Starts to show independence
  • May become angry if activities are interrupted
  • Shows anger through aggressive behavior; may hit, bite, or fight over a toy
  • Engages in social laughter
  • Seeks comfort from parent — safe-base exploration
  • Demonstrates imitation, parallel, and symbolic play
  • Is emotionally attached to toys or objects for security
  • Screams, throws temper tantrums for little cause
  • Asks for wants
  • Participates in simple group activity — singing, dancing
  • Expresses affection warmly

Preschool (Ages 3-5)

  • Develops simplistic idea of good and bad
  • Demonstrates inconsistent behavior
  • Shares toys, takes turns with assistance
  • Interprets emotions from facial expressions and intonation
  • Plays cooperatively
  • Has no sense of privacy
  • Understands concepts of right and wrong
  • Often indulges in make-believe
  • Exhibits increased frustration tolerance
  • Self-esteem reflects opinions of significant others
  • Bosses and criticizes
  • Displays concern and sympathy
  • May show increased aggressive behavior

Early Elementary (Ages 6-8)

  • Friendships change rapidly
  • Leads as well as follows
  • Chooses own friends
  • Engages other children in play or role assignments
  • Wants to be the first and best at everything
  • Focuses less on one’s self and shows more concern for others
  • Develops positive, realistic self-concept
  • Begins to learn from mistakes
  • May become infatuated with teacher or playmate of the opposite sex
  • Cares for self, room, and belongings
  • Has a sense of humor and tells jokes
  • Is self-critical; may express lack of confidence
  • Dislikes being singled out, even for praise

Late Elementary (Ages 9-11)

  • Is influenced by peer pressure
  • Seeks immediate gratification
  • Actively seeks praise
  • Is highly social
  • Is both industrious and impatient
  • Wants to put some distance between self and adults
  • Can express a wide range of emotions
  • Understands social roles and appropriate behavior; considers them inflexible
  • Can be aloof
  • Controls anger
  • Shows interest in teen culture — music, videos, makeup
  • Tries to avoid looking childish
  • Understands how behavior affects others
  • Is truthful
  • Increasingly self-conscious

Middle (Ages 12-15)

  • Maybe a repeat of the “terrible twos”
  • Tries to establish independence and autonomy
  • Tends to gossip and talk
  • Can adapt behavior to fit situation
  • Exhibits “off-color” humor and silliness
  • Has little impulse control
  • Enjoys recreational activities
  • Is energetic and enthusiastic
  • Takes on more responsibilities at home
  • Takes responsibility for homework with little prodding
  • Is socially expansive and aware
  • Is competitive and wants to excel
  • Can show extremes of emotions
  • Enjoys close interactions with peers, especially same gender
  • Wants immediate gratification

High School (Ages 15-18)

  • Has more interest in the opposite sex
  • Goes through less conflict with parents
  • Shows more independence from parents
  • Has a deeper capacity for caring and sharing and for developing more intimate relationships
  • Spends less time with parents and more time with friends
  • Feels a lot of sadness or depression, which can lead to poor grades at school, alcohol or drug use, unsafe sex, and other problems

Download Our Free Parent Guide on Childhood Development Milestones

For over a decade, we’ve helped over 50,000 individuals improve the critical skills needed to create a brighter path for their future. If you're concerned that your child is not meeting social or behavioral milestones or is struggling socially or behaviorally, contact us online to learn more about how the Brain Balance Program can help. You can also view the research and results of the program on the website.

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