child development theories of several prominent psychologists, using a theoretical four-year-old girl and her interactions with her parents as an example.
Child Development: An Exploration of the Theories
The development of a child is an important matter in psychology. In order to become a well-adjusted adult and able to easily fit into the adult world when they are grown, children must meet certain psychological benchmarks as they are growing up. Ours is a complex culture, full of do's and don'ts of social behavior; children must learn the ins and outs of this behavior in a timely manner if they are to become active and productive members of our society. However, just what constitutes normal childhood development is debated. While the desirable traits of adults are not in question, the methods and timetables by which children acquire these traits is debatable. This paper examines the development of a four-year-old child using the theories of several prominent psychologists as a backdrop for the observation.
Veronica is a four-year-old girl. She lives with both of her parents in a two-bedroom apartment in the Bronx. Her mother is a stay-at-home mom. Veronica seems to have the typical American childhood in a typical American family. She exhibits no mental or physical abnormalities. She is curious, talkative, affectionate, and intelligent. Veronica is a template for a normal child with a normal upbringing, which makes her an ideal candidate to observe to compare her development to the theories of Erickson, Piaget, Vygotsky, and Brofenbrenner. Veronica will be observed in three different situations: 1) with her family, 2) at play, and 3) learning something new.
II. Observation of Veronica with her Family
Watching Veronica and her family in the evening affords the opportunity to observe her in the complex family interaction of dinner time. Veronica's mother is already teaching Veronica to help out around the house. As her mother is preparing the evening meal, she asks Veronica to set the plates and cups on the table, one set at each seat. Veronica does so happily, seeming to be pleased to be helping. It is obvious from the careful, deliberate way she sets the plates and cups just so that she takes pride in what she is doing; she gives the impression that she feels like a "big girl" by helping out. When her father arrives home from work, Veronica runs to the door to greet him, and he scoops her up in his arms to give her a hug and a kiss. She squeals with delight and he tosses her playfully upward, easily catching her, and she begs him to do it again (which he does).
The whole family sits down to eat together soon after her father gets home. Veronica has her own seat, with a phone book on it to help her reach the top of the table. Her parents allow her to eat on her own as much as they can, although sometimes they have to help her cut something up into smaller pieces. They are also trying to teach her proper table manners, and while she has learned much for a girl her age, her parents are quick to remind her when she transgresses. Veronica takes it all very seriously, though, and with a nod, quickly corrects herself on her etiquette. Her parents also are quick to praise her when they see she is remembering new point of etiquette they have taught her. When dinner is over, she helps her mother carry the dishes to the sink to be washed without being asked. After dinner, the whole family goes out together for a walk, mom and dad swinging Veronica by the hands between them.
Veronica certainly displays trust toward her parents, indicating that she received an appropriate foundation as an infant, per Erickson's theories. She is also learning autonomy and is exhibiting pride associated with this independence, right at the age that Erickson states that this is to occur. Veronica is also at the preoperational stage of Piaget, and seems to fit neatly into this category as well. This can be seen by the fact that although she is learning table manners, she has no abstract idea of them as ideals on their own, and must be reminded of them by her parents in a physical situation. Vygotsky's theories place a heavy emphasis on the child developing social skills based on the relationship that child has with the parents. Since Veronica seems to have such a strong relationship with both of her parents, it would seem that she is getting a strong foundation for building her social skills, per Vygotsky's theories.
III. Observation of Veronica at Play
Veronica's mother takes her to a local park on most days, so that she can get some fresh air and sunshine and play with other neighborhood children. From the moment she arrives at the park, it is obvious that she has some neighborhood friends that she already knows well. She lets go of her mother's hand as soon as they are within the bounds of the park and runs over to a group of two boys and a girl, all of whom are about her own age. They are playing with plastic buckets and shovels in a sand box. The other children are happy to see her, and they all begin to try to construct a sand castle. Veronica shows some definite leadership qualities, as she attempts to delegate responsibility for various tasks amongst her group. She isn't bossy, though. Instead, she uses encouraging words she no doubt learned from her mother. She also pitches in and does her share. The whole time the play is going on, the children are also chatting happily with each other about things they have done recently and things they want to do. Veronica seems to have excellent social skills and is able to make friends easily.
Brofenbrenner's theories are evident in Veronica's interactions with her playmates. According to Brofenbrenner, children exist in a variety of environments, and their development is dependent on the interaction of these environments with each other. Veronica's "microsystem" -- her parents -- has taught her to be polite, friendly, and a leader. This microsystem environment interacts with her "mesosystem" -- her friends, because her mother teaches her how to best interact with others, and then brings her to the park so that she can try her hand at this interaction. Veronica's higher cognitive functions of leadership and sociability have developed because of her relationship with her parents, which is part of Vygotsky's theories. Because her parents taught her certain things, she is able to build on them with her relationships with others. She is also displaying a knowledge of how to cooperate with others, how to lead, and how to follow graciously, all of which are important skills that Erickson declares that the well-adjusted child should be developing by Veronica's age. Veronica seems to be well-adjusted socially within the parameters of each of the theories of these psychologists.
IV. Observation of Veronica Learning Something New
Veronica's father taught Veronica how to tie her shoes, something both parents wanted her to learn before she started kindergarten. First, he tied his own shoes in front of Veronica so that she could see how it should look when it was done. Then, he did it again slowly, step-by-step, explaining each part to her in clear, simple language. Veronica sat quietly and listened intently, giving the impression that she was eager to learn new things. After showing her the step-by-step method a few times, he had Veronica try it on her own shoe, allowing her to watch and follow along with him as he tied his own shoe again. She fumbled with it a little in the middle the first couple of times, and her father helped her…