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A comparison of theories in childhood development

Info: 2085 words (8 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in Psychology

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This paper attempts to describe Psychosocial, Social learning and Cognitive-stage theories of development in children. It considers the features the similarities and differences of each and how we can utilize the ideas of each of these in our child-rearing strategies. The paper also considers aspects of the emotional, physical and cognitive development of children. It discusses how, as parents, we have the primary role in guiding our children in their development from infancy on. It also gives focus to the physical development as it is affected by our environment and how as parents we are in the forefront of protecting our children from the ill-affects of smoking, air-pollution, pesticides and lead poisoning. Finally, it provides strategies to help us protect our children and help them to grow in a healthy, happy and secure environment.

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This paper will compare three developmental theories: Psychosocial, Social learning and Cognitive-stage theories. There are many theories about how infants develop into toddlers and into adolescents and onward to adults and how external and internal systems have an impact. Psychosocial theory relies partly on inborn traits and genetics. Social learning is based on environment. Cognitive-stage theory holds that we are born with the ability to adapt to our environment. Interestingly, each theory although different in their primary focus, each has components that are shared. The following information will discuss the similarities, differences and the interaction of the cognitive, the physical, and the emotional development in the overall development of the child.

The first similarity between these theories is that we must take into consideration is environment. In levels of theory, environment will always have an impact on development. The Psychosocial theory as described in terms of temperament, Richter (1998) proposed that it “… does not fully determine [character] because of the systematic effects of sociocultural learning and the stochastic effects of experience.” Because of environment, the temperament of a developing child can be random. It is often noted that children will mimic those around them, not just their parents, but also playmates, or characters that they see on television. It has been proposed that “… the relationship between temperament [psychosocial] structure, character structure and histories of behavioral conditioning and insight (social) learning can be quantified in a rigorous manner as a non-linear dynamic network of variables” (Richter, Eisemann, Bollow, and Schläfke, 1998) . Social learning theory is highly suggestive of environmental influences. The term social already implies impact from the surroundings. Social learning theory is based partly on observational learning and imitation; this would be taking into account observation of those within one’s environment; at home, school and in the community. Cognitive-stage theory is an organismical view of development; how effort is taken to understand and react to the environment.

Another similar feature is a degree of biological influence. Psychosocial theory as suggested by Papalia, Olds, and Feldman (2008) there are “… differences in temperament, which are thought to derive from a person’s basic biological makeup, form the core of the developing personality.” Social learning theory, however, does not include biology in its description as a factor of development. The pioneer of the Cognitive-stage theory, Piaget, was a biologist as well as a philosopher, viewed development as organismic, in other words, internally initiated by an active organism.

Thirdly, the effects of culture in all theories must be examined. The Psychosocial theory is examined by how some Asian cultures “stress social harmony” and how that affects development (Papalia, Olds, Feldman, 2008). In the Social learning theory, Papalia et al. (2008) also noted that specific behaviors imitated depends on what is valued by the child’s culture. With Cognitive-stage theory, Piaget’s idea, that there existed a universal progression of thought, was challenged. Instead, it appeared that cognitive processes were tied closely not only to specific content but also the context, as to importance as culturally influenced (Papalia et al.).

Psychosocial development is divided into eight stages. Each of which requires a balancing of a positive trait with a negative one. One example that is given by Erik Erikson is the basic trust versus mistrust which is reputed to occur from birth to 12-18 months (Papalia et al.). This theory takes into consideration the development of emotions that are factored into temperament. During development, a child will qualify their personal temperament with the burdens and limitations placed upon them by their environment. According the New York Longitudinal Study (NYLS), this is referred to as the “goodness of fit” (Papalia et al.). For instance, if a particular child wants to play with a toy that is in the possession of another playmate. This child has to determine how he or she is to fittingly acquire the toy for him/herself. After being afflicted by negative consequences, they begin to realize that grabbing the toy from the other playmate is inappropriate. In an alternate perspective, a child’s temperament may come into play. Some children are more aggressive by nature than others and it may take them longer to learn that taking a toy from another is improper. Temperament versus character structures as been commented upon that as “. . . temperament refers to the way we are born (our emotional dispositions); character is what we make of ourselves intentionally.” (Richter, Eisemann, Bollow, and Schläfke, 1998)

Albert Bandura proposed social learning theory, a very influential theory involving learning and development. Bandura suggested that development was bidirectional, whereas a child is influenced both by observation and by their environment. In studies done in 1961 with a doll named “Bobo,” Bandura demonstrated that children imitate that which they see. The children involved in the study, watch adults in an other room acting violently towards this doll, and when later allowed to play with the doll, the children started to act aggressively towards this doll as they had witnessed by the adults earlier (Shuttleworth, 2008). When Bandura argued his point of reciprocal determinism, he was basically saying that a person will adjust his or her behavior according to the situation (Peyton, 2008).

