Psychological Principles Related to Development of Children

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Teachers normally are not aware of the psychological principles underlying personal-social development of schoolchildren under their charge. They are mainly concerned with quantitative coverage of the knowledge given in various subjects. They neglect the qualitative aspect, which takes care of the child's personal-social development in terms of achieving personal-social values of life, as mentioned in the opening quotation from Hazrat Ali (A.S) that matters the most in helping the child to develop personal-social maturity.

To actualize this objective the teacher needs to discover and apply psychological principles and approaches spread over 150 years in the academic world. The Principles of personal-social development so discovered from the survey of psychological ligature are elaborated below:

1. The Principle of Biological / Physical / Natural Development.

This principle holds that personal-social differences are largely due to genetic make up that refers to the origin or development of the physical and mental peculiarities of an individual, which are manifested by him from birth to old age. These are largely inherited from one's forefathers.

"The genetic blueprint of each individual is unique one, is of the view that differences in how people feel about themselves, get along with others, and acquire a moral conscience are due largely to temperaments that are inherited from parents. These temperaments characterize certain predictable patterns or styles of behavior that are displayed in the presence of other people, places and things." (Carey, 1981).

The temperaments may be described as, Activity Level, Adaptability and Emotionality.

Activity Level of an individual is described as energetic, speedy, vigorous, and having stamina and endurance or its opposite as weak, clumsy, slow in speed, lazy, lethargic, lacking in stamina and lack of enduring hardship.

Adaptability means ability to change or adjust easily to cope with the challenges of new environmental situations, contexts or conditions. Some people are quick to adjust to new places and people, while others are slow to adapt or even some may find it very difficult to adjust and struggle, they hardly succeed maximally.

Emotionality means the degree to which an individual becomes upset, fearful, worried or angry instantly. Emotionality along with activity level and adaptability is assumed to be rooted in intrinsic physiological processes which govern growth and development and they persist throughout childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

An important aspect of these and other temperamental states is that they not only affect how individuals react to the environments in which they are placed but also affect people in the environment and react to the individuals with these inherent traits. The individuals who are sociable interact with the other sociable children. Temperamentally odd or difficult children who show lack of understanding become the targets of severe criticism and get punished by the parents and teachers. This principle makes and /or mars the personal-social development of the child.

2. The Social Learning Principle as Applied to Personal-Social Development.

The Social-Learning Principle or theory lays emphasis on "learning by observing the behavior of a model and practicing that behavior without overt reinforcement". (Broich, & Tambari, 1995)

Albert Bandura (1977) is the most influential person who developed this principle. He observed that children learning many new behaviors by simply observing what others do. Social learning principle has three main components: (i) Stimulation from the environment: the environmental factors make the individual prone to show vigor and stamina and engage in vital activity or action. (ii) An observer who performs a response that has been mediated and reinforced in same appropriate way, and (iii) A thought process or cognitive mediation in which the observer attends to the stimulus, stores an image of what has been observed and recalls the image at the time of new behavior is performed. Albert Bandura's two contributions are outstanding. First, he has offered an explanation for the phenomena that operant and classical conditioning have had a difficult time explaining the fact that children learn new behaviors without undergoing a process of classical or operant conditioning. In other words, they learn by observing. Second, Bandura has built a bridge between learning theory as espoused by Skinner and 'cognitive developmental theory' as formulated by Piaget and his colleagues. He accomplished this by introducing internal cognitive elements into the learning process with the use of such terms, as attention, retention, mediation, vicarious reinforcement and self-reinforcement.

Vygotsky (1962) also supports the view that "children acquire new intellectual skills through social learning." (Vygotsky, 1962)

Bandura (1986) also supports the view that 'children learn social skills through social learning.' He explains that children learn social skills through a fundamental development process of modeling. What does modeling involve? It involves being attentive to remembering, imitating and being rewarded by people, television, movies, books and magazines. For example, children are popular not because they have inherited a particular temperament or trait but because they have learnt the behavior to make and keep friends through modeling. In addition, they have learnt beliefs about the importance of friends, the standard to make friends would be rewarded in some way and beliefs about their own abilities to be liked by their peers.

According to his theory or principle, as children observe people and attend to the media, they learn how to establish relationship, get along with others, acquire a variety of appropriate roles, play these roles in social settings and behave morally and ethically and in the process they also learn self-concept which Bandura calls as 'perceived social efficacy'.

3. Psychoanalytic Principle or Theory.

The psychoanalytic approach to personal-social development shares some characteristics with the biological and social learning approaches. Like biological theory, this approach emphasizes that children are born with certain instinctual tendencies, drives, and motives.

