Infant and child development

Introduction

As babies grow from infants to children, psychologists try to figure out how their environment will affect them. For parents, this is a time of wonder. For the scientists, a time that so much and so little is known about.

Each of us have a life story and it starts with memories of our childhood and continues to be written throughout our lives. The pattern of your life story is different from other people - these stories are the focus of our developmental psychology.

Contribution Of Nature Verses Nurture

Psychologist look at several different things when looking at human development one of these is called Contribution Of Nature Verses Nurture, nature meaning heredity or genes and how they effect our development, and also nurture which is the environment or experiences and how this effect our development.

Psychologists that study infant and child development have come up with five stages to help youconceptualize the period of life that we know as childhood, these are,

Prenatal stage - Which is the period of time from conception to the birth of the baby.

Infancy - is between the age of 0 to 1.5.

Early childhood - Starts at 1.5 years old and extends to 5 years of age.

Middle childhood - Is 6 – 11 years old. It spans school age and preadolescence.

Adolescence - Is between the age of 12 – 18 years old.

One of the things developmental psychologists have noticed through studying children is that they are born with predispositions that cause them to behave and react in a particular way, this is called Temperament.

Temperament

Temperament is to do with inborn differences in children, their reactivity, how they respond to the environment, how easily soothed they are and how intense they are emotionally. This temperament appears early enough in life and with clear enough differences between infants that it is thought to be mostly biological. But it's how the parents react to that temperament later on that makes it come to life.

Most infants fall into one of three different temperaments, these being easy, difficult and slow to warm up. Easy category - infants in this category are calm and consistently easy to soothe

Difficult category – babies in this category are fussy and hard to comfort

Slow to warm up category – these babies are shy and wary of new experiences.

But most psychologists agree that temperament isn't based on heredity,Fact|date=February 2008 research has shown that the temperament of all three types of babies can be affected in both positive and negative ways by their environment. Psychologists have also found that our temperament is generally persistent throughout our lives, so that for example if you were a 'slow to warm up' baby then in your adolescent years you are most likely be a shy and calm person, which also means that you would likely be held back from society. However a persons temperament can also be changed by the environment around them, so you could for example, change from a slow to warm up person to an easy person, based on the environment and how you are treated in later life.

Attachment

Another important factor in a child development is the bond between the child and its [parents] , this bond being referred to as attachment. Attachments form the basis of emotional relationships later in life, for example a securely attached child feels that their needs are going to be met appropriately and quickly. This means the child feels free to explore, but on the other hand an insecure attachment is where a parent may be neglectful, insensitive or inconstant in meeting a child's needs. This results in the child having an ambivalent attitude towards the parents. A child can also have different attachment levels with different people, for example the mother and father. The differences between the levels of attachment with different people depend on the childs relationships with them. The childs attachments with both mother and father affect the outcome of their active and academic lives later in life. Research shows that an insecure child will suffer difficulties later in life whereas a secure child will perform better in school and form better relationships with peers.

Cognitive Development

main|Infant cognitive developmentAnother area of childhood that parents are concerned about is called Cognitive development, which is the ability to think, remember and process information. One of the most renowned psychologist in this area is a Swiss man called Jean Piaget. Piaget was not concerned if children were able to see the world accurately, but how they came to see the world. His basic theory is that there are four stages of cognitive development.

The first stage of Cognitive development is called the Sensorimotor stage. This is the infant and children at a young age of 0 –2 years old. This is where an infant or child will use their sense of touch and taste to identify the differences between objects.

The second stage is called the Preoperational stage. This stage appears between the ages of 2 – 5. In this stage, children are just beginning to develop their thinking skills. Children at this stageage use words, symbols and images to represent the world.

The third stage starts at about the age of 6 – 7. This is called the Concrete Operational Stage. This is where the child becomes logical, but is only tied to concrete activities and tasks, meaning they can produce relationships and think in a sequence.

Then when the child comes into adolescence, they move in to the final stage called Formal Operation Stage. This is where the child can think abstractly--understanding algebra, for example.

Unfortunately, Piaget's theory is nowhere near perfect because recent test show some actions appear before predicted; for example, if you ask a child an illogical question you will get an illogical answer, but if you ask a question that they understand better you will get a logical answer, so a child can give a good logical answer to a question like “Why can't I walk through a wall?”. Now Piaget's theory is crumbling and a new theory is appearing called the Ecological Systems Theory. This is based on the contextual influences in the child's life like his/her immediate family, school, society and the world, and how these impact the child's development.

ee also

*Child development stages


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