Understanding children and young person’s development.
Task B2 (Ref: 2.3)
Theories of child development.
An understanding of child development is essential; it allows us to fully appreciate the cognitive, emotional, physical, social and educational growth that children go through from birth and into early adulthood. Child development is a multidisciplinary subject; it draws on various academic fields, including psychology, neuroscience, sociology, paediatrics, biology and genetics. Child development is a non-negotiable study subject for everyone who works with children, child care educationalists and care workers need to be trained thoroughly and that means learning about every aspect of how children develop and learn.
There are many different approaches to studying child development; integrated development looks at whole child under different areas of development for example Physical, Intellectual, Language, Emotional, Social and Spiritual (PILESS). Whilst the traditional approach to child development has been to look at normative development; the stages and milestones of development and the ages in which a child will normally be able to achieve them. Many psychologists have studied how we develop and these studies led to theories. Theories help people to predict how a child may develop in the future. The theories behind the study of child development came from the work of a few people and the ideas they got from the research they conducted. This research has provided us with evidence for and against the differing theories of how children develop.
Historically theories of child development have tended to fall into two groups, the ‘leave it to nature’ or ‘Laissez Faire’ theory, where they take the view that learning is closely linked with development, and the social-constructivist theory, which says that children learn what they are shown by adults. In the 18th century the ‘leave it to nature’ theory was born, it stated that children learn naturally and that they were biologically programmed to learn certain things at a certain time. In this approach adults help children to learn by making sure the environment supports the child’s learning, but adults may not be necessary for the learning to take place. The social construct theories have also been discussed since the 18th century, the theory that a child’s learning is an interaction of the child’s development and its environment. The terms social learning or social pedagogy came from this belief that learning occurs as a function of observing, retaining and replicating behaviour observed in one’s environment and in other people.
Psychologists continue to study human development and they are learning more about what people are like and how they develop. Over the past century, many psychologists have provided theories that are considered practical guides. Since a variety of theories exists, we need to understand these different approaches for working with children. The following are just a few of the many child development theories that have been proposed by theorists and researchers.
Psychoanalytic child development theories proposed by Sigmund Freud in the early 20th century, stressed the importance of childhood events and experiences, but almost exclusively focused on mental disorders rather that normal functioning.
Cognitive learning theory is the theory that humans generate knowledge and meaning through sequential development of an individual’s cognitive abilities, such as the mental processes of recognize, recall, analyze, reflect, apply, create, understand, and evaluate. It also looks at how these thought processes influence how we understand and interact with the world. The Cognitivists include Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bruner. The foremost cognitive thinker was Jean Piaget, who proposed an idea that seems obvious now, but helped revolutionize how we think about child development: Children think differently than adults.
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