Select Page

Child and Adolescent Development

• Define theories of child development and identify how they can be useful in working with young children and their families
• Explore how knowledge of developmental theories can guide you in your interactions with children (and parents)
• Identify the thought leaders in developmental psychology
• Identify the major psycho-social milestones for each age group
• Learn about things that may thwart development
• Identify protective factors for healthy development
• Conceptualize behaviors as goal-driven in order to better understand their purpose and provide appropriate redirection
• Feelings are accompanied by physiological responses and behavioral urges which are mediated by
• Parenting and getting needs met (biological, safety, belonging(Maslow & Erikson))
• Social learning (Home, school, media (Bandura, Watson and Skinner))
• Cognitive development (Piaget)
• The environment (Brofenbrenner & Vygotsky)

Psychosocial Theory
• Erikson
• Believed that development is life-long.
• Emphasized that at each stage, the child acquires attitudes and skills resulting from the successful negotiation of a psychological conflict.
• Basic trust vs mistrust (birth – 1 year)
• Autonomy vs shame and doubt (ages 1-3)
• Initiative vs guilt (ages 3-6)
• Industry vs inferiority (ages 6-11)
• Identity vs identity confusion (adolescence)
• Intimacy vs isolation (young adulthood)
• Generativity vs stagnation (middle adulthood)
• Integrity vs despair (the elderly)

Erickson's Stages Psychosocial Development
• The stages
• Hope: Trust vs. Mistrust (Infants, 0 to 1 year)
• Interferences
• Child does not have basic food, shelter, safety, love needs met
• Manifestations
• Inability to trust self or others
• Reliance on others to tell them what they need
• Lack of a sense of worthiness for basics
• Discomfort with and craving of attention
• Irritability/anxiety
• Establishment/Re-Establishment
• Consistency
• Compassion
• Care (Ensure basic needs are met)

Psychosocial Development cont…
• Will: Autonomy vs. Shame & Doubt (Toddlers, 2 to 3 years)
• Interferences
• Overly permissive or overly strict parents
• Lack of praise for exploration and experimentation
• Manifestations
• Low self-esteem/need for external validation
• Lack of motivation
• Establishment/Re-Establishment
• Encourage child to explore and experiment
• Praise child for trying even if he fails
• Reassure child that you love him for who he is

Psychosocial Development cont…
• Purpose: Initiative vs. Guilt (Preschool, 4 to 6 years)
• Interferences
• Overly strict/enmeshed parents
• Lack of encouragement to take risks
• Manifestations
• Low self-esteem/need for external validation
• Difficulty making or maintaining friends
• Unclear what he likes, wants, feels
• Establishment/Re-Establishment
• Encourage child to explore and experiment
• Praise child for trying even if he fails
• Reassure child that you love him for who he is
• Encourage children to develop friendships with a variety of people

Psychosocial Development cont…
• Competence: Industry vs. Inferiority (Childhood, 7 to 12 years)
• Interferences
• Lack of consistent support and encouragement
• Manifestations
• Low self-esteem/need for external validation
• Lack of motivation
• Establishment/Re-Establishment
• Encourage child to develop skills in areas in which he can excel
• Praise child for trying even if he fails
• Reassure child that you love him for who he is

Psychosocial Development cont…
• Fidelity: Identity vs. Role Confusion (Adolescents, 13 to 19 years)
• Interferences
• Lack of support for individual wants, needs or goals
• Lack of stable, consistent relationships
• Manifestations
• Low self-esteem/need for external validation
• Lack of motivation
• Establishment/Re-Establishment
• Encourage child to develop skills in areas in which he can excel
• Provide support when the child’s world seems chaotic
• Reassure child that you love him for who he is

• Developed as a response to psychoanalytical theories.
• Behaviorism became the dominant view from the 1920's to 1960’s.
• John Watson
• Early 20th century, “Father of American Behaviorist theory.”
• Based his work on Pavlov's experiments on the digestive system of dogs.
• Researched classical conditioning
• Children are passive beings who can be molded by controlling the stimulus-response associations.

