Child Psychology

Foundations of Development

Human development is a continuous process with lifetime change patterns. Each development phase has a set of developmental tasks that influence a person’s physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional development from conception to death. Research shows that human development occurs in an orderly development pattern, whereby each developmental phase leads to the next. Childhood development follows a specific sequence and involves critical perceptual and motor development stages.

Perception and action are intimately and reciprocally related. Children are born with senses that regulate their actions. Perception entails the use of senses to understand the external world. Stimulation from the external world produces sensory experiences, leading to cognitive development. Research shows that children acquire knowledge from their environment through the sensations received from sensory stimuli. Development during childhood is primarily determined by access to sensory information in the environment. Perceptual development results from infants’ exploration, manipulation, and identification of various environmental features. As perceptual development proceeds, children learn to tie or associate certain stimuli with various actions. Perceptual development equips children with motor abilities, enabling them to explore the external environment differently. Children use their motor abilities to reach for objects, play with objects, and touch other people. As they age, children learn to use sensory input to change actions. Perceptual motor development is essential in promoting a person’s physical abilities. Perceptual motor development links a child’s sensory skills to their motor skills, enabling them to perform various actions and movements independently. Motor development involves the development of gross and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills refer to voluntary body movements involving large muscles such as legs, head, and arms. Children first develop gross motor skills, which enable them to explore objects using their feet. Fine motor skills involve exact body movements of the hands and fingers and the use of finger, toes, and eye muscles. These skills facilitate coordination of actions such as grasping an object or each object.

Perception develops sequentially through pattern, depth, object, and intermodal perception stages. Pattern perception entails the acquisition of perceptual abilities to become sensitive to static pattern regularities. Infants tend to scan interior environmental features to process the entire pattern. Pattern perception is developed from three to four months of age when infants begin to recognize subjective contours instead of isolated features. For example, an infant can perceive a face as a visual pattern with facial expressions instead of perceiving them differently. Object perception involves the use of kinetic cues to identify objects. Infants develop the perception of obstructed objects as a unified whole, significantly when the visible pieces of the object move together. Object perceptual capabilities enable children to identify boundaries and perceive objects independently. Depth perception entails the reception of different visual inputs and synthesizing them into a single, three-dimensional percept. Kinetic cues from eye movements and motor abilities foster depth perception. Research using the visual cliff indicates that infants who can crawl usually will not crawl to the deep side of the cliff. These infants can detect pictorial depth cues such as shadows, size, and linear perspective. Intermodal perceptions relate to the ability to coordinate information perceived through different senses. Newborns can perceive audio-visual relations presented in an external environment. Children develop perceptual differentiation ability to differentiate stimulation from different sense organs. For instance, children can learn speech through listening to sounds and seeing a talking face. Children can also recognize objects through the information perceived by seeing and touching.

Perceptual motor development enables humans to practice complex and unfamiliar actions such as crawling. Mastery of these skills prepares people to be active and perform daily routines independently. Recently, I observed a toddler who modeled perceptual-motor skills. Jerry, a two-year-old boy, visited her mother at the office accompanied by his pet. Individuals present in the office included his mother, the pet, and his mother’s workmates. Jerry’s mother offered him a toy to play with while focusing on her work. I observed that Jerry portrayed fine motor skills such as grabbing, holding, and reaching. I observed Jerry could carry the toy throughout the room and pull it on a flat surface. Jerry could reach for it and pick it up whenever his toy fell without falling over. Jerry also interacted with her mother’s colleagues and often invited them to play with his toy. Jerry also modeled gross motor skills such as lifting his head, walking down the stairs, running, and turning through the corners. He lifted his head when he fell on the floor while playing. He could also walk through the halls smoothly and climb up and down the stairs with support from the guard rails.

Jerry also modeled the four types of perceptual development. Jerry modeled pattern perception by jumping when the toy moved and sitting down when the toy failed to move. Jerry portrayed object perception by picking up his toy to play with it, pulling the office chair through the hallway, and walking his pet out of the room. Jerry modeled depth perception by walking up and down the stairs without falling. He could also climb onto/down the office chair independently. Jerry bent down to pick his toy from the floor without falling over. The intermodal perception was observed through Jerry’s pulling his toy whenever his mother asked her to pull. He also smiled after hearing himself biting a big bite of a banana. Perceptual-motor development skills enabled Jerry to manipulate objects while helping him to remain physically active.

