Child Development Theories: The Narratives and Application

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Theories on child development centre around understanding how children change and develop through the span of youth. Theories of development provide a framework for thinking about human growth and learning (Cherry, K. 2019). Such theories focus on different parts of development which include social, emotional and intellectual growth. The investigation of human advancement is without a doubt a rich and diverse subject that forms an integrate part of what we know in society today. As humans we undergo certain changes and grow through personal development, yet we struggle to understand how and why individuals develop, learn and go about in their daily routines especially when considering development in the classroom environment. Though numerous supporting theories exist, developmental psychologists endeavour to respond to questions that relate to human developmental anatomy, to comprehend, explain, and anticipate behavioural patterns throughout one’s lifespan. To understand the intricacies of human development, numerous theories on child development have been formulated to further understand the various aspects thereof.

Though many scientists and researchers have approached the study of child development over the last hundred or so years, only a few of the theories that have resulted have stood the test of time and have proven to be widely influential (Oswald, A. 2019). In this assignment a variety of aspects will be discussed regarding child development theories and the applications thereof in the foundation phase. No single theory will explain everything about the development of a child, rather focus on a specific aspect of child development.

Child Development Theories

Throughout the history of mankind there has been neglect towards child development occurring from birth to the period of adulthood. Children were often viewed simply as small versions of adults and little attention was paid to the many advances in cognitive abilities, language usage, and physical growth that occur during childhood and adolescence (Cherry, K. 2019).

During the early 20th century there was a great demand for further understanding aspects of the developmental stages of children and adolescents, however, research gathered mainly outlined abnormal behaviour. Eventually, researchers became increasingly interested in other topics including typical child development as well as the influences on development (Cherry, K. 2019).

The following child development theories are among the most widely recognized and is applied to various education systems today:

  • Erikson's psychosocial stage theory
  • Piaget's cognitive development stage theory
  • Abraham Maslow’s humanistic theory
  • Erikson's Psychosocial Stage Theory

Erik Erikson (1902-1994) utilized Freud's work as a framework to formulating a hypothesis about human stage development throughout one’s lifetime. In relation to Freud's emphasis on sexuality, Erikson concentrated on the development of people’s identity; how individuals create or neglect to create capacities and opinions about themselves which enable them to become successful, fulfilled individuals of society. Since Erikson's hypotheses combines the way individuals create their own psychological and mental opinions on how they learn to exist within the broader community. This is known as a 'psychosocial' theory.

Erikson’s stages are in chronological order in which they unfold: trust versus mistrust; autonomy versus shame and doubt; initiative versus guilt; industry versus inferiority; identity versus identity confusion; intimacy versus isolation; generativity versus stagnation; and integrity versus despair. Each stage is associated with a time of life and a general age span (Oswald, A. 2019). In each stage, Erikson’s hypothesis clarifies what kinds of incitement children need to master that stage and become gainful and balanced individuals from society and clarifies the sorts of issues and formative delays that can result when this incitement doesn’t happen.

For instance, the first psychosocial stage is trust versus doubt, and it ranges from birth to the age of about one year. During this stage, if children are reliably given all their fundamental needs, for example, nourishment, clean diapers, warmth, and love and affection from parental figures, they will discover that they can confide in other individuals in their environment who will cherish them and care for them, and they will accept the world is good. If new-born children are ignored and not given these things regularly or if they are dealt with in an unpredictable and uncaring manner, they will become rebellious towards their parental figure and generally begin to accept that others won’t be there to help them when it's required. Learning to trust others is the first necessary step to learning how to have loving, supportive relationships with others and to have a positive self-image (Oswald, A. 2019).

The next stage, autonomy versus shame and doubt, ranges from ages one to three years. At the point when children become independent, they feel certain that they can settle on their own decisions and choices and that their choices can lead them to positive changes. Youngsters become self-supportive when their guardians are strong and give them the space to settle on their own choices and to explore different avenues regarding their bodies and critical thinking abilities without disgracing or criticizing the child. When the child feels disgrace and uncertainty, they accept that they are not equipped for settling on substantial choices and are not fit for doing regular tasks. This will start hindering a positive sense of confidence as these children start considering themselves to be unwise or “stupid”.

