8 Things to Remember about Child Development

Content in this guide, step 1: why is early childhood important.

  • : Brain Hero
  • : The Science of ECD (Video)
  • : The Science of ECD (Text)

Step 2: How Does Early Child Development Happen?

  • : 3 Core Concepts in Early Development
  • You Are Here: 8 Things to Remember about Child Development
  • : InBrief: The Science of Resilience

Step 3: What Can We Do to Support Child Development?

  • : From Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts
  • : 3 Principles to Improve Outcomes

Building on a well-established knowledge base more than half a century in the making, recent advanc es in the science of early childhood development and its underlying biology provide a deeper understanding that can inform and improve existing policy and practice, as well as help generate new ways of thinking about solutions. In this important list, featured in the From Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts report, the Center on the Developing Child sets the record straight about some aspects of early child development.

Even infants and young children are affected adversely when significant stresses threaten their family and caregiving environments.

Adverse fetal and early childhood experiences can lead to physical and chemical disruptions in the brain that can last a lifetime. The biological changes associated with these experiences can affect multiple organ systems and increase the risk not only for impairments in future learning capacity and behavior, but also for poor physical and mental health outcomes.

Number 1: Even infants and young children are affected adversely when significant stresses threaten their family and caregiving relationships.

Development is a highly interactive process, and life outcomes are not determined solely by genes.

The environment in which one develops before and soon after birth provides powerful experiences that chemically modify certain genes in ways that then define how much and when they are expressed. Thus, while genetic factors exert potent influences on human development, environmental factors have the ability to alter family inheritance. For example, children are born with the capacity to learn to control impulses, focus attention, and retain information in memory, but their experiences as early as the first year of life lay a foundation for how well these and other executive function skills develop.

Number 2: Development is a highly interactive process, and life outcomes are not determined solely by genes.

While attachments to their parents are primary, young children can also benefit significantly from relationships with other responsive caregivers both within and outside the family.

Close relationships with other nurturing and reliably available adults do not interfere with the strength of a young child’s primary relationship with his or her parents. In fact, multiple caregivers can promote young children’s social and emotional development. That said, frequent disruptions in care and high staff turnover and poor-quality interactions in early childhood program settings can undermine children’s ability to establish secure expectations about whether and how their needs will be met.

Number 3: While attachments to their parents are primary, young children can also benefit significantly from relationships with other responsive caregivers both within and outside the family.

A great deal of brain architecture is shaped during the first three years after birth, but the window of opportunity for its development does not close on a child’s third birthday.

Far from it! Basic aspects of brain function, such as the ability to see and hear effectively, do depend critically on very early experiences as do some aspects of emotional development. And, while the regions of the brain dedicated to higher-order functions—which involve most social, emotional, and cognitive capacities, including multiple aspects of executive functioning —are also affected powerfully by early influences, they continue to develop well into adolescence and early adulthood. So, although the basic principle that “earlier is better than later” generally applies, the window of opportunity for most domains of development remains open far beyond age 3, and we remain capable of learning ways to “work around” earlier impacts well into the adult years.

Number 4: A great deal of brain architecture is shaped during the first three years after birth, but the window of opportunity for its development does not close on a child’s third birthday.

Severe neglect appears to be at least as great a threat to health and development as physical abuse—possibly even greater.

When compared with children who have been victimized by overt physical maltreatment, young children who experienced prolonged periods of neglect exhibit more serious cognitive impairments, attention problems, language deficits, academic difficulties, withdrawn behavior, and problems with peer interaction as they get older. This suggests that sustained disruption of serve and return interactions in early relationships may be more damaging to the developing architecture of the brain than physical trauma, yet it often receives less attention. 

Number 5: Severe neglect appears to be at least as great a threat to health and development as physical abuse—possibly even greater.

Young children who have been exposed to adversity or violence do not invariably develop stress-related disorders or grow up to be violent adults.

Although children who have these experiences clearly are at greater risk for adverse impacts on brain development and later problems with aggression, they are not doomed to poor outcomes. Indeed, they can be helped substantially if reliable and nurturing relationships with supportive caregivers are established as soon as possible and appropriate treatments are provided as needed.

Number 6: Young children who have been exposed to adversity or violence do not invariably develop stress-related disorders or grow up to be violent adults.

Simply removing a child from a dangerous environment will not automatically reverse the negative impacts of that experience.

There is no doubt that children in harm’s way should be removed from dangerous situations immediately. Similarly, children experiencing severe neglect should be provided with responsive caregiving as soon as possible. That said, children who have been traumatized need to be in environments that restore their sense of safety, control, and predictability, and they typically require therapeutic, supportive care to facilitate their recovery.

Number 7: Simply removing a child from a dangerous environment will not automatically reverse the negative impacts of that experience.

Resilience requires relationships, not rugged individualism.

The capacity to adapt and thrive despite adversity develops through the interaction of supportive relationships, biological systems, and gene expression. Despite the widespread yet erroneous belief that people need only draw upon some heroic strength of character, science now tells us that it is the reliable presence of at least one supportive relationship and multiple opportunities for developing effective coping skills that are the essential building blocks for strengthening the capacity to do well in the face of significant adversity. 

Number 8: Resilience requires relationships, not rugged individualism.

Suggested citation: Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2016). 8 Things to Remember about Child Development. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.

Related Topics: brain architecture , executive function , resilience , neglect , serve and return

Explore related resources.

  • Reports & Working Papers
  • Tools & Guides
  • Presentations
  • Infographics

A mother responds to her baby's babbling

Videos : Serve & Return Interaction Shapes Brain Circuitry

A cover image from the Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts paper, showing the title and an image of two parents kissing their baby

Reports & Working Papers : From Best Practices to Breakthrough Impacts

The Science of Neglect InBrief

Briefs : InBrief: The Science of Neglect

Black and white photo of a worried baby behind crib bars

Videos : InBrief: The Science of Neglect

Working Paper 12 cover

Reports & Working Papers : The Science of Neglect: The Persistent Absence of Responsive Care Disrupts the Developing Brain

Working Paper 1 cover

Reports & Working Papers : Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships

Daycare teacher works with baby who's playing.

Tools & Guides , Briefs : 5 Steps for Brain-Building Serve and Return

Child riding bike with the words "Mini Parenting Master Class" on the image

Partner Resources : Building Babies’ Brains Through Play: Mini Parenting Master Class

Old-fashioned microphone in front of unfocused black-and-white background Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

Podcasts : About The Brain Architects Podcast

assignments in child development

Videos : FIND: Using Science to Coach Caregivers

Serve and return video cover

Videos : How-to: 5 Steps for Brain-Building Serve and Return

Two boys look out a window (Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash)

Briefs : How to Support Children (and Yourself) During the COVID-19 Outbreak

InBrief: The science of early childhood development cover thumbnail

Briefs : InBrief: The Science of Early Childhood Development

The Science of ECD video still

Videos : InBrief: The Science of Early Childhood Development

The Best Start in Life MOOC logo

Partner Resources , Tools & Guides : MOOC: The Best Start in Life: Early Childhood Development for Sustainable Development

assignments in child development

Presentations : Parenting for Brain Development and Prosperity

A child and caregiver wearing goggles and doing a science experiment at a children's museum

Videos : Play in Early Childhood: The Role of Play in Any Setting

assignments in child development

Videos : Child Development Core Story

Animated people standing outside (a still from the Science by Design video)

Videos : Science X Design: Three Principles to Improve Outcomes for Children

Young girl wearing face mask receives a vaccination

Podcasts : The Brain Architects Podcast: COVID-19 Special Edition: Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

Gray concrete pillars supporting a structure (Photo by Mirko Blicke on Unsplash)

Podcasts : The Brain Architects Podcast: Serve and Return: Supporting the Foundation

Videos : Three Core Concepts in Early Development

assignments in child development

Reports & Working Papers : Three Principles to Improve Outcomes for Children and Families

Photo of woman caregiver holding an baby talking to another caregiver

Partner Resources , Tools & Guides : Training Module: “Talk With Me Baby”

Detail of the first panel of the "What is COVID-19" infographic

Infographics : What Is COVID-19? And How Does It Relate to Child Development?

assignments in child development

Partner Resources , Tools & Guides : Vroom

Logo for College of DuPage Digital Press

Want to create or adapt books like this? Learn more about how Pressbooks supports open publishing practices.

1 Chapter 1: Introduction to Child Development

Chapter objectives.

After this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Describe the principles that underlie development.
  • Differentiate periods of human development.
  • Evaluate issues in development.
  • Distinguish the different methods of research.
  • Explain what a theory is.
  • Compare and contrast different theories of child development.

Introduction

Welcome to Child Growth and Development. This text is a presentation of how and why children grow, develop, and learn.

We will look at how we change physically over time from conception through adolescence. We examine cognitive change, or how our ability to think and remember changes over the first 20 years or so of life. And we will look at how our emotions, psychological state, and social relationships change throughout childhood and adolescence. 1

Principles of Development

There are several underlying principles of development to keep in mind:

  • Development is lifelong and change is apparent across the lifespan (although this text ends with adolescence). And early experiences affect later development.
  • Development is multidirectional. We show gains in some areas of development, while showing loss in other areas.
  • Development is multidimensional. We change across three general domains/dimensions; physical, cognitive, and social and emotional.
  • The physical domain includes changes in height and weight, changes in gross and fine motor skills, sensory capabilities, the nervous system, as well as the propensity for disease and illness.
  • The cognitive domain encompasses the changes in intelligence, wisdom, perception, problem-solving, memory, and language.
  • The social and emotional domain (also referred to as psychosocial) focuses on changes in emotion, self-perception, and interpersonal relationships with families, peers, and friends.

All three domains influence each other. It is also important to note that a change in one domain may cascade and prompt changes in the other domains.

  • Development is characterized by plasticity, which is our ability to change and that many of our characteristics are malleable. Early experiences are important, but children are remarkably resilient (able to overcome adversity).
  • Development is multicontextual. 2 We are influenced by both nature (genetics) and nurture (the environment) – when and where we live and our actions, beliefs, and values are a response to circumstances surrounding us.  The key here is to understand that behaviors, motivations, emotions, and choices are all part of a bigger picture. 3

Now let’s look at a framework for examining development.

Periods of Development

Think about what periods of development that you think a course on Child Development would address. How many stages are on your list? Perhaps you have three: infancy, childhood, and teenagers. Developmentalists (those that study development) break this part of the life span into these five stages as follows:

  • Prenatal Development (conception through birth)
  • Infancy and Toddlerhood (birth through two years)
  • Early Childhood (3 to 5 years)
  • Middle Childhood (6 to 11 years)
  • Adolescence (12 years to adulthood)

This list reflects unique aspects of the various stages of childhood and adolescence that will be explored in this book. So while both an 8 month old and an 8 year old are considered children, they have very different motor abilities, social relationships, and cognitive skills. Their nutritional needs are different and their primary psychological concerns are also distinctive.

Prenatal Development

Conception occurs and development begins. All of the major structures of the body are forming and the health of the mother is of primary concern. Understanding nutrition, teratogens (or environmental factors that can lead to birth defects), and labor and delivery are primary concerns.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1 – A tiny embryo depicting some development of arms and legs, as well as facial features that are starting to show. 4

Infancy and Toddlerhood

The two years of life are ones of dramatic growth and change. A newborn, with a keen sense of hearing but very poor vision is transformed into a walking, talking toddler within a relatively short period of time. Caregivers are also transformed from someone who manages feeding and sleep schedules to a constantly moving guide and safety inspector for a mobile, energetic child.

Figure 1.2

Figure 1.2 – A swaddled newborn. 5

Early Childhood

Early childhood is also referred to as the preschool years and consists of the years which follow toddlerhood and precede formal schooling. As a three to five-year-old, the child is busy learning language, is gaining a sense of self and greater independence, and is beginning to learn the workings of the physical world. This knowledge does not come quickly, however, and preschoolers may initially have interesting conceptions of size, time, space and distance such as fearing that they may go down the drain if they sit at the front of the bathtub or by demonstrating how long something will take by holding out their two index fingers several inches apart. A toddler’s fierce determination to do something may give way to a four-year-old’s sense of guilt for action that brings the disapproval of others.

Figure 1.3

Figure 1.3 – Two young children playing in the Singapore Botanic Gardens 6

Middle Childhood

The ages of six through eleven comprise middle childhood and much of what children experience at this age is connected to their involvement in the early grades of school. Now the world becomes one of learning and testing new academic skills and by assessing one’s abilities and accomplishments by making comparisons between self and others. Schools compare students and make these comparisons public through team sports, test scores, and other forms of recognition. Growth rates slow down and children are able to refine their motor skills at this point in life. And children begin to learn about social relationships beyond the family through interaction with friends and fellow students.

Figure 1.4

Figure 1.4 – Two children running down the street in Carenage, Trinidad and Tobago 7

Adolescence

Adolescence is a period of dramatic physical change marked by an overall physical growth spurt and sexual maturation, known as puberty. It is also a time of cognitive change as the adolescent begins to think of new possibilities and to consider abstract concepts such as love, fear, and freedom. Ironically, adolescents have a sense of invincibility that puts them at greater risk of dying from accidents or contracting sexually transmitted infections that can have lifelong consequences. 8

Figure 1.5

Figure 1.5 – Two smiling teenage women. 9

There are some aspects of development that have been hotly debated. Let’s explore these.

Issues in Development

Nature and nurture.

Why are people the way they are? Are features such as height, weight, personality, being diabetic, etc. the result of heredity or environmental factors-or both? For decades, scholars have carried on the “nature/nurture” debate. For any particular feature, those on the side of Nature would argue that heredity plays the most important role in bringing about that feature. Those on the side of Nurture would argue that one’s environment is most significant in shaping the way we are. This debate continues in all aspects of human development, and most scholars agree that there is a constant interplay between the two forces. It is difficult to isolate the root of any single behavior as a result solely of nature or nurture.

Continuity versus Discontinuity

Is human development best characterized as a slow, gradual process, or is it best viewed as one of more abrupt change? The answer to that question often depends on which developmental theorist you ask and what topic is being studied. The theories of Freud, Erikson, Piaget, and Kohlberg are called stage theories. Stage theories or discontinuous development assume that developmental change often occurs in distinct stages that are qualitatively different from each other, and in a set, universal sequence. At each stage of development, children and adults have different qualities and characteristics. Thus, stage theorists assume development is more discontinuous. Others, such as the behaviorists, Vygotsky, and information processing theorists, assume development is a more slow and gradual process known as continuous development. For instance, they would see the adult as not possessing new skills, but more advanced skills that were already present in some form in the child. Brain development and environmental experiences contribute to the acquisition of more developed skills.

Figure 1.6

Figure 1.6 – The graph to the left shows three stages in the continuous growth of a tree. The graph to the right shows four distinct stages of development in the life cycle of a ladybug. 10

Active versus Passive

How much do you play a role in your own developmental path? Are you at the whim of your genetic inheritance or the environment that surrounds you? Some theorists see humans as playing a much more active role in their own development. Piaget, for instance believed that children actively explore their world and construct new ways of thinking to explain the things they experience. In contrast, many behaviorists view humans as being more passive in the developmental process. 11

How do we know so much about how we grow, develop, and learn? Let’s look at how that data is gathered through research

Research Methods

An important part of learning any science is having a basic knowledge of the techniques used in gathering information. The hallmark of scientific investigation is that of following a set of procedures designed to keep questioning or skepticism alive while describing, explaining, or testing any phenomenon. Some people are hesitant to trust academicians or researchers because they always seem to change their story. That, however, is exactly what science is all about; it involves continuously renewing our understanding of the subjects in question and an ongoing investigation of how and why events occur. Science is a vehicle for going on a never-ending journey. In the area of development, we have seen changes in recommendations for nutrition, in explanations of psychological states as people age, and in parenting advice. So think of learning about human development as a lifelong endeavor.

Take a moment to write down two things that you know about childhood. Now, how do you know? Chances are you know these things based on your own history (experiential reality) or based on what others have told you or cultural ideas (agreement reality) (Seccombe and Warner, 2004). There are several problems with personal inquiry. Read the following sentence aloud:

Paris in the

Are you sure that is what it said? Read it again:

If you read it differently the second time (adding the second “the”) you just experienced one of the problems with personal inquiry; that is, the tendency to see what we believe. Our assumptions very often guide our perceptions, consequently, when we believe something, we tend to see it even if it is not there. This problem may just be a result of cognitive ‘blinders’ or it may be part of a more conscious attempt to support our own views. Confirmation bias is the tendency to look for evidence that we are right and in so doing, we ignore contradictory evidence. Popper suggests that the distinction between that which is scientific and that which is unscientific is that science is falsifiable; scientific inquiry involves attempts to reject or refute a theory or set of assumptions (Thornton, 2005). Theory that cannot be falsified is not scientific. And much of what we do in personal inquiry involves drawing conclusions based on what we have personally experienced or validating our own experience by discussing what we think is true with others who share the same views.

Science offers a more systematic way to make comparisons guard against bias.

Scientific Methods

One method of scientific investigation involves the following steps:

  • Determining a research question
  • Reviewing previous studies addressing the topic in question (known as a literature review)
  • Determining a method of gathering information
  • Conducting the study
  • Interpreting results
  • Drawing conclusions; stating limitations of the study and suggestions for future research
  • Making your findings available to others (both to share information and to have your work scrutinized by others)

Your findings can then be used by others as they explore the area of interest and through this process a literature or knowledge base is established. This model of scientific investigation presents research as a linear process guided by a specific research question. And it typically involves quantifying or using statistics to understand and report what has been studied. Many academic journals publish reports on studies conducted in this manner.

Another model of research referred to as qualitative research may involve steps such as these:

  • Begin with a broad area of interest
  • Gain entrance into a group to be researched
  • Gather field notes about the setting, the people, the structure, the activities or other areas of interest
  • Ask open ended, broad “grand tour” types of questions when interviewing subjects
  • Modify research questions as study continues
  • Note patterns or consistencies
  • Explore new areas deemed important by the people being observed
  • Report findings

In this type of research, theoretical ideas are “grounded” in the experiences of the participants. The researcher is the student and the people in the setting are the teachers as they inform the researcher of their world (Glazer & Strauss, 1967). Researchers are to be aware of their own biases and assumptions, acknowledge them and bracket them in efforts to keep them from limiting accuracy in reporting. Sometimes qualitative studies are used initially to explore a topic and more quantitative studies are used to test or explain what was first described.

Let’s look more closely at some techniques, or research methods, used to describe, explain, or evaluate. Each of these designs has strengths and weaknesses and is sometimes used in combination with other designs within a single study.

Observational Studies

Observational studies involve watching and recording the actions of participants. This may take place in the natural setting, such as observing children at play at a park, or behind a one-way glass while children are at play in a laboratory playroom. The researcher may follow a checklist and record the frequency and duration of events (perhaps how many conflicts occur among 2-year-olds) or may observe and record as much as possible about an event (such as observing children in a classroom and capturing the details about the room design and what the children and teachers are doing and saying). In general, observational studies have the strength of allowing the researcher to see how people behave rather than relying on self-report. What people do and what they say they do are often very different. A major weakness of observational studies is that they do not allow the researcher to explain causal relationships. Yet, observational studies are useful and widely used when studying children. Children tend to change their behavior when they know they are being watched (known as the Hawthorne effect) and may not survey well.

Experiments

Experiments are designed to test hypotheses (or specific statements about the relationship between variables) in a controlled setting in efforts to explain how certain factors or events produce outcomes. A variable is anything that changes in value. Concepts are operationalized or transformed into variables in research, which means that the researcher must specify exactly what is going to be measured in the study.

