Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Childhood Development

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Childhood Development

Where do you stand on the immortal nature vs. nurture debate? When studying child development, it is important to consider that it takes both!

Early child development is based on a series of sequences that happen in the early years of a child's life. These are also influenced by factors such as social environment and parenting.

  • What is childhood development?
  • What are the stages of childhood development?
  • What are key characteristics of childhood development?
  • What are social and emotional development like in early childhood?

Understanding Child Development

Child development is a really interesting and important area of psychological study. The study of child development helps us identify important physical, cognitive, and social developmental milestones that children should reach. When a child does not meet these developmental milestones it can help direct us to where medical or environmental (such as parenting) interventions can be made.

There are three main areas of focus psychologists might have when studying childhood developmental psychology:

  1. Physical

  2. Cognitive

  3. Social

Physical development looks at maturation. Maturation is the growth process of a child based on their biology and does not focus on outside influences. Cognitive development focuses on how a child's brain develops mental activities such as thinking, speaking, and remembering. Social development Looks at how a child's relationships and environmental factors impact their growth and emotional health.

Stages of Childhood Development

Most people recognize the three main growth stages in child development: Early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence. Each stage represents various elements of developmental milestones that children should reach. These developmental milestones are physical, cognitive, and social.

Childhood Development, Child climbing a tree with help, StudySmarterA child learning to climb, pexel.com.

Stages of Physical Development

We know that the physical focus of child development is based on the idea of maturation. Maturation is when psychologists look both at brain and body growth as a natural biological sequence. While research on the physical growth of a child might ultimately be left up to medical pediatric doctors, understanding this sequence is important for psychologists when exploring the maturation process of a child's brain. It is a huge component of early childhood developmental milestones.

The main stages of physical child development in psychology are:

  • Brain Development

  • Motor Development

  • Brain Maturation

Stages of Cognitive Development

Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget is known for identifying four stages of cognitive child development; they're set out in his "theory of cognitive development". These four stages are:

  1. Sensorimotor

  2. Preoperational

  3. Concrete Operational

  4. Formal Operational

Stages of Social Development

Social child development is often looked at through the lens of attachment.

Attachment is the emotional bond between a child and caregiver. It is considered one of the most important aspects of social development during infancy.

Looking at a child's attachment style is a great way to assess social development in their early childhood. It can also leave a large impact on the interactions and attachments we form later in life. Later, we will look at attachments and parenting styles in a little more detail.

In addition to attachment, the German-American psychologist Erik Erikson identified eight stages of psychosocial development, four of which are in childhood.

  1. Trust-versus-mistrust stage

  2. Autonomy-versus-shame and doubt stage

  3. Initiative-versus-guilt stage

  4. Industry-versus-inferiority stage

Characteristics of the Stages of Child Development

Let's look more closely at these stages, now that we know what they are.

Physical Development

The physical child development stages for a child are:

Brain Maturation

Brain maturation is a process that continues from the prenatal stage to adulthood. Early childhood brain maturation is what takes a newborn from instinct-driven infants carrying only unconscious impressions, to persons in early childhood who are creating and storing conscious memory.

Brain Development in Early Childhood

When you are born, you already have almost all the brain cells you will ever have - our brains just aren't sure what to do with them yet. After birth, our brains go through a wild growth period in our early years (similar to our bodies). Neural networks start growing to help your brain tell your body how to eat, walk, sit, stand, and so forth.

Infants' brains increase in size rapidly through the early childhood years. They require ample energy to develop the parts of the brain that will lead to the physical and cognitive changes that will develop over the years to come.

Motor Development in Early Childhood

Humans develop motor skills in the same sequence. While the exact age of skill development might vary depending on the individual, motor skills build on each other and develop as the neurons in our brains connect. It is easy to see how brain development is directly connected to motor skills development.

Research says that children across the world develop motor skills in the same sequence. They roll over first, then sit, crawl, stand, and finally, walk. While the exact ages of these early skills can be somewhat influenced by culture, parenting, and other environmental factors, the sequencing remains the same. It is impossible to direct a baby to walk that cannot yet stand, and our evolutionary sequencing is aware of that.

Cognitive Development

Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive child development has children follow these stages.

Sensorimotor

According to Piaget, babies aged 0-2 years are in the sensorimotor stage of early childhood development. This means their understanding of the world is based on sensory input - seeing, hearing, touching, etc. Young babies within this stage are only focused on the present moment. This is due to a lack of object permanence.

Object permanence is the awareness that something continues to exist, even when it cannot be sensed at that moment.

