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

Child Development [Cont.]

Social development provides a foundation for language learning. It is closely tied to maturation:

Five Stages of Language Development:

From here on the child proceeds at phenomenal rate. By first grade the child can understand around 8000 words and use about 4000.

Roots of language. Researchers Louis Sander and William Condon (1974) filmed newborn infants as babies listened to various sounds. Their analysis showed the infants move their arms and legs in synchrony to the rhythms of human speech. Dance to speech. (Most likely showing a readiness to interact socially) Random noise, rhythmic tapping, or disconnected vowel sounds will not produce this "language dance." Only the natural rhythms of speech have this effect. Language recognition may be innate.

Biological predisposition to develop language. Linguist Noam Chomsky (1968,1975) claims language organization is inborn, much like a child's ability to coordinate walking. May explain why children around the world use a limited number of patterns in their first sentences. Typical patterns include the following (Mussen et al., 1979):

Psycholinguists (specialists in the psychology of language) show that language is not magically switched on. The imitation of adults and rewards for correctly using words are also a pat of language learning. And, importantly, parents and their children communicate long before the child learns to speak.

Signals. Parents go to a great deal of trouble to get babies to smile and vocalize. In doing so, they quickly learn to change their actions to keep the infant's attention, arousal, and activity at optimal levels - gonna, getcha, Gotcha! Through such games adults and babies come to share similar rhythms and expectations. Soon a system of shared signals is created. Touching, vocalizing, gazing, and smiling help lay a foundation for later language use. Specifically, these signals establish a pattern of "conversational" turn taking (Bruner, 1983; Snow, 1977)

Processing. While developing words to talk they use words they don't know the meaning of. What they imitate may come up long after rather than immediately. Parrot can echo, immediately, but humans process things --cognitive learning.

Cognitive development. A child's thinking is less abstract than an adult's. They tend to base their understanding of the world on particular examples, tangible sensations, and material objects. They use fewer generalizations, categories, or principles. Concrete nature of thinking. An example of this is a failure to recognize the permanence of objects. With a very young child, "out of sight" can literally mean "out of mind." A 4- or 5-month-old infant playing with a ball behaves as if the ball has ceased to exist when it rolls behind something. Children are unable to make transformations before the age of 6 or 7. A tall narrow glass of milk will be considered to be greater than the same amount of milk filling a short fat glass.

Piaget's Theory of Language Development. He believed that all children pass through a series of distinct stages in intellectual development. Today, many psychologists are convinced that Piaget gave too little credit to the effects of learning (Harris, 1986). According to learning theorists, children continuously gain specific knowledge; they do not undergo stagelike increases in general mental ability (Carey, 1986). Numerous studies do show that children make swift mental gains at about the ages Piaget stated. In fact, researchers have recently found evidence that cycles of brain growth occur at times that correspond with Piaget's stages (Thatcher et al., 1987). Thus, the truth may lie somewhere between Piaget's stage theory and modern learning theory.

A. Intellect grows through TWO PROCESSES:

Thus: New situations are assimilated to existing ideas, and new ideas are created to accommodate new experiences.

B. STAGES of Intellectual growth and development:
l. Sensorimotor stage [0-2 Years] In the first two years of life, a child's intellectual development is largely nonverbal. The child is mainly concerned with learning to coordinate purposeful movements with information from the senses. Kids learn about their environment by touching, tasting, smelling.

Also important at this time is gradual emergence of the concept of object permanence. By about age 1 and 1/2, the child begins to actively pursue disappearing objects. By age 2, the child can anticipate the movement of an object behind a screen. For example, when watching an electric train, the child looks ahead to the end of a tunnel, rather than staring at the spot where the train disappeared. In general, developments in this stage indicate that the child's conceptions are becoming more stable. Objects cease to appear and disappear magically, and a more orderly and predictable world replaces the confusing and disconnected sensations of infancy.

NOTE: Active play with a child is most effective at this stage. Encourage explorations in touching, smelling, and manipulating objects. Peekaboo is a good way to establish the permanence of objects.