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In a classroom environment, learners should not be condemned for having feelings such anger or jealousy – instead teachers should help the learner to be sensitive to their behaviour in a particular situation (Ramkumar, N.D. 2019). The third stage, initiative versus guilt, ranges from ages three to six years. When a learner starts developing creativity, they continuously build on their own concepts to improve their desire to learn and adapt to new things while taking responsibility for their actions to a certain extent. If the learner’s guardian continues to provide a safe learning space, the he/she will continue to discover their motivations. However, if guardians attempt to create excessive limiting boundaries around what the children can do and create an atmosphere where the learner has too much responsibility, the child will feel tremendous guilt for being unable to complete their tasks properly. Success in this stage will lead to children developing the virtue of purpose.

Piaget's Cognitive Development Stage Theory

Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1990), designed a subjective formative stage theory that depicted how a child’s perspectives are created as they develop with their general surroundings. His theory describes children’s way of thinking as they interact with the world around them. (Oswalt, N.D; David, 2014). Babies and toddlers comprehend the world more uniquely compared to adults, and as they explore the world around them their brain figures out how to think in manners that better fit with the real world.

Piaget's theory can be explained in four phases: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational. Jean Piaget’s theory impacts learning and the practice of education in various ways. His theories focus on developmentally appropriate education – an education with environments, curriculum, materials and instructions that are suitable for students in terms of their cognitive abilities (Slavin, R. E. 2019). During the sensorimotor stage, which normally takes place from birth to the age of two, toddlers are simply starting to figure out how to learn. Despite the development of language and thought processes (which begins during this time), the more significant tasks happen during this period where these toddlers start figuring out what how to use their bodies. They do this by encountering everything with their five senses, henceforth having a tangible experience, and by figuring out how to crawl and after that walk, point and eventually start grasping, which is consequently known as “motor.”

The preoperational stage normally starts from the ages of two, however, youngsters at the age of seven start to utilize mental images to comprehend and understand the world, and they start to learn language in school and mentally grasp the concept of imagination. The concrete operational stage follows from ages seven through to eleven, where young learners start to develop critical thinking in order to tackle issues and to compose the information they learn. They may stay constrained to concrete, not extract, information because at this stage the capacity for developing conceptual ideas is far from adequate. The final stage, formal operational stage, which continues from age eleven onwards, youths start to develop conceptual thinking to take care of issues and develop a sense of symbolism. As is the case with Erikson and Kohlberg, Piaget's ideas will be developed in greater depth in future documents (Oswald, A. 2019).

Abraham Maslow’s Humanistic Theory

Abraham Maslow developed this theory in 1943. The psychosocial theory of character advancement explains that people have various degrees of necessities. Maslow's hierarchy of importance for necessities goes beyond the essentials of human motivation and incorporates the need for self-actualisation. The necessities are layered, with the most essential needs at the base. This inspirational hypothesis expresses that while individuals expect to address essential issues, they look to meet progressively higher needs (Learning Theories. 2005). From bottom to top the needs are as follows; physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging, esteem needs, and self-actualization (Kraussel and Kraussel. 2018). Fundamental human needs are at the centre of what is expected to work as an individual. These requirements incorporate nourishment, water, asylum and clothing. In order to flourish and carry on with a sound life, people need a feeling of wellbeing and security. Wellbeing and security likewise need to be consistent. People, particularly youngsters, flourish in schedule, and in a domain where they are agreeable (Kraussel and Kraussel. 2018).

As youngsters quickly build up, the guardians who care for them consistently can have significant effect. Solid relationships can be characterized as relationships that are mentally, physically, spiritually and profoundly proper. This degree of necessities is essential for educating. Without a sound relationship between the educator and student, students won't be able to flourish in their school environment or trust the adults that oversee them. Certain regard and accomplishment needs are similarly as essential to youngsters as they are adults. Youngsters need to accomplish the same number of tasks as adults, yet their accomplishments are unique and developmental. In the foundation stage, an accomplishment for a young child might be to read from book, which gives them an extraordinary feeling of accomplishment. The last level is self-completion. This can be thought of as a kid's capacity to ascend, to act inventively, to dream, to act without dread, and to discover reason (Kraussel and Kraussel. 2018).