Research shows that crawling builds fine motor skills through hand movements, postural control, and body stability. Crawling relates to perceptual development because, to crawl, a baby requires vestibular sense, proprioceptive sense, and muscle strength to initiate movement. Crawling enables a child to practice body movements, including rotating and bending body parts. Pushing against the ground helps children understand gravity. Crawling equips children with perceptual-motor skills to interact appropriately with the external environment. Crawling prepares children to move in a way that stimulates the senses. They gain spatial awareness and adopt a rhythmic pattern as they coordinate by moving opposite hands and knees. The rudimentary crawling skills translate to the ability to understand space around other dimensions beyond a child’s body. Crawling enable children to coordinate eye-hand movement and reach and grasp objects with their hands.

2. Cognitive and Language Development


Childhood development lays the foundations for self-regulation of thought and behavior. Lev S. Vygotsky’s concept of a zone of proximal development (ZPD) stipulates that make-believe play is essential in establishing high levels of self-regulation and abstract thinking in childhood. The theorist held that social interaction with experienced adults and peers is critical to a child’s learning. Children require interpersonal instruction to develop abstract thinking. Vygotsky suggested that children’s learning occurs within ZPD. They can perform a task with assistance from a knowledgeable and skilled person, supportive activities provided by the expert, and social interactions that enable learners to improve their skills and abilities. A make-play is a suitable activity for stimulating children learning. Make-believe plays constitute imaginary scenes and substitute objects that help children differentiate between internal ideas and concrete reality. These plays allow children to rely on thought to guide their actions. Participating in pretend play leads to socio-emotional development. Research shows that children in make-believe plays have high empathy and compassion levels because of the role-taking involved in these plays. Children perceive a problem from another person’s perspective. Make-believe plays also have social rules that children use to regulate their actions. Rule-based plays create the external pressure to behave in a socially responsible manner. Children become self-regulated and responsible.

 Make-believe play fosters private speech as children learn to use symbolic thought. Children use self-directed speech to overcome immediate impulses. They talk aloud and internalize private speech and use it as an automated thought as they mature. During pretend plays, children engage in cognitively challenging tasks that require them to use private speech to improve task performance. Make-believe plays stimulate language and communication development by teaching children the power of language. Children often repeat the sounds, words, and phrases used in their immediate environment.

I observed Jessica and Tom in a make-believe play. Jessica is a two-year-old girl who pretends to be the mother in the play, while Tom is a three-year-old boy who acts as a father. Tom had gone out and returned home carrying some family shopping during the play. Jessica welcomed him home warmly with a cup of tea. Jessica went to the kitchen to play some dinner. She came back with a toy bowl and spoon, pretended to serve food into the bowl, poured some juice, and served it to a doll, who served as the baby. Jessica realized that the baby’s tool had fallen under the bed and requested Tom for help. They both bent down and used a stick to reach the toy and handed it to the baby to play with. Make-believe play evokes imagination as Tom and Jessica imagine themselves as a nuclear family. The children could have internalized the behaviors portrayed by their parents and used the play to regulate their performance as rents. Jessica also imagined herself as a mother, which required her to think about what she would do to relieve the imaginary baby from hunger. She also imagined herself being a wife and imagined how to welcome his husband home with a cup of tea. The make-believe play also displayed cognitive strategies such as problem–solving. Tom and Jessica used a stick to reach for the toy that had fallen under the bed. Overall, the imaginative play enabled Jessica and Tom to think abstractly and interact with each other as per the social rules of the game. The rules required Tom to behave as a responsible father by providing for his family while Jessica performed domestic roles as a responsible mother.

3. Personality and Social Development-Quality Daycare

An increasing number of children are being enrolled in daycare arrangements, sparking debate about the effects of daycare on attachment relationships and children’s development. The transition from home to daycare is often demanding for children. Daycare exposes children to a new environment, new people, and new routines. I visited Montego daycare from 6 am to 11 am and observed parents as they brought their infants, toddlers, and preschoolers into the daycare. The daycare has about thirty children aged two years and above and 25 caregivers. Most parents had a drop-off routine whereby they dropped their children, gave them hugs and kisses, and bid the caregivers goodbye.

Some children cried for almost an hour at drop-off, threw tantrums, and refused to leave their mother’s side. The infants cried loudly, banding on the daycare doors. The parents assured the children that they loved them and would pick them up after work. Some parents carried stuffed bunnies and handed them to their children at drop-off. The caregivers warmly greeted both the parents and their children. They hugged the children and welcomed them to the classrooms. The caregivers comforted the crying children by telling them, “I can see you want your mommy to stay with you, but she has to work. Mommy will be back after work and bring you some chocolates. We will have a lot of time playing. Come and sit on my lap for a while”. Some children gave in to the caregiver’s requests, while others continued with their tantrums. Most children in the daycare have been used to saying with their parents as primary caregivers, and that is why they protest loudly when they are separated from their parents. Separation anxiety sets in when children get upset around strangers or new people.