Three conditions must be met in order to establish cause and effect. Experimental designs are useful in meeting these conditions.

The independent and dependent variables must be related. In other words, when one is altered, the other changes in response. (The independent variable is something altered or introduced by the researcher. The dependent variable is the outcome or the factor affected by the introduction of the independent variable. For example, if we are looking at the impact of exercise on stress levels, the independent variable would be exercise; the dependent variable would be stress.)

The cause must come before the effect. Experiments involve measuring subjects on the dependent variable before exposing them to the independent variable (establishing a baseline). So we would measure the subjects’ level of stress before introducing exercise and then again after the exercise to see if there has been a change in stress levels. (Observational and survey research does not always allow us to look at the timing of these events, which makes understanding causality problematic with these designs.)

The cause must be isolated. The researcher must ensure that no outside, perhaps unknown variables are actually causing the effect we see. The experimental design helps make this possible. In an experiment, we would make sure that our subjects’ diets were held constant throughout the exercise program. Otherwise, diet might really be creating the change in stress level rather than exercise.

A basic experimental design involves beginning with a sample (or subset of a population) and randomly assigning subjects to one of two groups: the experimental group or the control group. The experimental group is the group that is going to be exposed to an independent variable or condition the researcher is introducing as a potential cause of an event. The control group is going to be used for comparison and is going to have the same experience as the experimental group but will not be exposed to the independent variable. After exposing the experimental group to the independent variable, the two groups are measured again to see if a change has occurred. If so, we are in a better position to suggest that the independent variable caused the change in the dependent variable.

The major advantage of the experimental design is that of helping to establish cause and effect relationships. A disadvantage of this design is the difficulty of translating much of what happens in a laboratory setting into real life.

Case Studies

Case studies involve exploring a single case or situation in great detail. Information may be gathered with the use of observation, interviews, testing, or other methods to uncover as much as possible about a person or situation. Case studies are helpful when investigating unusual situations such as brain trauma or children reared in isolation. And they are often used by clinicians who conduct case studies as part of their normal practice when gathering information about a client or patient coming in for treatment. Case studies can be used to explore areas about which little is known and can provide rich detail about situations or conditions. However, the findings from case studies cannot be generalized or applied to larger populations; this is because cases are not randomly selected and no control group is used for comparison.

Figure 1.7

Figure 1.7 – Illustrated poster from a classroom describing a case study. 12

Surveys are familiar to most people because they are so widely used. Surveys enhance accessibility to subjects because they can be conducted in person, over the phone, through the mail, or online. A survey involves asking a standard set of questions to a group of subjects. In a highly structured survey, subjects are forced to choose from a response set such as “strongly disagree, disagree, undecided, agree, strongly agree”; or “0, 1-5, 6-10, etc.” This is known as Likert Scale . Surveys are commonly used by sociologists, marketing researchers, political scientists, therapists, and others to gather information on many independent and dependent variables in a relatively short period of time. Surveys typically yield surface information on a wide variety of factors, but may not allow for in-depth understanding of human behavior.

Of course, surveys can be designed in a number of ways. They may include forced choice questions and semi-structured questions in which the researcher allows the respondent to describe or give details about certain events. One of the most difficult aspects of designing a good survey is wording questions in an unbiased way and asking the right questions so that respondents can give a clear response rather than choosing “undecided” each time. Knowing that 30% of respondents are undecided is of little use! So a lot of time and effort should be placed on the construction of survey items. One of the benefits of having forced choice items is that each response is coded so that the results can be quickly entered and analyzed using statistical software. Analysis takes much longer when respondents give lengthy responses that must be analyzed in a different way. Surveys are useful in examining stated values, attitudes, opinions, and reporting on practices. However, they are based on self-report or what people say they do rather than on observation and this can limit accuracy.

Developmental Designs

Developmental designs are techniques used in developmental research (and other areas as well). These techniques try to examine how age, cohort, gender, and social class impact development.

Longitudinal Research

Longitudinal research involves beginning with a group of people who may be of the same age and background, and measuring them repeatedly over a long period of time. One of the benefits of this type of research is that people can be followed through time and be compared with them when they were younger.

Figure 1.8

Figure 1.8 – A longitudinal research design. 13

A problem with this type of research is that it is very expensive and subjects may drop out over time. The Perry Preschool Project which began in 1962 is an example of a longitudinal study that continues to provide data on children’s development.

Cross-sectional Research

Cross-sectional research involves beginning with a sample that represents a cross-section of the population. Respondents who vary in age, gender, ethnicity, and social class might be asked to complete a survey about television program preferences or attitudes toward the use of the Internet. The attitudes of males and females could then be compared, as could attitudes based on age. In cross-sectional research, respondents are measured only once.

Figure 1.9

Figure 1.9 – A cross-sectional research design. 14

This method is much less expensive than longitudinal research but does not allow the researcher to distinguish between the impact of age and the cohort effect. Different attitudes about the use of technology, for example, might not be altered by a person’s biological age as much as their life experiences as members of a cohort.

Sequential Research

Sequential research involves combining aspects of the previous two techniques; beginning with a cross-sectional sample and measuring them through time.

Figure 1.10

Figure 1.10 – A sequential research design. 15

This is the perfect model for looking at age, gender, social class, and ethnicity. But the drawbacks of high costs and attrition are here as well. 16

Table 1 .1 – Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Research Designs 17

Consent and Ethics in Research

Research should, as much as possible, be based on participants’ freely volunteered informed consent. For minors, this also requires consent from their legal guardians. This implies a responsibility to explain fully and meaningfully to both the child and their guardians what the research is about and how it will be disseminated. Participants and their legal guardians should be aware of the research purpose and procedures, their right to refuse to participate; the extent to which confidentiality will be maintained; the potential uses to which the data might be put; the foreseeable risks and expected benefits; and that participants have the right to discontinue at any time.

But consent alone does not absolve the responsibility of researchers to anticipate and guard against potential harmful consequences for participants. 18 It is critical that researchers protect all rights of the participants including confidentiality.

Child development is a fascinating field of study – but care must be taken to ensure that researchers use appropriate methods to examine infant and child behavior, use the correct experimental design to answer their questions, and be aware of the special challenges that are part-and-parcel of developmental research. Hopefully, this information helped you develop an understanding of these various issues and to be ready to think more critically about research questions that interest you. There are so many interesting questions that remain to be examined by future generations of developmental scientists – maybe you will make one of the next big discoveries! 19

Another really important framework to use when trying to understand children’s development are theories of development. Let’s explore what theories are and introduce you to some major theories in child development.

Developmental Theories

What is a theory.

Students sometimes feel intimidated by theory; even the phrase, “Now we are going to look at some theories…” is met with blank stares and other indications that the audience is now lost. But theories are valuable tools for understanding human behavior; in fact they are proposed explanations for the “how” and “whys” of development. Have you ever wondered, “Why is my 3 year old so inquisitive?” or “Why are some fifth graders rejected by their classmates?” Theories can help explain these and other occurrences. Developmental theories offer explanations about how we develop, why we change over time and the kinds of influences that impact development.

A theory guides and helps us interpret research findings as well. It provides the researcher with a blueprint or model to be used to help piece together various studies. Think of theories as guidelines much like directions that come with an appliance or other object that requires assembly. The instructions can help one piece together smaller parts more easily than if trial and error are used.

Theories can be developed using induction in which a number of single cases are observed and after patterns or similarities are noted, the theorist develops ideas based on these examples. Established theories are then tested through research; however, not all theories are equally suited to scientific investigation.  Some theories are difficult to test but are still useful in stimulating debate or providing concepts that have practical application. Keep in mind that theories are not facts; they are guidelines for investigation and practice, and they gain credibility through research that fails to disprove them. 20

Let’s take a look at some key theories in Child Development.

Sigmund Freud’s Psychosexual Theory

We begin with the often controversial figure, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). Freud has been a very influential figure in the area of development; his view of development and psychopathology dominated the field of psychiatry until the growth of behaviorism in the 1950s. His assumptions that personality forms during the first few years of life and that the ways in which parents or other caregivers interact with children have a long-lasting impact on children’s emotional states have guided parents, educators, clinicians, and policy-makers for many years. We have only recently begun to recognize that early childhood experiences do not always result in certain personality traits or emotional states. There is a growing body of literature addressing resilience in children who come from harsh backgrounds and yet develop without damaging emotional scars (O’Grady and Metz, 1987). Freud has stimulated an enormous amount of research and generated many ideas. Agreeing with Freud’s theory in its entirety is hardly necessary for appreciating the contribution he has made to the field of development.

Figure 1.11

Figure 1.11 – Sigmund Freud. 21

Freud’s theory of self suggests that there are three parts of the self.

The id is the part of the self that is inborn. It responds to biological urges without pause and is guided by the principle of pleasure: if it feels good, it is the thing to do. A newborn is all id. The newborn cries when hungry, defecates when the urge strikes.

The ego develops through interaction with others and is guided by logic or the reality principle. It has the ability to delay gratification. It knows that urges have to be managed. It mediates between the id and superego using logic and reality to calm the other parts of the self.

The superego represents society’s demands for its members. It is guided by a sense of guilt. Values, morals, and the conscience are all part of the superego.

The personality is thought to develop in response to the child’s ability to learn to manage biological urges. Parenting is important here. If the parent is either overly punitive or lax, the child may not progress to the next stage. Here is a brief introduction to Freud’s stages.

Table 1. 2 – Sigmund Freud’s Psychosexual Theory

Strengths and Weaknesses of Freud’s Theory

Freud’s theory has been heavily criticized for several reasons. One is that it is very difficult to test scientifically. How can parenting in infancy be traced to personality in adulthood? Are there other variables that might better explain development? The theory is also considered to be sexist in suggesting that women who do not accept an inferior position in society are somehow psychologically flawed. Freud focuses on the darker side of human nature and suggests that much of what determines our actions is unknown to us. So why do we study Freud? As mentioned above, despite the criticisms, Freud’s assumptions about the importance of early childhood experiences in shaping our psychological selves have found their way into child development, education, and parenting practices. Freud’s theory has heuristic value in providing a framework from which to elaborate and modify subsequent theories of development. Many later theories, particularly behaviorism and humanism, were challenges to Freud’s views. 22

Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory

Now, let’s turn to a less controversial theorist, Erik Erikson. Erikson (1902-1994) suggested that our relationships and society’s expectations motivate much of our behavior in his theory of psychosocial development. Erikson was a student of Freud’s but emphasized the importance of the ego, or conscious thought, in determining our actions. In other words, he believed that we are not driven by unconscious urges. We know what motivates us and we consciously think about how to achieve our goals. He is considered the father of developmental psychology because his model gives us a guideline for the entire life span and suggests certain primary psychological and social concerns throughout life.

Figure 1.12

Figure 1.12 – Erik Erikson. 23

Erikson expanded on his Freud’s by emphasizing the importance of culture in parenting practices and motivations and adding three stages of adult development (Erikson, 1950; 1968). He believed that we are aware of what motivates us throughout life and the ego has greater importance in guiding our actions than does the id. We make conscious choices in life and these choices focus on meeting certain social and cultural needs rather than purely biological ones. Humans are motivated, for instance, by the need to feel that the world is a trustworthy place, that we are capable individuals, that we can make a contribution to society, and that we have lived a meaningful life. These are all psychosocial problems.

Erikson divided the lifespan into eight stages. In each stage, we have a major psychosocial task to accomplish or crisis to overcome.  Erikson believed that our personality continues to take shape throughout our lifespan as we face these challenges in living. Here is a brief overview of the eight stages:

Table 1. 3 – Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory

These eight stages form a foundation for discussions on emotional and social development during the life span. Keep in mind, however, that these stages or crises can occur more than once. For instance, a person may struggle with a lack of trust beyond infancy under certain circumstances. Erikson’s theory has been criticized for focusing so heavily on stages and assuming that the completion of one stage is prerequisite for the next crisis of development. His theory also focuses on the social expectations that are found in certain cultures, but not in all. For instance, the idea that adolescence is a time of searching for identity might translate well in the middle-class culture of the United States, but not as well in cultures where the transition into adulthood coincides with puberty through rites of passage and where adult roles offer fewer choices. 24

Behaviorism

While Freud and Erikson looked at what was going on in the mind, behaviorism rejected any reference to mind and viewed overt and observable behavior as the proper subject matter of psychology. Through the scientific study of behavior, it was hoped that laws of learning could be derived that would promote the prediction and control of behavior. 25

Ivan Pavlov

Ivan Pavlov (1880-1937) was a Russian physiologist interested in studying digestion. As he recorded the amount of salivation his laboratory dogs produced as they ate, he noticed that they actually began to salivate before the food arrived as the researcher walked down the hall and toward the cage. “This,” he thought, “is not natural!” One would expect a dog to automatically salivate when food hit their palate, but BEFORE the food comes? Of course, what had happened was . . . you tell me. That’s right! The dogs knew that the food was coming because they had learned to associate the footsteps with the food. The key word here is “learned”. A learned response is called a “conditioned” response.

Figure 1.13

Figure 1.13 – Ivan Pavlov. 26

Pavlov began to experiment with this concept of classical conditioning . He began to ring a bell, for instance, prior to introducing the food. Sure enough, after making this connection several times, the dogs could be made to salivate to the sound of a bell. Once the bell had become an event to which the dogs had learned to salivate, it was called a conditioned stimulus . The act of salivating to a bell was a response that had also been learned, now termed in Pavlov’s jargon, a conditioned response. Notice that the response, salivation, is the same whether it is conditioned or unconditioned (unlearned or natural). What changed is the stimulus to which the dog salivates. One is natural (unconditioned) and one is learned (conditioned).

Let’s think about how classical conditioning is used on us. One of the most widespread applications of classical conditioning principles was brought to us by the psychologist, John B. Watson.

John B. Watson

John B. Watson (1878-1958) believed that most of our fears and other emotional responses are classically conditioned. He had gained a good deal of popularity in the 1920s with his expert advice on parenting offered to the public.

Figure 1.14

Figure 1.14 – John B. Watson. 27

He tried to demonstrate the power of classical conditioning with his famous experiment with an 18 month old boy named “Little Albert”. Watson sat Albert down and introduced a variety of seemingly scary objects to him: a burning piece of newspaper, a white rat, etc. But Albert remained curious and reached for all of these things. Watson knew that one of our only inborn fears is the fear of loud noises so he proceeded to make a loud noise each time he introduced one of Albert’s favorites, a white rat. After hearing the loud noise several times paired with the rat, Albert soon came to fear the rat and began to cry when it was introduced. Watson filmed this experiment for posterity and used it to demonstrate that he could help parents achieve any outcomes they desired, if they would only follow his advice. Watson wrote columns in newspapers and in magazines and gained a lot of popularity among parents eager to apply science to household order.

Operant conditioning, on the other hand, looks at the way the consequences of a behavior increase or decrease the likelihood of a behavior occurring again. So let’s look at this a bit more.

B.F. Skinner and Operant Conditioning

B. F. Skinner (1904-1990), who brought us the principles of operant conditioning, suggested that reinforcement is a more effective means of encouraging a behavior than is criticism or punishment. By focusing on strengthening desirable behavior, we have a greater impact than if we emphasize what is undesirable. Reinforcement is anything that an organism desires and is motivated to obtain.

Figure 1.15

Figure 1.15 – B. F. Skinner. 28

A reinforcer is something that encourages or promotes a behavior. Some things are natural rewards. They are considered intrinsic or primary because their value is easily understood. Think of what kinds of things babies or animals such as puppies find rewarding.

Extrinsic or secondary reinforcers are things that have a value not immediately understood. Their value is indirect. They can be traded in for what is ultimately desired.

The use of positive reinforcement involves adding something to a situation in order to encourage a behavior. For example, if I give a child a cookie for cleaning a room, the addition of the cookie makes cleaning more likely in the future. Think of ways in which you positively reinforce others.

Negative reinforcement occurs when taking something unpleasant away from a situation encourages behavior. For example, I have an alarm clock that makes a very unpleasant, loud sound when it goes off in the morning. As a result, I get up and turn it off. By removing the noise, I am reinforced for getting up. How do you negatively reinforce others?

Punishment is an effort to stop a behavior. It means to follow an action with something unpleasant or painful. Punishment is often less effective than reinforcement for several reasons. It doesn’t indicate the desired behavior, it may result in suppressing rather than stopping a behavior, (in other words, the person may not do what is being punished when you’re around, but may do it often when you leave), and a focus on punishment can result in not noticing when the person does well.

Not all behaviors are learned through association or reinforcement. Many of the things we do are learned by watching others. This is addressed in social learning theory.

Social Learning Theory

Albert Bandura (1925-) is a leading contributor to social learning theory. He calls our attention to the ways in which many of our actions are not learned through conditioning; rather, they are learned by watching others (1977). Young children frequently learn behaviors through imitation

Figure 1.16

Figure 1.16 – Albert Bandura. 29

Sometimes, particularly when we do not know what else to do, we learn by modeling or copying the behavior of others. A kindergartner on his or her first day of school might eagerly look at how others are acting and try to act the same way to fit in more quickly. Adolescents struggling with their identity rely heavily on their peers to act as role-models. Sometimes we do things because we’ve seen it pay off for someone else. They were operantly conditioned, but we engage in the behavior because we hope it will pay off for us as well. This is referred to as vicarious reinforcement (Bandura, Ross and Ross, 1963).

Bandura (1986) suggests that there is interplay between the environment and the individual. We are not just the product of our surroundings, rather we influence our surroundings. Parents not only influence their child’s environment, perhaps intentionally through the use of reinforcement, etc., but children influence parents as well. Parents may respond differently with their first child than with their fourth. Perhaps they try to be the perfect parents with their firstborn, but by the time their last child comes along they have very different expectations both of themselves and their child. Our environment creates us and we create our environment. 30

Theories also explore cognitive development and how mental processes change over time.

Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

Jean Piaget (1896-1980) is one of the most influential cognitive theorists. Piaget was inspired to explore children’s ability to think and reason by watching his own children’s development. He was one of the first to recognize and map out the ways in which children’s thought differs from that of adults. His interest in this area began when he was asked to test the IQ of children and began to notice that there was a pattern in their wrong answers. He believed that children’s intellectual skills change over time through maturation. Children of differing ages interpret the world differently.

Figure 1.17

Figure 1.17 – Jean Piaget. 32

Piaget believed our desire to understand the world comes from a need for cognitive equilibrium . This is an agreement or balance between what we sense in the outside world and what we know in our minds. If we experience something that we cannot understand, we try to restore the balance by either changing our thoughts or by altering the experience to fit into what we do understand. Perhaps you meet someone who is very different from anyone you know. How do you make sense of this person? You might use them to establish a new category of people in your mind or you might think about how they are similar to someone else.

A schema or schemes are categories of knowledge. They are like mental boxes of concepts. A child has to learn many concepts. They may have a scheme for “under” and “soft” or “running” and “sour”. All of these are schema. Our efforts to understand the world around us lead us to develop new schema and to modify old ones.

One way to make sense of new experiences is to focus on how they are similar to what we already know. This is assimilation . So the person we meet who is very different may be understood as being “sort of like my brother” or “his voice sounds a lot like yours.” Or a new food may be assimilated when we determine that it tastes like chicken!

Another way to make sense of the world is to change our mind. We can make a cognitive accommodation to this new experience by adding new schema. This food is unlike anything I’ve tasted before. I now have a new category of foods that are bitter-sweet in flavor, for instance. This is  accommodation . Do you accommodate or assimilate more frequently? Children accommodate more frequently as they build new schema. Adults tend to look for similarity in their experience and assimilate. They may be less inclined to think “outside the box.”

