Child development theories offer a quality explanation of different changes children undergo while growing throughout childhood. The development theories focus on all aspects of growth, which are emotional, social, and cognitive development. Child development does start from birth until adulthood, and it is essential to understand the changes they undergo and how they should enforce them to enable children to develop quality. Developmental theories are essential because they offer a quality framework that enhances critical thinking concerning human growth and learning. Thus, having quality knowledge about child development is necessary because it enables understanding the emotional, cognitive, social, physical, and educational growth children undergo from birth to their early adulthood. Therefore, this research will focus on analyzing different human developmental theories that offer quality elaboration about early childhood development and assessing how historical, cultural, and local factors impact issues related to human development.
The first theory is the psychosexual developmental theory which Sigmund Freud coined. From different analyses, he postulated that their unconscious desires and experiences usually influence children’s behavior in adulthood during childhood (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2018). The theory dictates that conflicts arise in every stage of childhood development and can have a lifelong impact on the behavior and personality of an individual. From this theory, child developments occur in different stages aligned with various bodily pleasure areas. When a child is in every stage, he can encounter conflict, which is vital in the developmental process. Thus, a child failing to progress to a given stage can lead to future fixation, influencing adulthood behavior (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2018). As a result of this theory, some local factors, like caregivers being too demanding to children during toilet training to learning how to control their bowel movements before they are ready, can influence the behavior of the child when they are adults because they will want to impose extreme cleanliness and order in their environment. It indicates that when conflict at a given stage is not resolved, it affects the behavior of the one in adulthood.
Consequently, the psychosocial developmental theory by Erikson presents eight stages a child undergoes when developing till adulthood. It elaborates on the change and growth that occurs throughout life. Also, it focuses on the different conflicts and social interactions that occur in the different stages of the developmental process. This school of thought believes that experiences and social interactions have a quality role in the behaviors one will exhibit in the future (Saracho, 2023). It also focuses on the quality development that occurs in the whole lifespan, and children and adults encounter various crises that play a role in the turning point in their life. When a child gains the capacity to manage the challenges he encounters at every stage of development, it will result in lifelong psychological stability. According to this school of thought, cultural factors like undermining children and not giving them the capacity to do things independently can deteriorate their psychological virtue (Saracho, 2023). The child will not have quality autonomy when growing up in such a culture, which will make the child develop the notion of doubt and shame. As a result, it will impact his development by making him an individual who lacks confidence in their capabilities and always doubts themselves when allowed to do something.
Additionally, this psychosocial theory by Erikson can be applied to explain how a child’s behavior can be modified when they encounter local factors like being raised by an untrustworthy caregiver (Cherry, 2018). When a child grows, there is a stage of trust vs. mistrust. During that stage, a child strives to learn to trust that their caregiver will meet their needs: comfort, warmth, and nourishment. However, when an untrustworthy and irresponsible caregiver raises a child, this stage will compromise the child’s behavior. He will need more confidence in the caregiver as he cannot meet their needs when required (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2018). In the future, such a child will have trust issues with others as he might wonder if they will strive to meet his needs when necessary to accomplish them. In the same case, when a hostile parent raises a child, he will not be able to have quality development when there are in the stage of initiative vs. guilt because this stage is characterized by children becoming too ambitious, curious, and eager to do many things (Cherry, 2018). When a hostile parent cannot allow the child to do such things, it will compromise the behavior exhibited by the child during adulthood as he will become an individual who encounters overwhelming guilt because of their curiosity, which will make him not to be an ambitious individual.