"The genetic tendency is most important for understanding personal-social development. It is the drive for self-identity, which reflects social cognition". (Erikson, 1950/1963)

Like social learning theory, Erikson emphasizes the role played by the environment with reference to the child rearing practices as it interacts with innate drive for identity, this approach is developmental. Unlike, the first two approaches to personal-social development Erikson's psychoanalytic approach is a principle or theory of stages of identity. Stages of identity are discrete or distinct periods of personality development. During each stage, the individual confronts identity crises, which he must overcome to pass successfully to the next stage. The stages unfold in a fixed order or sequence which act psychologically and the healthy individuals enter a focus through over their life span. Erikson (1950/1963) has divided a period for psychosocial development into eight stages.

Stage 1: Infancy: Basic trust versus Mistrust

Stage 2: Toddler hood: Autonomy versus Shame or Doubt

Stage 3: Early childhood: Initiative versus Guilt

Stage 4: School age: Industrious versus Inferiority

Stage 5: Adolescence: Identity versus Role confusion

Stage 6: Adulthood: Intimacy versus Isolation

Stage 7: Generativity versus Stagnation

Stage 8: Ego integrity versus Despair

All these stages of establishing self-identity by an individual by moving step by step, experience success or else he/she is doomed and ever remain confused and crisis ridden and experience shame at every stage. If an individual is to succeed in establishing his/her identity as a person, he/she has to develop basic trust, autonomy, initiative industry, superiority, identity, intimacy, generativity and ego, integrity; and if he/she fails in his/her continuous process of growth and development, then he/she experiences mistrust, shame, doubt, guilt, inferiority, role confusion, isolation and despair.

These concepts characterize an individual as an embodiment of success or failure in life. It is found that few people actually succeed and experience self-satisfaction in every aspect of life. Moreover, a large majority of people experience failure and suffer from despair. Behind this success or failure, is this psychoanalytic principle or approach.

4. Synthesis of Personal-Social Development Principles.

Helen Bee (1989) synthesized the three major psychological principles of personal-social development, as emphasized in biological, social-learning and psychoanalytic traditions developed over time.

"The understanding of personal-social development, the child's inborn temperament must be taken into consideration. The child's temperament represents initial as well as permanent influence on the formation of personality. But, the effect of temperament alone is insufficient to account for personality and individual behavior. There is direct effect of child rearing practices and modeling processes on behavior and personality development. The personality is more than the sum total of these two forces. There is direct effect of child's temperament on the family. The temperament not only influences personality but also directly influence the self worth and personality. The reciprocal influence, self-understanding and family environment play a significant role in shaping the personality. Thus the child's self-esteem can shape as well as be shaped by personality and family environment." (Helen Bee, 1989)

The forces that shape personality of the child or his family are part of larger system consisting of the workplace, neighborhood and larger community. Thus the ability to provide support and appropriate environment essential to the development of basic trust, autonomy, initiative, industry and identity may be exaggerated by the economy, parental job fulfillment, social status and social support reachable to the family.

Finally, the child's personality and behavior not only are molded by how his/her parents conduct and behave themselves, but also shape the behavior of parents. The child's attitudes, expectations and behavior affect those who choose to be around, listen to and play with him/her and to some extent determine who those people will be. A happy self-confident child influences people to react in a supportive and loving manner. This in turn invigorates the child's behavior. Similarly, sullen, unhappy and distrustful child will cause the parents and siblings to react in the similar fashion. Their reactions may strengthen negative attitudes, expectations and behavior.

5. Self-Concept, Self Esteem and Social Relationship.

Self-concept & Self-esteem

Self-concept and Self-esteem though are two different terms, are used interchangeably by many qualified people in the filed of psychology and education. Self-concept is considered as a schema or cognitive structure. The developing child organizes his cognitive structure to include his/her sex, size, skills, likes and dislikes and school experiences add to this cognitive structure, which gradually leads to including such ideas about one's self, as "I am sportsman", I am intellectual", I am a bodybuilder" or" I am a male or female" and so on.

"Self-esteem is an overall evaluation or judgment of one's self-worth. Self-esteem is a quality or skill or standard measure of performance and perception of how well this standard is met. As, self-esteem involves a decision, a value and a standard, it is not easy to assess self-esteem in children; who have not become operational at concrete level of cognitive stage. It is seen that children at the age of 8-9 years make judgment about how will they like themselves, how happy they are and how will they think their lives are going." (Helen Bee, 1989)

Self-esteem is somewhat lowered when children enter the stage of adolescence (11-13 years). They experience puberty changes at this stage. These changes are so rapid that to cope with them becomes a problem for them so there is a fall in their self-esteem. Physical development balanced or deviant, also affects self-esteem. A perfect or robust physique enhances self-concept and self-esteem; and further if the physical growth is imperfect in some respect it is going to effect adversely. Academic achievement at higher or lower levels also affects self-esteem. At the higher level the individual experiences satisfaction and feels elated; and at the lower scale he suffers from inferiority complex that lowers his self-esteem.