2. Preoperational stage [2-7 years] They are developing ability to think symbolically and to use language. But, child's thinking is still very intuitive. Can't shut them up. Words become intriguing and fascinating to them. But they have a tendency to confuse words with the objects they represent (if a child labels a block a car and you use it to make a train, child may be upset.) To children, the name of an object is as much a part of the object as its size, shape, and color. This brings about a preoccupation with name calling, and an insulting name may hurt as much as 'sticks and stones." "You panty-girdle!" is no joke. Quite egocentric = unable to take the view point of other people. Can't differentiate between fantasy and reality. Reversibility (unable to reverse their thoughts - "I have a brother, Tim." "Does Tim have a brother?" " No.")

NOTE: Although children are beginning to talk to themselves and act out solutions to problems, touching and seeing things will continue to be more useful than verbal explanations. Concrete examples will also have more meaning than generalizations. The child should be encouraged to classify things in different ways. Learning the concept of conservation may be aided by demonstrations involving liquids, beads, clay, and other substances.

3. Concrete Operational Stage [7-11 Years] Child is able to learn and master a concept called conservation: the original amount is conserved --irregardless of what you do to an object, the value remains the same (appearance of clay changes but the volume doesn't) - or - Size of container may vary, but contents remains the same.

And, a child's thoughts begin to include the concepts of time, space, and number. Categories and principles are used, and the child can think logically about concrete objects or situations. Stop believing in Santa Claus --his sack couldn't possibly hold that much --couldn't possibly go to everyone's house, etc.

Another important development at this time is the ability to reverse thoughts or operations. If 4 x 2 = 8.....well, then 2 x 4 must also equal 8. Younger children must memorize each relationship separately. NOTE: Children in this stage are beginning to use generalizations, but they still require specific examples to grasp many ideas. Expect a degree of inconsistency in the child's ability to apply concepts of time, space, quantity , and volume to new situations.

4. Formal operation Stage [11 years and up] Sometime after about the age of 11, the child begins to break away from concrete objects and specific examples. Thinking is based more on abstract principles. They can think about their thoughts, and they become less egocentric. Thinking is more abstract. They are able to consider hypothetical possibilities. A child attains full adult intellectual abilities during this stage. Will try to understand and seek solutions, consider the possibilities and discuss their implications. The older adolescent is capable of inductive and deductive reasoning and can comprehend math, physics, philosophy, psychology, and other abstract systems.

From this point on, improvements in intellectual ability are based on gaining knowledge, experience, and wisdom, rather than on gains in basic thinking capacity.

NOTE: At this point, it becomes more realistic to explain things verbally or symbolically to a child. Helping the child to master general rules and principles now becomes productive. Encouraging the child to create hypotheses and to imagine how things could be.

Conscience. Lawrence Kohlberg (1981a), a psychologist, believed that moral values are learned, in part, as children develop the ability to think and reason. He posed moral dilemmas to children of different ages, and by classifying reasons given for their choice, he identified three levels of moral development:

l. Preconventional level of moral development. Moral thinking is determined by the consequence of actions (punishment, reward, or an exchange of favors).

2. Conventional level of moral development. Actions are directed by a desire to conform to the expectations of others or to socially accepted rules and values.

3. Postconventional level of moral development. Advanced moral development. Behavior at this level is directed by self-accepted moral principles.

Kohlberg and his associates found that people advance through the stages at different rates and that many people fail to reach the "principled" postconventional stage. The preconventional stages (1 and 2) are most characteristic of young children and delinquents. Conventional group-oriented morals of stages 3 and 4 are characteristic of older children and most of the adult population. Kohlberg estimated that postconventional morality, representing self-direction and higher principles is achieved by only about 20 percent of the adult population.

Carol Gilligan (1982) has pointed out that Kohlberg's system is concerned mainly with the ethics of justice. Gilligan argues that there is also an ethic of caring and responsibility. Her point is that male psychologists have, for the most part, defined moral maturity in terms of justice and autonomy. From this perspective, women's concern with relationships can look like a weakness rather than a strength (placed at stage 3 in kolhberg's system). She believes that caring is also a major element of moral development and she suggests that males may lag in achieving it.

Many of the problems facing us today are essentially problems of individual conscience (over-population, environmental destruction, crime, prejudice)

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



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