Another theory is the theory of behaviorism by B.F. Skinner and John B. Watson. This school of thought presented that psychology should focus on some of the quantifiable and observable behaviors. According to it, it argued that all human behaviors could be explained by environmental factors that influence one in their environment. It is because learning occurs through different reinforcement and association processes (Saracho, 2023). Operant conditioning and classical conditioning were some of the essential learning elements that arose from this theory. Operant conditioning occurs through reinforcement and punishment to change behaviors, whereas classical conditioning occurs through pairing a stimulus that occurs naturally with a neutral stimulus. This school of thought of conditioning presented that humans learn through different stimuli they encounter, which are associated with a given mood or behavior. It presented that once the association has been established, one learns them, and an individual’s behavior would need to be modified by changing the association as per the stimuli (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2018). Hence, environmental factors like a child raised in a family where junk foods are taken in the morning can make them obese. When the child wants to change his behavior of eating junk foods in the morning to lose weight, it will be the obligation of the child to dissociate from the breakfast composed of junk foods. When discussing classical conditioning, factors like a child experiencing pain after the first vaccination shot can affect their behavior and thoughts when they hear about a trip to the doctor. Following that, when such a child hears that he will be taken to the doctor for assessment, the child can be irritable and uncomfortable with that trip because of the discomfort they had encountered when they received their vaccination shot (Saracho, 2023). Therefore, this school of thought presents that the thought process of an individual is influenced by the stimuli they encounter in their environment.
Nonetheless, the cognitive developmental theory that Piaget coined focused on the developmental changes one encounter in their thought processes. Consequently, it presents how one’s thought processes affect how one interact and understands the world. This school of thought is essential for children because it allows an understanding of different ways to make children think differently from adults. He presented four stages of development: the sensorimotor stage, pre-operational stage, concrete operational stage, and formal operational stage (Saracho, 2023). With those stages, it presents that people use different complicated schemas to think and reason critically to understand the world in a quality way. Thus, this theory enables us to understand how children to reason, think, and view people as essential to their quality development. Therefore, a given level always limits children’s reasoning at every stage, affecting their education because the quality of instruction must align with the child’s developmental level.
Besides, the sociocultural theory by Vygotsky is also fundamental to child development. This theory articulates that parents, peers, caregivers, and culture are responsible for developing high-order functions. In his view, he presented that learning is an inherently social process. When one interacts consistently with the world, their learning becomes integrated into their ability to understand the world. Therefore, a zone of proximal development always presents a gap between what an individual can and can do with help. It indicates that with the help of others who are more knowledgeable, an individual can have progressive learning and enhance their skills and level of understanding (Saracho, 2023). Therefore, children’s cognitive development improves with their consistency of social interaction. It indicates that children become social learners before attaining cognitive thinking to produce quality knowledge. Thus, social interactions play a vital role in children’s cognitive development. Because of that, when a child is raised in an environment of much violence, it will make them violent people in adulthood. It is because such a child will have the consistency of interacting with violent people and then integrate that notion of violence he has acquired from his social interaction into his mental structure (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2018). Hence, it does start with voluntary attention followed by logical memory and, finally, the development of concepts. It, therefore, dictates that children should be raised in a healthy environment because children start learning by observing things before conceptualizing them.
Furthermore, the sociocultural theory presents that children’s development is achieved through maturation and their achievement of cultural tools. The cultural tools allow children to be linked with their physical and cultural environment, and that helps them to acquire intellectual mastery beyond their environment (Saracho, 2023). Therefore, it is acquired that cultural tools are essential for the development of the child because they modify how a person thinks. Hence, a child growing up in an environment with various cultural artifacts will allow him to have improved intellectual capacity because he can go beyond boundaries enforced by physical evolution. Therefore, children are constantly exposed to their cultural artifacts at a younger age, like parents buying them a toy, and that improves their intellectual development and reasoning. Because of that, children who can play with toys at a younger age can socialize with the actual use of such artifacts in the future (Saracho, 2023). However, children in some cultures who cannot play with toys suffer as their socialization relies on verbal interaction instead of using material objects to improve their social skills. Conclusively, these developmental theories present different measures that should be taken when a child is developing so that they can exhibit recommendable behavior in adulthood.
Cherry, K. (2018). Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. Retrieved online 19th of November. https://www.verywellmind.com/child-development-theories-2795068
Kail, R. V., & Cavanaugh, J. C. (2018). Human development: A lifespan view. Cengage Learning. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=xg9EDwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=understanding+human+development+approaches+and+theories&ots=gsKjV34O97&sig=8dEYkOW_E53WX2yQ36KxL9byvyc
Saracho, O. N. (2023). Theories of Child Development and Their Impact on Early Childhood Education and Care. Early Childhood Education Journal, 51(1), 15-30. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10643-021-01271-5