Piaget suggested different ways of understanding that are associated with maturation. He divided this into four stages:

Table 1.4 – Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

Criticisms of Piaget’s Theory

Piaget has been criticized for overemphasizing the role that physical maturation plays in cognitive development and in underestimating the role that culture and interaction (or experience) plays in cognitive development. Looking across cultures reveals considerable variation in what children are able to do at various ages. Piaget may have underestimated what children are capable of given the right circumstances. 33

Lev Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory

Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) was a Russian psychologist who wrote in the early 1900s but whose work was discovered in the United States in the 1960s but became more widely known in the 1980s. Vygotsky differed with Piaget in that he believed that a person not only has a set of abilities, but also a set of potential abilities that can be realized if given the proper guidance from others. His sociocultural theory emphasizes the importance of culture and interaction in the development of cognitive abilities. He believed that through guided participation known as scaffolding, with a teacher or capable peer, a child can learn cognitive skills within a certain range known as the zone of proximal development . 34 His belief was that development occurred first through children’s immediate social interactions, and then moved to the individual level as they began to internalize their learning. 35

Figure 1.18

Figure 1.18- Lev Vygotsky. 36

Have you ever taught a child to perform a task? Maybe it was brushing their teeth or preparing food. Chances are you spoke to them and described what you were doing while you demonstrated the skill and let them work along with you all through the process. You gave them assistance when they seemed to need it, but once they knew what to do-you stood back and let them go. This is scaffolding and can be seen demonstrated throughout the world. This approach to teaching has also been adopted by educators. Rather than assessing students on what they are doing, they should be understood in terms of what they are capable of doing with the proper guidance. You can see how Vygotsky would be very popular with modern day educators. 37

Comparing Piaget and Vygotsky

Vygotsky concentrated more on the child’s immediate social and cultural environment and his or her interactions with adults and peers. While Piaget saw the child as actively discovering the world through individual interactions with it, Vygotsky saw the child as more of an apprentice, learning through a social environment of others who had more experience and were sensitive to the child’s needs and abilities. 38

Like Vygotsky’s, Bronfenbrenner looked at the social influences on learning and development.

Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Model

Urie Bronfenbrenner (1917-2005) offers us one of the most comprehensive theories of human development. Bronfenbrenner studied Freud, Erikson, Piaget, and learning theorists and believed that all of those theories could be enhanced by adding the dimension of context. What is being taught and how society interprets situations depends on who is involved in the life of a child and on when and where a child lives.

Figure 1.19

Figure 1.19 – Urie Bronfenbrenner. 39

Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems model explains the direct and indirect influences on an individual’s development.

Table 1.5 – Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Model

For example, in order to understand a student in math, we can’t simply look at that individual and what challenges they face directly with the subject. We have to look at the interactions that occur between teacher and child. Perhaps the teacher needs to make modifications as well. The teacher may be responding to regulations made by the school, such as new expectations for students in math or constraints on time that interfere with the teacher’s ability to instruct. These new demands may be a response to national efforts to promote math and science deemed important by political leaders in response to relations with other countries at a particular time in history.

Figure 1.20

Figure 1.20 – Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory. 40

Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems model challenges us to go beyond the individual if we want to understand human development and promote improvements. 41

In this chapter we looked at:

underlying principles of development

the five periods of development

three issues in development

Various methods of research

important theories that help us understand development

Next, we are going to be examining where we all started with conception, heredity, and prenatal development.

Child Growth and Development Copyright © by Jean Zaar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book

Logo for Open Library Publishing Platform

Want to create or adapt books like this? Learn more about how Pressbooks supports open publishing practices.

1 Introduction to Child Development

Chapter Objectives

After this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Describe the principles that underlie development.
  • Differentiate periods of human development.
  • Understand issues in development.
  • Distinguish the different methods of research.
  • Explain what a theory is and compare and contrast different theories of child development.

Introduction

“Early child development sets the foundation for lifelong learning, behaviour, and health” (Mustard, 2006).

Welcome to Child Growth and Development. This text is a presentation of how and why children grow, develop, and learn from conception to adolescence. Registered early childhood educators (RECEs) draw from their professional knowledge of child development, learning theories, and pedagogical and curricular approaches to plan, implement, document and assess child-centered inquiry and play-based learning experiences for children (College of Early Childhood Educators, 2017, p. 10).  Understanding the patterns of development help early childhood educators build caring and responsive relationships (College of Early Childhood Educators, 2017) with the children in their care as well as design safe and accessible environments which support children’s play and learning (College of Early Childhood Educators, 2017), both of which contribute to a sense of belonging and overall well-being (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2014b).

The content in this text is being shared with pre-service early childhood educators with an Ontario context, referring to foundational documents that support the early learning and care profession, including, but not exclusive of: The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice for Early Childhood Educators in Ontario, How Does Learning Happen ? and Excerpts from ELECT .

Principles of Development

There are several underlying principles of development to keep in mind:

  • Development is lifelong and change is apparent across the lifespan (although this text ends with adolescence). Early experiences affect later development.
  • Development is multidirectional. We show gains in some areas of development while showing a loss in other areas.
  • Development is multidimensional. We change across three general domains/dimensions: physical, cognitive, and social-emotional.

In Ontario, the Continuum of Development can be found in the Excerpts to ELECT.   It outlines the sequence of steps across the five domains of development (social, emotional, communication/language/literacy, cognition, physical) that are typical for the majority of children. It is not an assessment tool, rather it was designed to support RECEs as they observe and document children’s emerging skills (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2014). It should be noted that all five domains are interrelated and no one domain is more important than another (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2014a).

Research in child development tends to fall into one of the following four themes:

  • Early Development is related to later development but not perfectly. Can you think of examples?
  • Development is always jointly influenced by heredity and environment (nature/nurture).
  • Children help to determine their own development. Can you think of examples?
  • Development in different domains is connected.

The physical domain includes changes in height and weight, changes in gross and fine motor skills, sensory capabilities, the nervous system, as well as the propensity for disease and illness.

The cognitive domain encompasses the changes in intelligence, wisdom, perception, problem-solving, memory, and language.

The social and emotional domain (also referred to as psychosocial) focuses on changes in emotion, self-perception, and interpersonal relationships with families, peers, and friends.

All three domains influence each other. It is also important to note that a change in one domain may cascade and prompt changes in the other domains.

Development is characterized by plasticity, which is our ability to change, and that many of our characteristics are malleable. Early experiences are important, but children are remarkably resilient (able to overcome adversity).

Development is multicontextual (Lally & Valentine-French, 2019). We are influenced by both nature (genetics) and nurture (the environment) – when and where we live and our actions, beliefs, and values are a response to circumstances surrounding us. The key here is to understand that behaviours, motivations, emotions, and choices are all part of a bigger picture (Lumen Learning, n.d.).

Now let’s look at a framework for examining development.

Periods of development

Consider what periods of development you think a course on Child Development would address. How many stages are on your list? Perhaps you have three: infancy, childhood, and teenagers.

Developmentalists (those that study development) break this part of the life span into these five stages as follows:

  • Prenatal Development (conception through birth)
  • Infancy and Toddlerhood (birth through 30 months)
  • Early Childhood  (2.5 to 5 years)
  • Middle Childhood (6 to 12 years)
  • Adolescence (13 years to adulthood)

The scope of practice of a registered early childhood educator in Ontario is to work with children twelve years old and younger (College of Early Childhood Educators, 2017), thus the first four stages in this list will be explored in this book. So, while both an 8-month-old and an 8-year-old are considered children, they have very different physical, social, emotional, language, and cognitive skills and abilities.

prenatal development

Conception occurs and development begins. All of the major structures of the body are forming and the health of the mother is of primary concern. Understanding nutrition, teratogens (or environmental factors that can lead to birth defects), and labor and delivery are primary concerns.

A tiny embryo (14 days) depicting some development of arms and legs, as well as facial features that are starting to show.

infancy and toddlerhood

The first two years of life are ones of dramatic growth and change. A newborn, with a keen sense of hearing but very poor vision is transformed into a walking, talking toddler within a relatively short period of time. Caregivers are also transformed from someone who manages the feeding and sleep schedules to a constantly moving guide and safety inspector for a mobile, energetic child.

an infant lying on his belly looking at a stuffed animal

Early childhood

Early childhood is also referred to as the preschool years and consists of the years which follow toddlerhood and precede formal schooling (grade 1). As a three to five-year-old, the child is busy learning a language, is gaining a sense of self and greater independence and is beginning to learn the workings of the physical world. This knowledge does not come quickly, however, and preschoolers may initially have interesting conceptions of size, time, space, and distance such as fearing that they may go down the drain if they sit at the front of the bathtub or by demonstrating how long something will take by holding out their two index fingers several inches apart. A toddler’s fierce determination to do something may give way to a four-year-old’s sense of guilt for action that brings the disapproval of others.

three preschool aged children playing with trucks in an outdoor sandbox

middle childhood

The ages of six through twelve comprise middle childhood and much of what children experience at this age is connected to their involvement in the early grades of school. Now the world becomes one of learning and testing new academic skills and of assessing one’s abilities and accomplishments by making comparisons between self and others. Schools compare students and make these comparisons public through team sports, test scores, and other forms of recognition. Growth rates slow down and children are able to refine their motor skills at this point in life. Children begin to learn about social relationships beyond the family through interaction with friends and fellow students.

children playing tug of war

adolescence

Adolescence is a period of dramatic physical change marked by an overall physical growth spurt and sexual maturation, known as puberty. It is also a time of cognitive change as the adolescent begins to think of new possibilities and to consider abstract concepts such as love, fear, and freedom. Ironically, adolescents have a sense of invincibility that puts them at greater risk of dying from accidents or contracting sexually transmitted infections that can have lifelong consequences (Lumen Learning, 2019).

Three teenage girls sitting and talking

Issues in Development

There are some aspects of development that have been hotly debated. Let’s explore these in a bit more detail.

Nature   and   Nurture  

Why are people the way they are? Are features such as height, weight, personality, being diabetic, etc. the result of heredity or environmental factors-or both? For decades, scholars have carried on the “nature/nurture” debate. For any particular feature, those on the side of Nature would argue that heredity plays the most important role in bringing about that feature. Those on the side of Nurture would argue that one’s environment is most significant in shaping the way we are. This debate continues in all aspects of human development, and most scholars agree that there is a constant interplay between the two forces. It is difficult to isolate the root of any single behaviour as a result solely of nature or nurture. This said, research does consistently point to the fact that healthy child development depends on the relationships children have with parents and other important people in their lives (Bisnaire, Clinton & Ferguson, 2014).

Continuity versus Discontinuity 

Is human development best characterized as a slow, gradual process, or is it best viewed as one of more abrupt change? The answer to that question often depends on which developmental theorist you ask and what topic is being studied. The theories of Freud, Erikson, Piaget, and Kohlberg are called stage theories. Stage theories or discontinuous development assume that developmental change often occurs in distinct stages that are qualitatively different from each other, and in a set, universal sequence. At each stage of development, children and adults have different qualities and characteristics. Thus, stage theorists assume development is more discontinuous. Others, such as the behaviourists, Vygotsky, and information processing theorists, assume development is a more slow and gradual process known as continuous development. For instance, they would see the adult as not possessing new skills, but more advanced skills that were already present in some form in the child. Brain development and environmental experiences contribute to the acquisition of more developed skills.

one image of three different sized trees to illustrate the concept of continuous growth and another image of the 4 stages of develop of a lady bug to represent the concept of staged growth.

Active Vs Passive

How much do you play a role in your own developmental path? Are you at the whim of your genetic inheritance or the environment that surrounds you? Some theorists see humans as playing a much more active role in their own development. Piaget, for instance, believed that children actively explore their world and construct new ways of thinking to explain the things they experience. In contrast, many behaviourists view humans as being more passive in the developmental process (Lally & Valentine-French, 2019).

How do we know so much about how we grow, develop, and learn? Let’s look at how that data is gathered through research.

Research Methods

An important part of learning any science is having a basic knowledge of the techniques used in gathering information. The hallmark of scientific investigation is that of following a set of procedures designed to keep questioning or skepticism alive while describing, explaining, or testing any phenomenon. Some people are hesitant to trust academicians or researchers because they may seem to change their narratives. That, however, is exactly what science is all about; it involves continuously renewing our understanding of the subjects in question and an ongoing investigation of how and why events occur. Science is a vehicle for going on a never-ending journey. In the area of development, we have seen changes in recommendations for nutrition, in explanations of psychological states as people age, and in parenting advice. So think of learning about human development as a lifelong endeavour.

Take a moment to write down two things that you know about childhood. Now, how do you know? Chances are you know these things based on your own history (experiential reality) or based on what others have told you or cultural ideas (agreement reality) (Seccombe and Warner, 2004, as cited in Paris, Ricardo, Raymond, & Johnson, 2021). There are several problems with personal inquiry.

Read the following sentence aloud:

Paris in the the spring

…Are you sure that is what it said?

Read it again:

If you read it differently the second time (adding the second “the”) you just experienced one of the problems with personal inquiry; that is, the tendency to see what we believe. Our assumptions very often guide our perceptions, consequently, when we believe something, we tend to see it even if it is not there. This problem may just be a result of cognitive ‘blinders’ or it may be part of a more conscious attempt to support our own views. Confirmation bias is the tendency to look for evidence that we are right and in so doing, we ignore contradictory evidence. Karl Popper was an Au strian-British philosopher ,  academic  and  social commentator .  One of the 20th century’s most influential  philosophers of science , Popper is known for his rejection of the classical  inductivist  views on the  scientific method  in favour of  empirical falsification . He suggests that the distinction between that which is scientific and that which is unscientific is that science is falsifiable; scientific inquiry involves attempts to reject or refute a theory or set of assumptions (Thornton, 2005, as cited in Paris, Ricardo, Raymond, & Johnson, 2021). Theory that cannot be falsified is not scientific. And much of what we do in personal inquiry involves drawing conclusions based on what we have personally experienced or validating our own experience by discussing what we think is true with others who share the same views. Science offers a more systematic way to make comparisons guard against bias.

Scientific Methods

One method of scientific investigation involves the following steps:

  • Determining a research question
  • Reviewing previous studies addressing the topic in question (known as a literature review)
  • Determining a method of gathering information
  • Conducting the study
  • Interpreting results
  • Drawing conclusions; stating limitations of the study and suggestions for future research
  • Making your findings available to others (both to share information and to have your work scrutinized by others)

Your findings can then be used by others as they explore the area of interest and through this process, a literature or knowledge base is established. This model of scientific investigation presents research as a linear process guided by a specific research question. And it typically involves quantifying or using statistics to understand and report what has been studied. Many academic journals publish reports on studies conducted in this manner.

Another model of research referred to as qualitative research may involve steps such as these:

  • Begin with a broad area of interest
  • Gain entrance into a group to be researched
  • Gather field notes about the setting, the people, the structure, the activities, or other areas of interest
  • Ask open-ended, broad “grand tour” types of questions when interviewing subjects
  • Modify research questions as the study continues
  • Note patterns or consistencies
  • Explore new areas deemed important by the people being observed
  • Report findings

In this type of research, theoretical ideas are “grounded” in the experiences of the participants. The researcher is the student and the people in the setting are the teachers as they inform the researcher of their world (Glazer & Strauss, 1967, as cited in Paris, Ricardo, Raymond, & Johnson, 2021). Researchers are to be aware of their own biases and assumptions, acknowledge them, and bracket them in efforts to keep them from limiting accuracy in reporting. Sometimes qualitative studies are used initially to explore a topic and more quantitative studies are used to test or explain what was first described.

Let’s look more closely at some techniques, or research methods used to describe, explain, or evaluate. Each of these   designs   has   strengths   and   weaknesses   and   is   sometimes   used   in   combination   with   other   designs   within   a   single   study.  

Observational Studies

Observational studies  involve watching and recording the actions of participants. This may take place in the natural   setting,   such   as   observing   children   at   play   at   a   park,   or   behind   a   one-way   glass   while   children   are   at   play   in   a   laboratory   playroom. The researcher may follow a checklist and record the frequency and duration of events (perhaps how many   conflicts occur among 2-year-olds) or may observe and record as much as possible about an event (such as observing   children in a classroom and capturing the details about the room design and what the children and teachers are doing   and saying). In general, observational studies have the strength of allowing the researcher to see how people behave   rather   than   relying   on   self-report.   What   people   do   and   what   they   say   they   do   are   often   very   different.   A   major   weakness   of observational studies is that they do not allow the researcher to explain causal relationships. Yet, observational   studies   are   useful   and   widely   used   when   studying   children.   Children   tend   to   change   their   behaviour   when   they   know   they   are   being   watched   (known   as   the   Hawthorne   effect)   and   may   not   survey   well. 

Experiments

Experiments  are designed to test hypotheses (or specific statements about the relationship between variables) in a controlled setting in efforts to explain how certain factors or events produce outcomes. A variable is anything that changes in value. Concepts are operationalized or transformed into variables in research, which means that the researcher must specify exactly what is going to be measured in the study.

Three conditions must be met in order to establish cause and effect. Experimental designs are useful in meeting these conditions. 1. The independent and dependent variables must be related. In other words, when one is altered, the other changes in response. (The independent variable is something altered or introduced by the researcher. The dependent variable is the outcome or the factor affected by the introduction of the independent variable. For example, if we are looking at the impact of exercise on stress levels, the independent variable would be exercise; the dependent variable would be stress.) 2. The cause must come before the effect. Experiments involve measuring subjects on the dependent variable before exposing them to the independent variable (establishing a baseline). So we would measure the subjects’ level of stress before introducing exercise and then again after the exercise to see if there has been a change in stress levels. (Observational and survey research does not always allow us to look at the timing of these events, which makes understanding causality problematic with these designs.) 3. The cause must be isolated. The researcher must ensure that no outside, perhaps unknown variables are actually causing the effect we see. The experimental design helps make this possible. In an experiment, we would make sure that our subjects’ diets were held constant throughout the exercise program. Otherwise, the diet might really be creating a change in stress level rather than exercise.

A basic experimental design involves beginning with a sample (or subset of a population) and randomly assigning subjects to one of two groups: the experimental group or the control group. The experimental group is the group that is going to be exposed to an independent variable or condition the researcher is introducing as a potential cause of an event. The control group is going to be used for comparison and is going to have the same experience as the experimental group but will not be exposed to the independent variable. After exposing the experimental group to the independent variable, the two groups are measured again to see if a change has occurred. If so, we are in a better position to suggest that the independent variable caused the change in the dependent variable.

The major advantage of the experimental design is that of helping to establish cause and effect relationships. A disadvantage of this design is the difficulty of translating much of what happens in a laboratory setting into real life.

Case Studies

Case studies  involve exploring a single case or situation in great detail. Information may be gathered with the use of observation, interviews, testing, or other methods to uncover as much as possible about a person or situation. Case studies are helpful when investigating unusual situations such as brain trauma or children reared in isolation. And they are often used by clinicians who conduct case studies as part of their normal practice when gathering information about a client or patient coming in for treatment. Case studies can be used to explore areas about which little is known and can provide rich detail about situations or conditions. However, the findings from case studies cannot be generalized or applied to larger populations; this is because cases are not randomly selected and no control group is used for comparison.

Illustrated poster from a classroom describing a case study.

