Notebook, 1993-

Return to - Notes for a Perspective on Art Education -- NOTES on Child Development

Notes from: Coon, Dennis. Introduction to Psychology, Exploration and Application. St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1989.

The Brain, Biology, and Behavior - Sensation & reality - Perceiving the World - States of Consciousness

Conditioning & Learning - Cognition & Creativity - Artificial Intelligence - Enhancing Creativity

Emotion - Health, Stress & Coping - ANS Effects

Theories of Personality - Dimensions of Personality - From Birth to Death - Child Development

From Birth to Death

LIFE STAGES - [Continuity and change in behavior during a lifetime.] Infancy, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood, and old age. Dilemmas discussed reflecting major psychological events in the lives of many people - knowing allows one to anticipate typical trouble spots and be better prepared to understand the problems and feeling of friends and relative at various stages in the life cycle:

Developmental tasks. Skills that must be acquired or personal changes that must take place for optimal development. Each stage confronts a person with a new set of developmental tasks to be mastered - reading in childhood, adjusting to sexual maturity in adolescence, and establishing a vocation as an adult.

Psychosocial dilemma. Specific "crisis" that we face at each stage of life, according to personality theorist Erik Erikson in Childhood and Society (1963). Resolving each dilemma creates a new balance between a person and the social world. An unfavorable outcome throws us off balance and makes it harder to deal with later crises. A string of "successes" produces healthy development and a satisfying life.

Stage one, First Year of Life - Trust versus Mistrust. Children are completely dependent on others during the first stage of life. A basic attitude of trust (Established when babies are given adequate warmth, touching, love, and physical care--encouraged by the same conditions that help babies become securely attached to their parents) or mistrust is formed at this time. Mistrust is caused by inadequate or unpredictable care and by parents who are cold, indifferent, or rejecting.

Stage Two, 1-3 Years - Autonomy Versus Shame and Doubt. Children's growing self-control is expressed by climbing, touching, exploring, and a general desire to do things for themselves. Parents help foster a sense of autonomy by encouraging children to try new skills. Parents who ridicule their children (spilling, falling, wetting, and other "accidents" often result from child's crude efforts) or overprotect them, may cause them to feel shame and to doubt their abilities.

Stage Three, 3-5 Years - Initiative Versus Guilt. The child moves from simple self-control to an ability to take initiative. Learns through play to plan and to undertake, and carry out, a task. Parents reinforce initiative by giving the child the freedom to play, to ask questions, to use imagination, and to choose activities. Otherwise - if criticized severely, or prevented from play, or discouraged - child may learn to feel guilty about the activities s/he initiates.

Stage Four, 6-12 Years - Industry Versus Inferiority. Many of the events of middle childhood are symbolized by that fateful day when you first entered school. With dizzying speed your world expanded beyond your family, and you faced a whole series of new challenges. For the first time teachers, classmates, and adults outside the home become as important as parents in shaping attitudes toward oneself. In school, children begin to learn skills valued by society, and success or failure can have lasting effects on their feelings of adequacy. Children learn a sense of industry if they win praise for building, painting, cooking, reading, studying, and other productive activities. If a child's efforts are regarded as messy, childish, or inadequate, feeling of inferiority result.

Stage Five, Adolescence - Identity Versus Role Confusion. Adolescence is a turbulent time for many persons in our culture. Caught between childhood and adulthood, the adolescent faces some unique problems. Erikson considers a need to answer the question, "Who am I?" the primary task during this stage of life. Mental and physical maturation brings to the individual new feelings, a new body, and new attitudes. The adolescent must build a consistent identity out of self-perceptions and relationships with others. Conflicting experiences as a student, friend, athlete, worker, son or daughter, lover, and so forth, must be integrated into a unified sense of self. According to Erikson, persons who fail to develop a sense of identity suffer from role confusion, an uncertainty about who they are and where they are going.

Stage Six, Young Adulthood - Intimacy Versus Isolation. Individual experiences a need to achieve an essential quality of intimacy (an ability to care about others and to share experiences with them)in his or her life. After establishing a stable identity, a person is prepared to share meaningful love or deep friendship with others. 75% of college-age men and women rank a good marriage and family life as their primary adult goal (Bachman & Johnson, 1979). And yet, marriage or sexual involvement is no guarantee that intimacy will prevail: Many adult relationships remain superficial and unfulfilling. Failure to establish intimacy with others leads to a deep sense of isolation. The person feels alone and uncared for in life. This circumstance often sets the stage for later difficulties.

