Indicator List for Social-Emotional Development


Children’s social and emotional skills, such as persistence and the ability to make friends, are increasingly recognized as central to their health, happiness, and achievement in school, and eventually in the workplace, and their well-being as adults. Child Trends’ research on social-emotional learning encompasses infancy through young adulthood. We bring together experts in early childhood development, education, youth development, and more, to work together to investigate and communicate the foundational elements around social-emotional competencies and skill building.

Indicator List for Social-Emotional Development


Attitudes Toward Spanking

In 2014, according to a nationally representative survey, 76 percent of men, and 65 percent of women, 18 to 65 years old, agreed that a child sometimes needs a “good hard spanking.” This proportion has declined modestly since 1986 among women, while approval among males, after declining into the early 1990s, has remained steady.


Autism Spectrum Disorders

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) had risen markedly in recent years.  However, it is too soon to know whether these data indicate a true increase in the numbers of children with this condition, or a growing recognition of the diagnosis by parents and health professionals.



In 2014, 13 percent of children, ages two through 17, experienced physical bullying, and 36 percent experienced teasing or emotional bullying, in the past year.



Since 2001, the share of twelfth-grade students who report dating frequently has declined steadily, reaching a new low of 17 percent in 2013, while the proportion who report not dating at all increased to 38 percent.


Early Childhood Program Enrollment

The proportion of three- to six-year-old children (not yet in kindergarten) who attended center-based early childhood care and education programs increased from 55 to 61 percent between 2007 and 2012. Gains were particularly high for Hispanic children.

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Family Meals

Children in poorer families, and those whose parents had less education, are more likely to have meals together with their families than are children with wealthier or more educated parents.


Measures of Flourishing

Among the characteristics associated with optimal development are positive relationships, curiosity, interest and persistence in learning, and resilience. Children and youth who are female, white, or more affluent more frequently demonstrate these qualities, according to their parents.

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