Surveys are familiar to most people because they are so widely used. Surveys enhance accessibility to subjects because  they can be conducted in person, over the phone, through the mail, or online. A survey involves asking a standard set of questions to a group of subjects. In a highly structured survey, subjects are forced to choose from a response set such as “strongly disagree, disagree, undecided, agree, strongly agree”; or “0, 1-5, 6-10, etc.” This is known as the Likert Scale. Surveys are commonly used by sociologists, marketing researchers, political scientists, therapists, and others to gather information on many independent and dependent variables in a relatively short period of time. Surveys typically yield surface information on a wide variety of factors, but may not allow for an in-depth understanding of human behaviour.

Of course, surveys can be designed in a number of ways. They may include forced-choice questions and semi-structured questions in which the researcher allows the respondent to describe or give details about certain events. One of the most difficult aspects of designing a good survey is wording questions in an unbiased way and asking the right questions so that respondents can give a clear response rather than choosing “undecided” each time. Knowing that 30% of respondents are undecided is of little use! So a lot of time and effort should be placed on the construction of survey items. One of the benefits of having forced-choice items is that each response is coded so that the results can be quickly entered and analyzed using statistical software. The analysis takes much longer when respondents give lengthy responses that must be analyzed in a different way. Surveys are useful in examining stated values, attitudes, opinions, and reporting on practices. However, they are based on self-report or what people say they do rather than on observation and this can limit accuracy.

Developmental Designs

Developmental designs  are techniques used in developmental research (and other areas as well). These techniques   try   to examine how   age, cohort, gender, and   social class impact development.  

Longitudinal Research

Longitudinal research involves beginning with a group of people who may be of the same age and background, and measuring them repeatedly over a long period of time. One of the benefits of this type of research is that people can be followed through time and be compared with them when they were younger.

A longitudinal research design.

A problem with this type of research is that it is very expensive and subjects may drop out over time.

In Canada, the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth which began in 1994 is an example of a longitudinal study that provided data on children’s development. Surveys were conducted every 2 years with the last survey conducted in 2008-2009. The sample size was roughly 26,000 children aged 0-23 years.

Cross-Sectional Research

Cross-sectional   research   involves   beginning   with   a   sample   that   represents   a   cross-section   of   the   population.   Respondents who vary in age, gender, ethnicity, and social class might be asked to complete a survey about television   program preferences or attitudes toward the use of the internet. The attitudes of males and females could then be compared, as could attitudes based   on   age.   In   cross-sectional   research,   respondents   are   measured   only   once.  

A cross-sectional research design

This method is much less expensive than longitudinal research but does not allow the researcher to distinguish between the impact of age and the cohort effect. Different attitudes about the use of technology, for example, might not be altered by a person’s biological age as much as their life experiences as members of a cohort.

Sequential Research

Sequential research  involves combining aspects of the previous two techniques; beginning with a cross-sectional sample and  measuring   them through   time.  

A sequential research design

This is the perfect mode l for looking at age, gender, social class, and ethnicity. But the drawbacks of high costs and attrition are here as well (Lumen Learning, n.d.).

Table 1.1: Advantages and disadvantages of different research designs, (Lukowski & Milojevich, 2021).

Qualitative Research in Early Childhood

Qualitative research involves describing and explaining an individual or group experience, a phenomenon or a situation. Such research is conducted with a focus on discovery and therefore open-ended. Information (data) collected and analyzed are in the form of narratives and images obtained from in-depth interviews, observations, documents, and physical artifacts. The following are some research methods used in qualitative research.

Table 1.2: Qualitative research methods, (Lukowski & Milojevich, 2021)

Canada’s Contribution to Child Development Research

Canada has a long history of contributing to child development research. 

In 1892, James Mark Baldwin was appointed the first social scientist at the University of Toronto where he set up Canada’s first psychological research laboratory. Baldwin proposed a social psychological perspective in studying child development and believed that development occurs in stages. He explained that development of physical movement proceeds from simple to complex and eventually leads to more sophisticated mental processes. Jean Piaget (1896 – 1980) later advanced this idea further.

Dr. Jean Clinton of McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario) is an internationally renowned advocate for children’s issues. Her research focus is in brain development and the role social relationships play in development.

Dr. Fraser Mustard (1927-2011) created the “Canadian Institute for Advanced Research”. Of particular interest to Dr. Mustard was the role of communities in early childhood. In 1999, along with Dr. Margaret McCain (1934- ), he prepared the influential report “The Early Years Study – Reversing the Real Brain Drain” for the Ontario government. The report emphasized promoting early child development centres for young children and parents by: boosting spending on early childhood education to the same levels as in K to 12, making programs available to all income levels, and encouraging local parent groups and businesses to set up these programs instead of the government, when possible.  In 2007, Dr. Mustard, Dr. McCain and Dr. Stuart Shanker wrote a follow-up report critical of Ontario’s progress and calling for national early childhood development programs.

Dr. Stuart Shanker (1952- ) is Canada’s leading expert in the psychosocial theory of self-regulation. Richard Tremblay (1944- ) holds the Canadian Research Chair in Child Development. His research focusses on the development of aggressive behaviour in children and whether early intervention programs can reduce chances of children turning to crime as adults. Dr. Mariana Brussoni of the University of British Columbia is currently active researching the developmental importance of risky play in childhood. Her focus is child injury prevention as well as the influence of culture on parenting in relationship to risky play and safety.

In 1925, Professor Edward Alexander Bott established the St. George’s School for Child Study at the University of Toronto, which would eventually come to be known as The Institute for Child Study. It has been and continues to be, highly influential in developing Ontario’s early childcare and education system.

Statistics Canada, in partnership with Human Resources Development Canada, undertook a major Canadian research initiative in 1994 titled “National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY)”. Researchers tracked multiple variables affecting children’s emotional, social and behavioural development over a period of time, using both longitudinal and cross-sectional sampling. Families from all 10 provinces and territories were included with the exception of families living on First Nations reserves, in extremely remote areas of Canada and full-time members the Canadian Armed Forces. These exclusions should be kept in mind when extrapolating the data. 

This is just a small selection of Canadian researchers who have contributed, and continue to contribute, to our knowledge of how best to support the development of young children. 

Consent and Ethics in Research 

Research should, as much as possible, be based on participants’ freely volunteered informed consent. For minors, this also requires consent from their legal guardians. This implies a responsibility to explain fully and meaningfully to both the child and their guardians what the research is about and how it will be disseminated. Participants and their legal guardians should be aware of the research purpose and procedures, their right to refuse to participate; the extent to which confidentiality will be maintained; the potential uses to which the data might be put; the foreseeable risks and expected benefits; and that participants have the right to discontinue at any time.

But consent alone does not absolve the responsibility of researchers to anticipate and guard against potential harmful consequences for participa nts (Lumen Learning, n.d.). It is critical that researchers protect all rights of the participants including

Confidentiality.

The Canadian Psychological Association (2017) has published the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists, which sets out four ethical principles Canadian psychologists must consider when conducting research: In order of priority, the four principles are: 

  • Principle I: Respect for the Dignity of Persons and Peoples 
  • Principle II: Responsible Caring
  • Principle III: Integrity in Relationships
  • Principle IV: Responsibility to Society

While all four principles should be taken into account, there may be times when there is a conflict between the principles. For example; what is best for society might not respect the dignity of persons and people. In this situation, more weight should be given to Principle 1 than Principle 4 in order to make an ethical decision. 

Child development is a fascinating field of study – but care must be taken to ensure that researchers use appropriate methods to examine infant and child behaviour, use the correct experimental design to answer their questions, and be aware of the special challenges that are part-and-parcel of developmental research. Hopefully, this information helped you develop an understanding of these various issues and to be ready to think more critically about research questions that interest you. There are so many interesting questions that remain to be examined by future generations of developmental scientists – maybe you will make one of the next big discoveries!  A nother really important framework to use when trying to understand children’s development are theories of development. 

Let’s explore what theories are and introduce you to some major theories in child development.

Developmental Theories

T he College of Early Childhood Educators (2017), clear ly articulates in a number of places in the Code of Ethics & Standards of Practice for Early Childhood Educators in Ontario, the expectation that RECEs are as knowledgeable about research and theories related to children’s development. Let’s explore what is m eant by a child development theory and why they are important to practice. 

What is a theory? 

In our attempts to make sense of the world and our human experience, it is in our nature to ask questions and develop theories, both formal and informal. This begins at an early age and as we move through this text, we will explore examples of children developing and testing their theories.   

While it is true that students sometimes feel intimidated by theory; even the phrase, “Now we are going to look at some theories…” is met with blank stares and other indications that the audience is now lost. But theories are valuable tools for understanding human behaviour and development. Indeed, they are proposed explanations for the “how” and “whys” of development. Have you ever wondered, “Why is my 3 year old so inquisitive?” or “Why are some fifth graders rejected by their classmates?” A theory is an organized way to make sense of information. Theories can help to make predictions and explain these and other occurrences. Theories can be further tested through research. Developmental theories offer explanations about how we develop, why we change over time, and the kinds of influences that impact development.

Further, a theory guides how information is collected, how it is interpreted, and how it is applied to real-life situations. It provides the researcher with a blueprint or model to be used to help piece together various studies. Think of theories as frameworks or guidelines much like directions that come with an appliance or other object that requires assembly. The instructions can help one piece together smaller parts more easily than if trial and error are used.

Theories can be developed using induction in which a number of single cases are observed and after patterns or similarities are noted, the theorist develops ideas based on these examples. Established theories are then tested through research; however, not all theories are equally suited to scientific investigation.  Some theories are difficult to test but are still useful in stimulating debate or providing concepts that have practical application. Keep in mind that theories are not facts; they are guidelines for investigation and practice, and they gain credibility through research that fails to disprove them (Lumen Learning, n.d.).

Before we examine some foundational child development theories, let’s take a preliminary look at the theorists who have contributed to our current understanding of child development. Take a moment to scan the images of the theorists included in the next few pages.  Find some words to describe what you notice. Can you identify groups who are not represented in this group of theorists? If your answer included women, people of colour, visible minorities and/or Indigenous people as examples you are correct! 

Academics and researchers have, and do, develop theories and frameworks for thinking critically about human knowledge and systems. Critical theory is an example of a postmodern theory the aim of which is to unmask the ideology that falsely justifies some form of economic or social oppression and to see it for what it is…ideology! This can set in motion the task of ending the oppression. 

Today many nations are actively addressing the legacies of colonialism that brought with it such things as patriarchy, eurocentrism, and structuralism. It has been feminist theory, queer theory, Indigenous peoples, and other marginalized groups who, over the past few years, have helped to draw attention to, and disrupt, what, in socio-cultural terms are often referred to as dominant discourses and grand narratives. These ways of describing the world and human experience tend to align with a Western ideology with embedded hierarchies and colonist world views. Historically, these narratives have served to advantage certain populations while pathologizing and further marginalizing others. The process of reconceptualizing is embraced as a way to move forward with social justice. 

For more information check out  Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education. 

Critical theory demands that we adopt a postmodern perspective of child development and encourages early educators to reexamine ideologies, beliefs, and assumptions and to question and look beyond the fixed views of children proposed by existing theories. In everyday practice, this may look like critically examining a storybook for any hidden political or social points of view ( e.g. gender, race, class) made through the stories and images. Posing questions such as whose story is this? Who gets to tell the story? Is it a true representation? Who has been left out? Educators are encouraged to engage in conversations with families and children about representations, a practice that lives into the four foundations of How Does Learning Happen? 

In sum, postmodernism denies the existence of one objective view of child development but rather encourages multiple perspectives of viewing how children develop and learn. 

Within the dominant discourse described above, the scientific method was lauded as the way to objectively quantify and describe the world, including human development and diversity.  We are reconceptualizing science as one of many ways to describe and make meaning of the world and human experience. We are only here today because our ancestors survived and flourished for millennia. They shared their experiences across generations through oral tradition and art as examples.

Indigenous Perspectives

In Indigenous cultures, children are viewed as sacred gifts from the Creator and therefore their growth is seen as a spiritual journey of development and learning. The Medicine Wheel that symbolizes stages of life is used to represent this sacred journey. First Nation, Inuit, and Metis families are interdependent and with each stage of life, each member brings special gifts as well as responsibilities to the family and community. Elders, who are considered knowledge keepers, bring teachings from ancestors to help children understand their sacred place in the universe. Indigenous communities view child development as a journey that is closely bound by the natural and spiritual world and therefore the developing child is shaped by unique ways of knowing and teachings.

For further reading:

A child becomes strong: Journeying through each stage of the life cycle.

We are now beginning to embrace these ways of living in the world. One way to begin to integrate these world views is through ‘Two-Eyed Seeing’.  This guiding principle refers to learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledges and ways of knowing … and learning to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all. Shared by Elder Albert Marshall in 2004 ‘Two-Eyed Seeing’ is the gift of multiple perspective treasured by many Indigenous peoples (Institute for Integrative Science and Health, n.d.), and refers to shifting from the Western binary dualism of ‘either/or’ to embracing the positive in both of these world views as ‘both/and’.  

Please note that the above is not a critique of science. We do not have to look too far to see evidence of just how much science has contributed to global human health and well-being. It is about HOW science has been used to often deny rather than embrace human diversity.

Let’s   take   a   look   at   some   key   theories   in   Child   Development.  

  sigmund   freud’s   psychosexual   theory  .

We begin with the often controversial figure, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). Freud has been a very influential figure in the area of development; his view of development and psychopathology dominated the field of psychiatry until the growth of behaviourism in the 1950s. His assumptions that personality forms during the first few years of life and that the ways in which parents or other caregivers interact with children have a long-lasting impact on children’s emotional states have guided parents, educators, clinicians, and policy-makers for many years. We have only recently begun to recognize that early childhood experiences do not always result in certain personality traits or emotional states. There is a growing body of literature addressing resilience in children who experience trauma and yet develop without damaging emotional scars (O’Grady and Metz, 1987, as cited in Paris, Ricardo, Raymond, & Johnson, 2021). Freud has stimulated an enormous amount of research and generated many ideas. Agreeing with Freud’s theory in its entirety is hardly necessary for appreciating the contribution he has made to the field of development.

Image of Sigmund Freud

Freud’s theory of self suggests that there are three parts of the self.

  • The  id is the part of the self that is inborn. It responds to biological urges without pause and is guided by the principle of pleasure: if it feels good, it is the thing to do. A newborn is all id. The newborn cries when hungry and defecates when the urge strikes.
  • The  ego  develops through interaction with others and is guided by logic or the reality principle. It has the ability to delay gratification. It knows that urges have to be managed. It mediates between the id and superego using logic and reality to calm the other parts of the self.
  • The  superego  represents society’s demands for its members. It is guided by a sense of guilt. Values, morals, and the conscience are all part of the superego.

The personality is thought to develop in response to the child’s ability to learn to manage biological urges. Parenting is important here. If the parent is either overly punitive or lax, the child may not progress to the next stage. Here is a brief introduction to Freud’s stages.

Table 1.3 Sigmund Freud’s Psychosexual Theory

Strengths and Weaknesses of Freud’s Theory

Freud’s theory has been heavily criticized for several reasons. One is that it is very difficult to test scientifically. How can parenting in infancy be traced to personality in adulthood? Are there other variables that might better explain development? The theory is also considered to be sexist in suggesting that women who do not accept an inferior position in society are somehow psychologically flawed. Freud focuses on the darker side of human nature and suggests that much of what determines our actions is unknown to us. So why do we study Freud? As mentioned above, despite the criticisms, Freud’s assumptions about the importance of early childhood experiences in shaping our psychological selves have found their way into child development, education, and parenting practices. Freud’s theory has heuristic value in providing a framework from which to elaborate and modify subsequent theories of development. Many later theories, particularly behaviourism and humanism, were challenges to Freud’s views (Overstreet, n.d., as cited in Paris, Ricardo, Raymond, & Johnson, 2021).

Main Points to Note About Freud’s Psychosexual Theory

Freud believed that:

  • Development in the early years has a lasting impact.
  • There are three parts of the self: the id, the ego, and the superego
  • People go through five stages of psychosexual development: the oral stage, the anal stage, the phallic stage, latency, and the genital stage

We study Freud because the assumptions about the importance of early childhood experience provide a framework for later theories (they both elaborated and contradicted/challenged the work).

Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory

Now, let’s turn to a less controversial theorist, Erik Erikson. Erikson (1902-1994) suggested that our relationships and society’s expectations motivate much of our behaviour in the theory of psychosocial development. Erikson was a student of Freud’s but emphasized the importance of the ego, or conscious thought, in determining our actions. In other words, he believed that we are not driven by unconscious urges. We know what motivates us and we consciously think about how to achieve our goals. He is considered the father of developmental psychology because this model gives us a guideline for the entire life span and suggests certain primary psychological and social concerns throughout life.

Image of Erik Erikson

Erikson expanding on Freud’s theories by emphasizing the importance of culture in parenting practices and motivations and adding three stages of adult development (Erikson, 1950; 1968, as cited in Paris, Ricardo, Raymond, & Johnson, 2021).

He believed that we are aware of what motivates us throughout life and the ego has greater importance in guiding our actions than does the id. We make conscious choices in life and these choices focus on meeting certain social and cultural needs rather than purely biological ones. Humans are motivated, for instance, by the need to feel that the world is a trustworthy place, that we are capable individuals, that we can make a contribution to society, and that we have lived a meaningful life. These are all psychosocial problems.

Erikson divided the lifespan into eight stages. In each stage, we have a major psychosocial task to accomplish or a crisis to overcome. Erikson believed that our personality continues to take shape throughout our lifespan as we face these challenges in living. Here is a brief overview of the eight stages.

Table 1.4 Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory

These eight stages form a foundation for discussions on emotional and social development during the life span. Keep in mind, however, that these stages or crises can occur more than once. For instance, a person may struggle with a lack of trust beyond infancy under certain circumstances. Erikson’s theory has been criticized for focusing so heavily on stages and assuming that the completion of one stage is a prerequisite for the next crisis of development. This theory also focuses on the social expectations that are found in certain cultures, but not in all. For instance, the idea that adolescence is a time of searching for identity might translate well in the middle-class culture of Canada, but not as well in cultures where the transition into adulthood coincides with puberty through rites of passage and where adult roles offer fewer c hoices (Lumen Learning, n.d.).

Main Points to Note About Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory

Erikson was a student of Freud but focused on conscious thought.

  • Stages of psychosocial development address the entire lifespan and suggest a primary psychosocial crisis in some cultures that adults can use to understand how to support children’s social and emotional development.
  • The stages include trust vs. mistrust, autonomy vs. shame and doubt, initiative vs. guilt, industry vs. inferiority, identity vs. role confusion, intimacy vs. isolation, generativity vs. stagnation, and integrity vs. despair.

BehavioUrism

While Freud and Erikson looked at what was going on in the mind, behaviourism rejected any reference to mind and viewed overt and observable behaviour as the proper subject matter of psychology. Through the scientific study of behaviour, it was hoped that laws of learning could be derived that would promote the prediction and control of behaviour (Baker & Sperry, 2021).

Ivan Pavlov

Ivan Pavlov (1880-1937) was a Russian physiologist interested in studying digestion. As he recorded the amount of salivation laboratory dogs produced as they ate, he noticed that they actually began to salivate before the food arrived as the researcher walked down the hall and toward the cage. “This,” he thought, “is not natural!” One would expect a dog to automatically salivate when the food hit their palate, but BEFORE the food comes? Of course, what had happened was . . . you tell me. That’s right! The dogs knew that the food was coming because they had learned to associate the footsteps with the food. The keyword here is “learned”. A learned response is called a “conditioned” response.

