Social Learning Theory of Child Development

The social learning theory is a psychological theory that explains how children learn from their environment through observation, imitation, and modeling. This theory suggests that children acquire new behaviors, values, and attitudes by observing the behavior of others in their social environment.

Key Principles of Social Learning Theory

The following are the key principles of social learning theory:

Examples of Social Learning Theory in Action

The following examples illustrate how social learning theory applies to child development:

Example 1: Language Development

A child learns to speak by observing and imitating the speech patterns and vocabulary used by adults around them. They may also model their language after a particular adult who they see as a role model for language use.

Example 2: Socialization

Children learn appropriate social behaviors by observing and imitating the actions of adults and peers. For example, a child may learn to share toys with others after seeing other children doing so or after being praised for sharing by an adult caregiver.

Example 3: Aggression

A child may learn aggressive behaviors from observing these actions in their environment. If they see adults or peers using aggression to get what they want, they may imitate these behaviors. Additionally, if the child is rewarded or reinforced for aggressive behavior, they are more likely to repeat it in the future.

Critiques of Social Learning Theory

While social learning theory has been influential in understanding child development, it has also been subject to criticism:


The social learning theory provides valuable insights into how children learn from their environment. By observing, imitating, and modeling the behaviors of others, children acquire new skills, values, and attitudes that shape their development.

However, this theory is not without its critiques and limitations. Overall, the social learning theory is a useful framework for understanding child development but should be considered alongside other theories that offer different perspectives on this complex process.