The early years in a child??™s life is critical for their development; the first five years are
vital and will help shape the child??™s future. The role of the child??™s primary carer is
therefore central to aiding all aspects of their development. Children learn quickly
during their early years, they need love and nurturing to develop a sense of trust and
security that turns into confidence as they grow. A routine within the early years
setting ensures that the child feels safe and secure; many settings work with the
child??™s parents and try to follow the same routine as used at home. To illustrate the
importance of the primary carer I am going to explore examples of theory from
cognitive, social and emotional aspects of development. This will allow me to
conclude that the primary carer is crucial in a young child??™s holistic development.
???Every child deserves the best possible start in life and support to fulfil their potential. A child??™s experience in the early years has a major impact on their future life chances. A secure, safe and happy childhood is important in it??™s own right, and provides the foundation for children to make the most of their abilities and talents as they grow.???
This is why the primary carer plays a crucial role in a child??™s development. Piaget,
Bruner and Vygotsky all believed that the most critical factor in a child??™s cognitive
development is the adult that they are with. It is therefore essential that the primary
carer is skilled and experienced in child development and knows how to observe and
at what point they need to intercept and support the child.
Bruner??™s theories identify the environment as an important factor in a child??™s
development, he believed that children wanted to explore difficult tasks with the help
of knowledgeable and supportive carers. He believed that children had the ability to
learn and grow and that there was no limit to their potential. Bruner often refers to
the term ???scaffolding??? , meaning an adult helping the child develop in ways they
would not be able to do initially without help.
Piaget believed that children needed to be involved in their own learning and that
there are four stages of cognitive development linked to a child??™s age. Many early
years settings work within Piaget??™s framework for development, ensuring that
activities and equipment are appropriate to the child??™s age and provide the necessary
stimuli to encourage the child to explore and question things. Activities such as
treasure baskets, visits to farms, outdoor activities, physical games and stimulating
toys are widely used with children aged from birth to two years; Piaget called this the
Sensori ??“ motor stage when a child develops by using their senses. Piaget believed
that all children form plans or schemas in their brain about something they have
experienced. This process enables the child to develop and change their views,
ideas and thoughts of the world around them. A schema is a mental structure that
allows the child to classify their own experiences, initially without words and then as
language develops with labels. The building of a schema is a process of learning and
understanding. The adult supports and extends this through experiences they
provide and questioning, this is crucial for cognitive development. This again
highlights the important role the primary carer plays and also the need for them to
have an understanding of the stages of child development to ensure that the child
reaches its full potential.
Attachment is an emotional bond to another person. John Bowlby was the first
attachment theorist, he believed that the mother played a critical role in a child??™s
social development, the mother being the main adult in a child??™s life at the time he
undertook his research. He studied a group of young people who did not fit into
societies expectations and found that many of them had experienced disruption in
their early family attachments. He therefore believed in the mother being central in
the child??™s life as the earliest bonds formed with a child and their primary carer has a
huge impact on the child??™s future development. Through his research he discovered
that there are four stages of attachment linked to the child??™s age, Pre-attachment at
0??“ 2 months, Attachment in the making at 2 ??“ 7 months, Clear- cut attachment at
7 – 24 months and Goal corrected partnership from 24 months onwards. Through his
studies Bowlby noted that attachment could be categorised into four categories
and that children began to miss their first formed attachment at the age
of seven to eight months, at the same time as clear cut attachment is formed.
Bowlby??™s research has helped to shape practice and policies within the early years,
the principle being the allocation of a Key worker to each child.This person is the
child??™s main carer and the link between the setting and home, this is often the first
trusting relationship a child will make outside the family.
???Each child in a group setting must be assigned a key person ??“ in childminding settings the childminer is the key person. A key person has special responsibilities for working with a small number of children, giving them reassurance to feel safe and cared for and building relationships with their parents. A key person will help the baby or child to become familiar with the setting and to feel confident and safe within it. They will also talk to the parents to make sure that the needs of the child are being met appropriately, and that records of development and progress are shared with parents and other professionals as necessary.???
Albert Bandura??™s research led him to believe that children learn new behaviour from
observing other people, called ???social learning theory???. At the heart of this theory are
three concepts, the first being that people learn through observation, followed by
internal mental thought ??“ pride, a sense of doing something well or good and finally
the acknowledgement that even if someone has learnt something it may not
automatically change their behaviour. The experiment he used to prove this theory
was called ???bobo doll???. His research concluded that by watching the actions of
others, children develop new skills and acquire information. His research has
influenced education and early years, as people working in the sectors are taught
the importance of modelling appropriate behaviour and encouragement.
“Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.”
?-Albert Bandura, Social Learning Theory, 1977
Harry Harlow??™s ???The wire mother experiment??? confirms Bowlby??™s findings about the need for comfort and love and dispute Maslow??™s theory that the primary need is food and water. The monkeys in the experiment all showed signs of distress at separation and all choose the wire ???mother??? covered in fur instead of the bare wire one with food.
The role of the child??™s primary carer is to nurture, support and teach a child to enable
them to grow and develop to their full potential. This is done through creating an
environment in which the child feels safe and also encourages them to explore.
Activities and equipment provided by the carer should stimulate a child??™s physical,
emotional, intellectual, language and social development and also promote
independence and encourage self esteem. I have explored many theorist
approaches to child development and often there are big differences in their thoughts
and opinions however, the main judgment running through their findings is
the pivotal role the main carer plays in a child??™s development and the central role they play in ensuring that a child develops to their full potential.
Department for work, schools and families. (2008) Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, Nottingham, DCSF Publications
Department for work, schools and families. (2008) Practice Guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage, Nottingham, DCSF Publications
Maureen Daly, Elisabeth Byers, Wendy Taylor. (2006) Understanding Early Years Theory in Practice, Oxford, Heinemann
Jennie Lindon. (2010) Understanding Child Development 2nd Edition, Linking Theory and Practice, Oxford, Hodder Education
Ian Macleod-Brundell & Janet Kay. (2008) Advanced Early Years for Foundation Degrees & Levels 4/5 2nd Edition, Essex, Heinemann
Carolyn Meggit. (2006) Child Development an illustrated guide Birth to 16 years 2nd Edition, Oxford , Heinemann
Mary.D.Sheridan. (2006) From Birth to Five Years Children??™s Developmental Progress Third Edition, Oxon, Routledge
Linda Pound. (2006) How children learn From Montessori to Vygotsky- educational theories and approaches made easy, London, Practical Pre school
Linda Pound. (2006) How Children learn 3 Contemporary thinking and theorists ??“ An overview of contemporary educational and psychological theorists, London, Practical Pre school
Tina Bruce. (2010) Early Childhood. A guide for students, London, Sage Publications