Social Relationships

Learning to get along with others such as teachers and peers depends on mastering developmental tasks while in school. Successful relations with parents and teachers are called "vertical relationships." They provide safety and security. Successful relationships with peer are referred to as "horizontal relationships" and are equally significant for children. They meet the needs of children, such as belongingness and they provide ground for practicing social abilities, which result in the growth of qualitative support and life-long friendship. The children may learn either "pro-social", "asocial" or anti-social behavior" depending on time, place and circumstances; pro-social behavior is positive, progression and acts as an aid in the positive social development contrary to it "a social" behavior has neutral effect; and "anti-social" behavior has negative repercussions.

"Social cognitive" is a term used to signify how children learn to think and become concerned about others. How they feel about themselves and others. How people are doing now and how they ought to do is called social-cognitive.

"Empathy" is the skill to assess someone else's feelings and match them to the observer's own feelings. Its development also depends largely on acquirement of social cognition. Therefore, it can be assumed that it is a cognitive progress and it can lead to pondering over the situations in which one finds one or others and feels about it either positively, negatively or even neutrally.

6. The Role of the Teacher as a Psychological Principle

The teachers are entrusted with the task of educating the younger generation to cope with the issues and problems of life in a subtle manner. But it is found that the teachers in society play quite obtrusive roles. There are many incidences of teacher tantrums resulting in sordid abuse of school children and are reported in the local press from time to time.

Recently, there was an incidence of administering of corporal punishment to a pupil in the classroom for a simple offence of not doing the homework. The pupil was so thrashed that the boy had to be operated upon twice for internal injuries. Ultimately the pupil died in the hospital. He was the only son of the poor parents.

7. Parent-Teacher Coordination and Cooperation as a Psychological Paradigm

Well coordinated efforts on the part of parents and teachers are likely to produce positive results. Outside the school, parents are responsible for personal-social development of their children. The teachers are entrusted to further build and refine it. Both the parents and teachers if they put in well orchestrated efforts, bring tangible results. There are a variety of ways accessible to the teachers to come in touch with the parents, such as letters to parents, progress report cards, teacher-parent meetings, pupil bio-data, interviews, home visits by social-workers, homework guidance, periodic instructions to the parents, parents satisfaction programs, involving parents in organizing, co-curricular activities, questionnaires, interest inventories, aptitude and attitude orientations for parents, educational discussions in teacher-parent conferences, etc. Such a close liaison between the parents and teachers results in optimizing pupil's personal-social development in a very profound manner.

Under the existing situation the question is: can a positive role of educating children by applying following psychological principles of teaching, guidance and managing classroom affairs be expected? Frankly speaking, "No" is the big answer. When teachers themselves lack so much in development of personal-social aspects of life, how can they inculcate the same in their pupils?

The picture of school education in Pakistan these days is abysmally dark. Thus, there is an ample need for creating awareness amongst the teacher's community about the application of psychological principles for developing children's potential, physical, social and psychological. By making these principles integral part of their personality, teachers can become academic force and psychological source for personal-social development of school children. Their success, however, depends on the application of these principles in realistic and natural situations. In order to make the teacher quicker to respond to the needs of the pupils the following suggestions based on the psychological principles are offered:

The teachers are to turn out to be the embodiment of the principles of personal-social development and apply these in their day-to-day life: academic, professional, public and private.

They must have positive self concept in themselves and try to embed the same in their pupils.

The teacher show confidence in themselves and their knowledge-academic as well as professional and keeps themselves abreast in every aspect of knowledge and inculcates the same quality in their pupils.

They should enhance their own self-esteem and work for enhancing the self-esteem of their pupils.

The teachers should cater to the pupil's needs, assess and judge them positively.

The teacher should avoid the use of authoritative methods and techniques. They should always use democratic discipline based on cooperation rather than be coercive to generate clear thinking in their learners.

"Trust begets" trust in children and the children reciprocate in the same manner. So the teachers are the role models, worth imitating by their pupils.

The teachers should command the communication skills and try to inculcate these skills in their pupils by providing opportunities for self-expression through discussions, debates and speeches from the topics stated in the curriculum.

If these suggestions are understood and followed in the teaching-learning process, the teachers could make their goal of personal-social development of children easily achievable.


For personal-social development of children at school age the psychological principles discussed in this paper, can serve the teacher in facilitating pupils to become feeling-persons, the persons who can not only feel better themselves but also develop the sense of feeling better about others who are their companions, relatives and neighbours.

The teachers' and parents' role in developing a feeling in a child cannot be over stated. Their role is of paramount importance in developing a well balanced personality. Their coordinated efforts in this direction will produce positive results in terms of developing self-actualized persons.