Stage Seven, Middle Adulthood - Generativity Versus Stagnation. According to Erikson, an interest in guiding the next generation is the main source of balance in mature adulthood. This quality, called generativity, is expressed by caring about oneself, one's children, and the future. Generativity may be achieved by guiding one's own children or by helping other children (as a teacher, clergyman, or coach, for example). It may also be achieved through productive or creative work. In any case, a person's concern and energies must be broadened to include the welfare of others and of society as a whole Failure in this is marked by a stagnant concern with one's own needs and comforts. Life loses meaning, and the person feels bitter, dreary, and trapped.

Stage Eight, Late Adulthood - Integrity Versus Despair. Because old age is a time of reflection, a person must be able to look back over the events of a lifetime with a sense of acceptance and satisfaction. According to Erikson, the previous seven stages of life become the basis for successful aging. The person who has lived richly and responsibly develops a sense of integrity. This allows the person to face aging and death with dignity. If previous life events are viewed with regret, the elderly person falls into despair. In this case, there is a feeling that life has been a series of missed opportunities, that one has failed, and that it is too late to reverse what has been done. Aging and the threat of death then become a source of fear and depression.

THREE MAJOR STYLES OF PARENTING [According to psychologist Diana Baumrind (1980)]:

l. Authoritarian parents view children as having few rights but adultlike responsibilities. Tend to demand strict adherence to rigid standards of behavior. The child is expected to stay out of trouble and to accept without question what the parents regard as right or wrong behavior. The children of such parents typically are obedient and self-controlled. But they also tend to be emotionally stiff, withdrawn, apprehensive, and lacking in curiosity.

2. Overly permissive parents view children as having few responsibilities but rights similar to adults. Such parents require little responsible behavior from their children. Rules are not enforced, and the child usually gets his or her way. This tends to produce dependent, immature children who misbehave frequently. Such children are aimless and tend to "run amok."

3. Effective parents balance their own rights with those of their children. Such parents are authoritative but not authoritarian. That is, they control their children's behavior, but they are also loving and caring. They approach discipline in a way that is firm and consistent, not harsh or rigid. In general, they encourage the child to act responsibly. This parenting style produces children who tend to be competent, self-controlled, independent, assertive, and inquiring. Thus, by balancing freedom and restraint, effective parents help children become responsible adults.

Overprotection. Stress is a normal part of life - and most children do a good job of keeping stress at comfortable levels when they initiate an activity (Murphy & Moriarty, 1975)--getting into a few scrapes can help a child to prepare to cope with later stresses.

(Normal reactions to the unavoidable stress of growing up):

l. Sleep disturbances, including wakefulness, frightening dreams, or a desire to get into their parents' bed.

2. Specific fears of the dark, dogs, school, or a particular room or person are also common.

3. Overly Timid - most children will be overly timid at times, allowing themselves to be bullied by other children into giving up toys, a place in line, and the like.

4. General dissatisfaction may occur for temporary periods, when nothing pleases the child.

5. General negativism marked by tantrums. Children also normally display periods of General negativism marked by tantrums., refusal to do anything requested, or a tendency to say no on principle.

6. Clinging is another normal problem, in which children refuse to leave the side of their mothers or to do anything on their own.

7. Reversals or regressions to more infantile behavior. Development does not always advance smoothly. Every child will show occasional reversals or regressions to more infantile behavior.

Sibling rivalry. Jealousy, rivalry, and even hostility common to elementary school years. A limited amount of aggressive give-and-take between siblings provides an opportunity to learn emotional control, self-assertion, and good sportsmanship. Parents should not compare one child with another, nor should they play favorites.

Rebellion against rules and regulations of the adult world by most school-age children at times. Being with peers offers opportunity to let off steam by doing some of the things the adult world Forbids. It is normal for children to be messy, noisy, hostile, or destructive to a moderate degree.


1. Toilet-Training Disturbances. Difficulty sometimes centers on toilet training or bowel and bladder habits. Wetting and soiling can be a means of expressing frustration or pent-up hostility. Enuresis: Lack of bladder control (more common and more often in males). Encopresis: Lack of bowel control.

2. Feeding Disturbances. Child may vomit or refuse food for no reason or may drastically overeat or undereat. Overeating. Sometimes encouraged by parent who feels unloved and compensates by showering the child with "love" in the form of food. Whatever the case, overfed children develop eating habits and conflicts that have lifelong consequences. Undereating - self-starvation - Anorexia nervosa (nervous loss of appetite) Mostly adolescent females. By starving themselves, adolescent girls can limit figure development and prevent menstruation. This delays the time when they must face adult responsibilities.

3. Speech Disturbances. Delayed speech. A serious delay in learning to talk can be a serious handicap. Delayed speech is sometimes caused by too little intellectual stimulation in early childhood. Other possible causes are parents who discourage the child's attempts to grow up, childhood stresses, mental retardation, and emotional disturbances. Stuttering. Usually of physical origin. 4 times more common in males than in females, and at least partially inherited. However, learned fears, anxieties, and speech patterns probably add to the problem as well. The fear of stuttering makes it very likely.

