Essay Example on Child Development: A Holistic Perspective

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1743 Words
Date:  2023-05-08


The process of child development has awed experts in science and medicine for decades. Resultantly, the field has always attracted great attention throughout history, and in-depth knowledge has been gained regarding the topic over the years (Rose et al., 2015). Holistic child development can be defined as a concept that views a child as a whole person. The approach incorporates the child's physical, intellectual, emotional, social, cultural, moral, and spiritual aspects. Owing to the extensive research into the field, the stages of development in each of the aspects are known, and hence a child's development can be assessed against the general norm. Generally, studying child development involves learning about the patterns of growth and development and drawing up guidelines for normal development (Neaum, 2019). Developmental norms, which are also referred to as milestones, are the recognized patterns of development that children are typically expected to follow. However, though the field of child development has been extensively studied, it still keeps on yielding more questions: What factors affect child development? Which ages are most vulnerable to external effects? What can one do to maximize child development? In an attempt to answer these questions, several theories have been developed over the years (Gray & MacBlain, 2015). This paper seeks to use various theories to discuss the different aspects of the holistic development of children. The paper will first focus on the areas of holistic development before focusing on some of the theories

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Physical Development

This aspect of child development refers to an increase in bodily skill and sophistication in its performance. Typically, physical development occurs top-down. Children first gain awareness leading to an increase in the control of their heads, followed by arms, legs, and feet. Development also happens from simple to complex, from inner to outer, and from general to specific (Keenan et al., 2016). Physical development mainly includes gross motor skills and fine motor skills. The former include activities like walking, climbing, and running. These activities make use of large muscles. The latter includes gross and fine manipulative skills (Bee & Boyd, 2013). Only single limb movements are involved in gross manipulative skills such as catching and throwing. On the other hand, the precise use of hands and fingers is required in fine manipulative skills. The activities under this area include pointing, writing, drawing, among others (Neaum, 2019). Sensory development is also a part of physical development. Sensation refers to the process by which a child receives information through their sense.

Cognitive and Language Development

Intellectual/cognitive development refers to the development of the mind enabling the child to recognize, reason, know, and understand (Bee & Boyd, 2013). Perception involves the children making sense of what they touch, hear, see, smell, and taste. Language development is the growth of a child's communication skills. These skills include receptive and expressive speech, as well as articulation (Neaum, 2019).

Emotional and Social Development

This aspect of child development deals with the way children feel about themselves and others. Emotional development involves the increase in feelings of self-awareness and feelings for other people. It also incorporates the development of self-concept and self-esteem. On the other hand, social development involves the growth of one's relationships with others (Keenan et al., 2016). Socialization is an essential element of this aspect of development. It is the process through which the child learns skills and attitudes that help them relate well with other people in the community.

Moral and Spiritual Development

This aspect refers to the development of awareness on how to relate with others morally, ethically, and humanely. Through this process, the child understands essential human values such as respect and honesty and also acquires concepts such as what is right and wrong (Keenan et al., 2016). They also learn to take responsibility for their actions.

Theories of Child Development

As mentioned earlier, several theories have been developed over the years to explain the growth and development of children from infancy to adulthood. The theories discuss the various aspects of development, as discussed above. This section will discuss in greater detail the theories developed by Erik Erikson, Jean Piaget, Skinner, and Ruso.

Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

This theory was developed by Jean Piaget in 1936 and sought to explain how a child constructs or builds a mental model of the world (Meadows, 2017). He presented a stage theory of cognitive development in children, detailed observational studies regarding cognition in children, as well as ingenious tests that can be used to reveal one's cognitive abilities. Instead of finding out how well children can spell or count as a measure of their IQ, his studies sought to understand fundamental concepts such as the idea of time, number, quantity, among others. The overall objective of his theory was to identify the processes and mechanisms by which an infant develops into a person who can reason and think (Meadows, 2017).