Image of Ivan Pavlov

Pavlov began to experiment with this concept of  classical conditioning . Pavlov began to ring a bell, for instance, prior to introducing the food. Sure enough, after making this connection several times, the dogs could be made to salivate to the sound of a bell. Once the bell had become an event to which the dogs had learned to salivate, it was called a conditioned stimulus . The act of salivating to a bell was a response that had also been learned, now termed in Pavlov’s jargon, a conditioned response. Notice that the response, salivation, is the same whether it is conditioned or unconditioned (unlearned or natural). What changed is the stimulus to which the dog salivates. One is natural (unconditioned) and one is learned (conditioned).

Let’s think about how classical conditioning is used on us. One of the most widespread applications of classical conditioning principles was brought to us by the psychologist, John B. Watson.

John B. Watson

John B. Watson (1878-1958) believed that most of our fears and other emotional responses are classically conditioned. Watson gained a good deal of popularity in the 1920s when expert advice on parenting was offered to the public. However, this type of research is now known to be unethical and that this type of parenting is inappropriate.

Image of John B. Watson

Watson tried to demonstrate the power of classical conditioning with the famous experiment with an 18-month-old boy named “Little Albert”. Watson sat Albert down and introduced a variety of seemingly scary objects: a burning piece of newspaper, a white rat, etc. But Albert remained curious and reached for all of these things. Watson knew that one of our only inborn fears is the fear of loud noises so Watson proceeded to make a loud noise each time one of Albert’s favorites, a white rat, was introduced. After hearing the loud noise several times paired with the rat, Albert soon came to fear the rat and began to cry when it was introduced. Watson filmed this experiment for posterity and used it to demonstrate that he could help parents achieve any outcomes they desired, if they would only follow the advice. Watson wrote columns in newspapers and in magazines and gained a lot of popularity among parents eager to apply science to household order.

Operant conditioning, on the other hand, looks at the way the consequences of a behaviour increase or decrease the likelihood of a behaviour occurring again. So let’s look at this a bit more.

B.F. Skinner and Operant Conditioning

B. F. Skinner (1904-1990), who brought us the principles of operant conditioning, suggested that reinforcement is a more effective means of encouraging a behaviour than is criticism or punishment. By focusing on strengthening desirable behaviour, we have a greater impact than if we emphasize what is undesirable. Reinforcement is anything that an organism desires and is motivated to obtain.

Image of B.F. Skinner

A  reinforcer is something that encourages or promotes a behaviour. Some things are natural rewards. They are considered intrinsic or primary because their value is easily understood. Think of what kinds of things babies or animals such as puppies find rewarding.

Extrinsic or secondary reinforcers are things that have a value not immediately understood. Their value is indirect. They can be traded in for what is ultimately desired.

The use of  positive reinforcement involves adding something to a situation in order to encourage a behaviour. For example, if I give a child a high five for cleaning a room, or compliment the job they have done they are more likely to do it again. Think of ways in which you positively reinforce others.

Negative reinforcement occurs when taking something unpleasant away from a situation encourages behaviour. For example, I have an alarm clock that makes a very unpleasant, loud sound when it goes off in the morning. As a result, I get up and turn it off. By removing the noise, I am reinforced for getting up. How do you negatively reinforce others?

Punishment is an effort to stop a behaviour. It means to follow an action with something unpleasant or painful. Punishment is often less effective than reinforcement for several reasons. It doesn’t indicate the desired behaviour, it may result in suppressing rather than stopping a behaviour, (in other words, the person may not do what is being punished when you’re around, but may do it often when you leave), and a focus on punishment can result in not noticing when the person does well. Not all behaviours are learned through association or reinforcement. Many of the things we do are learned by watching others. This is addressed in social learning theory.

Social Learning Theory

Albert Bandura (1925-) is a leading contributor to social learning theory. He calls our attention to the ways in which many of our actions are not learned through conditioning; rather, they are learned by watching others (1977). Young children frequently learn behaviours through imitation

Image of Albert Bandura

Sometimes, particularly when we do not know what else to do, we learn by modeling or copying the behaviour of others. A kindergartner on their first day of school might eagerly look at how others are acting and try to act the same way to fit in more quickly. Adolescents struggling with their identity rely heavily on their peers to act as role-models. Sometimes we do things because we’ve seen it pay off for someone else. They were operantly conditioned, but we engage in the behaviour because we hope it will pay off for us as well. This is referred to as vicarious reinforcement (Bandura, Ross and Ross, 1963, as cited in Paris, Ricardo, Raymond, & Johnson, 2021).

Bandura (1986, as cited in Paris, Ricardo, Raymond, & Johnson, 2021) suggests that there is interplay between the environment and the individual. We are not just the product of our surroundings, rather we influence our surroundings. Parents not only influence their child’s environment, perhaps intentionally through the use of reinforcement, etc., but children influence parents as well. Parents may respond differently with their first child than with their fourth. Perhaps they try to be the perfect parents with their firstborn, but by the time their last child comes along they have very different expectations both of themselves and their child. Our environment creates us and we create our environment (Lumen Learning, n.d.).

Bandura and the Bobo Doll Experiment & Today’s Children and the Media

Other social influences: TV or not TV? Bandura et al. (1963, as cited in Paris, Ricardo, Raymond, & Johnson, 2021) began a series of studies to look at the impact of television, particularly commercials, on the behaviour of children. Are children more likely to act out aggressively when they see this behaviour modeled? What if they see it being reinforced? Bandura began by conducting an experiment in which he showed children a film of a person hitting an inflatable clown or “bobo” doll. Then the children were allowed in the room where they found the doll and immediately began to hit it. This was without any reinforcement whatsoever. Not only that, but they found new ways to behave aggressively. It’s as if they learned an aggressive role.

Children view far more television today than in the 1960s; so much, in fact, that they have been referred to as Generation M (media). The amount of screen time varies by age. As of 2017, children 0-8 spend an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes. Children 8-12 years of age spend almost 6 hours a day on screen media. And 13- to 18-year-olds spend an average of just under 9 hours a day in entertainment media use.

The prevalence of violence, sexual content, and messages promoting foods high in fat and sugar in the media are certainly cause for concern and the subjects of ongoing research and policy review. Many children spend even more time on the computer viewing content from the internet. The amount of time spent connected to the internet continues to increase with the use of smartphones that essentially serve as mini-computers. And the ways children and adolescents interact with the media continues to change. T he popularity of YouTube and the various social media platforms are examples of this. What might be the implications of this? (Rasmussen, 2017).

Main Points to Note About Behaviourism

Behaviourists look at observable behaviour and how it can be predicted and controlled.

  • Pavlov experimented with classical conditioning, the process of conditioning response to stimulus (the dog’s salivating to the bell).
  • Watson offered advice to parents to show them how classical conditioning can be used. The most famous experiment was conditioning Little Albert to fear a white rat.
  • Skinner believed that reinforcing behaviour is the most effective way of increasing desirable behaviour. This is done through operant conditioning.
  • Bandura noted that many behaviours are not learned through any type of conditioning, but rather through imitation. And he believed that people are not only influenced by their surroundings but that they also have an impact on their surroundings.

Theories also explore cognitive development and how mental processes change over time.

Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

Jean Piaget (1896-1980) is one of the most influential cognitive theorists. Piaget was inspired to explore children’s ability to think and reason by watching his own children’s development. He was one of the first to recognize and map out the ways in which children’s thought differs from that of adults. Piaget’s interest in this area began when he was asked to test the IQ of children and began to notice that there was a pattern in their wrong answers. Piaget believed that children’s intellectual skills change over time through maturation. Children of differing ages interpret the world differently.

Image of Jean Piaget

A  schema  or schemes are categories of knowledge. They are like mental boxes of concepts. A child has to learn many concepts. They may have a scheme for “under” and “soft” or “running” and “sour”. All of these are schema. Our efforts to understand the world around us lead us to develop new schema and to modify old ones.

One way to make sense of new experiences is to focus on how they are similar to what we already know. This is  assimilation . So the person we meet who is very different may be understood as being “sort of like my sibling” or “that voice sounds a lot like yours.” Or a new food may be assimilated when we determine that it tastes like chicken!

Another way to make sense of the world is to change our mind. We can make a cognitive accommodation to this new experience by adding new schema. This food is unlike anything I’ve tasted before. I now have a new category of foods that are bitter-sweet in flavor, for instance. This is  accommodation . Do you accommodate or assimilate more frequently? Children accommodate more frequently as they build new schema. Adults tend to look for similarity in their experience and assimilate. They may be less inclined to think “outside the box.” Piaget suggested different ways of understanding that are associated with maturation. This was divided into four stages.

Table 1.5 Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

Criticisms of Piaget’s Theory

Piaget has been criticized for overemphasizing the role that physical maturation plays in cognitive development and underestimating the role that culture and interaction (or experience) plays in cognitive development. Looking across cultures reveals considerable variation in what children are able to do at various ages. Piaget may have underestimated what children are capable of given the right cir cumstances (Lumen Learning, n.d.). 

 Note About Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

Piaget, one of the most influential cognitive theorists, believed that

  • Understanding is motivated by trying to balance what we sense in the world and what we know in our minds.
  • Understanding is organized through creating categories of knowledge. When presented with new knowledge we may add new schema or modify existing ones.

Children’s understanding of how the world changes in their cognitive skills mature through four stages: sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage, and formal operational stage.

Lev Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory

Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) was a Russian psychologist who wrote in the early 1900s but whose work was discovered in the United States in the 1960s but became more widely known in the 1980s. Vygotsky differed with Piaget in that he believed that a person not only has a set of abilities, but also a set of potential abilities that can be realized if given the proper guidance from others. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory emphasizes the importance of culture and interaction in the development of cognitive abilities. He believed that through guided participation known as scaffolding, with a teacher or capable peer, a child can learn cognitive skills within a certain range known as the zone of proximal development (Lumen Learning, n.d.).  This belief was that development occurred first through children’s immediate social interactions, and then moved to the individual level as they began to internalize their learning (Leon, n.d.)

Image of Lev Vygotsky

Main Points to Note About Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory

Vygotsky concentrated on the child’s interactions with peers and adults. He believed that the child was an apprentice, learning through sensitive social interactions with more skilled peers and adults.

Comparing Piaget and Vygotsky

Vygotsky concentrated more on the child’s immediate social and cultural environment and their interactions with adults and peers. While Piaget saw the child as actively discovering the world through individual interactions with it, Vygotsky saw the child as more of an apprentice, learning through a social environment of others who had more experience and were sensitive to the child’s needs and abilities (Leon, n.d.). 

Like Vygotsky, Bronfenbrenner looked at the social influences on learning and development.

Comparing Piaget and Vygotsky – both statements are right for indigenous culture, the child is seen as “actively discovering the world through individual interactions with it (children are encouraged to play outside) and,  as more of an apprentice, learning through a social environment of others who had more experience and were sensitive to the child’s needs and abilities.” (Leon, n.d) Boys were around their mothers until the age of 7; subsequently, they would go with the men to learn the skills of protection and hunting ( i.e. flint making, arrows, making nets, snowshoes, etc.)  Today, in some families who are keeping the traditional ways of life alive, boys go hunting, trapping and, fishing with their father, a community member or another male relative; some as early as 7 or 8 for small game. When they reach the age of 11 or 12 they are encouraged to kill big game which is celebrated. They are encouraged to share the game with elders and/or other community members. Girls were traditionally taught skills such as cooking, tanning hides, putting up the teepee (or other forms of habitats), rearing children, fetching wood and water, as well as other chores. Today, it is not uncommon for girls to do the same as the boys with their father or with the whole family. Both girls and boys help with younger siblings, especially if there are many. Some of these may defer from nation to nation.

Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Model

Urie Bronfenbrenner (1917-2005) offers us one of the most comprehensive theories of human development. Bronfenbrenner studied Freud, Erikson, Piaget, and learning theorists and believed that all of those theories could be enhanced by adding the dimension of context. What is being taught and how society interprets situations depends on who is involved in the life of a child and on when and where a child lives.

Image of Urie Bronfenbrenner

Table 1.6 Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Model

For example, in order to understand a student in math, we can’t simply look at that individual and what challenges they face directly with the subject. We have to look at the interactions that occur between teacher and child. Perhaps the teacher needs to make modifications as well. The teacher may be responding to regulations made by the school, such as new expectations for students in math or constraints on time that interfere with the teacher’s ability to instruct. These new demands may be a response to national efforts to promote math and science deemed important by political leaders in response to relations with other countries at a particular time in history.

Graphic of Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory

Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems model challenges us to go beyond the individual if we want to understand human development and promot e improvements (Leon, n.d.).

Main Points to Note About Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Model

After studying all of the prior theories, Bronfenbrenner added an important element of context to the discussion of influences on human development.

  • He believed that the people involved in children’s lives and when and where they live are important considerations.
  • He created a model of nested systems that influence the child (and are influenced by the child) that include: microsystems, mesosystems, the exosystem, macrosystems, and chronosystems.

Indigenous PerspectiveS

As for Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Model: it seems the same as the saying: It takes a community to raise a child. In some indigenous communities, the aunts and uncles are the ones who “discipline” children to keep harmony in the family. Discipline in the sense that they talk to the children when they are not contributing to the household or when they are giving their parents a hard time. It is common for children to go live with either aunts and uncles, or grandparents for periods of time to learn different skills, knowledge and/or teachings as well as to go help out with child-rearing. There is a strong sense of sharing our gifts from the Creator, the children, with our extended family. They are considered to be lent to us by the Creator.  

In this chapter we looked at:

  • underlying principles of development
  • the five periods of development
  • three issues in development
  • various methods of research
  • important theories that help us understand the development

Baker, D. B. & Sperry, H. (2021). History of psychology. In R. Biswas-Diener & E. Diener (Eds),  Noba textbook series: Psychology.  Champaign, IL: DEF publishers. Retrieved from  http://noba.to/j8xkgcz5

Bisnaine, L., Clinton, J., & Ferguson, B. (2014). Understanding the whole child and youth; A key to learning. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/leadership/spring2014.pdf

Canadian Psychological Association. (2017). Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists (4th Ed.). Ottawa, ON: Canadian Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://cpa.ca/docs/File/Ethics/CPA_Code_2017_4thEd.pdf

College of Early Childhood Educators. (2017). Code of ethics and standards of practice for early childhood educators in Ontario. Retrieved from https://www.college-ece.ca/en/documents/code_and_standards_2017.pdf

Institute for Integrative Science and Health (n.d.). Two-eyed seeing. Retrieved from http://www.integrativescience.ca/Principles/TwoEyedSeeing/

Lally, M. & Valentine-French, S. (2019). Lifespan development: A psychological perspective. Retrieved from http://dept.clcillinois.edu/psy/LifespanDevelopment.pdf

Leon, A. (n.d.). Children’s development: Prenatal through adolescent development. Retrieved from https://docs.google.com/document/d/1k1xtrXy6j9_NAqZdGv8nBn_I6-lDtEgEFf7skHjvE-Y/edit

Lukowski, A. & Milojevich, H. (2021). Research methods in developmental psychology . In R. Biswas-Diener & E. Dinner (Eds), Noba textbook series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF publishers. Retrieved from https://nobaproject.com/modules/research-methods-in-developmental-psychology

Lumen Learning. (n.d.). Introduction to lifespan, growth and development. Retrieved from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/lifespandevelopment2/

Mustard, J. F. (2006). Early child development and experience-based brain development: The scientific underpinnings of the importance of early child development in a globalized world. Washington, DC: Brookings Institute.

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2014a). Excerpts from ELECT: Foundational knowledge from the 2007 publication of “Early learning for every child today: A framework for Ontario early childhood settings” . Retrieved from https://www.dufferincounty.ca/sites/default/files/rtb/Excerpts-from-Early-Learning-for-Every-Child-Today.pdf

Ontario Ministry of Education. (2014b). How does learning happen? Ontario’s pedagogy for the early years: A resource about learning through relationships for those who work with young children and their families. Retrieved from https://files.ontario.ca/edu-how-does-learning-happen-en-2021-03-23.pdf

Overstreet, L. (n.d.). Psyc 200 lifespan psychology. Retrieved from: http://opencourselibrary.org/econ-201/.

Rasmussen, E. (2017). Screen time and kids: Insights from a new report. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/screen-time-and-kids-insights-from-a-new-report

Child Growth and Development Canadian Ed Copyright © 2022 by Tanya Pye; Susan Scoffin; Janice Quade; and Jane Krieg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book

  • NAEYC Login
  • Member Profile
  • Hello Community
  • Accreditation Portal
  • Online Learning
  • Online Store

Popular Searches:   DAP ;  Coping with COVID-19 ;  E-books ;  Anti-Bias Education ;  Online Store

DAP: Observing, Documenting, and Assessing Children’s Development and Learning

A baby playing on a toy xylophone.

You are here

Observing, documenting, and assessing each child’s development and learning are essential processes for educators and programs to plan, implement, and evaluate the effectiveness of the experiences they provide to children. Assessment includes both formal and informal measures as tools for monitoring children’s progress toward a program’s desired goals. Educators can be intentional about helping children to progress when they know where each child is with respect to learning goals. Formative assessment (measuring progress toward goals) and summative assessment (measuring achievement at the end of a defined period or experience) are important. Both need to be conducted in ways that are developmentally, culturally, and linguistically responsive to authentically assess children’s learning. This means that not only must the methods of assessment, both formal and informal, be developmentally, culturally, and linguistically sensitive, but also the assessor must be aware of and work against the possibility of implicit and explicit bias, for example through training, reflection, and regular reviews of collected data.

Effective assessment of young children is challenging. The complexity of children’s development and learning—including the uneven nature of development and the likelihood of children fully demonstrating their knowledge and skills in different contexts—makes accurate and comprehensive assessment difficult. For example, authentic assessment takes into consideration such factors as a child’s facility in each language they speak and uses assessors and settings that are familiar and comfortable for the child. When standardized assessments are used for screening or evaluative purposes, the measures should meet standards of reliability and validity based on the characteristics of the child being assessed. When these standards are not met, these limitations must be carefully considered before using the results. Using assessments in ways that do not support enhancing the child’s education is not developmentally appropriate practice. Yet, decisions regarding assessment practices are often outside of the control of individual educators (also see Recommendations for research, page 31). When educators are aware of inappropriate assessment practices, they have a professional ethical responsibility to make their concerns known, to advocate for more appropriate practices, and, within their learning environment, to minimize the adverse impact of inappropriate assessments on young children and on instructional practices.

The following practices for observation, documentation, and assessment are developmentally appropriate for children from birth through the primary grades.

A. Observation, documentation, and assessment of young children’s progress and achievements is ongoing, strategic, reflective, and purposeful.  Educators embed assessment-related activities in the curriculum and in daily routines to facilitate authentic assessment and to make assessment an integral part of professional practice. They create and take advantage of unplanned opportunities to observe young children in play and in spontaneous conversations and interactions, in adult-structured assessment contexts as well as when children are participating in a group activity and doing an individual activity. Observations, documentations, and the results of other formal and informal assessments are used to inform the planning and implementing of daily curriculum and experiences, to communicate with the child’s family, and to evaluate and improve educators’ and the program’s effectiveness. Especially in K–3 classrooms, care must be taken to avoid overuse of standardized assessments, which can cause stress for young children and interfere with time for learning. Educators limit the use of digitally-based assessments, especially for young children who (appropriately) should have limited exposure to screen media.

B. Assessment focuses on children’s progress toward developmental and educational goals. Such goals should reflect families’ input as well as children’s background knowledge and experiences. They should be informed by developmental milestones including use of state early learning standards. Goals should be aspirational and achievable and should foster a sense of pride and accomplishment for educators, families, and children. Children, educators, and families should have opportunities to celebrate both small and large achievements, while recognizing that all children need time to build mastery on a current skill before progressing to the next challenge.

