Homeopathic Journal :: Volume: 5, Issue: 3, Jan 2012 (New Papers) - from Homeorizon.com
|Article Updated: Jan 22, 2012|
Is a curious thing that the scientific study of child behavior is only of recent origin. Philosophers had talked about the importance of childhood in determining the nature of the adult and poets had written about it.
The childhood shows the man,
As the meaning shows the day. - Milton in 'Paradise Regained'
The child is father of the man - Wordsworth in 'My Heart Leaps Up'
Two parents including Charles Darwin (1877) published infant biographies. But the first comprehensive study of child development did not appear until 1882. This was Prayer’s, "The Mind of the Child." It also, was written by a father and observation was limited to one child. Although restricted in these ways, this was a careful study, dealing e.g. with reflexes, sensory ability, emotional development and thought processes. It is infact, a landmark in the history of child psychology.
One idea which played an important part in evolutionary biology also gave an impetus to child psychology. This was the concept of recapitulation, which supposed that, in their early growth, organisms exhibit, for a time, certain traits possessed by animals lower in the evolutionary scale. Some structural evidence for this came from the fact that human foctuses have structures resembling gill slits. These later become a part of the ear. Likewise, each human being has tail, which, except, in rare instances, disappears before birth.
Impressed by evidences for structural recapitulation, some early child psychologists looked for behavioral evidence. It was suggested, e.g. that “the child after birth recapitulates and uses for a time various phases of its prehuman ancestral behavior.” Offered in evidence were the monkey-like antics of children and the tendency of many to walk on all fours. One of the early leaders in child psychology, G. Stanley Hall of Clark University, even claimed that the cultural history of man’s behavior is mirrored in the activities of children and especially in play. He believed that, “The best index and guide to the stated activities of adults in past ages is found in the instinctive, in taught and non-initiative plays of children.” But the recapitulation concept, although it served for a time to focus psychological attention on children, received little support from observations of child behavior.
When child psychology got under way, there soon developed an interest in such questions as: What reactions are usual or normal, or to be expected at given age levels? Research designed to answer such questions is often referred to as normative, a search for norms. Intelligence tests such as those, which originated in France, were normative but confined largely to memory and reasoning. They were, of course, designed for school children. They did not tell how a baby of three or six months or of two or four years should be reacting. Nor did they deal, in any direct way, with sensory, perceptual and motor development. The first extensive development schedules designed to tell parents what children usually do at various age levels from birth, up grew out of research conducted by Arnold Gessell and his associates at Yale University. Various test situations, involving response to such objects as dangling rings, cubes and mirrors were used at the early age levels. At later ages, the tests involved observations of language and social behavior. Large numbers of children were tested. Movies of their reactions were made and analyzed frame by frame to discover age changes in behavior. The chief outcome of this research was a detailed catalogue of the responses to be expected at successive age levels. Over and beyond its scientific value, information like this is of obvious value to pediatricians, educators and parents.
The Influence of Psychoanalysis
Like the poets quoted above, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and later psychoanalysts claimed that childhood experiences leave an indelible impression in adult personality. Freud emphasized experiences associated with sexual development. Others stressed the importance of frustration and insecurity in childhood, with or without sexual overtones. Regardless of such differences among them, these men helped to turn the spotlight on childhood and more specifically on parent-child relationships and other aspects of family life. This approach supplemented and as it were, rounded out the approaches to child psychology that we have already considered. Moreover, the influence of childhood on adult personality became an interdisciplinary problem, bringing about cooperative studies among psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists. The later were led to investigate how methods of child rearing characteristics of different cultures influence the personality of adults.
The principles of child psychology are based on research findings and theories about children’s behavior and development from the time of conception to the beginning of adolescence. The onset of pubescence, which typically occurs between twelve and fifteen years of age, marks the transition to a period of life which psychologists have considered sufficiently different from earlier childhood to merit separate treatment as the psychology of adolescence.
Psychologists have found it convenient to identify the following chronological age groupings:
- Germinal: first 2 weeks after conception
- Embryo: 2-6 weeks after conception
- Foetus: 6 weeks after conception until birth
- Neonate: First 2 weeks after birth
- Infant: First 2 years of life
- Preschool child: 2-6 years of age
- Primary-school child: 6-9 years of age
- Intermediate school child: 9-12 years of age
- Junior-High school child: 12-15 years of age (the onset of adolescence occurs during this period)
This classificatory schema is arbitrary and has no theoretical value. Based on more-or-less general usage, it merely provides a convenient framework for discussion and easy appellation.
A study of the psychology of childhood, of conscientiously and intelligently pursued, provides a rich background of information about children’s behavior and psychological growth under a variety of environmental conditions. It provides information about psychological scales for appraising a child’s developmental status; provides certain “norms” of behavior and growth for comparative purposes; provides understanding of basic psychological processes like learning, motivation, maturation and socialization; supplies knowledge of general principles of development with which to evaluate critically new trends and “fads” in child care and training and offers practical suggestions for guiding the psychological growth of children who experience difficulties in adjusting to adults, children and other personal and natural components of their culture. Furthermore, extended study in this scientific area promotes a better understanding of adolescent and adult behavior. Familiar aphorisms such as “The child is father of the man” and “As the twig is bent so grows the tree” document man’s belief in the major contributions of childhood experiences to the personality and behavior of the individual.
While the present research and theoretical status of child psychology may appear to have emerged “full blown” in the twentieth century, closer examination reveals its deep and tenuous roots extending far into the past.