Theories and Approaches to Child Development

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What do psychologists have to say about how kids develop? Several different child development theories focus on different areas of growth and development. There are five major theoretical perspectives guide the study of child development: the psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive, contextual, and evolutionary perspectives.

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What Are the Basic Concepts of the Psychodynamic Perspective?

The psychodynamic perspective is exemplified by the psychoanalytic theory of Freud and the psychosocial theory of Erikson. Sigmund Freud originated the psychoanalytic approach based on his experiences in his psychiatric practice and developed a technique called free association, which requires a patient to relax and report everything that comes to mind no matter how trivial or how strange it might seem. Using this technique, he found that patients often revived painful memories reaching back even to early childhood.

Erikson identified eight distinct stages of development,

Stage 1: Infancy (birth to 18 months): Trust vs. MistrustStage 2: Early Childhood (2 to 3 years): Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

Stage 3: Preschool (3 to 5 years): Initiative vs. Guilt

Stage 4: School Age (6 to 11 years): Industry vs. Inferiority

Stage 5: Adolescence (12 to 18 years): Identity vs. Role Confusion

Stage 6: Young Adulthood (19 to 40 years): Intimacy vs. Isolation

Stage 7: Middle Adulthood (40 to 65 years): Generativity vs. Stagnation

Stage 8: Maturity (65 to death): Ego Integrity vs. Despair

What Are the Basic Concepts of the Behavioral Perspective?

Behavioral psychology is a perspective that focuses on learned behaviors. Behaviorism differs from many other perspectives because instead of emphasizing internal states, it focuses solely on observable behaviors.

There are many different ways of thinking about human behavior. Psychologists utilize a variety of perspectives when studying how people think, feel, and behave. Some researchers focus on one specific school of thought, such as the biological perspective, while others take a more eclectic approach that incorporates multiple points of view. There is no single perspective that is ‘better’ than another; each simply emphasizes different aspects of human behavior.

What Are the Basic Concepts of Cognitive Perspective?

A cognitive personality theory may explain individual differences in behavior concerning differences in the way people think and process information. Cognition refers to thinking and memory processes, and cognitive development refers to long-term changes in these processes. One of the most widely known perspectives about cognitive development is the cognitive stage theory of a Swiss psychologist named Jean Piaget. Piaget created and studied an account of how children and youth gradually become able to think logically and scientifically.

Cognitive neuroscientists seek to identify locations and functions within the brain that are related to different types of cognitive activity. Imagine that a college student makes little effort to achieve good grades in college courses. One possible cognitive explanation for this low achievement motivation is that the person has low self-efficacy. The person may believe that he or she cannot achieve good grades, and thus the person makes little effort.

What are the basic concepts of a contextual perspective?

Contextual perspectives consider the relationship between individuals and their physical, cognitive, and social worlds. They also examine socio-cultural and environmental influences on development.

Lev Vygotsky believed that social interaction plays a critical role in children’s learning; through such social interactions, children go through a continuous process of scaffolded learning.

Three themes are often identified with Vygotsky’s ideas of sociocultural learning: (1) human development and learning originate in social, historical, and cultural interactions, (2) use of psychological tools, particularly language, mediate the development of higher mental functions, and (3) learning occurs within the Zone of Proximal Development. In summary Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory emphasizes the central influence on cognitive development exerted by social interactions between members of a culture.

Urie Bronfenbrenner developed the ecological systems theory to explain how everything in a child and the child’s environment affects how a child grows and develops. He labeled different aspects or levels of the environment that influence children’s development. Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological approach focuses on the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem.

What are the basic concepts of an evolutionary perspective?

The evolutionary perspective attributes behavior to genetic inheritance from our ancestors, contending that genes determine not only traits such as skin color and eye color but also certain personality traits and social behaviors. Individuals who reproduce pass their traits on to their children. The children with the traits that are best adapted to survive are more likely to pass their traits on to the next generation. Over multiple generations, the traits that offer the best chance of survival and reproduction spread across an entire population.

In different environments, different adaptations are beneficial for survival. Over time, the organisms in different environments begin to evolve into different species because different adaptations are being selected for by natural selection.

What theory and/or approach do you most agree with and disagree with and why?

Piaget studied many children, and this study led him to develop the theory that all children progress through four stages of cognitive development. While all children advance through the stages in the same order, some progress more rapidly than others. Theory also is leaving out the social (e,g.. Marxist ) and historical factors of the development. Piaget’s 4 stages of development theory did not focus on how applied within education, and ambiguities in the theory have made.

Piaget did, however, advocate hands-on learning, and these practices are often used in preschool and primary classrooms where children are encouraged to learn by discovery. In general, all teachers as well as others who work with children can benefit from an awareness of these stages of development. Knowing when a child needs a practical application of an idea versus being able to use abstract reasoning can determine what information is presented and how it is presented. The use of symbols to represent an abstract idea, for instance, is not a skill that younger children will have, so presenting information before a child is ready will result in frustration and an unwillingness to engage in an activity. Understanding these stages of development can aid the teacher in planning age and developmentally appropriate activities and lessons that will keep children engaged and active in their learning environment.

Why is it important to understand a child’s typical course of development for a career in early childhood education?

Early childhood education is a term that refers to the period from a child’s birth to when they enter kindergarten, It is an important time in children’s lives because it is when they first learn how to interact with others, including peers, teachers, and parents, and also begin to develop interests that will stay with them throughout their lives.

A solid understanding of milestones and developmental pathways across each domain of children’s development can benefit child care providers in several ways.

Benefit 1: The best foundation for planning for a group of children.

Benefit 2: The best starting point for planning for a new child.

Benefit 3: Help to plan the next steps for supporting children’s progress.

Benefit 4: Create a curriculum and environment that aligns to state standards/guidelines for early childhood programs.

Benefit 5: Help providers feel confident that their professional practice has a solid basis that aligns with the larger child care professional

In summary, knowledge of child development and learning and when you see all the early childhood development milestones and changes unfolding, you can see why support networks matter so much. Since every child is different, the most effective teachers know how to look for patterns and milestones while working with families.

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Theories and Approaches to Child Development. (2022, Sep 09). Retrieved October 4, 2022 , from
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