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Educational Psychology

Educational Psychology

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Published by Jeaneth Dominguez

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Published by: Jeaneth Dominguez on Sep 25, 2012
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05/13/2014

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Child development that occurs from birth to adulthood was largely ignored throughout much of history. Children were often viewed simply as small versions of adults and little attention waspaid to the many advances in cognitive abilities, language usage, and physical growth. Interestin the field of child development finally began to emerge early in the 20th-century, but it tendedto focus on abnormal behavior.An understanding of child development is essential, allowing us to understand the cognitive,emotional, physical, social and educational growth that children go through from birth and intoearly adulthood. Some of the major theories of child development are known as grand theories;they attempt to describe every aspect of development, often using a stage approach. Others areknown as mini-theories; they instead focus only on a fairly limited aspect of development, suchas cognitive or social growth.The following are just a few of the many child development theories that have been proposed bytheorists and researchers. More recent theories outline the developmental stages of children andidentify the typical ages at which these growth milestones occur.
Psychoanalytic Child Development TheoriesSigmund Freud
 The theories proposed by Sigmund Freud stressed the importance of childhood events andexperiences, but almost exclusively focused on mental disorders rather that normal functioning.According to Freud, child development is described as a series of 'psychosexual stages.' In"Three Essays on Sexuality" (1915), Freud outlined these stages as oral, anal, phallic, latencyand genital. Each stage involves the satisfaction of a libidinal desire and can later play a role inadult personality. If a child does not successfully complete a stage, Freud suggested that he orshe would develop a fixation that would later influence adult personality and behavior. Learnmore in this article on 
 
Erik Erikson
 Theorist < Erik Erikson also proposed a stage theory of development, but his theoryencompassed development throughout the entire human lifespan. Erikson believed that eachstage of development was focused on overcoming a conflict. For example, the primary conflictduring the adolescent period involves establishing a sense of personal identity. Success or failurein dealing with the conflicts at each stage can impact overall functioning. During the adolescentstage, for example, failure to develop an identity results in role confusion. Learn more about thistheory in this article on 
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Cognitive Child Development Theories
Theorist Jean Piaget suggested that children think differently than adults and proposed a stagetheory of cognitive development. He was the first to note that children play an active role ingaining knowledge of the world. According to his theory, children can be thought of as "littlescientists" who actively construct their knowledge and understanding of the world. Learn more inthis article on 
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Behavioral Child Development Theories
Behavioral theories of child development focus on how environmental interaction influencesbehavior and are based upon the theories of theorists such as John B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov andB. F. Skinner. These theories deal only with observable behaviors. Development is considered areaction to rewards, punishments, stimuli and reinforcement. This theory differs considerablyfrom other child development theories because it gives no consideration to internal thoughts orfeelings. Instead, it focuses purely on how experience shapes who we are. Learn more aboutthese behavioral theories in these articles on classical conditioning and operant conditioning. 
 
Social Child Development TheoriesJohn Bowlby
 There is a great deal of research on the social development of children. John Bowbly proposedone of the earliest theories of social development. Bowlby believed that early relationships withcaregivers play a major role in child development and continue to influence social relationshipsthroughout life. Learn more in this overview of attachment theory. 
 
Albert Bandura
 Psychologist Albert Bandura proposed what is known as social learning theory.According to this
 
theory of child development, children learn new behaviors from observing other people. Unlikebehavioral theories, Bandura believed that external reinforcement was not the only way thatpeople learned new things. Instead, intrinsic reinforcements such as a sense of pride,satisfaction and accomplishment could also lead to learning. By observing the actions of others,including parents and peers, children develop new skills and acquire new information.
Lev Vygotsky
 Another psychologist named Lev Vygotsky proposed a seminal learning theory that has gone onto become very influential, especially in the field of education. Like Piaget, Vygotsky believedthat children learn actively and through hands-on experiences. His sociocultural theory also
 
suggested that parents, caregivers, peers and the culture at large were responsible for thedevelopment of higher order functions.
Final Thoughts
As you can see, some of psychology's best known thinkers have developed theories to helpexplore and explain different aspects of child development. Today, contemporary psychologistsoften draw on a variety of theories and perspectives in order to understand how kids grow,behave and think.

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