C. A system is in place to collect, make sense of, and use observations, documentation, and assessment information to guide what goes on in the early learning setting.  Educators use this information in planning curriculum and learning experiences and in moment-to-moment interactions with children—that is, educators continually engage in assessment for the purpose of improving teaching and learning. Educators also encourage children to use observation and, beginning in the preschool years, documentation to reflect on their experiences and what they have learned.

D. The methods of assessment are responsive to the current developmental accomplishments, language(s), and experiences of young children. They recognize individual variation in learners and allow children to demonstrate their competencies in different ways.  Methods appropriate to educators’ assessment of young children, therefore, include results of their observations of children, clinical interviews, collections of children’s work samples, and children’s performance on authentic activities. For children who speak a language the educators do not know, native speakers of the child’s language such as family or community members may need to be recruited to assist with the assessment process. A plan should be in place for employing volunteer and paid interpreters and translators as needed and providing them with information about appropriate interactions with young children and ethics and confidentiality, as well as about the features and purposes of the screening or assessment tool. Once collected, the results are explained to families and children (as appropriate) in order to extend the conversations around what is collected, analyzed, and reflected upon.

E. Assessments are used only for the populations and purposes for which they have been demonstrated to produce reliable, valid information.  If required to use an assessment tool that has not been established as reliable or valid for the characteristics of a given child or for the intended use, educators recognize the limitations of the findings, strive to make sure they are not used in high-stakes decisions, and advocate for a different measure.

F. Decisions that have a major impact on children, such as enrollment or placement, are made in consultation with families.  Such decisions should be based on multiple sources of relevant information, including that obtained from observations of and interactions with children by educators, family members, and specialists as needed.

G. When a screening assessment identifies a child who may have a disability or individualized learning or developmental needs, there is appropriate follow-up, evaluation, and, if needed, referral.  Screening is used to identify issues needing more thorough examination by those qualified to do so; it is not used to diagnose or label children. Families are involved as essential sources of information.

Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) Position Statement

Pediatric Brain Foundation Logo

  • Alzheimer’s Disease: A Comprehensive Overview and Latest Research Insights
  • Dementia Prevention: Effective Strategies for Brain Health
  • Senior Cognitive Function: Exploring Strategies for Mental Sharpness
  • Neuroprotection: Strategies and Practices for Optimal Brain Health
  • Aging Brain Health: Expert Strategies for Maintaining Cognitive Function
  • Screen Time and Children’s Brain Health: Key Insights for Parents
  • Autism and Brain Health: Unraveling the Connection and Strategies
  • Dopamine and Brain Health: Crucial Connections Explained
  • Serotonin and Brain Health: Uncovering the Connection
  • Cognitive Aging: Understanding Its Impact and Progression
  • Brain Fitness: Enhancing Cognitive Abilities and Mental Health
  • Brain Health Myths: Debunking Common Misconceptions
  • Brain Waves: Unlocking the Secrets of the Mind’s Signals
  • Brain Inflammation: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options
  • Neurotransmitters: Unlocking the Secrets of Brain Chemistry
  • Neurogenesis: Unraveling the Secrets of Brain Regeneration
  • Mental Fatigue: Understanding and Overcoming Its Effects
  • Neuroplasticity: Unlocking Your Brain’s Potential
  • Brain Health: Essential Tips for Boosting Cognitive Function
  • Brain Health: A Comprehensive Overview of Brain Functions and Its Importance Across Lifespan
  • An In-depth Scientific Overview of Hydranencephaly
  • A Comprehensive Overview of Pitt-Hopkins Syndrome (PTHS)
  • An Extensive Overview of Autism
  • Navigating the Brain: An In-Depth Look at The Montreal Procedure
  • Gray Matter and Sensory Perception: Unveiling the Nexus
  • Decoding Degenerative Diseases: Exploring the Landscape of Brain Disorders
  • Progressive Disorders: Unraveling the Complexity of Brain Health
  • Introduction to Embryonic Stem Cells
  • Memory Training: Enhance Your Cognitive Skills Fast
  • Mental Exercises for Kids: Enhancing Brain Power and Focus
  • Senior Mental Exercises: Top Techniques for a Sharp Mind
  • Nutrition for Aging Brain: Essential Foods for Cognitive Health
  • ADHD and Brain Health: Exploring the Connection and Strategies
  • Pediatric Brain Disorders: A Concise Overview for Parents and Caregivers

Child Cognitive Development: Essential Milestones and Strategies

  • Brain Development in Children: Essential Factors and Tips for Growth
  • Brain Health and Aging: Essential Tips for Maintaining Cognitive Function
  • Pediatric Neurology: Essential Insights for Parents and Caregivers
  • Nootropics Forums: Top Online Communities for Brain-Boosting Discussion
  • Brain Health Books: Top Picks for Boosting Cognitive Wellbeing
  • Nootropics Podcasts: Enhance Your Brainpower Today
  • Brain Health Webinars: Discover Essential Tips for Improved Cognitive Function
  • Brain Health Quizzes: Uncovering Insights for a Sharper Mind
  • Senior Brain Training Programs: Enhance Cognitive Abilities Today
  • Brain Exercises: Boost Your Cognitive Abilities in Minutes
  • Neurofeedback: A Comprehensive Guide to Brain Training
  • Mood Boosters: Proven Methods for Instant Happiness
  • Cognitive Decline: Understanding Causes and Prevention Strategies
  • Brain Aging: Key Factors and Effective Prevention Strategies
  • Alzheimer’s Prevention: Effective Strategies for Reducing Risk
  • Gut-Brain Axis: Exploring the Connection Between Digestion and Mental Health
  • Meditation for Brain Health: Boost Your Cognitive Performance
  • Sleep and Cognition: Exploring the Connection for Optimal Brain Health
  • Mindfulness and Brain Health: Unlocking the Connection for Better Wellness
  • Brain Health Exercises: Effective Techniques for a Sharper Mind
  • Brain Training: Boost Your Cognitive Performance Today
  • Cognitive Enhancers: Unlocking Your Brain’s Full Potential
  • Neuroenhancers: Unveiling the Power of Cognitive Boosters
  • Mental Performance: Strategies for Optimal Focus and Clarity
  • Memory Enhancement: Proven Strategies for Boosting Brainpower
  • Cognitive Enhancement: Unlocking Your Brain’s Full Potential
  • Children’s Brain Health Supplements: Enhancing Cognitive Development
  • Brain Health Supplements for Seniors: Enhancing Cognitive Performance and Memory
  • Oat Straw Benefits
  • Nutrition for Children’s Brain Health: Essential Foods and Nutrients for Cognitive Development
  • Nootropic Drug Interactions: Essential Insights and Precautions
  • Personalized Nootropics: Enhance Cognitive Performance the Right Way
  • Brain Fog Remedies: Effective Solutions for Mental Clarity
  • Nootropics Dosage: A Comprehensive Guide to Optimal Use
  • Nootropics Legality: A Comprehensive Guide to Smart Drugs Laws
  • Nootropics Side Effects: Uncovering the Risks and Realities
  • Nootropics Safety: Essential Tips for Smart and Responsible Use
  • GABA and Brain Health: Unlocking the Secrets to Optimal Functioning
  • Nootropics and Anxiety: Exploring the Connection and Potential Benefits
  • Nootropics for Stress: Effective Relief & Cognitive Boost
  • Nootropics for Seniors: Enhancing Cognitive Health and Well-Being
  • Nootropics for Athletes: Enhancing Performance and Focus
  • Nootropics for Students: Enhance Focus and Academic Performance
  • Nootropic Stacks: Unlocking the Power of Cognitive Enhancers
  • Nootropic Research: Unveiling the Science Behind Cognitive Enhancers
  • Biohacking: Unleashing Human Potential Through Science
  • Brain Nutrition: Essential Nutrients for Optimal Cognitive Function
  • Synthetic Nootropics: Unraveling the Science Behind Brain Boosters
  • Natural Nootropics: Unlocking Cognitive Enhancements through Nature
  • Brain Boosting Supplements: Enhancing Cognitive Performance Naturally
  • Smart Drugs: Enhancing Cognitive Performance and Focus
  • Concentration Aids: Enhancing Focus and Productivity in Daily Life
  • Nootropics: Unleashing Cognitive Potential and Enhancements
  • Best Nootropics 2024
  • Alpha Brain Review 2023
  • Neuriva Review
  • Neutonic Review
  • Prevagen Review
  • Nooceptin Review
  • Nootropics Reviews: Unbiased Insights on Brain Boosters
  • Phenylpiracetam: Unlocking Cognitive Enhancement and Brain Health
  • Modafinil: Unveiling Its Benefits and Uses
  • Racetams: Unlocking Cognitive Enhancement Secrets
  • Adaptogens for Brain Health: Enhancing Cognitive Function Naturally
  • Vitamin B for Brain Health: Unveiling the Essential Benefits
  • Caffeine and Brain Health: Unveiling the Connection
  • Antioxidants for Brain: Enhancing Cognitive Function and Health
  • Omega-3 and Brain Health: Unlocking the Benefits for Cognitive Function
  • Brain-Healthy Foods: Top Picks for Boosting Cognitive Function
  • Focus Supplements: Enhance Concentration and Mental Clarity Today

Child cognitive development is a fascinating and complex process that entails the growth of a child’s mental abilities, including their ability to think, learn, and solve problems. This development occurs through a series of stages that can vary among individuals. As children progress through these stages, their cognitive abilities and skills are continuously shaped by a myriad of factors such as genetics, environment, and experiences. Understanding the nuances of child cognitive development is essential for parents, educators, and professionals alike, as it provides valuable insight into supporting the growth of the child’s intellect and overall well-being.

Throughout the developmental process, language and communication play a vital role in fostering a child’s cognitive abilities . As children acquire language skills, they also develop their capacity for abstract thought, reasoning, and problem-solving. It is crucial for parents and caregivers to be mindful of potential developmental delays, as early intervention can greatly benefit the child’s cognitive development. By providing stimulating environments, nurturing relationships, and embracing diverse learning opportunities, adults can actively foster healthy cognitive development in children.

Key Takeaways

  • Child cognitive development involves the growth of mental abilities and occurs through various stages.
  • Language and communication are significant factors in cognitive development , shaping a child’s ability for abstract thought and problem-solving.
  • Early intervention and supportive environments can play a crucial role in fostering healthy cognitive development in children.

Child Cognitive Development Stages

Child cognitive development is a crucial aspect of a child’s growth and involves the progression of their thinking, learning, and problem-solving abilities. Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget developed a widely recognized theory that identifies four major stages of cognitive development in children.

Sensorimotor Stage

The Sensorimotor Stage occurs from birth to about 2 years old. During this stage, infants and newborns learn to coordinate their senses (sight, sound, touch, etc.) with their motor abilities. Their understanding of the world begins to develop through their physical interactions and experiences. Some key milestones in this stage include object permanence, which is the understanding that an object still exists even when it’s not visible, and the development of intentional actions.

Preoperational Stage

The Preoperational Stage takes place between the ages of 2 and 7 years old. In this stage, children start to think symbolically, and their language capabilities rapidly expand. They also develop the ability to use mental images, words, and gestures to represent the world around them. However, their thinking is largely egocentric, which means they struggle to see things from other people’s perspectives. During this stage, children start to engage in pretend play and begin to grasp the concept of conservation, recognizing that certain properties of objects (such as quantity or volume) remain the same even if their appearance changes.

Concrete Operational Stage

The Concrete Operational Stage occurs between the ages of 7 and 12 years old. At this stage, children’s cognitive development progresses to more logical and organized ways of thinking. They can now consider multiple aspects of a problem and better understand the relationship between cause and effect . Furthermore, children become more adept at understanding other people’s viewpoints, and they can perform basic mathematical operations and understand the principles of classification and seriation.

Formal Operational Stage

Lastly, the Formal Operational Stage typically begins around 12 years old and extends into adulthood. In this stage, children develop the capacity for abstract thinking and can consider hypothetical situations and complex reasoning. They can also perform advanced problem-solving and engage in systematic scientific inquiry. This stage allows individuals to think about abstract concepts, their own thought processes, and understand the world in deeper, more nuanced ways.

By understanding these stages of cognitive development, you can better appreciate the complex growth process that children undergo as their cognitive abilities transform and expand throughout their childhood.

Key Factors in Cognitive Development

Genetics and brain development.

Genetics play a crucial role in determining a child’s cognitive development. A child’s brain development is heavily influenced by genetic factors, which also determine their cognitive potential , abilities, and skills. It is important to understand that a child’s genes do not solely dictate their cognitive development – various environmental and experiential factors contribute to shaping their cognitive abilities as they grow and learn.

Environmental Influences

The environment in which a child grows up has a significant impact on their cognitive development. Exposure to various experiences is essential for a child to develop essential cognitive skills such as problem-solving, communication, and critical thinking. Factors that can have a negative impact on cognitive development include exposure to toxins, extreme stress, trauma, abuse, and addiction issues, such as alcoholism in the family.

Nutrition and Health

Maintaining good nutrition and health is vital for a child’s cognitive development. Adequate nutrition is essential for the proper growth and functioning of the brain . Key micronutrients that contribute to cognitive development include iron, zinc, and vitamins A, C, D, and B-complex vitamins. Additionally, a child’s overall health, including physical fitness and immunity, ensures they have the energy and resources to engage in learning activities and achieve cognitive milestones effectively .

Emotional and Social Factors

Emotional well-being and social relationships can also greatly impact a child’s cognitive development. A supportive, nurturing, and emotionally healthy environment allows children to focus on learning and building cognitive skills. Children’s emotions and stress levels can impact their ability to learn and process new information. Additionally, positive social interactions help children develop important cognitive skills such as empathy, communication, and collaboration.

In summary, cognitive development in children is influenced by various factors, including genetics, environmental influences, nutrition, health, and emotional and social factors. Considering these factors can help parents, educators, and policymakers create suitable environments and interventions for promoting optimal child development.

Language and Communication Development

Language skills and milestones.

Children’s language development is a crucial aspect of their cognitive growth. They begin to acquire language skills by listening and imitating sounds they hear from their environment. As they grow, they start to understand words and form simple sentences.

  • Infants (0-12 months): Babbling, cooing, and imitating sounds are common during this stage. They can also identify their name by the end of their first year. Facial expressions play a vital role during this period, as babies learn to respond to emotions.
  • Toddlers (1-3 years): They rapidly learn new words and form simple sentences. They engage more in spoken communication, constantly exploring their language environment.
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): Children expand their vocabulary, improve grammar, and begin participating in more complex conversations.

It’s essential to monitor children’s language development and inform their pediatrician if any delays or concerns arise.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication contributes significantly to children’s cognitive development. They learn to interpret body language, facial expressions, and gestures long before they can speak. Examples of nonverbal communication in children include:

  • Eye contact: Maintaining eye contact while interacting helps children understand emotions and enhances communication.
  • Gestures: Pointing, waving goodbye, or using hand signs provide alternative ways for children to communicate their needs and feelings.
  • Body language: Posture, body orientation, and movement give clues about a child’s emotions and intentions.

Teaching children to understand and use nonverbal communication supports their cognitive and social development.

Parent and Caregiver Interaction

Supportive interaction from parents and caregivers plays a crucial role in children’s language and communication development. These interactions can improve children’s language skills and overall cognitive abilities . Some ways parents and caregivers can foster language development are:

  • Reading together: From an early age, reading books to children enhance their vocabulary and listening skills.
  • Encouraging communication: Ask open-ended questions and engage them in conversations to build their speaking skills.
  • Using rich vocabulary: Expose children to a variety of words and phrases, promoting language growth and understanding.

By actively engaging in children’s language and communication development, parents and caregivers can nurture cognitive, emotional, and social growth.

Cognitive Abilities and Skills

Cognitive abilities are the mental skills that children develop as they grow. These skills are essential for learning, adapting, and thriving in modern society. In this section, we will discuss various aspects of cognitive development, including reasoning and problem-solving, attention and memory, decision-making and executive function, as well as academic and cognitive milestones.

Reasoning and Problem Solving

Reasoning is the ability to think logically and make sense of the world around us. It’s essential for a child’s cognitive development, as it enables them to understand the concept of object permanence , recognize patterns, and classify objects. Problem-solving skills involve using these reasoning abilities to find solutions to challenges they encounter in daily life .

Children develop essential skills like:

  • Logical reasoning : The ability to deduce conclusions from available information.
  • Perception: Understanding how objects relate to one another in their environment.
  • Schemes: Organizing thoughts and experiences into mental categories.

Attention and Memory

Attention refers to a child’s ability to focus on specific tasks, objects, or information, while memory involves retaining and recalling information. These cognitive abilities play a critical role in children’s learning and academic performance . Working memory is a vital component of learning, as it allows children to hold and manipulate information in their minds while solving problems and engaging with new tasks.

  • Attention: Focuses on relevant tasks and information while ignoring distractions.
  • Memory: Retains and retrieves information when needed.

Decision-Making and Executive Function

Decision-making is the process of making choices among various alternatives, while executive function refers to the higher-order cognitive processes that enable children to plan, organize, and adapt in complex situations. Executive function encompasses components such as:

  • Inhibition: Self-control and the ability to resist impulses.
  • Cognitive flexibility: Adapting to new information or changing circumstances.
  • Planning: Setting goals and devising strategies to achieve them.

Academic and Cognitive Milestones

Children’s cognitive development is closely linked to their academic achievement. As they grow, they achieve milestones in various cognitive domains that form the foundation for their future learning. Some of these milestones include:

  • Language skills: Developing vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure.
  • Reading and mathematics: Acquiring the ability to read and comprehend text, as well as understanding basic mathematical concepts and operations.
  • Scientific thinking: Developing an understanding of cause-and-effect relationships and forming hypotheses.

Healthy cognitive development is essential for a child’s success in school and life. By understanding and supporting the development of their cognitive abilities, we can help children unlock their full potential and prepare them for a lifetime of learning and growth.

Developmental Delays and Early Intervention

Identifying developmental delays.

Developmental delays in children can be identified by monitoring their progress in reaching cognitive, linguistic, physical, and social milestones. Parents and caregivers should be aware of developmental milestones that are generally expected to be achieved by children at different ages, such as 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, 18 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, and 5 years. Utilizing resources such as the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” program can help parents and caregivers recognize signs of delay early in a child’s life.

Resources and Support for Parents

There are numerous resources available for parents and caregivers to find information on developmental milestones and to learn about potential developmental delays, including:

  • Learn the Signs. Act Early : A CDC initiative that provides pdf checklists of milestones and resources for identifying delays.
  • Parental support groups : Local and online communities dedicated to providing resources and fostering connections between families experiencing similar challenges.

Professional Evaluations and Intervention Strategies

If parents or caregivers suspect a developmental delay, it is crucial to consult with healthcare professionals or specialists who can conduct validated assessments of the child’s cognitive and developmental abilities. Early intervention strategies, such as the ones used in broad-based early intervention programs , have shown significant positive impacts on children with developmental delays to improve cognitive development and outcomes.

Professional evaluations may include:

  • Pediatricians : Primary healthcare providers who can monitor a child’s development and recommend further assessments when needed.
  • Speech and language therapists : Professionals who assist children with language and communication deficits.
  • Occupational therapists : Experts in helping children develop or improve on physical and motor skills, as well as social and cognitive abilities.

Depending on the severity and nature of the delays, interventions may involve:

  • Individualized support : Tailored programs or therapy sessions specifically developed for the child’s needs.
  • Group sessions : Opportunities for children to learn from and interact with other children experiencing similar challenges.
  • Family involvement : Parents and caregivers learning support strategies to help the child in their daily life.

