Research Proposal: Child Development When Sigmund Freud First

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Child Development

When Sigmund Freud first introduced the concepts of psychology, it led other theorists to look at the development of children into adults. Today, it is well-known that children develop from when they are born, with nearly no concept of the external world or themselves as separate beings, to adults, who learn about the world around them and how to interact with others with an understanding of right and wrong. However, at the turn of the 20th century, looking at the development of life in stages or consecutive processes was a new idea. Jean Piaget was one of the professionals to consider human development. As a developmental biologist, he spent his life closely observing and recording the intellectual capabilities of infants, children and adolescents (Piaget, 1977). Based on how the brain grows in capacity, Piaget theorized the stages of cognitive or intellectual development. The human brain does not fully develop until late adolescence or sometimes in young adulthood for males. Piaget used the word "adaption," or what most people consider learning. Adaption consists of assimilation, or assimilating new objects into a set of skills or "schema," and accommodation, or accommodating the schema to a new object. Piaget described four consecutive stages of cognitive development, which relate to the individual's ability to understand and assimilate new information for the accurate adaptation to the outer environment.

Sensorimotor: (birth to 2) is the stage when children acquire information about themselves and their environment through motor and reflex actions, or sensation and movement. Children learn that they are separate entities, and aspects of their external world, such as their parents, exist even when not being seen or heard.

Preoperational: (age 2 to 7). As they apply their newly learned language ability, children start using symbols to represent objects and are able to talk about things that are not immediately present. Still oriented to the present, these children have trouble with the concept of time. They also believe that all others see things as they do.

Concrete: (age 7 to 11). The children are now becoming much more adept at accommodation, which includes thinking abstractly and making rational decisions about observable objects.

Formal Operations: (age 11 on). The children, youths and young adults are now in their last stage of cognition, no long needing concrete objects to make judgments and capable of hypothetical and deductive reasoning.

Eric Erikson (Stevens, 1983), due to his interest in psychology and the new Freudian perspectives, looked at development from an interaction of the body, or genetic and biological programming; the mind, or the psychological aspects; and culture or ethos. From this, he developed a social-emotional structure of eight stages from birth to death.

1) Learning Basic Trust vs. Basic Mistrust (Hope). From birth to two, children develop different degrees of trust and security based on how well they are handled and nurtured.

2) Learning Autonomy vs. Shame (Will). From 18 months to about 4 years old, children begin to learn how to become autonomous, independent individuals. Depending on how raised, they have different degrees of self-assuredness and autonomy.

3. Learning Initiative vs. Guilt (Purpose). During this "play age," or the later preschool to kindergarten years, the children learn (a) to imagine and fanaticize; (b) to cooperate with others (c) to lead and follow. They acquire initiative from their new skills or guilt from still relying on outside support.

4. Industry vs. Inferiority (Competence). While in elementary and middle school, children begin to learn formal life skills, such as relating to peers, following orders and structure. Those children who, at an early age, gain strong psychosocial strength, will be industrious rather than considering themselves inferior and incapable.

5. Learning Identity vs. Identity Diffusion (Fidelity). As children become adolescents and young adults, they can form their own personal identity and differentiate themselves from others. If having a sound foundation, these young adults will acquire self-certainty and a mature perspective, rather than a negative world outlook.

Stages 6-8. As adulthood begins, young adults have their first intimate relationships as they learn how to love others and be loved; learn how to help others through altruistic behavior and actions, sympathy, empathy, and personal giving rather than being self-absorbed and narcissistic about their own goals; and gain integrity or wisdom rather than viewing life with disgust and despair, because they have no faith in themselves or others.

B.F. Skinner (1968), a behaviorist, looked at Child Development in terms of how reinforcement and punishment will mold their behavior and future actions. He stressed that children are conditioned by their positive or negative experiences from early life on. For Skinner, learning is a function of change in overt behavior due to a person's response to events, or stimuli, in the environment. The response produces a consequence. When a specific stimulus-response (S-R) pattern is reinforced, or rewarded, the child is conditioned to respond. Reinforcement is the key element, where a reinforcer strengthens the desired response.

All of these development theories look at the way that children learn over the period of development from birth through adulthood. They recognize that not all children learn in the same way or to the same degree, and they are influenced by external individuals and circumstances. Further, although the theorists are not all psychologists, they do stem from the basis of Freudian psychology and recognize the importance of the psychological component to development.

Yet, these three developmental scholars differ, as well. First, Piaget, Erikson and Skinner are respectively looking at development from the three different perspectives of cognition or brain development; genetic, psychological and cultural; and behavioral, in terms of stimulus and response and learning from experience. An example clarifies the distinction among the three. A child is learning for the first time how to play with a specific toy. Piaget would consider the cognitive level of this child. Does he/she have the sensorimotor skills required to manipulate this toy for learning and enjoyment. Erikson, would look at the child's interaction with the individuals who are gave him/her the toy. Are they supplying enough information, so the child knows how to use and enjoy the toy at first with their help and then later on his/her own? Skinner would look at this learning situation from the child's positive and negative experiences with the toy. As the child experiments, he/she will discard the trials that do not work and remember and continue to use the attempts that do, because they are reinforcers. As a behaviorist, Skinner viewed development as a continuous process where behavior was based on responses to experience and environmental adaptation. Skinner analyzed development in quantitative terms, or degree of change, and Piaget and Erikson analyzed it in qualitative terms progressing through more complex stages.

Although Piaget, Erikson and Skinner were looking at development from different perspectives, none of these theories explains growth alone. Development is the sum of the cognitive, physical and emotional development of the child. They work together, reinforcing each other, or at odds with one another, or one taking precedence over another at different times. Human development is a continual process, where children, adolescents, young adults and adults are capable of handling ever more complex levels of movement, thought and feeling about themselves and others. During their first seven to eight years, the foundation is being set for the child's future development. Due to their growing brain, they learn more quickly than any other time in their lives. In order for this growth to occur, it is necessary to attend to their physical needs, such as eating and sleeping. They also need the emotional support of encouragement and positive reinforcement to gain self-confidence and the beginning of autonomy. Sound psychological development necessitates caregivers who provide loving support. The children also need role models to watch and from whom they can learn acceptable behavior and values. The children interact with others through their cognitive development of language acquisition and then other knowledge and skills in educational institutions.

Raising children as a caregiver or being involved with their development through education, religious and spiritual growth, or extracurricular activities, it is necessary to provide them with the foundation in life to succeed and be content with themselves and their life choices. Knowing where a child is on the avenue of development and growth helps establish reasonable expectations for child behavior (CDC, 2009). If a child is given higher expectations than his/her capabilities, he/she will be frustrated and psychologically despondent. Caregivers who blame children for not being able to reach goals that are beyond their abilities will raise children who suffer from self-esteem problems and will not have aspirations. With time, this may lead to a permanent low self-confidence and feelings of low self-worth.

On the other hand are the caregivers who respect their children for who they are, do not place arbitrary and unachievable expectations on them, and who take the time to find out and act on their children's strengths and passions. These caregivers positively support their children and help them set personal goals that are a reach,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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