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GENDER AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

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GENDER AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Promoting Public Good Through Investment In Human Capital Development

By Alero M. Richards

Edicha’s suicide note was a six-lined scandalous scribble.

Sorry it had to end like this.

I fell pregnant.

Mustafa denied the baby.

Nobody cares.

I can’t cope.

Mama, forgive me.

No one saw the eighteen-year old’s death coming. She seemed to have it all together or so – good grades, sound morals and a sense of purpose but what many did not realize is that she expertly covered her myriad of inadequacies in makeup and beautiful clothes.

The truth was that Edicha’s father had abandoned Ladi, her mother as a pregnant and unwed teenage girl as well and her family had shown her no kindness as they expected her to have remembered the child of whom she was before succumbing to the manner of youthful exuberance that leaves a woman in the family way.

Consequently, Ladi had held her own daughter to such high standards, creating and emphasizing only the negative aspects of the world and never encouraging her to interact or develop her social skills for fear that Edicha would end up like her. She gave her daughter a very sheltered life, cutting off outdoor or extra curricula activities. Even though Ladi had a thriving career with the Navy, she made it her duty to deprive her daughter of any kind of social life.

“Don’t trust anybody”, she would often say. Don’t keep friends; there’s nothing like friendship”.

“The world we live in is a wicked world”.

“All men are the same, they only know how to use and dump women”.

“The most important thing for you to get is an education, face your studies”

What Edicha was unprepared for was the pressure of University life and only in her first year; had she crossed all the lines.

The above narrative is just one of many examples of the consequences of inadequate social development. From the foregoing, it is obvious that all the parties involved in the story, from the first generation to the last all have a history of social development deficit without being conscious of the multiplier effect on the society. From the young man who abandoned his unborn child to the family that rejected their pregnant and unwed daughter; the mother who never really had a balanced view of the world to the daughter who grew up on an overdose of negativity and could not positively respond to pressure.

Psychologists define social development as the change overtime in an individual’s understanding of attitudes concerning and behaviour toward others, for example, a developmental change in how people behave with members of the other gender and what friendship entails. These changes are perceived to occur due to socialization processes as well as physical and cognitive maturation. They assert that socialization however is not a one-way influence where society simply affects the individuals, instead relationships are perceived as bidirectional, that is, the parents affect that child’s development as well as the child impacting the parents.

Children are born social. Social development occurs throughout life and explains how men and women recognize, interpret and respond to issues of life. Healthy social development is a tested protective factor for children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Daily contact and interactions with family members, educators and friends teaches children and young people about the world and the rules, practices and values that support it. Being socially acclimatized is also a function of influence by wider networks including extended family as well as participation in the community and culture. Through these, children build a sense of who they are and where they fit in the social world.

Studies over the years have demonstrated that social development has rewarding impact on children who grow up to be adults; it affects every other aspect of their lives. It helps them build a healthy self-esteem, strengthens interpersonal and learning skills, equips them with the tools for conflict resolution and decision making and establishes positive mental attitudes with which they can face the life’s daily pressures.

Conversely, people without social skills experience difficulties in interpersonal relationships with parents, teachers and peers; they evoke highly negative responses from others that lead to peer rejection, they exhibit signs of depression, aggression and anxiety, they might have poor academic performance and show a higher incidence of involvement in the criminal justice system as adults.

A society’s most valuable resource is its people – men and women who contribute their knowledge and skills to the economic, political, social and cultural development of their environment. An investment in their social development therefore is germane towards the actualization of the overall societal goals.

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