• Skinner
• Proposed that children “operate” on their environment, operational conditioning.
• Believed that learning could be broken down into smaller tasks, and that offering immediate rewards for accomplishments would stimulate further learning.

Social Learning
• Bandura
• Stressed how children learn by observation and imitation.
• Believed that children gradually become more selective in what they imitate.

• Piaget
• Children “construct” their understanding of the world through their active involvement and interactions.
• Studied his 3 children to focus not on what they knew but how they knew it.
• Described children's understanding as their “schemas” and how they use:
• assimilation
• accommodation

Cognitive/Piaget cont…
• Sensori-motor
• Ages birth – 2: the infant uses his senses and motor abilities to understand the world
• Preoperation
• Ages 2-7: the child uses metal representations of objects and is able to use symbolic thought and language
• Concrete operations
• Ages 7-11; the child uses logical operations or principles when solving problems
• Formal operations
• Ages 12 up; the use of logical operations in a systematic fashion and with the ability to use abstractions

• Vygotsky
• Agreed that children are active learners, but their knowledge is socially constructed.
• Cultural values and customs dictate what is important to learn.
• Children learn from more expert members of the society.
• Vygotsky described the “zone of proximal development”, where learning occurs.

Ecological Systems Theory
• Brofenbrenner
• The varied systems of the environment and the interrelationships among the systems shape a child's development.
• Both the environment and biology influence the child's development.
• The environment affects the child and the child influences the environment.

Systems Theory
• The individual and his/her inherent traits
• The microsystem – activities and interactions in the child's immediate surroundings: parents, school, friends, etc.
• The mesosystem – relationships among the entities involved in the child's microsystem: parents' interactions with teachers, a school's interactions with the daycare provider
• The exosystem – Social institutions which affect children indirectly: the parents' work settings and policies, extended family networks, mass media, community resources
• The macrosystem – Broader cultural values, laws and governmental resources
• The chronosystem – Changes which occur during a child's life, both personally, like the birth of a sibling and culturally, like war.

Domains of Development
• Growth in one domain influences the other domains.
• Physical Domain:
• Body size, body proportions, appearance, brain development, motor development, perception capacities, physical health.
• Cognitive Domain:
• Thought processes and intellectual abilities including attention, memory, problem solving, imagination, creativity, academic and everyday knowledge, metacognition, and language.
• Social/Emotional Domain:
• Self-knowledge (self-esteem, metacognition, sexual identity, ethnic identity), moral reasoning, understanding and expression of emotions, self-regulation, temperament, understanding others, interpersonal skills, and friendships.

Early Childhood
• 2-6 years
• Preschoolers live in a magical world where inanimate objects are alive (animism) and dreams are real.
• Parenting challenge:
• Truth vs. Fiction
• Creativity vs. Reality
• They have trouble distinguishing between appearances and reality.
• Parenting challenge
• Safe vs. Danger
• Truth vs. Fiction

Early Childhood
• They focus on one aspect of a situation (centration) and struggle to see other vantage points (egocentrism)
• Parenting challenge
• Finding their voice vs. Being a bully
• Helping them learn to make good choices
• Children of this age typically love to play make-believe.
• Parenting challenge
• Finding your make believe
• Understanding what they are communicating through their play

Early Childhood cont…
• They use everyday objects in “conventional” and unconventional purposes.
• Parenting challenge
• Honoring their creativity in the right time/place
• Getting outside of the box
• Preschoolers also love to ask questions both to learn facts as well as learn how to interact with others
• Parenting challenge:
• Not getting impatient “Mommy, why is the….”
• Helping children learn how to answer their own questions
• Helping children learn to self-regulate in conversations
• Encouraging children to figure out their own answers

Early Childhood cont…
• They are little scientists – trying things out to see what happens.
What will happen if I drop my ball of playdough into the aquarium? Hmmmmm. Let's check it out! In this same way, they test rules and boundaries to make sure they are the same.
• Parenting challenge:
• Cleaning the aquarium
• Being consistent
• Children at this age crave structure.
• Parenting challenge:
• Consistency
• Steadfastness
• Compassion