Fostering Healthy Cognitive Development

Play and learning opportunities.

Encouraging play is crucial for fostering healthy cognitive development in children . Provide a variety of age-appropriate games, puzzles, and creative activities that engage their senses and stimulate curiosity. For example, introduce building blocks and math games for problem-solving skills, and crossword puzzles to improve vocabulary and reasoning abilities.

Playing with others also helps children develop social skills and better understand facial expressions and emotions. Provide opportunities for cooperative play, where kids can work together to achieve a common goal, and open-ended play with no specific rules to boost creativity.

Supportive Home Environment

A nurturing and secure home environment encourages healthy cognitive growth. Be responsive to your child’s needs and interests, involving them in everyday activities and providing positive reinforcement. Pay attention to their emotional well-being and create a space where they feel safe to ask questions and explore their surroundings.

Promoting Independence and Decision-Making

Support independence by allowing children to make decisions about their playtime, activities, and daily routines. Encourage them to take age-appropriate responsibilities and make choices that contribute to self-confidence and autonomy. Model problem-solving strategies and give them opportunities to practice these skills during play, while also guiding them when necessary.

Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Promote a well-rounded lifestyle, including:

  • Sleep : Ensure children get adequate and quality sleep by establishing a consistent bedtime routine.
  • Hydration : Teach the importance of staying hydrated by offering water frequently, especially during play and physical activities.
  • Screen time : Limit exposure to electronic devices and promote alternative activities for toddlers and older kids.
  • Physical activity : Encourage children to engage in active play and exercise to support neural development and overall health .

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key stages of child cognitive development.

Child cognitive development can be divided into several key stages based on Piaget’s theory of cognitive development . These stages include the sensorimotor stage (birth to 2 years), preoperational stage (2-7 years), concrete operational stage (7-11 years), and formal operational stage (11 years and beyond). Every stage represents a unique period of cognitive growth, marked by the development of new skills, thought processes, and understanding of the world.

What factors influence cognitive development in children?

Several factors contribute to individual differences in child cognitive development, such as genetic and environmental factors. Socioeconomic status, access to quality education, early home environment, and parental involvement all play a significant role in determining cognitive growth. In addition, children’s exposure to diverse learning experiences, adequate nutrition, and mental health also influence overall cognitive performance .

How do cognitive skills vary during early childhood?

Cognitive skills in early childhood evolve as children progress through various stages . During the sensorimotor stage, infants develop fundamental skills such as object permanence. The preoperational stage is characterized by the development of symbolic thought, language, and imaginative play. Children then enter the concrete operational stage, acquiring the ability to think logically and solve problems. Finally, in the formal operational stage, children develop abstract reasoning abilities, complex problem-solving skills and metacognitive awareness.

What are common examples of cognitive development?

Examples of cognitive development include the acquisition of language and vocabulary, the development of problem-solving skills, and the ability to engage in logical reasoning. Additionally, memory, attention, and spatial awareness are essential aspects of cognitive development. Children may demonstrate these skills through activities like puzzle-solving, reading, and mathematics.

How do cognitive development theories explain children’s learning?

Piaget’s cognitive development theory suggests that children learn through active exploration, constructing knowledge based on their experiences and interactions with the world. In contrast, Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory emphasizes the role of social interaction and cultural context in learning. Both theories imply that cognitive development is a dynamic and evolving process, influenced by various environmental and psychological factors.

Why is it essential to support cognitive development in early childhood?

Supporting cognitive development in early childhood is critical because it lays a strong foundation for future academic achievement, social-emotional development, and lifelong learning. By providing children with diverse and enriching experiences, caregivers and educators can optimize cognitive growth and prepare children to face the challenges of today’s complex world. Fostering cognitive development early on helps children develop resilience, adaptability, and critical thinking skills essential for personal and professional success.

Direct Your Visitors to a Clear Action at the Bottom of the Page

E-book title.

Session expired

Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.

Happy girl shows her vaccine bandage

Needle fears and phobia

Find ways to manage needle fears

  • Vital Signs for Pediatric Health series: Infant Mortality ; School Readiness ; Chronic Absenteeism ; High School Graduation
  • Assessing language and communication development in children
  • Short sleep duration among children
  • Interactive web tool to promote emotional well-being and resilience for children and teens
  • Video showcases tools to support children’s wellbeing

Child Development

The early years of a child’s life are very important for his or her health and development. Parents, health professionals, educators, and others can work together as partners to help children grow up to reach their full potential.

Development, milestones, and screening

What it is, why it is important and resources

Print or order free materials

For children birth to 17 years of age

Disorders, mental health, and other developmental conditions

Scientific articles

Legacy for Children™ study

Boy holding A, B, and C toy blocks

Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, behave, and move. Read about developments by age group.

Mother and Son

Learn how to keep children safe from danger and from becoming dangerous themselves.

Brain of baby x-ray graphic.3D rendering

Learn about the importance of a child’s early years for later health and development.

Exit Notification / Disclaimer Policy

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cannot attest to the accuracy of a non-federal website.
  • Linking to a non-federal website does not constitute an endorsement by CDC or any of its employees of the sponsors or the information and products presented on the website.
  • You will be subject to the destination website's privacy policy when you follow the link.
  • CDC is not responsible for Section 508 compliance (accessibility) on other federal or private website.

Brand

  • Campus Library Info.
  • ARC Homepage
  • Library Resources
  • Articles & Databases
  • Books & Ebooks

Baker College Research Guides

  • Research Guides

ECE 1110: Early Childhood Development

  • Developmental Assignment
  • Albert Bandura
  • John Bowlby
  • Urie Bronfenbrenner
  • Erik Erikson
  • Sigmund Freud
  • Howard Gardner
  • Arnold Gesell
  • Jean Piaget
  • Lev Vygotsky

Typical Development by Age

Young children journal.

  • Cognitive/Intellectual Development
  • Emotional Development
  • Language Development
  • Physical Development
  • Social Development
  • Family Issues
  • Prenatal Development
  • Special Needs
  • Ages and Stages
  • CDC’s Milestone Tracker App

Find Books & E-Books

  • Access e-books from anywhere using the Internet.
  • For additional e-books, search the  e-book databases .
  • Off-campus, you will need to log in with Baker's two-step authentication to access the library resources.

assignments in child development

  • << Previous: Lev Vygotsky
  • Next: Cognitive/Intellectual Development >>
  • Last Updated: Mar 5, 2024 3:48 PM
  • URL: https://guides.baker.edu/ECE1110
  • Search this Guide Search

assignments in child development

MSU Extension Child & Family Development

A photo of the cover page of the fact sheet.

Parenting the Preschooler: What is your child doing to show independence?

April 2, 2024

share this on facebook

Ages & Stages

Preschooler  A child who is 3 to 5 years of age.

Young child  A child who is 0 to 8 years of age.

Minding Our Language

Families come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. A “family” may include people who are related by blood, by marriage, and by choice. “Parents” may be biological, step-, foster, adoptive, legally appointed, or something else. When we use the words “family” and “parent” in these materials, we do so inclusively and with great respect for all adults who care for and work with young people.

Preschoolers are figuring out that there are many things they can do for themselves. It is normal for children to want to be more independent as they get older. When children are allowed to try new things, they learn what they can do on their own and what they still need help with.

While it feels good to children to have more control over certain parts of their lives, this can be a frustrating time for both children and parents because:

  • Children sometimes think they can do more than they actually can.
  • Parents sometimes do more than they should for their children.

Letting children do things for themselves helps them develop self-confidence – and gives parents a few minutes to do something else!

Remember to keep these things in mind as you help your child do more for themselves:

  • Let them do as much as possible for themselves. This includes things like getting dressed, pouring drinks, and doing simple chores. Try not to be critical if they spill a little when they pour or their clothes don’t match when they dress themselves.
  • Leave enough time for your child to do things on their own without feeling rushed or making you late!
  • Be realistic in what you expect. A preschooler may set the table backwards or make the bed crooked. It is more important that they try than that they do a task perfectly.
  • Set limits. Let them know what things they can do and what things you will do.
  • Give your child choices. Let them pick between two outfits, cereals, or colored cups, and make other simple decisions.
  • Give them easy chores like sorting silverware or moving laundry from the dryer into the basket.
  • Break larger jobs down into smaller tasks to help your child feel successful. ( “Put the toys in the box, put your clothes in the closet, and lay the blankets on the bed.” )
  • Help your child when you see they are frustrated.
  • Be patient. It will take some time for your preschooler to learn how to do new things well.

Find Out More

MSU Extension provides the following resources for parents and caregivers of preschoolers and young children at no or low cost. Be sure to check out these and other MSU Extension resources available at  www.extension.msu.edu .

Extension Extras - ( https://bit.ly/2LC2vdX ) – These compilations of news articles, activities, parenting tips and advice are published online Monday through Friday. The resources are designed for parents and caregivers of young children who are home all day during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Each day has a theme: Mindful Mondays, Tips on Tuesday, Working Wednesdays, Thinking Thursday, and Fun Fridays.

Extension Extras Enrichment Kits - ( https://bit.ly/35QAplQ ) – These kits feature five or six early childhood activities with learning goals focused in areas such as social and emotional health, literacy, and STEM; a supply list; suggested children’s books; introduction letters explaining how to use the materials; and an evaluation. The kits are available as free downloads.

Early Childhood Videos - ( https://bit.ly/3ioyEkS ) – These short videos offer parents and caregivers of young children information on parenting topics. Titles include “Perspective Taking,” “Family Movies,” “Goals of Misbehavior,” “Using Thinking and Feeling Words,” “The Waiting Game,” and “When Siblings Fight.”

Building Early Emotional Skills (BEES) in Young Children - ( https://bit.ly/38XW4KI ) – This page provides links to a variety of free online parenting courses, workshops, and events offered by MSU Extension for parents and caregivers of young children aged 0 to 3.

Parenting the Preschooler: Social Competence and Emotional Well-Being  © 2021 Michigan State University Board of Trustees. The fact sheets in this series may be copied for purposes of 4-H and other nonprofit educational programs and for individual use with credit to Michigan State University Extension.

DOWNLOAD FILE

Tags: child and family development , co-parenting , early childhood development , early childhood professionals , family , family engagement , msu extension , parent education , parenting education , parenting the preschooler , pp self-control , school readiness

new - method size: 1 - Random key: 0, method: personalized - key: 0

You Might Also Be Interested In

assignments in child development

MI Parenting Resource

assignments in child development

Bees, Building Early Emotional Skills, for Early Childhood Professionals

assignments in child development

Self-paced Positive Discipline Online Course

Stories for Sprouts and Seedlings: The Very Impatient Caterpillar

Published on May 20, 2020

Stories for Sprouts and Seedlings: The Amazing Life Cycle of Plants

Published on June 17, 2020

Stories for Sprouts and Seedlings: BEE - A Peak-Through Picture Book

Published on July 15, 2020

Accessibility Questions:

For questions about accessibility and/or if you need additional accommodations for a specific document, please send an email to ANR Communications & Marketing at [email protected] .

  • child and family development,
  • co-parenting,
  • early childhood development,
  • early childhood professionals,
  • family engagement,
  • msu extension,
  • parent education,
  • parenting education,
  • parenting the preschooler,
  • pp self-control,
  • school readiness,
  • child & family development

University of Rhode Island

  • Future Students
  • Parents and Families

Rhody Today

Increased physical activity can spur cognitive development, help children manage symptoms of adhd.

URI Kinesiology Professor Nicole Logan’s funded study aims to support alternative methods of treating the common childhood condition

assignments in child development

KINGSTON, R.I. — May 10, 2024 — Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can impact many common childhood milestones and cognitive processes, such as decision-making, inhibitory control, language development, and goal-setting. Studies by University of Rhode Island kinesiology Assistant Professor Nicole Logan have shown that physical activity can be beneficial for the development of such cognitive processes, particularly in children who may have room to improve in those areas.

Logan is expanding on her previous work in a new study, funded by a $25,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation, that compares the impact of physical activity on children with ADHD with their neurotypical peers. They are examining the association between various levels of physical activity and neurocognitive functioning in all children, particularly those with ADHD who might struggle with daily executive functioning skills, Logan said.

Logan and her team—which includes Department of Communicative Disorders professors Vanessa Harwood and Alisa Baron, as well as five graduate students and 10 undergrad students—are recruiting children and adolescents ages 6 to 17 with and without ADHD to participate in the study.

Children come into Logan’s lab in Independence Square on the Kingston campus for two visits, a week a part. On the first, they are introduced to the techniques and equipment used in the study, and take standardized academic achievement tests similar to what they would do in school—reading, math, oral achievement, spelling and language development—as well as a physical fitness test on a treadmill. After the first session, the participants are given a smart watch to record their physical activity, the intensity of the activity, and the time they spend being physically active over the next week.

“I’m really interested in looking at what a typical day looks like for a child with ADHD, and the typical activity levels,” Logan said. “There’s hyperactivity and inattention. So we might see differences in activity levels depending on which symptom is greater in a child. Hyperactivity-based children are very active. Maybe those children need more bouts of physical activity throughout the day to really burn off some energy and to refocus when they come back in for the school day. That goes in line with where physical activity guidelines are going… more physical activity spread throughout the day might be more beneficial for us.”

On the second visit to the lab, the children complete cognitive tasks while wearing an electroencephalogram net (EEG) to measure neuroelectric brain activity. Children are also assessed on cardiorespiratory fitness, physical activity, body composition, muscular strength, language and academic development, and mental health. 

“Physical activity promotes neurogenesis in the brain. The brain is very plastic, always changing and adapting and making new connections. These new connections are stimulated through exercise,” Logan said. “It’s a kind of stimulant for neuronal growth and change. Music, learning a new language, physical activity—all these things stimulate the brain, but exercise is unique in that it has the added benefit of preventing chronic diseases and improving quality of life in every part of the lifespan.”

Logan’s study aims to collect a wealth of data to inform future studies on ADHD, develop physical activity interventions to help stimulate cognitive development, and potentially help guide the next physical activity guidelines from the federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. New interventions could potentially supplement the use of ADHD medications, of which there has been a shortage in recent years while diagnoses of the condition are ever increasing.

“We expect the results will support alternative methods of managing childhood ADHD symptoms, such as with targeted physical activity recommendations,” Logan said. “Because physical activity and related health outcomes like fitness, muscular strength, and body composition are closely associated with neurocognitive function throughout childhood, we hope to provide unique health recommendations that will benefit children with ADHD in particular.”

The graduate students working on the project have presented the research at the Neuroscience Symposium and the College of Health Sciences Research Night in April. They are scheduled to present the study at the American College of Sports Medicine conference in Boston later in May.

The team has had success in recruitment so far, collecting 50 participants since the study began in July 2023. The lab is still actively recruiting children with ADHD (6-17 years old) throughout the summer. Anyone interested in participating can email Logan at [email protected] or visit the study’s recruitment page at www.loganlaburi.com/participate-in-research .

Faculty Resources

Assignments.

icon of a pencil cup

The assignments in this course are openly licensed, and are available as-is, or can be modified to suit your students’ needs. Answer keys are available to faculty who adopt Waymaker, OHM, or Candela courses with paid support from Lumen Learning. This approach helps us protect the academic integrity of these materials by ensuring they are shared only with authorized and institution-affiliated faculty and staff.

If you import this course into your learning management system (Blackboard, Canvas, etc.), the assignments will automatically be loaded into the assignment tool.

You can view them below or throughout the course.

  • Assignments. Provided by : Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Pencil Cup. Authored by : IconfactoryTeam. Provided by : Noun Project. Located at : https://thenounproject.com/term/pencil-cup/628840/ . License : CC BY: Attribution

Monday is A Day Without Childcare, a national child care advocacy day. Here's why Wisconsin parents say it's so important.

Monday is A Day Without Child Care, and families nationwide are reflecting on the effect child care — or rather, the lack of it — has on their lives. 

The national advocacy day is organized by Childcare Changemakers , and demands equitable, affordable and accessible child care for all families, as well as better compensation for child care providers. 

Often, even if Wisconsin families can find a spot at a child care — given long waitlists and child care deserts in some areas — it’s not affordable. Especially for infant care, it can surpass the cost of college tuition . At the same time, because of what the advocacy organization Raising Wisconsin calls a “ broken business model ,” child care providers earn wages substantially lower than many other occupations. 

In recognition of A Day Without Child Care, Wisconsin families shared why quality, affordable care matters to them. Here’s some key takeaways: 

More: What would Wisconsin look like without child care? The impact goes far beyond parents.

More: The new Wisconsin family? 1.7 kids, no picket fence and child care costs more than college

Child care keeps parents and caregivers in the workforce.

Joyful Beginnings Academy, a child care in the Dale-Hortonville area, asked its parents to share with local lawmakers why quality, affordable care matters — along with what would happen if they did not have child care. 

Roughly 75% said child care allows them to keep working; without it, either they or their partner would need to leave their jobs. Many other parents echoed the same sentiments to USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

For Matthew Askins, a Green Bay dad of a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old, this became a reality. At the same time his second child was in the neonatal intensive care unit, the child care his children were enrolled in closed, the result of a lack of state funding, he said. 

“Since we had no other feasible options, I had to quit my job to care for our kids while my wife continued her career,” he said. “This was already a stressful and transitional time in our lives, and the sudden loss of child care was a real eye-opener for us.” 

Bea Johnson, a mom of a 1-year-old who attends Joyful Beginnings Academy, prepared to halt her career as a high school teacher when she was suddenly left without child care. The Oshkosh mom contacted over 20 child care programs in the area, and eventually found an opening at Joyful Beginnings, roughly 30 minutes from Oshkosh.

Child care influences career moves.

As the cost of child care rose, Green Bay mom Elizabeth McKinney started working at home full time, simultaneously taking care of her two young children, to bypass the high costs. 

“It’s incredibly hard mentally and requires lots of patience and scheduling, but that’s where we are at with the crisis in child care,” she said. 

This led her to turn down a promotion.

Child care is critical to children's development.

Mackenzie Guenther, a Joyful Beginnings parent, said in response to the child care center's survey that child care has helped her young child’s vocabulary “blossom like crazy,” her children navigate major developmental milestones like eating solids and potty training, and form friendships. 

For Tori Miniat’s daughter, child care opened a whole new world of communication. 

“My daughter was not talking at 2 years old, and her speech therapist suggested day care … After only two weeks at day care, she was forming full sentences,” said the Omro mom of three. “She could talk; she just didn’t want to or have to at home. Day care was such a huge help (in) bringing her out of her shell.” 

Related: Takeaways from new report on Wisconsin child care: It’s expensive, hard to find and politicians can’t agree on what to do

Child care gives families 'peace of mind.'

Natalia Fucci, a Green Bay mom, said child care was difficult to find — and finding quality care nearly impossible. 

Because of this, her children, ages 3 and 5, are in their third child care center.  

“Knowing my kids are safe, learning and thriving in a (quality) environment gives me so much peace of mind. I’m able to go to work with the feeling that they are going to have a great day, and so am I,” Fucci said.

Child care literally shapes families.

For Cassie Calbaum, the ability to find child care for her three children not only meant her family could continue being a dual-income household, but also that she and her husband could expand their family. 

“Child care availability was the critical piece in deciding to have children,” Calbaum responded to Joyful Beginnings’ survey. “Joyful Beginnings has given us the confidence to consider trying for one more child.” 

Calbaum is not alone in basing such major decisions based on the child care landscape. Previous coverage shows the high cost, the lack of availability, or both, can be a factor in if, and when, families have more children.  

