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Summarize Child Development Theories

Child development is a complex, multifaceted topic. There are many

types of theories for child development. Psychoanalytic theories describe
development as primarily unconscious and heavily colored by emotions.
Behavior is merely a surface characteristic, and the symbolic workings of the
mind have to be analyzed to understand behavior, and early experiences
with parents are emphasized. Theorists include Freud, and Erikson. Cognitive
theories emphasize conscious thoughts. Important cognitive theorist are
Piaget and Vygotsky others include Pavlov, Watson, Skinner, and Bandura.
Ethological theories stress that behavior is strongly influenced by biology, is
tied to evolution, and is characterized by critical or sensitive periods.
Theorist are Lorenz, and Bowlby. Ecological theories stress environmental
factors, and was theorized by Bronfenbrenner. Here are the three that we
looked more closely- Piaget, Vygotsky, and Erikson.
Children learn through their senses along with interactions with others. Jean
Piaget, a Swiss born biologist and psychologist, felt that every interaction
establishes cognitive structure in children. His theory identifies four stages
a child experience:

Sensorimotor stage: from birth to 2 years of age. During this stage the
child is internally motivated to interact physically with their environment,
building an understanding of reality and how it works. A child at this age
is not aware of object permanence yet, which means they have not
figured out that when something is out of sight it is still in existence.
Preoperational stage: 2 to 7 years of age. The child is yet to understand
abstract reasoning and thinking and still needs concrete physical
situations. This means using bribes to achieve desired behaviors may
have negative consequences later in development, as the child does not
understand the reasoning behind the process just the result.
Concrete operational stage: 7 to 11 years of age. By this time the child
has gained important knowledge through physical interactions with their
environment and is starting to conceptualize and create logical structures
from their experiences. The child is able to understand abstract reasoning
and is ready for advanced learning concepts such as arithmetic.
Formal operational stage: 11 years of age and beyond. The child is now
able to fully function as an adult as far as conceptual reasoning and
understanding. They are ready for challenges and new experiences that
will encourage their brain and understanding of the world around them.

Encouraging kids during these stages provides much needed support

and nurturing. Piagets theory is one that supports nurturing as playing a key

factor on a childs cognitive development. As early childhood educators,

Piagets work is important because his theory talks so eloquently about how
a child comes to know their world. Piaget's theory is based on the idea that
children acquire this knowledge, about their world continuously, as they
interact with their surroundings. Their knowledge base keeps changing as
they interact with their surrounding world. The idea is that a child actively
acquires knowledge through their own actions. That is why play, an
environment rich in experiences, hands on activities, etc. are so crucial.
Lev Vygotsky believes a child learns everything from their culture and
the people in their lives. Culture teaches children both what to think and how
to think. Childrens own language comes to serve as her primary tool of
intellectual adaptation. Language is a primary form of interaction, and
internalization, a rich body of knowledge and tools of thought that first exist
outside the child, happens because of language also. Vygotsky believed
learning was based on social interactions, that language plays a central role
in cognitive development. The zone of proximal development, what child can
do on her own and what the child can do with help from caregivers or peers.
He believed that this is where learning actually occurred, in this zone.
Interactions with surrounding culture contribute significantly to a childs
intellectual development. Vygotskys theory is that it is based on the idea of
helping children learn how to think for themselves. Helping children learn
how to learn. Vygotsky believed that our job was not just to help children
learn very specific knowledge or gain specific skills, but to help
the development of children's learning abilities - to be able to think clearly
and creatively, plan and implement their plans, and communicate their
understanding in a variety of ways.
Erikson's psychosocial stage theory is the development of ego identity.
Ego identity is the conscious sense of self that we develop through social
interaction. According to Erikson, our ego identity is constantly changing due
to new experiences and information we acquire in our daily interactions with
others. A persons identity is all of the beliefs, ideals, and values that help
shape and guide a person's behavior. Erikson also believed that a sense of
competence motivates behaviors and actions. Each stage in Erikson's theory
is concerned with becoming competent in an area of life. If the stage is
handled well, the person will feel a sense of mastery, which is sometimes
referred to as ego strength or ego quality. If the stage is managed poorly, the
person will emerge with a sense of inadequacy.As early childhood
professionals we are most concerned with the early stages that Erikson
outlines, and the extreme importance of those initial feelings of being cared
for, and trusting that our needs will be met. This lays a critical foundation for
the next stages. The first two stages are outlined below, and as you can see
according to Erikson, are critical to a childs emotional growth.

Infancy (birth to 18 months) Trust vs. Mistrust. Children develop a sense

of trust when caregivers provide reliability, care, and affection. A lack of
this will lead to mistrust.
Early Childhood (2 to 3 years) Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt Children
need to develop a sense of personal control over physical skills and a
sense of independence. Success leads to feelings of autonomy, failure
results in feelings of shame and doubt.

Biological processes produce changes in an individuals body-Genes

inherited form parents, the development of the brain, height and weight
gains, motor skills, and hormonal changes during puberty. Cognitive
processes refer to changes in an individuals thought, intelligence, and
language-Watching a mobile swing above a crib, putting together two word
sentences, solving math problems, imagining being a cave man, and
memorizing literature. Social processes involve changes in an individuals
relationships with others, emotions changes, and personality changes-Smiling at
a caregiver, attacking a peer, assertiveness, and joy at an adolescent milestone like
prom. The five developmental periods are:

Prenatal- conception to birth

Infancy- birth to 18-24 months
Early childhood- end of infancy to 5-6 years
Middle and late childhood- 6 years to 11 years
Adolescence- 11-22 years

Cohort effects are due to a persons time of birth, era, or generation but not to
actual age. Two characteristics are ethnic diversity and connection to technology. There
are issues within development such as nature-nurture, continuity-discontinuity, and
early-later experience.