The stages of Child development are broken down into categories and age defining expectant milestones. The categories are Social, Physical, intellectual, communication and emotional. Although most children hit these milestones at roughly the same time development can be influenced greatly by genetic, in utero life and environmental factors such as poverty or poor care. Burnham and Baker 2010 state the following to be the main influences, health, learning difficulties, background and family environment, poverty and deprivation, personal choices, care status and education.
Health and learning difficulties – this is a major contributing factor to delays in child development. If a child is of poor health and they cannot attend school, then that child may feel like they are failing and falling behind. It may make them feel distant from friends affecting their ability to create positive lasting relationships, this would affect them emotionally and communicatively. Burnham and Baker 2010 also state that if a child were to have a physical disability or impairment this could affect a child’s confidence and ability to join with some physical and social activities. Parent and other adults who care for children with poor health or disabilities need to make sure that practices are inclusive, giving the child the same opportunities as others. Adults also need to be aware of how children and young people may be affected emotionally by the difficulties that they face. As with health issues a child with learning difficulties may lack confidence, with the correct support and inclusive practice children should be encouraged to develop to the best of their ability, once again their emotional needs should be monitored to avoid frustration turning onto aggression.
Background and family environment – moving to a new house, bereavement, divorce, illness will all contribute to a change in a child’s development on an emotional level, intellectual level and also a communicatively level. A child whose parents have recently become divorced may feel angry and lash out, if a child displays unusual behaviour there might be a problem or situation at home that school or college have not been made aware of, the child may require extra emotional support. If a child is affected emotionally they may become disengaged. A child suffering from a change in circumstances may feel like they are unable to communicate how they feel, once again the child may withdraw from their peer group or become disengaged.
Poverty and deprivation – as stated in Burnham and Baker 2010, studies have shown that a child who comes from a deprived background is less likely to thrive, all areas are of development are likely to be affected and the child’s moral compass may be out of kilter, the child may make bad decisions. The child may feel angry, left out, may take from others, may have a sense of not belonging.
Personal Choices – peer groups, social activities, school activities can all affect a child’s development, peer groups will have a huge influence on how a child behaves and how their morality develops, children and young adults will continue to need adult guidance to help them to make the right choices.
Education – there are many reasons why education could affect child development. Some children may enter a main stream school from being home schooled, other children may not have attended school before. These children could suffer emotionally and struggle to fit in, they may find the transition difficult. These types of situations should be monitored to ensure that further developmental problems do not develop. (Burnham and Baker 2010)
There are many theories of development that influence current practices in school. One such theory is Piaget’s theory on cognitive development. Piaget believed that children think and learn based on their age and stage of development. He believed that you can only learn through experience, and the more experience we gain the quicker we learn. Our current school systems teach children based on their age and expected attainment level. Children with learning difficulties may struggle to hit developmental milestones and may require intervention. (Burnham and Baker 2010)
Skinner suggests that children learn through experience based on consequence and reward, if a child performs well and is on task they receive an award, the child will work well again to receive another reward or praise, this is positive reinforcement. Skinners Operant conditioning theory is used widely in schools, one such reward based school system is the use of dojo points. Children can see how many dojo points they have throughout the day, children gain dojos for good behaviour, however they are taken away for inappropriate behaviour. The theory on behaviourism is that positive reinforcement should increase positive behaviour and negative reinforcement should deter negative behaviour, in the same sense punishments can be positive or negative, an example of giving a child a positive punishment is giving them detention, giving the child something that they don’t want; negative punishment would be taking something away from them, not allowing the child to take part in an exciting activity. Behaviourism is the belief that peoples actions are controlled by the need for reward and to avoid punishment. (study.com)
The Humanist theory is based on the development of the child’s self-concept, basically, if the children feel good about themselves they can become the most actualised version of themselves or most certainly will be along the right path.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Maslow’s theory of Human motivations is shown in the hierarchy of needs pyramid, if an individual’s fundamental needs are not being met they cannot move to the next stage. In the sense of child development, the same applies, if a child’s fundamental needs are not being met that the child will experience developmental delays, emotionally, physically, intellectually, socially and communicatively. This theory suggests that each development stage can only be fulfilled once basic need are met, if needs aren’t met then development is halted, and the individual will remain unfulfilled.
Freuds psychoanalytic theory suggests that our personalities are made up of three parts, identity, ego and super ego. He believed that early experiences dictate how people respond and act as adults and how well adjusted they may become.
The identity is the instinctive needs, fundamental needs, food, water etc. A baby cries when it is hungry. The ego is about realising by which means a need is met, is crying a necessary reaction or will food come anyway? The super ego develops later in childhood, the super ego is the conscience and can conflict with the ego. I don’t need to cry for food, but if I make a fuss it will come quicker!
Another theory is Albert Banduras theory on Social learning, he suggests that children learn from observing other children and not from being taught. His experiment with the Bobo doll demonstrated that after children had watched an adult behaving in a violent way towards the doll that the observing children later copied this behaviour whilst playing. Although this was rather extreme similarities are seen in school regarding positive behaviour, if children see others being rewarded for positive behaviour others will copy that behaviour to reap the rewards.
A child’s learning experience begins with play, this is a huge part of a child’s development for speech, language and interacting with their peers. Most infant classrooms have a role play area where children can use their imagination, being a customer in a shop, playing at doctors or being a vet promotes positive relationships and allows children to bring their ideas to others without the formality of a classroom environment. There are also some excellent computer programmes which promote communication with peers on a one to one basis. This early learning is often when any special needs are identified. Schools work closely with other agencies to identify and offer the correct support to children who need it, early intervention by speech therapist, psychologist, social workers and Senco can help children’s developmental journey and ensure that their individual needs are met. If a child’s needs are met it promotes less frustration and creates a positive attitude, giving them a sense of belonging, giving a more positive learning environment for everybody. Children who require extra support are continually monitored by way of observation and assessments.