THEORIES ON CHILDREN’S GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT‹ 1/5 ›
· There are certain sets of theories that describe the growth and developmental stages of children. These theories can help parents understand how to interact with their children to provide appropriate experiences to help them develop physically, socially, intellectually, and emotionally. These theories also help the parent to understand the range of behaviors and achievements they may be able to expect at different stages of their child’s life.
Parenting Theories on Children’s Inner Qualities
There are certain sets of theories that describe the growth and developmental stages of children. These theories can help parents understand how to interact with their children to provide appropriate experiences to help them develop physically, socially, intellectually, and emotionally. These theories also help the parent to understand the range of behaviors and achievements they may be able to expect at different stages of their child’s life.
There are three major theories when it comes to the development of a child’s inner qualities–evolutionary development theory, Piaget’s constructivist theory and Freud’s theory of psychosexual development.
Evolutionary Development Theory
This theory examines and emphasizes how the evolutionary heritage influences current behaviors. Evolutionary psychologists draw on Darwin’s concept of natural selection, which is the process where adaptive characteristics increase in a group because those behaviors allow the individual to survive, grow to maturity, reproduce and then pass along their genes to the next generation. Evolutionary psychologists provide insights about contemporary social life by showing how our human genetic history influences our needs and behavior today.
In today’s terms, advantages are evident in those children whose parents make a heavy investment in parenting. When a child grows up in an amicable family, with resources to provide many opportunities for learning and development, children postpone sexual activity and mating, produce fewer children, and invest heavily in those they have. On the other hand, when children grow up in conflicted families with limited resources and few opportunities for skill development, they reach puberty early, invest heavily in sexual and mating behaviors, and invest less in parenting behaviors. One way to increase parental investment for those growing up in families with limited resources is to provide opportunities for growth and development.
Piaget’s Constructivist Theory
Jean Piaget emphasized that a child thinks about the world differently from adults and the focus of this theory was a child’s active construction of knowledge. Under constructivist theory, intellectual growth is viewed as a constant interplay of acquiring new information (assimilation) and modifying the current internal structures (accommodation) to achieve a balance between the child’s concept of the world and the world itself. Equilibration is the active process by which a child achieves that effective balance between the two.
Piaget described child development as occurring into the following four distinct periods with distinct abilities to process information.
Piaget’s theory helps parents understand that they must take into account the child’s ability to process information when they interact. Children need many opportunities to explore objects, pretend play, and think and talk about their thoughts. These opportunities help them to grow intellectually.
Freud’s Theory of Psychosexual Development
Sigmund Freud proposed that many adult emotional difficulties come from anxieties concerning early childhood experiences. While treating many adults with emotional issues, he observed that he could trace many of the adult symptoms to anxieties about experiences that occurred in early childhood. He believed that the experiences that occurred in early childhood had life-long lasting effects on adults’ personalities. Freud focused on children’s impulses, particularly sexual impulses and their sources of gratification. He viewed children as pleasure-seeking creatures who tamed their impulses to meet parental and societal demands. Freud divided childhood into the following five stages; each stage is named after the areas of the body that were the primary source of stimulation and gratification at that time.
1. Oral: Feeding development. This focused on the pleasures of nursing and receiving food.
2. Anal: Toilet training. This focused on the pleasures associated with the tightening and releasing of the anal musculature.
3. Phallic: Preschool genital stimulation and Oedipal complex. This focused on the pleasures of genital stimulation overtaking the oral and anal gratifications.
4. Latency: Early elementary years when sexual feelings are thought to be dormant.
5. Genital: Adolescence is centered around sexual pleasures and gratifications when a child develops fully.
Freud’s theory was based upon the idea that a child’s development of their “adult personality” was driven by the child’s attempts at gratification of impulses in each of the stages, as well as others’ reactions to their behaviors.
Freud never gave direct advice to parents; however, he emphasized the importance of appropriate gratification of children’s natural impulses—demand feeding, permissive attitudes about thumb sucking and toilet training, acceptable outlets for aggressive impulses—without criticism or punishment. His theory does help parents to understand (1) Children have internal needs that drive behavior and neither they nor their parents have complete control, and (2) parents have a powerful role in understanding children’s inner needs and helping them find acceptable ways to gratify their impulses; parents are authoritative guides and supporters on the path to maturity, not generals commanding the course of growth.
Freud also believed the human personality is made up of three parts.
· THE ID
The id is the impulsive, biological state infants are born into and they demand satisfaction immediately.
· Theories that involve only inner qualities of the child suggest that:
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o Inner qualities of the child have a major impact on child growth and development.
o External influences do not matter.
o External influences do not exist.
o Inner qualities are a bigger influence on the development of the child.
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Parenting Theories Emphasizing Both Internal and External Influences
The theories discussed in this section emphasize that interaction between the child’s own inner qualities, their genes, and their environmental and social factors shape the child’s growth. The parents take active roles to manage the effects of these forces in the child’s life.