Emotions have traditionally come first in the early childhood field. The history of early childhood education reflects strong influences from theories that have emphasized emotion-related issues: psychosocial development, the importance of close relationships with parents and other caregivers, and children’s feelings as the foundation for long-term development. In the face of mounting pressure to prioritize academic skills, early childhood professionals have long argued in favor of nurturing children’s emotional lives.

More recently, compelling research evidence has been available to support the beliefs and experiences of early childhood practitioners, while also creating a more nuanced, complex picture of emotions’ contribution to overall development and learning. This entry describes the key components of emotional development, traces influences on their emergence, and identifies effective strategies for preventing and addressing ...

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