The assumption, according to earlier works, was that children were just less competent thinkers as compared to adults. However, Piaget found out that the two populations reasoned in completely different ways. Some of the earlier works had also suggested that intelligence is a fixed trait. On his side, Piaget held that cognitive development occurred as a result of biological maturation, as well as interaction with one's environment (Hanfstingl et al., 2019). He saw intelligence as a trait that grows and develops over a series of stages. In his theory, he stated that at birth, children have a very basic mental structure that is genetically inherited. All the knowledge and learning that the child acquires later in life is based on this mental structure. He believed that cognitive development involves the continuous reorganization of mental processes brought about by biological maturation, as well as environmental experience. Children play a critical role in this process as they observe and learn about the world (Ahmad et al., 2016). This way, they continually gain new knowledge that they build upon the existing knowledge, and also adapt their existing ideas to assimilate the new information. The theory outlines four stages of cognitive development. Typically, all children should follow the same order while going through the stages.

Sensorimotor Stage

This stage occurs from birth to two years. In this stage, the child uses their movements and sensations to know the world. They use basic actions like grasping, sucking, looking, and listening to learn about their world. These actions lead to new discoveries regarding their environment and the world in general. This stage is also characterized by dramatic growth. It is also in this stage that children learn to perform various physical actions like crawling and walking. Children also learn about language from their environment during this stage. Object permanence is an essential element of this stage, according to Piaget (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). He described it as the understanding that objects and things exist even when they cannot be seen. This understanding helps children attach words and names to objects.

Preoperational Stage

This stage occurs between the ages of two and seven years. Children learn to think symbolically, meaning that they use pictures and words to represent objects. At this stage, children are usually egocentric and find difficulties in seeing things from different perspectives. Though their language and thinking are still developing, they think in concrete terms. Language, whose development starts in the sensorimotor phase, is the major hallmark of this stage. They mostly learn through pretend play in this stage (Ahmad et al., 2016).

Concrete Operational Stage

This stage occurs between the ages of seven and 11 years. Children start thinking in logical and concrete ways. Their thinking also becomes organized, and they grasp the concept of conservation (Ghazi et al., 2016). It is also in this stage that they start employing inductive logic. The egocentrism that was prominent in the preoperational stage begins disappearing, and they become more conscious of how other people view situations. They also start understanding that not everybody might share their feelings, thoughts, and opinions.

Formal Operational Stage

This is the final stage of cognitive development, according to Piaget. It begins at the age of 12 years. The individual starts thinking more abstractly and start engaging more in philosophical, moral, social, political, and ethical issues. Deductive logic also becomes the standard means of reasoning (Meadows, 2017).

Erik Erickson's Theory of Psychosocial Development

This is one of the most influential theories of child development. In this theory, Erickson held that a child goes through eight phases of psychosocial development. Each of the phases/stages is characterized by a psychosocial crisis that could affect personality development either positively or negatively (Cote, 2019). He termed the crises as psychosocial since they involve a conflict between the individual's psychological needs and the needs of the society. He maintained that successful completion of the stages leads to the successful acquisition of basic virtues and a healthy personality. Failure to complete one of the stages reduces the ability of the child to complete further stages leading to an unhealthy personality. Parents and caregivers play a significant role according to the theory. However, he held that one can successfully complete the uncompleted stages at a later time. The eight stages are outlined below.

Trust vs. Mistrust

This stage occurs from the time a child is born to 18 months. The child at this stage is uncertain about the world and depends on the caregiver for consistency and stability. In a situation where the child gets consistent, reliable, and predictable care, they develop trust. However, if their needs are not met consistently, they develop suspicion, anxiety, and mistrust regarding the world around them (Brown & D'Antonio, 2017). Successful completion of this stage leads to the development of the virtue of hope.

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

The stage occurs from 18 months to three years. Here, a child is focused on the development of personal control. When supported in this quest, they become more secure and confident. If they are overly controlled or criticized, they develop low self-esteem (Erskine, 2019). Successful completion of this stage leads to the development of will.

Initiative vs. Guilt

Between the ages of three and five years, children seek to assert themselves more. They regularly interact with others and use play to discover their interpersonal skills (Wright & Thurtle, 2007). When supported, they feel secure and develop a sense of initiative in leading and making decisions. If not, a sense of guilt develops. Successful completion of the stage leads to the development of purpose.

Industry vs. Inferiority

Between the ages of five and 12 years, the significance of peers in influencing the self-esteem of the child rises. They also need to win the...

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