Child Psychology is one of the foundational aspects of the discipline of psychology. This is due to the kind of influence childhood has in shaping us as adults. Some of the ground-breaking theories in this regard are as follows:
Working in a child guidance clinic in London in 1930s, John Bowlby observed that the earliest bonds formed by children with their primary caregivers had an impact on their psyche as adults. They’re formed between the ages of 2 months-2 years.
Caregivers provide their young ones not only with nourishment but also with a sense of security and survival. Needless to say, they feel a sense of uneasiness when separated from their primary caregivers, given how that sense of comfort goes missing in such a scenario.
Studies show that failure to form attachments at this age leads to a negative impact on an individual’s psychology later in life besides causing potential harm to them even as children. In fact, children diagnosed with the oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD) or PTSD frequently display attachment issues.
A safe and secure childhood allows adults to have high self-esteem, healthy romantic relationships and be more expressive about their feelings.
The Russian psychologist, Lev Semenovich, developed the sociocultural theory in the early 20th century. His primary assertion was that children learn more effectively from association with the society, and their cognitive development can be advanced through interactions with more skilled individuals.
He came up with the idea of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) which distinguishes activities that children can perform without assistance from those wherein they need assistance. Children who are in ZPD can almost perform that task independently. However, with the guidance of a skilled instructor, they can complete the task.
By understanding this pattern, educators can develop plans to teach skills most effectively and gradually releasing responsibility to the students to perform tasks independently. This process is referred to as scaffolding. Here, an adult helps the child move from an inability to perform a task of being able to do so through guidance, interaction and
Psychologist Albert Bandura came up with the social learning theory. He devised four requirements of learning which are observation, retention, reproduction and motivation. At the same time, learning is also based on responses to environmental stimuli. He firmly believed that children observed the actions of the people around them. This was illustrated in
his famous bobo doll experiment. In this experiment, children who had observed violent behaviour towards dolls happened to imitate it. The opposite was the case with children observing non-violent behaviour.
In his development theory, Erick Erickson explained that every person experiences psychosocial crises in each stage of life, which can either negatively or positively influence a person’s personality. According to this theory, a person needs to complete each stage with proficient accomplishment to acquire good virtues, failing which they’re wont to develop unwanted traits. The four stages pertaining to pre-adolescence stage are discussed here:
1. Trust vs Mistrust
This stage occurs during the first year. The child expects constant care, comfort and security. A reliable and consistent caregiver will lead the kid to develop the virtue of hope. Otherwise, a sense of fear and mistrust develops.
2. Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt
This stage occurs between the ages of 18 months-3 years. Here, the child enters the stage of autonomy for the first time as she learns how to play with toys, ride a bicycle et al. Parents need to encourage the child to become more independent while at the same time protecting him from avoiding constant failure. Success in the stage will lead to the virtue of the will, while failure leads to a sense of doubt.
3. Initiative vs Guilt
The central feature involves regular social interaction of a child with new people in school. At this stage, if the parents treat the child’s curiosity as a nuisance, then the child may end up feeling guilt and be afraid to take initiatives. This might inhibit her creativity. However, some guilt is necessary to exercise self-control. A healthy balance between guilt and initiative inculcate the virtue of purpose in the child.
4. Industry vs Inferiority
This stage occurs between the ages of 5 to 12. At this age, the influence of the society and peer group rises extensively. The child feels a need to win approval by demonstrating his competencies. A child who is lacking encouragement from his parents during this age will probably begin doubting his abilities and feel inferior. Success will lead to the virtue of competence.
Although these theories may still be relevant today and age, it is also important not to govern our perception and be entirely influenced by these great ideas. These are the only ways to understand how child psychology can be looked at. However, it is crucial to work with an approach that is best suited to the child we are working with, based on their unique features, needs, etc.