Theories in Childhood Development

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There are many theories that focus on understanding childhood development. Different theorists focus on understanding different areas of development, while others have analyzed the same areas but came to different conclusions. The importance in understanding these theories is twofold; an educator can use these theories to monitor children's development, and can implement ideas and practices that are appropriate according to these theories. According to Chalesworth (2017), Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky's theories are the most commonly used and applied theory's in early childhood development and education (Chap. 1 1-4b).

Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development, focuses on the four stages of childhood cognitive development, sensory motor stage, pre-operational stage, concrete operational stage, and formal operational stage. This theory would not rationalize an educator creating a curriculum or educational setting for children, without prior assessment as to which stage they are at. As an educator I only read books, or tell stories that are age appropriate. Stories or books which focus on abstract thinking, philosophical, or moral thoughts, are not appropriate for young children. Young children at this stage are still developing basic logic, and cannot comprehend complex thoughts. As an educator I never assume a child understands a message or idea that I am giving over, I always ask them questions which clarify that they fully understand.

As an educator, I realize how sometimes children are extremely excited with their cognitive revelation. A child can sometime excitedly tell a teacher; see I figured out how to do this puzzle, or they tell their teacher excitedly how they found a connection between two concepts. This excitement stems from a child realizing that they have grown in their cognitive abilities, and they are so proud of that revelation. When a child shows such excitement, I make sure to share in their excitement. I realize that what they are truly proud about is their cognitive growth.

Lev Vygotsky's theory of sociocultural development, focuses on how the social interactions that children experience impact their cognition. He theorized that much of their learning experience, is learned through social interactions. In addition he theorized that what truly impacts their learning, is their interactions with a more knowledgeable person than themselves. The zone of proximal development, is the area where children can achieve success with the help of a more able person. Vygotsky theorized that learning occurs mainly in this area, and children improve their skills as their ZPD expands.

The way they expend their ZPD is through scaffolding. Charlesworth (2017) explains that according to Vygotsky it is important to provide children the right kind of support at the right time (Chap. 9 9-4b). According to this theory it would not be appropriate for an educator of young children to teach the class in a manner where the teacher just delivers the lessons without personal interactions. Children need these interactions with adults in order to thrive in their cognitive skills. As an educator, I always try my best to make my lessons as personal as possible, and I address each child according to their needs. This enables more interactions with the children, and helps them grow in their cognitive abilities.

Eric Erikson's theory of psychosocial development, is a theory that interest me in understanding, and I would definitely study it in more depth. His theory is all about how humans discover who they are, and there are stages that a person passes, in which they develop these feelings correctly. Erik Erikson believes that the development of these stages, can be all the difference between a happy confident person vs. a depressed person, a kind and loving person vs. an isolated and insecure person. Being an educator of young children, I feel obligated to further study this theory. Understanding it would help me shape these children into emotionally healthy people. I would use the knowledge of this theory to identify children's emotional needs, and properly respond to those needs.

Bronfenbrenner's ecological theory, divides the environment into four levels, each level can impact a person differently. Although Bronfenbrenner may be correct that there are different levels of environmental influences on the development of a person, I would not implement his theory as a rule. There are no two people alike; to one person growing up in a troubled home can be the worst thing, while to the other they can grow tremendously from the experience. As an educator, I would not come to conclusions based on this theory, for example, I would not let the child from the troubled home take advantage of his situation. I would analyze their temperament before drawing conclusions as to how to treat them. As an educator I understand that although some things may seem very petty, it can feel like the biggest catastrophe for the child.


These theorists among many others, have helped us in understanding the development of children in many areas. Implementing these theories can help in advancing the success in education. Educators can use these theories and implement effective teaching techniques and strategies, in order to give children a better chance to reach their fullest potential.

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Theories in Childhood Development. (2019, Mar 13). Retrieved February 23, 2024 , from

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