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How does social learning theory explain early social development?

Social learning theory explains early social development through observation, imitation and reinforcement.

Social learning theory suggests that children learn social behaviour through observation and imitation of others around them, especially their parents and caregivers. Children are more likely to imitate behaviours that are rewarded or positively reinforced, and avoid behaviours that are punished or negatively reinforced. This theory also emphasises the role of cognitive processes, such as attention and memory, in learning from others.

According to social learning theory, children's early social development is influenced by their environment, including the people and culture they are exposed to. For example, children growing up in a culture that values collectivism may develop different social skills and expectations compared to those growing up in an individualistic culture. This theory also suggests that children's social development is a continuous process that occurs throughout their lifetime.

Social learning theory has been supported by research, including Bandura's famous Bobo doll experiment, which demonstrated that children imitated aggressive behaviour they had observed in an adult model. However, critics have argued that this theory may oversimplify the complex nature of social development and overlook the influence of biological factors.

Overall, social learning theory provides a useful framework for understanding how children learn social behaviour through observation, imitation and reinforcement, and how their environment shapes their social development.

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