The Effects of Isolation on a Child's Social Development

Isolation of a child is detrimental to a child's social development 12. Social interaction provides sensory stimulation, which leads to the creation of short- and long-term memories 2. Memories are important because they reinforce behaviors or actions in new social situations. Sharing is an example of a child's social development. Without prior experience, sharing, or other social development skills, is difficult to understand.


Language development suffers when a child is isolated from others. This directly affects the ability of the child to communicate in social situations. Normal language development begins during infancy, when the baby hears the sounds and words of the people around him. The infant communicates by crying, cooing, giggling and then by babbling. These sounds are not without purpose, as they help the infant put together sounds to form words. In isolation, learning suffers, because the infant has no cures or reinforcement from others. The infant learns that if he cries, then his parents will come to his attention. An isolated baby who cries learns that crying will not bring parents or a caregiver to his attention. Soon, the infant will not cry when he needs assistance. The isolated baby becomes a child who does not know how to communicate his feelings.

Social Cues

Social cues are learned activities, and a child kept in isolation does not learn social cues. For example, Katie has an older brother. She learns that if she takes a toy from her older brother that he will push her down. She processes this memory and stores it in her long-term memory. Katie then plays with Brittney. Katie reaches to take a toy from Brittney but stops because she remembers what her brother did when she took a toy from him. She waits to play with the toy until Brittney has finished playing with the toy. An isolated child does not have the opportunity to learn social cues such as sharing 1.


Emotional instability is very common among isolated children. A child may be fearful of a situation, whether it is one-on-one or among group of people, but this is only one emotion that is close to the surface. Other emotions that occur when an isolated child is around other people include anxiety, stress, and apprehension. These basic emotions may compound to create panic attacks, depression and other issues.

Self-Image and Self-Esteem

Interaction with others is imperative to develop a child's healthy self-image or self-esteem. Isolated children do not feel comfortable around others because they lack the ability to communicate and follow social cues. They may feel they do not look good enough to fit societal norms, thus creating a poor self-image. Other issues of self-image include drug and alcohol abuse and self-mutilation.