Early Childhood cont…
• Piaget uses the term pre-operational to describe the reasoning patterns typical of children in this age group. They are easily fooled by appearances.
• Parenting challenge
• Appearances can be deceiving
• Not everything happens the way you expect
• They often have difficulty putting into words how they feel or what is going on inside
• Parenting challenge:
• Pay attention to nonverbal (and verbal) cues and help the child label her feelings
• Teach children to “check-in” with themselves periodically

Early Childhood cont…
• Children have distinct preferences and limits (Temperaments)
• Structure, environment
• Learning
• Reasoning/Making meaning
• Time management
• Children begin to use strategies for remembering, but they often use inappropriate and ineffective strategies.
• Parenting challenge:
• Identifying intentional lying from ineffective recall
• Helping child develop individualized strategies
6-12: Middle Childhood
• Age 8 is a milestone across cultures. Children are perceived by adults to have attained a new level of competence at this age, and permitted to be on their own more often.
• Parenting challenge
• Creating a safe, stable environment for the youth to “fledge”
• They acquire the logical reasoning associated with concrete operations.
• Parenting challenge:
• Not all things are logical.

Middle Childhood cont…
• Children begin to use advanced strategies when they learn new material. They gain much from people who help them cultivate useful strategies for learning.
• Parenting challenge
• Help child embrace his/her temperament to live authentically
• Identify your child’s learning style:
• Auditory, kinesthetic, visual
• Active or Reflective
• Identify your child’s temperament
• Recommended book: Effective Teaching, Effective Learning
Middle Childhood cont…
• They are able to be fairly logical and organized when working on problems with concrete objects. They have difficulty dealing with abstractions, hypothetical situations, multiple variables.
• Parenting challenge:
• Helping children learn to meaningfully conceptualize hypotheticals
• Teaching children how to organize and solve multivariate problems
• Perspective taking skills increase.
• Parenting challenge
• Helping them to take another’s perspective instead of just telling them how the other person felt/thought

Middle Childhood cont…
• School age children acquire a relatively stable and comprehensive understanding of the self.
• Parenting challenge:
• Help children appreciate their physical characteristics
• Support children in exploring their values and reactions to things
• Children acquire a set of standards and expectations with respect to dealing with others. The formation of friendships and close affiliations with peers is a hallmark of this period.
• Parenting challenge
• Help children define a realistic and healthy set of standards and expectations
• Identify in yourself what standards and expectations you model for your child
Middle Childhood cont…
• There is a new appreciation of authority and an interest in understanding and abiding by the rules.
• Parenting challenge:
• Having an explanation for every rule
• Picking your battles
• There is a reciprocal relationship between cognitive development and social interaction.
• Parenting challenge
• Helping children who are lagging in one of these areas

• Preventative/protective factors include
• Parental involvement
• Parental consistency
• Connection to positive adults and peers
• Connection and involvement in an organized community
• Behaviors represent the person’s best attempt to meet a need
• Identifying the need and alternatives often eliminate inappropriate behaviors.
Additional Reading
• Challenging Behavior and Positive Behavior Support
• Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports
Established by the U.S. Department of Education, this center offers information for schools, families, and communities on positive behavioral interventions and support.
• SPAN: Statewide Parent Advocacy Network – Positive Behavior Supports Fact Sheet
Assists in identifying the underlying causes of challenging behavior in a child and provides recommendations for responding.
• Learning Disabilities
• LD In Depth: Technology Information
On the official Web site of The National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, Offers practical insights into the promise and realities of making technology work for people with learning disabilities.

More Resources
• Autism
• Families for Early Autism Treatment
This non-profit organization provides education, advocacy, and support for the autism community. The site includes research updates, handbooks, and links to regional chapters.
• Autism Society of America
This national organization is dedicated to increasing public awareness about autism and the day-to-day issues faced by individuals with autism, their families and the professionals with whom they interact.
• Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders