Child Development – Definition, Theories, Ages & Stages

Discussions regarding and revolving around child development have had a long life of their own. Various academicians, psychologists, sociologists have pondered over how at different stages of life a child evolves, what those stages are, what is the role of parenting and society in general in shaping the lives of children and a lot more. First provided by Jean Jacque Rousseau, and now commonly accepted, a child goes to three different developmental changes in their lives that are as follows:

  • Infancy
  • Childhood
  • Adolescence

A very basic understanding of these 3 stages provides that Infancy refers to children in the age group of 0-2, Childhood begins from 2-13, and adolescence from 13-18. It is really till this time that most of the social, cognitive, physical growth of a child gets developed and the years that follow are largely a reflection of what they learn in these initial years.

What is Child Development?

Most of us are generally aware of the various stages that a child goes through and how the needs of the children change during these different stages. However, these are only objectives facts that we learn based on our own maturity and experience. When it comes to questions like how the abilities of children are evolved during these decisive years, or what role does formal education plays in this growth, what role the society in general plays in this growth, there is real dearth of answers and clear understanding. Basically, the concept of child development has either not been understood properly, or is given a very restricted meaning which largely revolves around the formal education of the children. So, it is highly important that we focus on understanding the concept of child development, before we proceed to analyse the roles of various people involved in the lives of children.

There are various theories of child development that provide some really interesting and peculiar insights into the concept.

Erik Ericson, a famous psychologist, came up with his own psychological analyses of child development. He provides that any healthy individual should pass through eight stages of development from their infancy to adulthood. Each of these eight stages has certain virtues attached to them and certain challenges that an individual must attain & overcome. He places a lot of reliance on societal relations in overcoming these stages and development of an individual. For example, one of the stages involved is the stage of school age in which the development of the child is largely reliant on his relations with his school friends and neighbourhood. The virtue attached to this stage is competence as the child is trying to find his own feet in the world and questioning his ability to do so. He must overcome this stage to move to the next one. The inability on part of the child to move from one stage to another hinders his progress and development.

Another theory, provided by Lev Vygotsky, also places a lot of reliance on social interactions of children determining their ultimate growth. He places an additional and a huge responsibility on the parents to guide their children through this process and help them develop better.

However, one interesting and a significantly different theory of development come from a very celebrated neurologist, psychoanalyst, author, Sigmund Freud.  His psychosexual stage theory provides that every child, from infancy to adulthood, goes through different stages of unconscious innate sexual drives that determine the development of a child. Any anxiety suffered at any of these different stages can lead to mental incapabilities later on. The sexual drives that Freud talks about have to interpreted in the widest sense possible including desire, pleasure, energy drawn, etc. A thorough reading of his work and a basic understanding of his other works helps put his theory more into perspective. However, his ideas have never failed to draw constant, constructive criticism.

Our Role in Child Development

Based on commonly accepted notions and above given theories, clear conclusions can be drawn as to the need of people around the individual, playing their part in his development. It is only that, based on different subjective theories and their acceptance by individuals, the roles & functions of people, family & society can change. Formal education in only a part of a wide process of development and helping to instil various virtues among children at different stages of development, and enabling them towards a positive way of living also has a huge role to play. The role of parents is a huge one as they set out the whole roadmap of the initial years of childhood, and they can also make decisions regarding censoring unwanted stuff from the lives of their children once they are exposed more to the society. The society, in return, has a collective responsibility to ensure the well-being of children by leading on with good deeds and promoting safer environments for overall development.

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Nishant Verma
Nishant Verma is a young researcher, writer and blogger. He crafts and publishes the content on Bachpanglobal.com and Academicheights.in. He has an innate passion in education research, in teaching and mentoring people. He is open to suggestions for his work. He spent most of his time in reading and writing.

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