The caregivers cuddle the children and engage them in engaging activities to relieve the stress of separation from parents. For example, the caregivers at Montego Daycare reassure children that they are there to support them and understand their feeling. They remain close to the children for a given time and assure them that the daycare has the best resources to support them. The caregivers hold the children with them, narrate stories, and involve them in daily routines. They also connect children to engaging activities such as reading stories and playing games. Close proximity with the children provides them with a sense of calmness and belonging. The caregivers also honor children’s emotional needs by providing them access to their preferred caregivers. I observed that some children prefer some caregivers to others. I noticed one child who chose one caregiver and refused to be attended by others. The daycare management granted the child her wishes by providing access to his chosen caregiver. The caregivers also encourage families to explore the daycare environment before taking their children to daycare. The daycare requires new children to be oriented to the school environment before their first day. Thus, the children learn that is where they will be spending their days, eat, sleep, and play.

Montego Daycare is excellent because it provides nurturing relationships that promote healthy child development. The caregivers are sensitive and empathic to children’s needs. They understand that the children need a secure attachment to develop self-regulation and social behavior. By responding to the children’s cries, they develop trust with them, enabling them to meet their needs. The caregivers respond calmly and provide nurturing care. Instead of shouting or scolding the children for throwing tantrums, the caregivers control their emotions and interact calmly with the children. They also show interest in developing children’s sense of security and attachment.

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4. Special Topics- Child Rearing Styles

Parenting style impacts a child’s social and cognitive development. There are three major parenting styles which include authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive parenting. Authoritative parenting entails creating and maintaining positive relationships with children. These parents are loving and receptive to children’s needs. Authoritative parents set clear expectations and reasonable rules based on children’s feelings and maturity levels. They instill discipline through positive discipline techniques, which reinforce positive behaviors. Authoritative parents use affirmations, praises, and rewards to discipline their children. Authoritarian parenting has high demands and offers low support to their children. They set unreasonable rules that often favor their way. Authoritarian parents do not consider their children’s needs and do not negotiate on rules. They expect their children to obey all the orders. Authoritarian parents use punishments to discipline their children and make them feel sorry for their mistakes. Permissive parents set rules but do not implement them because they believe children will learn independently. They are lenient and have low maturity and self-control expectations.   The fourth type of parenting proposed by Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin is neglectful or uninvolved parenting. These parents have low demands, are unresponsive, and rarely communicate with their children. Neglectful parents do not set rules or offer guidance to their children. They are detached from their children’s lives and may often neglect them.

I interviewed two parents, one male (Joseph) and one female (Candice). The first interview was with Joseph. Joseph is a 54-year-old man with three children aged 27, 22, and 18. He has been married for 28 years, and they have raised their children as a couple. Joseph revealed that he uses an authoritative parenting style to raise his children. He has three children, and they are raised using the same style. John noted that he is committed and responsive to his children’s needs. He also stated that he had set clear expectations for his children where he expects them to perform well academically and professionally. Joseph enforces rules while allowing his children the freedom to make their own decisions. For example, He noted that he had set a clear dinner routine for everyone while still allowing children the freedom to choose what to do with their dinner time. Joseph uses negative consequences to correct bad behavior. He takes away the privileges such as electronics whenever a child does something wrong. Joseph believes his parenting style has been successful because his children are independent, self-confident, disciplined, and successful in their careers. Children have good social skills due to high self-esteem cultivated through the affection and positive relationship I maintain with them.

In the second interview, I interviewed Candice, a 28-year-old single parent. Candice has one child aged seven years. Candice revealed that she uses a permissive parenting style to raise her child. She is often not able to say no because she does not want to upset his son. Candice also prioritizes her son before anything else. Her son controls most activities, including television time and the kind of programs to watch. Candice does not have specific rules for her child. Her son can eat, bath, watch, and sleep at any time, even if it affects his daily functioning. Candice believes that her parenting has been unsuccessful because his son has developed antisocial and delinquent behaviors. Her son lacks self-control skills and often steals money for ice cream. According to Berk (2013), Candice’s parenting style fits the permissive style because permissive parents tend to avoid confrontation with their children. They do not expect their children to follow the rules.