As infants grow, they start to build up the memory of objects and people even when they are not in the room. This is the start of object permanence.

Preoperational

Children aged 2-6 are in the preoperational stage of child development. The preoperational stage is when a child will start to use language and images to identify things. Though a child can start to identify things, concepts, and tasks at this age, Piaget suggests that they are still too young to take a concept and reverse it.

A popular example of Piaget's preoperational stage is a child and the "two" glasses of milk. He watches the milk be poured from a wide and short glass into a tall and skinny glass, and identifies the taller glass as having "more milk" because it looks fuller. This signifies a lack of the skills to mentally reverse actions or concepts.

Concrete Operational

A 7-12-years-old child is in the concrete operational stage of child development. This stage is when children start to be able to think things through logically and make conclusions about concrete events, as well as mentally reverse equations and outcomes.

Formal Operational

From the age of 12, a child is in the formal operational stage of childhood development. Perceptions go from being based on concrete and experiential to abstract. This means a child will develop the skills to process hypothetical situations and start to form more abstract reasoning skills.

Social Development

Erick Erickson's psychosocial stages theory on social child development includes the following:

Trust-versus-mistrust stage

According to Erikson, this stage of a child's development is all about infants learning to trust their caregivers to fulfill their needs. Whatever sense of trust we can develop as infants and early childhood can impact our sense of trust later in life, even into adulthood.

Autonomy-versus-shame and doubt stage

According to Erikson, this stage of child development is all about early childhood. Toddlers are exploring autonomy for the first time. This will be when you hear toddlers start to say "NO!" The struggle in this stage is for toddlers to learn to control their meltdowns, which can impact how this stage of early childhood relates to autonomy and emotional outbursts later in life as well.

Initiative-versus-guilt stage

According to Erikson, this is the "why?" stage for a child's development. Children will start to question and develop curiosity about the world around them. When allowed to learn, explore, and question a child can build a healthy foundation of answer-seeking in early childhood for their future selves as well.

Industry-versus-inferiority stage

According to Erikson, this stage is often the start of "formal" education. A child is evaluated based on performance and production. A child in this stage wants to feel like they are progressing similar to other children and can feel inferior to another child if they fall behind. This feeling of inferiority can haunt children into the future, which is why this is an important part of childhood development.

Childhood Development, Child watching classmate, StudySmarterChild watching classmate pixabay.com

Social and Emotional Development in Early Childhood

As mentioned earlier, attachment and our relationships with our caregivers can deeply impact our social and emotional development in early childhood. Mary Ainsworth, a psychological researcher, studied attachment through her "strange situation" study, where she observed the reactions of infants when placed in a new and strange environment. Ainsworth developed three categories of attachment based on the outcomes.

Secure Attachment

When babies are comfortable to explore while parents are present, show signs of distress when parents leave, and return to the parents when they arrive again.

Avoidant Attachment

When babies resist their parents, explore new areas, and do not go to their parents after they return.

Anxious/ambivalent Attachment

When babies show ambivalence to parents or show extreme distress when the parents are absent, but do not return to the parents or seek comfort when they return.

Parenting Styles

The way parents and caregivers interact with infants and children can impact their attachment. It is important for parents to develop their own parenting skills when learning how to help their child reach developmental milestones. There are three main parenting styles.

Authoritarian

This style is based on a strict set of standards with matching punishments. This style focuses on seeking obedience, rather than encouraging discussions or nuance within behavior. This style is often matched with stronger or harsher punishments for a child.

Permissive

The style is based on a lack of clear rules, an absence of rules, or constantly changing rules. This is often also associated with a lack of meaningful discipline for a child.

Authoritative

This style is based on consistent rules or guidelines that are reasonable for the child's development stage, and are well-explained. The rules are discussed as well as punishment, and are consistent for the child.

Overall, what makes us the way we are is a combination of nature and nurture. Physical, cognitive, and social child development is impacted by gene sequencing as well as environmental influence.

Childhood Development - Key takeaways

  • The study of childhood development helps us identify important physical, cognitive, and social milestones that children should reach. When they do not meet these milestones, it can help direct us to where medical or environmental interventions can be made.
  • Brain maturation is a process that continues from the prenatal stage to adulthood. Childhood brain maturation is what takes infants from instinct-driven infants carrying only unconscious impressions to individuals creating and storing conscious memory.

  • While the exact age of development might vary depending on the individual, motor skills build on each other and develop as the neurons in our brains connect.

