A thorough analysis of a child’s gradual behavior in different contexts of their life allows for determining the normativity of their development. Furthermore, comparison and evaluation based on the child development theories lead to a wider understanding of specifications related to a child’s actions and details of their developing perception. In the series of books Harry Potter, the protagonist’s development journey is presented throughout his childhood and teenage years. In fact, specific traits relevant to children’s development theories are present within the narrative of the first book, when Harry is ten years old, through the way he experiences attachment, socialization, and how he expresses emotions.
Socialization in the Harry Potter books
The most significant part of the overall analysis of a child’s development is the beginning of the book, where Harry’s relationship with his family is unfolded. He lives with his aunt, uncle, and cousin and generally struggles in this household. He experiences bullying from his cousin and receives verbal and physical aggression from his uncle and aunt. Moreover, he is deprived of having his childhood needs met and is forced to act more mature than he is. On top of this, the family punishes him for the things he has no relation to, and therefore he develops an unhealthy sense of guilt and responsibility (Rowling, 1997). As a result of the toxic family environment, Harry suppresses his emotions, has unrealistic expectations for himself and acts gullible.
One of the main parts of the child’s natural development is emotional reciprocation. Winniscott (2018) explained that within the theory of emotional development, the ego plays a crucial role. As a child’s ego is not completely formed, it is incapable of healthily processing and accepting strong emotions of others directed towards a child, as well as any forceful senses, especially guilt (Winniscott, 2018). Overexposure to such triggers can disturb a child’s perception of self-worth and emotional expression (Santrock et al., 2022). In Harry’s case, his relatives constantly disturb his sense of guilt through such actions as shaming his parents and comparing him to them, criticizing his job on assigned tasks, and variously showing him that he is not worthy of the family’s love. Naturally, these actions trigger a child’s easily influenced mind and make him believe that he is not doing enough, which provokes internal guilt.
According to Winnicott (2018), guilt affects a child’s emotional expression and, in many cases, results in unconscious emotional suppression. In Harry’s example, he never shows the way the family’s treatment upsets him to either of his relatives. The extent of emotional suppression expands to his complete obliviousness to the fact that he goes through one negative experience after another related to his family’s internal power dynamic. Since Harry copies the way his relatives ignore his emotional needs and similarly disregards his subconscious responses, he is not able to identify his feelings, desires, and basic needs. Instead, he replaces these concepts with the superficial ideas of a reward system that his aunt and uncle taught him from a very early age.
Failure to recognize one’s emotional needs leads to a broken perception of self-worth. When a child goes through negative experiences and is additionally blamed for it in the first place, they learn that bad things happen to them because of their specific actions (Winncott, 2018). Although this pattern is false and does not justify others’ verbal aggression toward Harry, because of the stage of development of his ego and emotional reciprocation, he becomes vulnerable to the effect of this dynamic.
Another essential aspect of children’s development is the theory of attachment formation. According to the studies, the attachment style of children is closely related to their emotional responses and behavior (Cooke et al., 2019). Attachment to family figures majorly determines the further social interactions of a person throughout their life (Cooke et al., 2019). Thus, stimulation of an unhealthy attachment style at a very early age provokes the complications related to trust and self-worth within any relationship.
In Harry’s situation, despite his emotional needs are not met by his family, he is still attached to them as a form of basic survival. Since the perception of general attachment gets aligned with the idea of a limitation to basic physical needs strictly without the emotional aspect, a child develops an idea of their inferiority to the caregiver (Santrock et al., 2022). Supported by the verbal and physical aggression directed towards Harry, the impact on his attachment patterns provokes an irrational perception of his own worth and the extent to which he can be dependable on others. An important aspect of his specific situation is the number of responsibilities that his family always assigns to him. Because Harry always has to prove his worth through supplementary actions, he develops an early age of responsibility and independence that are based on his desire to exceed his relatives’ expectations. This way, his attachment style has an unhealthy dependency on the validation from the family’s side due to the lack of reciprocated emotional needs.
Finally, an aspect of child development that determines a person’s success and satisfaction in life is the ability to socialize. According to Hajal and Paley (2020), socialization capability is primarily based on the way a child deals with their emotions. Given the existing circumstances of Harry’s tendency to suppress his emotions, the deduction would be that his social patterns tend to be dependent on other people.
When a parent represents an unquestionable and threatening authority to the child, they learn to adjust to given conversational dynamics and to hide their true feelings (Hajal & Paley, 2020). Although it is a defensive mechanism that prevents unnecessary conflicts, at an early age, a developing mind interprets this action as a standard form of behaving and fixates on it. Harry has to behave in accordance with what his relatives expect in order to avoid conflicts as much as possible. Thus, his forming psyche learns to be adaptable and people-pleasing, which is reflected further in the book when a boy blindly follows people he just met. Hence, this form of socialization preset represents blind trust in certain cases.
In conclusion, socialization capability forms on the basis of emotional literacy and attachment style. Essentially, it means that all the aspects of the child development theories are interconnected and represent a complete picture of factors that influence a developing mind. A child’s perception of the world is very vulnerable and easily influenced, which makes their family relationships crucial in determining their further emotional wellbeing, attachment style, and the capability to socialize. As for Harry, a toxic environment in his household majorly affected his perception of self-worth, sense of guilt, trust, and other related aspects.
Santrock, J. W., Deater-Deckard, K., & Lansford, J. E. (2022). Children (15th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.
Winnicott, D. W. (2018). The maturational processes and the facilitating environment: Studies in the theory of emotional development. Routledge.
Cooke, J. E., Kochendorfer, L. B., Stuart-Parrigon, K. L., Koehn, A. J., & Kerns, K. A. (2019). Parent–child attachment and children’s experience and regulation of emotion: A meta-analytic review. Emotion, 19(6), 1103–1126. Web.
Hajal, N. J., & Paley, B. (2020). Parental emotion and emotion regulation: A critical target of study for research and intervention to promote child emotion socialization. Developmental Psychology, 56(3), 403–417. Web.
Rowling, J. K. (1997). Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Bloomsbury Pub.