Child and adolescent development has in the past as well as in the recent times received a lot of attention especially from researchers. In connection to this point, researchers have over this time developed some theories that can best define as well as explain the development of children and adolescents. As such, this has happened for a number of reasons as some theories have provided some ways through which children can be educated. In the same lime of thought, understanding of normal child and adolescent development is important in assisting children to reach their potential as they interact with their immediate world and interpreting it as well.
In this context, it is important to bring into view three selected theories of development by means of comparing and contrasting the theories from different perspectives. So to speak, these theories will be compared and contrasted based the provision of three key concepts of each theory. In line with this, three major points of similarity along with three major points of differences will be examined. Besides this point, interaction of cognitive, physical, and emotional development in the overall development of the child will be explored. Accordingly, explanation of why the understanding of normal child and adolescent development is important in assisting children to reach their potential will be made proviso of.
Principally, the three selected development theories are the Erikson's theory of psychosocial development, Piaget's cognitive development stage theory and Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory. Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is one of those best known theories in regard to personality and development. As a matter of fact, Erikson just as Sigmud Freud believed that the development of personality develops in a series of predetermined stages. In actual sense, Erikson theory explores the impact of social experience across the lifespan. Erikson theory which is different from Freud’s, takes into consideration the social and relationship forces that externally shape the child development (Lerner, 2002, p.417). Basically, the theory is based on eight stages of which they are defined by crisis between two extremes. In this context, the crisis is triggered by what happens in external social or environmental surrounding.
As such, in child and adolescent development, such events that trigger crisis in the eight stages involve changing of schools, leaving home and other such like events. Fundamentally, the theory is built on personal independence and connectedness of the child and the adolescent to others in the surrounding. In each stage among the eight stages of this theory, plays the part of acting as mastery that necessitates the establishment of personal identity. If it happens that during development the child has not succeeded in certain mastery in one of the stages, this can translate to incomplete personal independence or rather identity crisis (Lerner, 2002, p.23).
From a general point of view, the theory takes into consideration the evolution of a child and adolescent from the sense of trust and connectivity to the other people to a capacity of healthy independence towards productivity and in the eventuality the giving back. Since a baby starts out as one of the helpless beings, it is important to bring out the fact that a baby will tend to build trust on the world based on how he or she is brought up. In essence, this is the stage whereby the child builds the trust or mistrust (Lerner, 2002, p.420). In connection to this, the second stage the child has his or her own will whereby it is a crisis of autonomy versus shame and doubt. Accordingly, the third stage takes in the purpose of which it is as a result of initiative versus guilt.
Following this point is the stage of competence whereby there is the crisis of industry versus inferiority. This is then followed by the fidelity stage whereby the mastery establishment results from the identity versus role confusion (Lerner, 2002, p.426). In addition, there is the stage of love whereby there is a crisis of intimacy versus isolation. There are other stages that are described in this theory that go beyond adolescence stage and thus for this case, the main point of concern would be child and adolescent development. From a broad point of view, this theory is build on the concept of trust of others, connectedness to them and the capacity of healthy independence resulting to quality giving back.
On the other hand, there is the Piaget's cognitive development stage theory. Within the building blocks of this theory, the theorist Piaget has explored as well as studied the way the intellectual development of a child and adolescent occur. In actual sense, the theory describes the nature and development of human intelligence. This theory is built on the concept of assimilation and accommodation (Lerner, 2002, p.374). Assimilation concept is meant to describe the process by which a person takes into mind from the immediate environment which may translate to changing the evidence of their senses to make it fitting.
At the same time, accommodation concept is meant to bring about the difference that occurs in one’s mind while developing. In line with this, the theory is founded on how a child and adolescent see the world around and intellectually interacts with it (Lerner, 2002, p.103). This is to suggest that as a child grows, he or she grows mentally and in this sense is able to differentiate things based on what he or she perceives in the mind. At some point, a child is selfish and thinks that he or she is the centre of the universe and the fact that everything revolves around him or her. This as a result makes the child to be unable to see the world and adapt to it as others do. In connection to this, the process of a child or adolescent to work out something in the head is brought out.
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Within the definitions of this theory, the young children as they develop they come to a point in life whereby they have to act as well as try out things in a real world setting. This point in life is whereby children are able to count on fingers with the older ones being in a position to work things in mind in better manner. There is also the concept of schema which describes the way set of perceptions, ideas and /or actions are represented in the mind of the child and adolescent development (Lerner, 2002). Another concept that theorist Piaget uses in his theory of cognitive development is the use of stages of which a child may understand some things while being unable to comprehend others.
From a broader point of view, the concepts of assimilation of the world through accommodation, stage and operation of a child while developing and the use of schema in effort to represent ideas, actions and perceptions in mind, make up the concepts that Piaget's cognitive development stage theory is founded. Through this theory children acquire, develop, and use internal mental capabilities such as problem solving, memory, and language.
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The development theory known as Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory holds that development is a reflection of influence that is brought about by several environmental systems. Such environmental systems that influence the development of a child and adolescent involve the Microsystems of which it defines the setting in which the child and the adolescent lives. Additionally, there is the Meso-system which refers to relations between contexts of which it may take the form of a child family and school relations (Lerner, 2002).