  • Secure attachment - when babies are comfortable to explore while parents are present, show signs of distress when parents leave, and return to their parents when they arrive again.
  • Avoidant attachment -when babies resist their parents, explore new areas, and do not go to their parents after they return.
  • Anxious/ambivalent attachment - when babies show ambivalence to parents or show extreme distress when the parents are absent, but do not return to the parents when they return.

Frequently Asked Questions about Childhood Development

Cognitive development focuses on how a child's brain develops mental activities such as thinking, speaking, and remembering, as it grows.  

The study of child development helps us identify important physical, cognitive, and social developmental milestones that children should reach. 

Attachment and our relationships with our caregivers can deeply impact our social and emotional development in early childhood. The way parents and caregivers interact with infants and children can impact their attachment. These environmental influences can impact how children develop their inner emotions. 

There are three main areas of focus psychologists might have when studying childhood developmental psychology: 

  1. Physical
  2. Cognitive 
  3. Social

Physical development looks at maturation. Maturation is the growth process of a child based on their biology, and does not focus on outside influences.  

Final Childhood Development Quiz

Question

Three main areas of focus for psychologists studying childhood development: 


Show answer

Answer

  1. Physical
  2. Cognitive 
  3. Social

Show question

Question

What is Attachment?

Show answer

Answer

Attachment is the emotional bond between a child and caregiver. It is considered one of the most important aspects of social development during infancy. 

Show question

Question

  Brain Maturation is a process that continues from                to               .

Show answer

Answer

prenatal  to adulthood

Show question

Question

Humans develop motor skills in the same sequence. True or false?

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

What are the four stages of Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive child development?  


Show answer

Answer

  1. Sensorimotor
  2. Preoperational
  3. Concrete Operational 
  4. Formal Operational

Show question

Question

What are the four childhood stages of Erickson's psychosocial development?

Show answer

Answer

  1. Trust-versus-mistrust stage 
  2. Autonomy-versus-shame and doubt stage 
  3. Initiative-versus-guilt stage
  4. Industry-versus-inferiority stage

Show question

Question

This parenting style is based on a strict set of standards with matching punishments. 


Show answer

Answer

Authoritarian 

Show question

Question

                                     looks at how a child's relationships and environmental factors impact their growth and emotional health. 


Show answer

Answer

Social development

Show question

Question

This stage of a child's development is all about infants learning to trust their caregivers to fulfill their needs. 


Show answer

Answer

Trust-versus-mistrust stage 

Show question

Question

Anxious/ambivalent attachment is when babies show ambivalence to parents or show extreme distress when the parents are absent, but do not return to the parents when they return. True or false? 

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

This parenting style is based on a lack of clear rules; rules are absent, or they are constantly changing. This is often also associated with a lack of meaningful discipline for a child.  


Show answer

Answer

Permissive

Show question

Question

What is attachment?

Show answer

Answer

Attachment is a close emotional bond or relationship between a baby and a caregiver.

Show question

Question

What are the four styles of attachment?

Show answer

Answer

Secure attachment, avoidant attachment, ambivalent attachment, and disordered/disorganized attachment.

Show question

Question

What is secure attachment?

Show answer

Answer

Secure attachment is defined by Maitland 2020 as, “After absence baby is happy to see mother, receptive to her contact. Securely attached babies tend to become socially competent children”. (Maitland 2020.)

Show question

Question

What is avoidant attachment?

Show answer

Answer

Avoidant attachment is defined by Maitland 2020 as, “after absence baby is angry and rejecting of mother, avoids her, ignores her, or behaves inconsistently” (Maitland 2020).

Show question

Question

What is ambivalent attachment?

Show answer

Answer

Ambivalent attachment is when an infant knows that their parent or caregiver is not reliable.

Show question

Question

What is ambivalent passive attachment?

Show answer

Answer

Ambivalent passive attachment is when the child has limited explorations and may not seek attention or interaction from others that are not the caregivers.

Show question

Question

What is ambivalent resistant attachment?

Show answer

Answer

Ambivalent resistant attachment is when the child will not seek the caregiver and may be angry with the caregiver.

Show question

Question

What is disordered (or disorganized) attachment?

Show answer

Answer

Disordered attachment (also known as disorganized attachment), is when there is a child that sees their caregiver as a source of fear or distress, but they are physically and emotionally still dependent on that caregiver.

Show question

Question

Who was Harry Harlow?

Show answer

Answer

Harry Harlow was an American psychologist that was best known for his research on dependency, maternal separation, and social isolation. Harlow performed experiments on monkeys and separated them from their mothers.