A Day Without Child Care events

It seems Wisconsinites plan to show up in full force for A Day Without Child Care events. Wisconsin had the most action items schedule of any other state, including providers closing, social media campaigns and parents writing letters to lawmakers, said Corrine Hendrickson, co-founder of Wisconsin Early Childhood Action Needed.

To find an event near you, visit bit.ly/ADayWithoutChildCare .

Madison Lammert covers child care and early education across Wisconsin as a Report for America corps member based at The Appleton Post-Crescent. To contact her, email  [email protected]  or call 920-993-7108 .  Please consider supporting journalism that informs our democracy with a  tax-deductible gift to Report for America   by visiting  postcrescent.com/RFA

Child Development Assignment Example, Ireland

In this sample assignment, the focus is on the Child Development (QQI Level 5) course which is offered by “The Open College” in Dublin. This course is a distance learning program and has a duration of 8 weeks. On successful completion of the course, the students are offered a certificate (Level 5) by QQI. If you want to pursue “Early Childhood Care and Education” then the Child Development (QQI Level 5) module is a mandatory one.

Hire Childcare Assignment Experts For QQI Level 5 Child Development Module

Candidates who have completed the module get equipped with the know-how, and skills pertinent to childcare development and learning within the ECCE settings. The module covers the moral, social, emotional, and physical development of the kid. It also covers language, cognitive, creative, spiritual, and cultural development.

This essay explores various theories related to child development. It also outlines the different ways of developing a child and also outlines the observations to monitor child development. 

Topics on QQI Level 5  Child Development  Course

The various topics related to the course Child Development (QQI Level 5) are covered as follows:-

Holistic Development

Holistic development in early childhood in Ireland is a learning approach that stresses the emotional, physical, and psychological well-being of the child. There are at least 5 aspects of holistic development in early childhood and they are

1. Emotional

2. Physical

3. Spiritual

Holistic development (physical) includes climbing trees, moving through the jungle, cooking, using tools, motor skills, and woodland crafts, getting creative using clay, and connecting with nature are some of them.

The course also provides information about the holistic approach to learning. It says that the approach completely activates the learner’s personality like emotions, intellect, body, and imagination for comprehensive and effective learning.

Theories of Child Development and Learning

There are many theories of child development and learning. This section discusses the important ones. The main theories that are associated with child development and learning are as follows:-

  • Psychosexual Theory
  • Behavioral Theories
  • Psychosocial Theory
  • Cognitive Theory
  • Social Learning Theory
  • Attachment Theory
  • Socio-cultural Theory

There are also five important theories on just child development and they are as follows:-

  • Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Developmental 
  • Bowlby’s Theory of Attachment
  • Freud’s Theory of Psychosexual Developmental
  • Bandura’s Theory of Social Learning
  • Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development

According to eminent theorists of child development social learning occurs through processes of reinforcement and association. On the other hand, the various behavioral theories related to child development focus on how interaction with the environment influences the behavior of a child. 

Influencing Factors

During his childhood when a child is growing several factors may influence the development and growth of the child. These factors are listed as follows:-

Heredity results in the transmission of physical attributes from the parent to the offspring. It affects various aspects of the physical appearance of the child, and the kid’s health.

Environment

The environment plays an important role in the growth and development of the child.

Sex is another prime factor that affects the development and growth of a child, it helps to understand how boys and girls grow and develop are separate from each other.

Health and Exercise

Kids who exercise in their childhood years have a better physique than those who do not. Hence exercise does affect the health, growth, and development of a child.

Kids who take in more nutritious food during their childhood years develop and grow well than those who fail to receive proper nourishment in their childhood years.

Achieve The Goals By Buy QQI Level 5 Child Development Assignment Answers

Hormones also make an important contribution to the growth and development of a child.

Influence of the family

Family influences often help the kids to develop socially and psychologically.

Geographical influences

The schools that a child attends, the environment in which he lives, and the opportunities he gets during his childhood years are all geographical influences that contribute to the growth and development of a child. 

Social and economic status

A family’s social and economic status decides the opportunities that a kid gets during his childhood. Therefore, it contributes to the growth and development of the child. 

The process of child growth and development involves learning skills like walking, sitting, talking, tying shoes, and skipping. Learning is important for a child as it provides a foundation for a group of kids. 

Supporting Child Development

This section of the essay discusses why supporting a child’s development is important. The social, emotional, and physical development of a child affects the overall development of the kid and it determines the type of person that the kid is going to become. It is because of this that supporting a child during his developmental phase is vital as by doing so one maximizes the future well-being of the kid. There are 5 major areas of child development and they are as follows:-

  • Cognitive development
  • Speech and language development
  • Social and emotional development
  • Gross motor skill development
  • Fine motor skill development

Observations

Observations are important concerning child development. It helps the educator to comprehend the reasons why a child is having developmental issues in his childhood. Observations help to understand a child and document and analyze the actions, and words of kids whenever they interact with other people and the surroundings. There are 4 types of observations and they are listed as follows:-

  • Complete Observer
  • Participant as Observer
  • Observer as Participant
  • Complete Participant

Get Best Child Development (QQI Level 5) Assignment Help from QQIASSIGNMENTS.com

If you are in Ireland and require help with childcare assignments , care skills assignments , sna assignments , learner record writing , and child development assignments then get in touch with the expert writers of QQIASSIGNMENTS.com.

The writers are skilled and experienced and they offer childcare assignments help and other assignment help at moderate prices. The Ireland assignment helper is paid to write essays. They hear out the needs of the clients and try to prepare the essays as per the requirement.

The write-ups they prepare are unique, and free from spelling and grammar errors. More importantly, you get the completed assignment delivered to you within deadlines.

If you need assignment help from the writers of QQIASSIGNMENTS.com, visit the website now!

Pay And Get Non-Plagiarized QQI Level 5 Child Development Assignment

  • Critique of a Toy Assignment Sample in Ireland
  • 5N4465 After School Support Skills Fetac Level 5 Assignment Solution Ireland
  • 5N1765 Child Health & Wellbeing Assignment Sample
  • QQI Level 5 Child Development Assignment Sample
  • Early Childhood Studies Care & Education Assignment Example – FETAC LEVEL 5
  • Child Development Observations Assignment Sample

Submit Your Assignment

Language selection

  • Français fr

Government of Canada to deliver more inclusive early learning and child care in Quebec

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

Media advisory

The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Transport, and the Honourable Soraya Martinez Ferrada, Minister of Tourism and Minister responsible for CED, will announce funding to support inclusive child care across the province through the Government of Canada’s Early Learning and Child Care Infrastructure Fund.

The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Transport, and the Honourable Soraya Martinez Ferrada, Minister of Tourism and Minister responsible for CED, will announce funding to support inclusive child care across the province through the Government of Canada’s Early Learning and Child Care Infrastructure Fund. The announcement is being made on behalf of the Honourable Jenna Sudds, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. A photo opportunity and media availability will follow the announcement. Please note that all details are subject to change. All times are local. Date:         Monday, May 13, 2024 Time:         1:00 p.m. EDT

To register, contact [email protected] with your name and media outlet before Noon EDT on Monday, May 13, 2024.

For information (media only):

Layla Platt Communications Advisor Office of the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Jenna Sudds [email protected]

Media Relations Office Employment and Social Development Canada 819-994-5559 [email protected] Follow us on X (Twitter )

Page details

  • Copy/Paste Link Link Copied

Science Update: Prediction strategies may reduce inappropriate CT scans for children and youth, NIH-funded study suggests

Standards for abdominal and head injury work with near 100% accuracy.

Parent reassuring child on table in front of scanner.

Strategies for when to recommend imaging scans for pediatric trauma patients predict with near 100% accuracy those who ultimately needed the scans and nearly 100% accuracy those who did not, according to a study funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. These strategies, or prediction rules, seek to avoid unneeded computed tomography (CT) scans for children and adolescents with suspected abdominal and traumatic brain injuries. Although essential for identifying injuries in various parts of the body, the scans pose a slight increase in cancer risk, particularly for small children. The study authors concluded that the rules minimize inappropriate use of CT scans for evaluating children and youth for abdominal or head trauma.

The rules distinguished 100% of children with abdominal injuries undergoing physician evaluation and 100% of children under two years with clinically important brain injuries who needed CT scans from those who did not. However, the prediction rule failed to identify a small percentage of children older than two years who needed head scans from those who did not.

The study was led by James F. Holmes, M.D. and Nathan Kuppermann, M.D., of the University of California Davis, and colleagues. It appears in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health .

Many children come to emergency departments to be evaluated for head trauma or blunt (without a break in the skin) abdominal trauma. Such injuries may result from motor vehicle accidents, falls, or recreational accidents. CT scanning, an important tool for evaluating such trauma in children and youth, relies on ionizing radiation, which slightly increases the risk for radiation-induced cancers .

The Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN) developed prediction rules for use in children under evaluation in emergency departments to distinguish those with low risk for serious abdominal or brain injuries, who do not need CT scanning, from those at high risk who need such scanning.

For the current study, researchers validated the PECARN prediction rules by evaluating 7,542 children with blunt abdominal trauma and 19,999 children with head trauma in the emergency departments at 6 sites.

After enrollment, patients were evaluated by emergency department physicians, who prescribed treatment, and decided whether a patient would undergo a CT scan. After the evaluation, but before the results of any scans were available, patients were then evaluated with the PECARN rules.

Of the 7,542 children enrolled in the abdominal trauma group, the PECARN rule predicted 100% of the children who had serious abdominal injuries (145 patients) and 100% of the 3,488 of the patients who did not.

The authors evaluated head trauma patients in two groups: those younger than two years old, and those older than age two. Of the 5,647 children younger than two in the head trauma group, the PECARN rule correctly identified 100% of the 42 children who had significant brain injuries and 100% of the 2,940 who did not. Of the 14,352 children two years and older in the head trauma group, the rule identified 98.8% (168 out of 170) of children who had significant brain injuries and nearly 100% (6,015 out of 6,017) who did not.

Significance

The authors concluded that the study validated the prediction rules for pediatric abdominal or head trauma with a high degree of accuracy and can be considered safe for minimizing inappropriate CT scans in children needing care for abdominal or head trauma.

Holmes, JF, Kuppermann N, et al. PECARN prediction rules for CT imaging of children presenting to the emergency department with blunt abdominal or minor head trauma: a multicentre prospective validation study. The Lancet, Child and Adolescent Health. 2024.

IMAGES

  1. The 5 Key Areas of Child Development

    assignments in child development

  2. Assignments for Introduction to Early Childhood Education

    assignments in child development

  3. Assignments for Introduction to Early Childhood Education

    assignments in child development

  4. Child Development

    assignments in child development

  5. Child Development Posters

    assignments in child development

  6. Child development stages

    assignments in child development

VIDEO

  1. LEARNING AREAS IN DAY CARE (CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER)

  2. Concept, Principles and Stages of Child Development||Junior Teacher|Theory+MCQs+PYQs|Class-1|Unit-1|

  3. Child development Part -1 theories of development... growth and development... By Nisha Sharma

  4. ENGLISH ASSIGNMENTS ( CHILD BIRTH )

  5. Child Development EDU 303 Assignment 1 Spring 2021 Solution

  6. Importance of Personal Development

COMMENTS

  1. 8 Things to Remember about Child Development

    Development is a highly interactive process, and life outcomes are not determined solely by genes. The environment in which one develops before and soon after birth provides powerful experiences that chemically modify certain genes in ways that then define how much and when they are expressed. Thus, while genetic factors exert potent influences ...

  2. PDF Lesson Title: The Developing Child

    Introductory Activity. Explain that today's lesson explores child development, the biological and psychological changes that occur in children as they grow. Display your timeline (birth to 5 years) in the room. (See "Before the Lesson" for details.) Birth 3 months 7 months 1 year 2 years 3 years 4 years 5 years. 3.

  3. PDF Creative Activities & Assignments Toolbox

    1. The benefits of art and music in the development of young children in the infant, toddler, preschool and school age (K‐3) stages of development. 2. The similarities in what children learn through art and music (think about the early learning standards to help with this one if needed.) 3.

  4. Chapter 1: Introduction to Child Development

    Child development is a fascinating field of study - but care must be taken to ensure that researchers use appropriate methods to examine infant and child behavior, use the correct experimental design to answer their questions, and be aware of the special challenges that are part-and-parcel of developmental research. Hopefully, this ...

  5. Child Development

    Inclusive Preschool Settings: Strategies to Support Children's Development in the Physical Domain. In partnership with families and specialists, one teacher transformed her learning environment to help children actively and safely engage in motor activities. Authored by: Shruti Gadkari.

  6. Principles of Child Development and Learning and Implications That

    Play is essential for all children, birth through age 8. Play (e.g., self-directed, guided, solitary, parallel, social, cooperative, onlooker, object, fantasy, physical, constructive, and games with rules) is the central teaching practice that facilitates young children's development and learning. Play develops young children's symbolic and ...

  7. Introduction to Child Development

    Introduction. "Early child development sets the foundation for lifelong learning, behaviour, and health" (Mustard, 2006). Welcome to Child Growth and Development. This text is a presentation of how and why children grow, develop, and learn from conception to adolescence. Registered early childhood educators (RECEs) draw from their ...

  8. PDF Child Development and Early Learning: A Foundation for Professional

    do in order to best support children's healthy development. Children are already learning at birth, and they develop and learn at a rapid pace in their early years. This provides a critical foundation for lifelong progress, and the adults who provide for the care and education of children from birth through age 8 bear a great

  9. Assignments

    Module 6: Middle Childhood. Discussion: Middle Childhood. Discuss divorce OR examples of a moral dilemma. Assignment: Anti-Bullying Infographic. Research a school and anti-bullying campaigns to create an infographic. Assignment: Moral Reasoning Interview. Interview a child and an adult about moral reasoning; compare.

  10. DAP: Observing, Documenting, and Assessing Children's Development and

    The complexity of children's development and learning—including the uneven nature of development and the likelihood of children fully demonstrating their knowledge and skills in different contexts—makes accurate and comprehensive assessment difficult. For example, authentic assessment takes into consideration such factors as a child's ...

  11. Child Cognitive Development: Essential Milestones and Strategies

    Child cognitive development is a fascinating and complex process that entails the growth of a child's mental abilities, including their ability to think, learn, and solve problems. This development occurs through a series of stages that can vary among individuals. As children progress through these stages, their cognitive abilities and skills ...

  12. PDF Learning Plan 2 Child Development (3 hours) Overview

    Introduction to the Child Care Profession . 1 . Learning Plan 2 . Child Development (3 hours) Overview: Children grow at different rates of development but all development is an orderly process, with each stage following in sequence. Brain research tells us about the importance of early experiences even for newborn babies.

  13. Free Materials about Child Development

    Middle Childhood (6-8 years of age) [PDF - 774 KB] Middle Childhood (9-11 years of age) [PDF - 698 KB] Teens (12-14 years of age) [PDF - 686 KB] Teens (15-17 years of age) [PDF - 686 KB] Information about developmental milestones and tips for things that parents can do to help their children during each stage.

  14. Learn About Child Development

    Needle fears and phobia. The early years of a child's life are very important for his or her health and development. Parents, health professionals, educators, and others can work together as partners to help children grow up to reach their full potential.

  15. Child Development

    This course takes a closer look at child development from conception to young adulthood. We will explore physical, intellectual, social, emotional, and moral development of infants, toddlers, school age children and beyond! Students will learn ages and stages of growing children, child safety, childcare options, effective disciplinary ...

  16. PDF Assignment 1

    Assignment One: Understand Child Development Theories and Philosophical Approaches in Relation to How Children Learn and Develop Children and young people will develop in their own way and no two children are the same. There are a range of theories of development. These include: Cognitive/ Constructive: Piaget believed that children think and learn

  17. Developmental Assignment

    Publication Date: 2015. Nurturing Personal, Social and Emotional Development in Early Childhood by Debbie Garvey; Suzanne Zeedyk (Foreword by) Publication Date: 2017. Understanding How Young Children Learn: Bringing the Science of Child Development to the Classroom by Wendy L. Ostroff. Publication Date: 2012.

  18. PDF CHLD 102: Child Growth and Development Portfolio Assignment #2

    Part One of this portfolio assignment requires that you conduct two observations and an interview of a family member or the child's primary caregiver. You will be addressing several questions based on this observation and interview data. Part One is divided into the following steps: Select a child between the ages of birth and eight.

  19. PDF Assignment #5- Child Development Observation

    Assignment #5- Child Development Observation You will conduct five hours of observation (anecdotal, naturalistic) from each of the age categories: first two years, early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence (at least one hour per category; last remaining hour can be in any age category). You will observe the

  20. Parenting the Preschooler: What is your child doing to show

    Children sometimes think they can do more than they actually can. Parents sometimes do more than they should for their children. Letting children do things for themselves helps them develop self-confidence - and gives parents a few minutes to do something else! Remember to keep these things in mind as you help your child do more for themselves:

  21. Child Development Assignment

    child development assignment - Free download as Word Doc (.doc / .docx), PDF File (.pdf), Text File (.txt) or read online for free. pismp sem 1

  22. Child Development Associate Teacher Permit Checklist

    Requirement Item Important Details and Tips : Acceptable coursework and experience . OR. Possess a Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential. Option 1: Acceptable coursework and experience. Completion of a minimum of 12 semester units of coursework in early childhood education or child development (excluding field work), including at least one course of at least 3 semester units or 4 ...

  23. Increased physical activity can spur cognitive development, help

    KINGSTON, R.I. — May 10, 2024 — Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can impact many common childhood milestones and cognitive processes, such as decision-making, inhibitory control, language development, and goal-setting. Studies by University of Rhode Island kinesiology Assistant Professor Nicole Logan have shown that physical activity can be beneficial for the development of such ...

  24. Assignments

    Module 3: Prenatal Development. Discussion: Prenatal Development. Think about prenatal testing and "designer" babies. Assignment: Pregnancy and Birth. Watch and review a TEd talk about birth. Assignment: Birth Plan. Create a birth plan. Assignment: Birth Journal. Module 4: Infancy.

  25. Child care is critical to children's development.

    A Day Without Child Care is a national advocacy day supporting equitable, affordable and accessible child care for all families. Wisconsin families say this is important. News Sports Packers ...

  26. Child Development Assignment Example, Ireland

    Child Development Assignment Example, Ireland. In this sample assignment, the focus is on the Child Development (QQI Level 5) course which is offered by "The Open College" in Dublin. This course is a distance learning program and has a duration of 8 weeks. On successful completion of the course, the students are offered a certificate (Level ...

  27. New tool to boost battle against childhood undernutrition

    The tool will help researchers better understand major challenges that afflict undernourished children, such as changes in cognitive development and higher infection rates. A new tool developed at ...

  28. Child assignment (docx)

    Additionally, this assignment will allow you to reflect on some of the rewards and challenges of working with young children. Assignment Instructions: First, decide which early childhood program you would like to visit from the list of mentor-teacher sites provided. From the questions below, choose five questions you would like to explore.

  29. Government of Canada to deliver more inclusive early learning and child

    The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Transport, and the Honourable Soraya Martinez Ferrada, Minister of Tourism and Minister responsible for CED, will announce funding to support inclusive child care across the province through the Government of Canada's Early Learning and Child Care Infrastructure Fund.

  30. Science Update: Prediction strategies may reduce inappropriate ...

    Strategies for when to recommend imaging scans for pediatric trauma patients predict with near 100% accuracy those who ultimately needed the scans and nearly 100% accuracy those who did not, according to a study funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. These strategies, or prediction rules, seek to avoid unneeded computed tomography (CT ...