4. Learning Disorders include problems with thinking, perception, language, attention, or activity levels. Dyslexia. An inability to read with understanding. Such an inability makes child feel confused and "stupid" in class, although the intelligence is normal. Causes aren't known. Researchers suspect it is related to brain dominance. People with shared or reversed dominance seem to be more prone to language disorders, including dyslexia. Hyperactivity. One of the most significant learning disorders. Hyperactive child is constantly in motion and cannot concentrate. Child talks rapidly, cannot sit still, rarely finishes work, acts on impulse, and cannot pay attention. Occurs in 3% to 5% of American children, with 5 times as many boys as girls being affected (Varley, 1984). Unless carefully managed, can severely limit a child's ability to learn. Widely held theory that hyperactivity is the result of minimal brain dysfunction (MBD) linking hyperactivity to a lag in brain maturation or to undetected damage to the brain. Physicians typically use stimulant drugs to control hyperactivity (Stimulants help the child to pay attention longer.), which seem to lessen excessive activity, but blanket use of powerful drugs also regarded as dangerous and unnecessary.

5. Childhood Autism. Caused by congenital defects in the nervous system. Even as babies, autistic children are aloof and do not cuddle or mold to their parents' arms. Defect may lie in the cerebellum, which affects attention and motor activity (Courchesne et al., 1988). Affects 1 in 2500 children, boys 4 times more often than girls. One of the most severe childhood problems. The autistic child is locked into a private world and appears to have no need for affection or contact with others. Autistic children do not even seem to know or care who their parents are. In addition to being extremely isolated, the autistic child may throw gigantic temper tantrums--sometimes including self-destructive behavior such as head banging. Sadly, many well-meaning parents unintentionally reward such behavior with attention and concern. Many are mute. They engage in frequent repetitive actions such as rocking, flapping their arms, or waving their fingers in front of their eyes. They may show no response to an extremely loud noise (sensory blocking) or they may spend hours watching a water faucet drip (sensory "spin-out"). Even with help, only about 1 autistic child in 4 approaches normalcy. Almost all can make progress with proper care. Behavior modification has been particularly successful when treatment is begun early. Sensory stimulation such as tickling or music, is usually very reinforcing. Punishment can bring a swift end to self-destructive behavior, such as hand biting or head banging.

The socially defined period between childhood and adulthood. A time of rapid changes, exploration, exuberance, and youthful searching. Also a time of worry and problems. It refers to the period during which we move from childhood to acceptance as an adult. This change is recognized in almost all cultures--though length of adolescence varies greatly from culture to culture. Most 14-year-old females in rural villages of the Near East are married and have children, whereas most that age in America live at home and go to school. Culturally defined period of adolescence differs from puberty, which is a biological event.

Puberty. The biologically defined period during which a person matures sexually and becomes capable of reproduction. Refers to rapid physical growth, coupled with hormonal changes that bring sexual maturity. Puberty tends to dramatically increase body awareness and concerns about physical appearance. About 50% of all boys and 1/3 of all girls report being dissatisfied with their appearance during early adolescence.

The peak growth spurt during puberty occurs earlier for girls that for boys. This difference accounts for the 1- to 2-year period when girls tend to be taller than boys.

Early & Late Maturation. Magnifies, for good and bad, the impact of puberty. An advantage to boys in enhancing their self-image and it also gives them an advantage socially and athletically. They tend, then, to be more poised, relaxed, dominant, self-assured, and popular with their peers. Once late maturing boys catch up they tend to be more eager, talkative, self-assertive, and tolerant of themselves than average maturers. In elementary school, developmentally advanced girls tend to have less prestige among peers. By junior high, however, early development leads to greater peer prestige and adult approval. Later-maturing girls have the possible advantage of usually growing taller and thinner than early-maturing girls. Early-maturing girls date sooner and are more independent and more active in school; they are also more often in trouble at school.

Premature identity formation. When a teenager begins to look like an adult, he or she may be treated like an adult. Ideally, this change can encourage greater maturity and independence. But - search for identity may end too soon, leaving the person with a distorted, poorly formed sense of self.

Psychologist David Elkind (1981) believes that many parents are hurrying their children's development. Feels the traditional social markers of adolescence have all but disappeared. (signs that tell where a person stands socially--such as a driver's license or a wedding ring) Clothing increasing adult-like. "All grown up with no place to go."

Search for Identity. Many psychologists regard identity formation as a key task of adolescence.

[Notes from: Coon, Dennis. Introduction to Psychology, Exploration and Application. St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1989.]



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