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Many are the times when you as parents fail to see the development of a child because you have the mentality that children are small versions of the adults hence accord them little attention on the many kinds of cognitive abilities, use of language, and their physical growth. In the 20th century, many parents did put effort in trying to understand the development of a child with regards to their abnormal behavior. Theorists and researchers have proposed child development theories which have outlined the different development stages of the children by identifying the distinctive ages at which these growth milestones do occur thus have tried to explain the observations and discoveries involved in the development processes of a child. These theories also provide the parents with a broad structure of understanding. Milestone has been used figuratively to show the development stage achieved. Children do reach milestones across a wide range of varying ages.
Before we continue, we should understand what child development theories are and what we mean by child development. They are an organized set of principles intended to enlighten as well as envisage something. A good theory will always give room for hypothesis that concerns the child's development that is not clearly understood. Child development does refer to the biological and physiological changes occurring in human beings between their birth periods and the end of adolescence; during this period, the individual progresses from dependency to autonomy increase. Genetics and prenatal developmental studies are also included in child developmental studies because the changes in development that occur may be strongly influenced by the factors of genetics events during the prenatal life. Other terms used in child development include development psychology which defines the branch of medicine that relates to the care given to the children, pediatrics, and development throughout their lifespan.
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The journey taken by children from infancy through to adulthood is an amazing time especially when the children soak up everything in the world around them and instantly mixes them with qualities that are inborn in order to mature bit by bit in every possible way. Over the years pediatricians have been able to come up with theories that have explained how children develop bearing in mind that every child is special hence grows in their own unique way. Children need to have grown and developed in many different areas (physical, psychological and cognitive, social and emotional, and the identity of sexual and identity) in order for them to become healthy, happy, and very productive members of the adult society (Ahola and Kovacik, 2007).
The physical aspect is well known by many of you like bodily changes that include all stages and most especially the puberty stages. Other abilities visible during their progression to adulthood include crawling, walking, running, and possibly writing. Psychological and cognitive aspects that touch on their brains which absorb more and more information and consequently learn to use the information gathered. For example, children need to learn how to think on purpose while process to organize the environmental information that comes to them. They must learn how to solve problems, talk, and complete mental tasks such as cramming useful telephone numbers that come in handy when they are lost and or on how to use the computer since the world is changing to digital technologies.
Thirdly, children grow both socially and emotionally which helps them interact, play, work, and live with other people in the society like family, friends, relatives, teachers, and employers. Through this, they learn how to understand and accommodate the feelings of others and theirs not forgetting emotions. Self esteem should be instilled in the children as they grow as it shapes their identity. As they learn to differentiate the wrong from the right, children develop a sense of morality. Lastly, development of sexual identity and gender form is vital since it spans through all the other aspects.
Theorists have different opinions and conclusions concerning the development of children. There are those who believe that children develop smoothly and continuously, while others do believe that children do develop more discretely in a series of fairly stable stages. Those who believe that children grow discontinuously believe in the notion that children grow in stages and develop abilities in chunks thus experience life events at certain times. There are some of you parents who think that children learn things all of a sudden. Theorists who believe that children's growth is continuous view things in an up close scenario and believe that these kids constantly add new skills and lessons on top of the old acquired ones as they get older thus they grow at a uniform speed that is steady (Kail, 2008).
Babies and toddlers' brains are much more flexible when it comes to learning, understanding, and language use than in the brain of adults. Babies during their first year have the ability to grow in length and weight but if they are not fed well and nurtured in this stage of their development, will make them not have the tools and building blocks that foster their growth hence will not grow nor thrive. It is important for parents and caregivers to understand fully how their children grow in all ways and channels. You should also be able to identify the stimulus that children need for their development and growth. Children who do not get special stimulus in their receptive window period of opportunity are bound to get stuck for ever in their life and will never gain the abilities associated with that period.
Infancy stage is the time period when most of the children will learn that they can trust their parents to take good care of them, their needs, protect them, and love them fully. For example, if a child is brought up in a family that has no love especially between the parents; child eventually grows with hardly any touch or affection that would have taught them to trust and be affectionate to their caregivers becomes a major problem in their development process. The rest of the body will continue to grow, but certain characteristics will have been stuck in the infancy stages. Abusive parents who use 'bad' language in the presence of the child forgets that the child is learning and developing as such will absorb and copy the language they hear their parents using often (Berk, 2005).
Researchers have also put into consideration the general patterns recognized that is followed by children in their development process. These patterns have been documented in the existing theories. There are some theories that should not be applied at all for they are misleading and emphasizes on the irrelevant developmental influences thus has contributed greatly to the underestimating of the significance of other factors hence have a limiting factor on the understanding of child's development. Before using the theories proposed, one should have evaluated the theory through carrying out of researchers that will enable results obtained be used to improve on the existing theories. The research done undergoes some practical testing hence one is assured of obtaining useful and accurate information. Theories also have strengths and weaknesses, but once they are compared and contrasted, the areas that are limiting the theory are identified and modified.
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There are primarily four child development theories: psychoanalytic, learning, cognitive, and socio-cultural. All of them present insights on the forces that guide growth of a child. Jean Piaget (1896-1990), talked of a cognitive developmental theory stage that described the children's way of thinking as they interacted with the environment. Infants do understand the world in a different perspective than adults and as they explore and play with their friends, their minds learn to think in ways that are real not fictional. Piaget's theory has four stages: sensorimotor which occurs between birth and age two when children are beginning to learn how to learn i.e. children try to figure out how to use the bodies they have. Preoperational stage is the second one which lasts from ages two to seven. Here, they use their mental symbols in understanding and interacting with the world thus begins to learn language and play pretentiously imitating their older siblings and parents. The preoperational stage is a sensitive one because at this very stage they develop their character and abilities by copying what others do. If you allow your children to have an emotional imbalance, they will lack some abilities which are essential for their interaction. Concrete stage lasts between the ages of seven through to eleven where children gain the ability to solve problems, logically think and organize the learn information. The last stage is the formal operational that lasts from age eleven on (Kail, 2006).
In conclusion, we learn that within every stage of development, a 'theory' document describes the major channels of development that include the physical, mental, emotional and social, and sexual developments. Appropriate skills of parenting in light of what is known about a child's development within each stage should be considered. The research results collected give a general statement about the time when development in a child's life occurs not considering the fact that each child develops at his or her own speed and there are certain channels of progress that develop faster than others. If children are given the right growth stimulus then everything will eventually catch up (Martin, 2007).