Maslow's hierarchy order of necessities is essential to educators since as it equips them with a better understanding in order to relate to a child’s conduct and activity. Normally the mannerisms of a child are viewed as solitary, as opposed to observing their livelihood in the broader sense. When their essential needs are not met, for example, the requirement for nourishment and security, they will become more rebellious towards learning and listening. Truth be told, the cerebrum of a kid who feels genuinely or physically compromised produces synthetics that discourage learning (Educational Foundations, N.D. 2019)

Maslow's theory has made a significant contribution towards educating and the school environment. For Maslow, educating isn't simply designed for passing on information, it ought to similarly include self-teaching. This procedure is when people become acquainted with themselves and build up a lot of qualities, find their potential, and discover how they wish to accomplish their objectives. The objective of instruction as indicated by Maslow's theory is that instructors produce self-actualising students (Meyer, et al., 2008). Maslow's theory receives a comprehensive way to deal with adapting, instead of diminishing conduct within the classroom environment. The physical, enthusiastic, social, and scholarly characteristics of an individual are observed, as well as the manner of learning and how it is impacted. Students need to feel sincerely and physically safe in order to develop as best they can, within their potential capability. As recommended by Maslow, students should feel regarded and esteemed, and an attentive and supportive space ought to be made. Students who have low confidence won't advance scholastically until their confidence is reinforced (McLeod. 2018).

Discussing the Narrative of Theories

Both Piaget and Erikson theorised their understanding of human development in the early stages, changing the methods of learning and teaching in a way that significantly affects education today. Nonetheless, the key contrast between these two theories is that Erikson made a formative timetable that ranges throughout and entire lifespan, while Piaget concentrated just from earliest stages to the late adolescent years. Erikson likewise felt that every life occasion had as much effect on the next and the accomplishment of advancing through life is reliant on an earlier challenge. Then again, Piaget didn't simply concentrate only on the challenges of life, but rather focused on the manner of thinking of students and how their cerebrum reacts to natural stimuli. For both theories the focus was improvement, where Erikson mainly discussed the importance of emotional development, and Piaget focused on subjective development. Piaget believes that experience motivates the development of these stages, though Erikson uses stages as an indication of improvement throughout an individual’s lifetime. Therefor the two hypotheses utilize an organized methodology, Piaget expresses that learning isn't reliant on age, which is as opposed to Erikson's understanding of development.

Be that as it may, one can't disregard the similarities of these theories when considering Erikson and Piaget. They perceive the development of children through these stages and both utilize successive stages. Another likeness is that both Piaget and Erikson present the challenges that await each child within their lifetime. Piaget and Erikson believe strongly that it is nurture, and not nature, that builds up the character. Piaget and Erikson express that kids are motivated from their surroundings during the learning procedure (Thompson. 2018).

The commonalities that are present in Maslow's theory additionally utilizes stage-like levels. Both Maslow and Erikson present levels or stages that people need to advance through. However, Erikson characterizes the phases as indicated by age, where Maslow doesn't. Maslow additionally expresses that to become a self-actualising individual, basic needs have to be set up and met. They need to climb that pyramid to end up on top, the proverbial steppingstones of life. Then again, Erikson's theory is age characterized which implies that students can advance onto the following stage in a fruitless way. Erikson's objective of accomplishment fluctuates between different stages, Maslow however, aims realising the goal of a self-actualised person. One primary distinction is that Erikson's stages are autonomous of each other and people can resolve uncertain stages further down the road.


Various priorities and ideals influence how educators interpret the aspects of learning, the educational plan, the contrast among teaching and understanding. As it turns out, many theories, concepts, and ideas from educational psychology do make it through the “screen” of education, meaning that they are consistent with the professional priorities of teachers and helpful in solving important problems of classroom teaching (ER services. 2019). Educational psychologists have created and established numerous theoretical concepts, that is well thought out and informative and provides significant guidance towards understanding the essentials of child development.

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