The first signs of emotion in an infant are crying when they are unhappy and after about the first month, smiling appears. At four months babies are known to actually laugh out loud. One researcher found that a ten-month old would laugh when its mother put a cloth on her face and it fell off. The baby then would attempt to put it back on its mother’s face, demonstrating the first signs of cognitive development (Papalia, et al.). An important part of emotional maturity of children is to demonstrate the feeling of empathy, which is thought to develop in children between the second and third year of life. The demonstration indicates that the child can sense and even understand that others have thoughts and intentions towards them. With this realization, they will start to monitor their own feelings towards those around them. This particular quality has been called egocentrism by Piaget (Papalia, et al.).

It is important to note that an infant’s emotional security can be skewed if its mother suffers with something like chronic depression. In our text, A Child’s World: Infancy through Adolescence (2008), researchers found that a mother experiencing post-partum depression that when left untreated could negatively impact not only the mother, but her infant as well:

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Babies of depressed mothers may give up on sending emotional signals and try to comfort themselves by sucking or rocking. If this reaction becomes habitual, babies learn that they have not power to draw responses from other people, that their mothers are unreliable, and that the world is untrustworthy. (p. 231)

This can lead to behavioral problems and poor cognitive development later in life.

Adequate physical development in children hinges at the earliest stages in nutrition for the infant. Mothers can start by choosing to breast-feed or if formula needs to be used, and then an iron-enriched formula should be used. After a year, when its time to introduce more solid foods, we need to cautiously choose the foods that come next. There are resources for all families regarding the introduction of foods to infants and toddlers and how to establish a healthy diet for our children. As children development they notice early on how mom and dad eat. Therefore we should establish healthy diets for ourselves first. If we demonstrate healthy eating habits and keep our pantries filled with healthy foods, our children will generally follow suit. It has been noted by the Surgeon General that childhood obesity has become a “public crisis” in America. This organization has requested in their Childhood Overweight and Obesity Prevention Initiative that as U. S. citizens we should pledge to set the example by making healthy choices for ourselves and our children. They are encouraging that we make exercise a regular part of our routine and help our children get out from behind television screens, computer screens and video games and enjoy some regular forms of physical activity as well. If we start with healthy diets and lifestyles at the start of their lives, we can hope to have children that will grow up without have to worry about issues associated with excessive weight or obesity.

Environmental issues all always a concern with society in general. There are many special interest groups eager to find ways to help families improve their circumstances for the benefit of the countries children. Several issues addressed in our text, were smoking, air pollution, pesticides and lead-poisoning. Of course the topic of smoking and its ill-affects are posted everywhere, in the news, anti-smoking campaigns and within the medical community. There are programs available to help those who want to, to quit. There are on-going campaigns promoting strategies to lesson air-pollution, as well. Drive less and walk more. Use cleaner burning fuels or use wind-power. If we are able, starting an organic garden is a great way to incorporate healthier foods into our family’s diets. Working together with our children to cultivate an organic garden is an awesome way to help our children develop physically, cognitively and emotionally. Finally the US is striving continually to lessen the effects of lead on our environment and to reduce the incidents of lead-poisoning in children in our country. Legislation had eliminated lead from gasoline and from paint and is continuously working hard to eliminate it from our water supplies everywhere. As informed parents, we have available the insights we need to protect our families from this threat as well.

One thing we do not have control over is our gene pool. However, as our own lives have developed we have come to know the nature of our own genetic traits. This being the case, we can work hard to understand our own weaknesses and strengths so that as our children grow we can look for tendencies and patterns ahead of time and find resources to help guide our children in productive ways. If our family shows propensities for depression or substance abuse, we can find materials to possibly avert potential problems for our children as they grow and develop. By taking of ourselves in these areas the best that we can, we can help make the environment that we raise our children in, a healthy one.

The value of studying the various theories regarding the development of children can give us tools to help them become successful in their lives. Understanding the issues involved is how children process information, how they rely on the adults in their lives to demonstrate successfully negotiating life and its challenges, can put us in a position where we can really be a valuable and long-lasting mentor in their lives.


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