Show question

Question

Who is Mary Ainsworth?

Show answer

Answer

Mary Ainsworth was a Canadian-American psychologist that studies attachment using a “strange situation” to study the behaviors of a baby in terms of attachment to their mother.

Show question

Question

What is resistant attachment?

Show answer

Answer

Resistant attachment is when there are mixed reactions of babies/infants to their mothers.

Show question

Question

True or False: An infants attachment has long term effects into their adulthood.


Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

True or False: Psychologists have discovered that an infants attachment is centered around feeding.


Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

What was the attachment experiment called that Mary Ainsworth conducted?


Show answer

Answer

Strange Situation

Show question

Question

What animal did Harry Harlow use for his experiments on attachment?


Show answer

Answer

Monkeys

Show question

Question

What are the four stages of cognitive development?

Show answer

Answer

The four stages of cognitive development are the sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage, and formal operational stage. 

Show question

Question

What was Jean Piaget?

Show answer

Answer

Piaget was a Swiss psychologist that studied the development of children from birth through their teens. His main goal was to study the process in which they develop logical thinking.

Show question

Question

What is the Sensorimotor stage?

Show answer

Answer

The sensorimotor stage is where the child uses their senses to interact with the world around them and to learn about their environment and surroundings.

Show question

Question

What is the Preoperational Stage?

Show answer

Answer

The preoperational stage is when children start developing abstract thinking and keep building on object permanence.

Show question

Question

What is the Concrete Operational Stage?

Show answer

Answer

The concrete operational stage is when children become less egocentric and develop and master abstract thought.

Show question

Question

What is the Formal Operational Stage?

Show answer

Answer

The formal operational stage is when a child’s rules of logic become more sophisticated and they use these rules to help them understand abstract concepts and to solve problems.

Show question

Question

What are the six substages to the sensorimotor stage?

Show answer

Answer

The six substages to the sensorimotor stage are reflexes, primary circular reactions, secondary circular reactions, coordination of reactions, tertiary circular reactions, and early representational thought.

Show question

Question

What is Object Permanence?

Show answer

Answer

Object permanence is when the child understands that people and objects continue to exist whether they can be seen or not.

Show question

Question

What are the five main behaviors exhibited by children in the preoperational stage?

Show answer

Answer

The five main behaviors exhibited by children in the preoperational stage are imitation, symbolic play, drawing, mental imagery, and verbal evocation of events.

Show question

Question

What is Egocentric?

Show answer

Answer

Egocentric is when the child cannot understand that events take place without them or that other children and adults may think differently than they do.

Show question

Question

What are the three main parts of the concrete operational stage?

Show answer

Answer

The three main parts of the concrete operational stage are conservation and reversibility, classification, and seriation.

Show question

Question

What is Conservation?

Show answer

Answer

Conservation is knowing that things can change in volume, look, or size, but in the end, they are still the same thing.

Show question

Question

What is Reversibility?

Show answer

Answer

Reversibility is when an item that has changed, can either return to its original state or cannot return to its original state.

Show question

Question

What is Classification?

Show answer

Answer

Classification is when the child can classify things or objects into groups or subgroups.

Show question

Question

What is Seriation?

Show answer

Answer

Seriation is when the child can group things or objects by their weight, importance, or height.

Show question

Question

What is Schema?

Show answer

Answer

Schema is a process of thinking that lets someone know what to expect based on information that they already have.

Show question

Question

What is Assimilation?

Show answer

Answer

Assimilation is the way that one uses schemas to identify a new thing.

Show question

Question

What is Accommodation?

Show answer

Answer

Accommodation is when you change a schema or make a new schema based on newly learned information.

Show question

Question

What is Equilibrium?

Show answer

Answer

Equilibrium is when one uses assimilation and accommodation to keep all of their schemas in order and balanced.

Show question

Question

What was Erik Erikson?

Show answer

Answer

Erik Erikson was a psychologist that developed one of the most widely used and popular theories of development, the theory of psychosocial development. 

Show question

Question

How many stages of psychosocial development are there?

Show answer

Answer

8

Show question

Question

What are the eight stages of psychosocial development?


Show answer

Answer

Infancy, early childhood, preschool, school age, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood, and maturity.

Show question

Question

What is the basic conflict in the first stage?


Show answer

Answer

Trust vs. Mistrust

Show question

Question

What is the basic conflict in the second stage?


Show answer

Answer

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Childhood Development quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Just Signed up?

Yes
No, I'll do it now

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.