How Social Learning Takes Place During the Early Years of Life

How Social Learning Takes Place During the Early Years of Life

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One day, I was playing a game with my child, who is currently in play school. During the game, he used certain phrases such as ‘tumne Cheating Ki. Mai tumhare sath kabhi nahi khelna (You have cheated. I won’t play with you again). It was surprising for me to hear him say this for the first time, as we never taught him such phrases.



Being a Child Educational Psychologist, I remembered the term ‘Observational Learning’. Observational learning was first studied scientifically by Albert Bandra, in which he concluded that most of the social learnings take place by way of Observational Learning. Many a time, we are surprised to see that our kids exhibit certain behaviours that may be positive or negative, and are unaware of where it was picked up. Most social behaviours, for example, aggression, social manners etc. are the result of Observational Learning.

As concluded by Bandits, in his study, Observational Learning has four essential components:




  1. Attention: At first, the child pays attention to the behaviour
  2. Retention: The child retains each action of the behaviour
  3. Initiation: The child repeats what has been retained
  4. Motivation: The child replicates the behaviour, when getting appropriate motivation that is either intrinsic or extrinsic.

So, what are the implications of this theory?

  1. Don’t teach social behaviours verbally. Rather, model them in front of your child. For example don’t verbally tell your child to say ‘thank you’ or greet elders, but rather show and model it through your own behaviour.
  1. Be careful about what you say or do when your child is present. Don’t model negative behaviours. Remember, your kid is learning your behaviour even when you are not aware of it. Make use of it deliberately to make your child learn appropriate behaviours. Show your child the desired behaviour and he/she  will learn quickly.
  1. Remember, if verbal instructions are contradictory to that of the modelled one, it will lead to behavioural problems.

Thus, Observational Learning plays a huge part in shaping your child’s behaviour. All you have to do, as a parent, is make sure you use it the right way to teach your child appropriate behaviours.





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