Another system is the exosystem which describes the relationship between the social setting in which the child or the adolescent is actively involved and the one he or she is not actively involved. In addition, there is the macrosystem of which it defines the culture in which the child or the adolescent is living as well as the generalized cultural contexts described by socioeconomic status, poverty and ethnicity from a broader point of view (Lerner, 2002, p.238). The ecology of human development is the scientific study of progressive, mutual accommodation, throughout the life course, between an active, growing human being, and the changing properties of the immediate settings in which the developing person lives. In this regard, the process is affected by relations between these settings, and by the larger contexts in which the settings are embedded. Besides this, the conception of this theory acknowledges the conception of the environmental factors that may influence an individual’s teaching (Lerner, 2002, p.159).
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Having presented the building concepts of the three selected developmental theories, it is important at this to bring into context three major points of similarity. The three selected theories have similarities in the sense that they are all based on the concept that development takes place based on stages. Again, the theories resemble in the fact that they all acknowledge the setting immediate to an individual to be an influential factor in the development of the person. The setting may take the form of the family and school among other such like settings (Lerner, 2002, p.37). This affects all the emotional, psychological and physical development of the child and the adolescent.
Another point of similarities between the three selected theories of development is the fact that development is determined by the quality of the interaction with the immediate setting. In this case, a child’s cognitive development will be determined by what he or she is exposed to. Also, his or her interactions with the environment will be determined by what the environment has to offer. Again in this context, the kind and the quality of the people that the child or the adolescent interacts with greatly influence their development (Lerner, 2002).
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Besides the similarities that exist between the three theories of development, there are also differences. One of the differences that exist between the Erikson's theory of psychosocial development and Piaget's cognitive development stage theory is that Piaget's theory studies the intellectual development of a child and adolescent while Erikson's theory studies the development of the child and the adolescent based on the social set up of the upbringing (Lerner, 2002, p.373). Along with this, the Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory is also different in its unique way as it based on environment as the most influential factor for child development.
Apart from this, another difference is that Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory is based on the environment as the influential factor that influence an individual’s learning and the development of a child. Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is based on the social environment as the influential factor of the learning of the child and the adolescent. In actual sense it is based on impact of social experience across the whole lifespan (Lerner, 2002, p.264). Contrary to this, Piaget's cognitive development stage theory is based on assimilation of the world through accommodation of which it is meant for what happens to one’s mind while developing and the differences that occur. Thinking processes and knowledge develop through adaptation and the organization of thought in this case.
Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory focuses on the quality and the context of the child’s environment in shaping the development of the child. On the other hand, children learn through actively constructing knowledge through hands-on experience according to Piaget's cognitive development stage theory. Quiet contrary from the Bronfenbrenner and Piaget theories, Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, and child’s development is shaped based on identity crisis whereby at each stage of development there are certain challenges that provide a crisis between bad outcome and good one (Lerner, 2002, p.425). A child grows through trust whereby there is a crisis between trust and mistrust of the parents and the immediate environment. This refers to the trust of others, connectedness to them and the capacity of healthy independence resulting to quality interaction with them.
Since it has been pointed out that there are several differences as well as similarities that exist between the three selected theories, it is important at this point to bring out the interactions that occur between cognitive, physical and the emotional development in the overall development of the child. From this perspective, babies at infancy they totally depend on their parents and this is where Erikson's theory of psychosocial development begins. As time goes on, they physically grow in that they are able to change from depending entirely on the parents or caregivers to a point where they learn to walk, talk and play alongside others (Lerner, 2002, p.203). This happens as their muscles grow and their legs as well as their hands grow. This is accompanied by an increase in weight and height.
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Concurrently, their motor skills develop and they start realizing who they are as individuals. This is then accompanied by mental growth well defined when they start schooling and develop their social lives. At this point, they are able to play with other kids at school and other places like church where they interact with other children. Their intellectual growth is added as they continue to be taught in school and at the same time they increase in physical growth with marked increase in height and weight (Lerner, 2002, p.422). At the same time, they are able to rationally reason and they are able to maintain friendships of the same sex groups and they begin forming ideas about gender roles and work. As children grow physically, their emotional life grows as manifested in their reactions of happiness and sadness while playing or in relation to their immediate social environment which may be the family and other children at school among others. This is when teens assert their identity but rules and limits are needed in this case to help them make informed decisions.
Outstandingly, this is where many adolescents can think irrationally as their emotional aspect is almost fully grown contradicting with the cognitive aspect which can provide rational decision. The body at adolescence stage it is physically grown with girls with breasts and hips broadening as well as the menstrual cycle still developing among others. For boys, their chests broaden and voice deepens along with other related physical changes.
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Needless to say, the information about the development of a normal child and adolescent is important. This is due to the reason that understanding of normal child and adolescent development will help in assisting children to reach their potential. So to speak, school curriculum is founded on the basics of Piaget’s cognitive development stage theory which states that thinking processes and knowledge develop through adaptation and the organization of thought (Lerner, 2002, p.373). Since development is based on stages in this case, the understanding of this development can help in the learning of children as one is able to know what to teach a child at what age or point of development. In the same line of thought, one can be able to help adolescents understand themselves by pointing out to them how to effectively manage their emotional, cognitive and physical development. As such the understanding of normal child and adolescent development is important in assisting children to reach their potential and manage their way of life.