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The reasons for studying children are as broad and complex as the field itself. It is recognized that through the study of children we may come to understand adult behavior better. As John Milton commented in Paradise Lost: ‘The childhood shows the man as the morning shows the day’. Gabriel Compayre, a French educationalist who observed and wrote about children department over a hundred years ago, also believed that information concerning the child’s early years would serve to illuminate later development:’ if childhood is the cradle of humanity, the study of childhood is the cradle and necessary introduction to all future psychology’. From a somewhat different perspective, Charles Darwin believed that the child was the link between animal and human species. The birth of his own son William Erasmus (nicknamed ‘Doddy’) on 27 December 1839 prompted Darwin to being a diary description of the development of his son ‘a baby biography’. By observing the development of the infant, Darwin believed some understanding could be reached of the species itself. Darwin argued that emotional expression was basically a physiological matter and that expressive gestures were largely universal and innate: Everyone who has had much to do with young children must have seen how naturally they take to biting when in passion. It seems instinctive in them as in young crocodiles, who snap their little jaws as soon as they emerge from the egg. During the medieval period the child did not account for much in the eyes of society, as a Sixteenth century rhyme (cited in Schorsch, 1979:23) indicates: Of all the months the first behold. January two-faced and cold Because its eyes ways are cast To face the future and the past. Thus the child six summers old Is not worth when all is told. (Hobbes, 1931: 257) the implication of Hobbes’ argument is that children have no natural rights and no rights by social contract, because they lack the ability to make formal contracts with other members of society and cannot understand the consequences of such contracts.
Later in the same century, John Locke, arguing from different perspective, considered children to be under the jurisdiction of their parents until they were capable of fending for themselves. Unlike Hobbes, Locke believed that the both adult and children possessed certain natural rights, which needed protection. Maturationist theory was advanced by the work of Amold Gessell. They believed that the development is a bilological process that occurs automatically in the predictable, sequential stages over time. (Environmentalist theories) John Watson, B. F. Skinner and Albert Bandura contributed a lot in environmentalist perspective of development. They believe that child’s environment shapes learning and behavior, in fact human behavior and learning are thought of as reactions to the environment. (Constructivist theories) Although the work of Jean Piaget, Maria Montessori and Lev Vygotsky varies greatly but they are consistent in their belief that learning and development occurs when young children interact with the environment and the people around them. Constructivists view young children as active participants in the learning process. In addition, constructivists believe young children initiate most of the activities required for learning and development. Jean Piaget’s stage theory describes the cognitive development of children. Cognitive development involves changes in cognitive process and abilities. In Piaget’s view, early cognitive development involves processes based upon actions and later progresses into changes in mental operations. According to Piaget there are four cognitive developmental stages between infancy and adolescence and in each stage thinking level is different. ( Sensorimotor : in this stage the knowledge of infant is limited to their sensory perception and motor activities, behaviors are limited and simple – preoperational : this is the stage between ages two and six, language development is basic part of this stage, children do not understand concrete logic, can’t mentally manipulate information and need help from other people. – Concrete Operational : this stage begins from age seven to approximately age eleven. By the time children gain understanding of mental operations, think logically about concrete events but have difficulty understanding abstract concepts – Formal Operational : this stage starts from age twelve and ends at adulthood, during this time people develop ability to think about abstract concepts. Skills such as logical thought, deductive reasoning and systematic planning also emerge during this stage) Psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg modified and expanded upon Piaget’s work to form a theory that explained the development of
moral reasoning. Piaget defined a two stage process of moral development where as Kohlberg theory of moral development outlined six stages with three different levels. Level 1. Preconventional morality Stage 1- obedience and punishment: The early stage of morality development is especially common in young children. At this stage children see rules as fixed and obeying the rules is important to avoid punishment. Stage 2- individualism and exchange: At this stage children account for individual points of view and judge actions based on how they serve individual needs. Level 2. Conventional Morality Stage 3- interpersonal relationship: Often referred to the “good boy- bad boy” orientation, this stage of moral development is focused on living up to social expectations and roles. There is an emphasis on conformity, being nice and consideration of how choices influence relationships. Stage 4- maintaining social order: people being to consider society as a whole when making judgments. The focus on maintaining law and order by following rules, doing one’s duty and respecting authority. Level 3. Postconventional Morality Stage 5- social contract and individual rights: At this stage people being account for different values, opinions and beliefs of other people. Rules and laws aur important for maintaining a society but members of society should agree upon these standards. Stage 6 – universal principles: final level is based ethical principles and abstract reasoning. Follow internalizes principles of justice and even they conflict with laws and rules. One of the main factors of Erikson’s psychosocial stage theory is the development of “ego identity”. Ego identity is conscious sense of self that we develop through social interaction. Erikson says our ego identity is constantly changing due to new experiences and information we acquire in our daily interaction with others. According to Erikson there are certain stages of life if these stages are handled well the person will be referred as ego strength or ego quality and the person will feel the sense of mastery, where as if any stage is poorly managed than the person will emerge with a sense of inadequacy. Erikson believes people experience a conflict in each stage, that serves as a turning point of development people may either develop psychological quality of failing to develop that quality. Stages are given below,
Psychosocial stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust, 2: Autonomy vs. Shame and doubt, 3: Initiative vs. Guilt, 4: Industry vs. Inferiority, 5: Identity vs. Role Confusion, 6: intimacy vs. Isolation, 7: Generativity vs. Stagnation, 8: Integrity vs. Despair. Attachment is a special emotional relationship that involves an exchange of comfort, care and pleasure. The roots of research on attachment began with Freud’s theories about love. According to Sigmund Freud, personality is mostly established by the age of five. Freud’s theory of psychosexual development is one of the best known, but also one of the most controversial. Freud believed that personality develops through a series of childhood stages during which the pleasure-seeking energies of the id become focus on certain erogenous areas. This psychosexual energy was described as the driving force behind behavior. If these psychosexual stages are completed successfully, the result is a healthy personality. If certain issues are not resolves at the appropriate stage, fixation can occur. A fixation is a persistent focus on an earlier psychosexual stage. Until this conflict is resolved, the individual will remain “stuck” in this stage. For example, a person who is fixated at the oral stage may be over-dependent on other and may seek oral stimulation through smoking, and drinking etc. But another researcher is usually credited as the father of attachment and that is John Bowlby. He devoted widespread research to the concept of attachment, describing it as a” lasting psychological connectedness between human beings”. Bowlby shares the psychoanalytic view that early experiences in childhood have an important influence on development and behavior later in life. Our early attachment styles are established in childhood through the infant/ caregiver relationship. In addition to this he believes that it is an aid for survival. “The propensity to make strong emotional bonds to particular individuals (is) basic component of human nature.” References: 1. Notes provided 2. PHILLIP SLEE AND ROSALYN SHUTE (Child Development) 3. Attachment theory. 4. www.funderstanding.com
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