Child Development

People from many different services will monitor the development of children and young people, including doctors, health visitors, speech therapists, key workers, and teachers. Assessment frameworks are in place to measure their development, and observations and tests are carried out to ensure they are meeting expected targets. The EYFS framework is used in settings for 0-5 year olds, which is a structure of learning, development and care. Children learn through play and providers work closely with parents and keep them up to date on their child??™s progress. Between the ages of five and sixteen, the National Curriculum is used to measure children??™s progress compared to children of the same age across the country. This is split up into blocks of years known as key stages, and range from 1 to 4. Information from parents can be used to provide a wider picture of a childs overall development as they will see how the child performs in a varied range of settings, such as at home, or when visiting parks, zoos or shops.

Many factors affect the rate at which a child develops language. Sometimes language development slows down while they are concentrating on their gross motor development. If a child has problems with their hearing or sight, this would delay their communication skills, physical skills, and also their knowledge and understanding of the world.

Family background is a factor in why development may not follow the expected pattern. For example, if the child is hearing two languages at home, they will be trying to learn two sets of vocabulary, process two sets of speech sounds, and understand two sets of grammatical rules. If a child has siblings their social skills may be more advanced than those who are an only child as they will be used to interacting with other children from an early age. However, the development of some children who do not have siblings may be more advanced, as their parents can devote more time and attention towards them.

Children with a learning difficulty which affects their ability to understand and communicate can find it hard to express themselves, and speech problems can make it even harder to make other people understand their feelings and needs. They can become frustrated and upset by their own limitations. When they compare themselves to other children, they can feel sad or angry and think badly of themselves.

Ideas from theorists have been used to influence current practice. These include:

B.F Skinner
B.F Skinner??™s main theory is that reinforcement and punishment moulds behaviour, and that children are conditioned by their experiences. Skinner maintained that learning occurred as a result of the organism responding to, or operating on, its environment. He did extensive research with animals, mostly rats and pigeons, and invented the famous Skinner box, in which a rat learns to press a lever in order to obtain food.

Alfred Bandura
Alfred Bandura??™s theory known as “Social Learning Theory” has been renamed “Social Cognitive Theory” to accommodate later developments of the theory.
His theory is that learning takes place by imitation, which differs from Skinner??™s ???conditioning??? because there is more emphasis on inner motivational factors. Bandura is seen by many as a cognitive psychologist because of his focus on motivational factors and self-regulatory mechanisms that contribute to a persons behaviour, rather than just environmental factors. This focus on cognition is what differentiates social cognitive theory from Skinners purely behaviouristic viewpoint.

Lev Vygotsky
Lev Vygotsky??™s main theory was that development is primarily driven by language, social context and adult guidance. He developed ideas on cognitive development, particularly the relationship between language and thinking.
His writings emphasised the roles of historical, cultural, and social factors in cognition and argued that language was the most important symbolic tool provided by society.

Jean Piaget
Jean Piaget??™s main theory is that development takes place in distinct stages of cognitive development. Adults influence development, but children build their own thinking systems. Piaget concluded that cognitive development proceeds in four genetically determined stages that always follow the same sequential order:
1. Sensory Motor Stage – occurs in children from birth to approximately two years.
Knowledge about objects and the ways that they can be manipulated is acquired.
Babies understand how one thing can cause or affect another, through learning about self, the world, and the people in it. They begin to develop simple ideas about time and space. Piagets ideas surrounding the Sensory Motor Stage are centred on the basis of a schema. Schemas are mental representations or ideas about what things are and how we deal with them. Piaget deduced that the first schemas of an infant are to do with movement. Piaget believed that much of a babys behaviour is triggered by certain stimuli, in that they are reflexive. A few weeks after birth, the baby begins to understand some of the information it is receiving from its senses, and learns to use some muscles and limbs for movement. These developments are known as action schemas.
2. Pre-operational Stage occurs in children aged around two to seven years old.
Childrens thought processes are developing, although they are still considered to be far from logical thought. The vocabulary of a child is expanded and developed as they change from babies and toddlers into little people. Children are usually ego centric, meaning that they are only able to consider things from their own point of view, and imagine that everyone shares this view, because it is the only one possible. They gradually stop believing that they are the centre of the world, and they are more able to imagine that something or someone else could be the centre of attention. Children often believe that everything that exists has some kind of consciousness, for example, a car wont start because it is tired or sick, or they punish a piece of furniture when they run into it, because it must have been naughty to hurt them. A reason for this characteristic of the stage, is that the This is because they assume that everyone and everything is like them, and can feel pain and has emotions.
3. Concrete Operational stage occurs in children aged around seven to years old.
During this stage, the thought process becomes more rational, mature and adult like.
The child has the ability to develop logical thoughts about an object, if they are able to manipulate it. Ego-centric thoughts tends to decline, although remnants of this way of thinking are often found in adults. Concrete operational children can evaluate the logic of statements by considering them against concrete evidence only.
4. Formal Operational stage occurs between twelve and sixteen years old.
The structures of development become the abstract, logically organised system of adult intelligence. There are two major characteristics of formal operational thought. The first is hypothetic-deductive reasoning. When faced with a problem, adolescents come up with a general theory of all possible factors that might affect the outcome and deduce from it specific hypotheses that might occur. They then systematically treat these hypotheses to see which ones occur in the real world. Adolescent problem solving begins with possibility and proceeds to reality. The second characteristic of this stage is that it is propositional in nature. Adolescents can focus on verbal assertions and evaluate their logical validity without making reference to real-world circumstances.

All of these influences are taken into account when planning for and assessing childrens development. The expectations for each age group are based upon theories of what a child is capable of as they progress through each developmental stage. For example, we strap babies into a high chair and spoon feed them, but as their development progresses they are able to sit themselves in a chair, and we allow them to help themselves to food at the table. When young children are exploring new experiences such as a climbing frame, we stand behind them and hold onto them to stop them from falling, but as they progress to the next stage in their physical development and have good motor skills and balance, we allow them to play freely and are less concerned for their safety as they play. If a child is having difficulties in using language and communication skills, we can use techniques such as makaton, or exaggerate hand gestures and facial expressions to help them to understand what we are trying to say, and adapt the vocabulary used to suit their level of development.