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Understanding Child Development

Updated on November 12, 2017

What you need to understand

Childhood is a very critical part of human life. This is because it is the phase of life where a child gets to learn about their surrounding, interact with others and prepare for adulthood. However, it is also a very vulnerable period given that during this period, children may be described as being naive, and therefore easily influenced towards any direction. To study and understand children development, three theoretical frameworks can be used. These include:

Children's right

Childhood studies

Social cultural theory



Children's right

There are many laws aimed at protecting children and their rights. For instance, while children in American could at one point be employed and earn wages rather than go to school, this is not the case today and children are expected to have a good education and be brought up in a conducive environment according to children’s' rights. For instance, according to Smith (2013) in most western nations, children no longer undertake wage labor, and through such policies as educational and social policies, the welfare of children is protected to ensure that their rights are not violated. Rather than being overworked and receiving a wage, which would not really benefit them in the long run, children's right today allow children to be protected in conducive environments at home and in schools, where they are surrounded by children their own age and caring adults (parents and teachers) rather than employers. Smith (2013) notes that like adults, children are citizens and therefore entitled to participate in social, cultural and political life. Here, children's rights help us understand what children need for good development. For instance, according to children's rights, a child has to be brought up in a conducive home environment, where they are free of mistreatment, abuse or child labor. This allows the child a better opportunity to be healthy, both physically and psychologically and grow to be responsible. Through children's rights therefore, it becomes possible to understand the needs of a child and what is required to ensure proper development. According to Dershowitz (2004, p. 20) "most people see rights as something special, to be respected and not treated lightly".

Childhood studies

According to Smith (2013) children and young people have become the focus of much attention in recent years. This, according to Lindon (2012) has influenced many theorists and researchers to become more interested in cognitive development than with physical development. Today, there are countless studies focusing on childhood development, which can help us get a good understanding of the same. While many studies have gone on to focus on psychological development of children, many others focus on all aspects of child development, and as Gesell (1954) notes, the physical development of children is also important for their while development and well being. Through these studies, it is possible to tell what a child needs and what should be avoided for the best possible development of a child. For example, from the works of Gessell (1954) we get to understand that a child needs to be healthy physically, which contributes to good self-esteem and confidence among children. This also keeps a child from stress and possible depression thereby enhancing good development. Therefore, childhood studies are crucial to our understanding of children's development. However, according to Mercer (2013) it is important to compared different studies given that some tend to be inaccurate.

Social cultural theory

According to Vygotsky's theory of social development, Social interaction plays a fundamental role in the process of cognitive development. Therefore, the background of a child or the culture they grow up in will greatly influence how they develop. According to Drewery and Claiborne (2014) children in various countries will experience different kinds of early childhood education, which causes differences in their development. Here, it becomes evident that the social cultural theory is beneficial in understanding children's development. By comparing children from different backgrounds (slums, gated communities etc) it will be possible to tell there are differences in their behaviors and attitudes. This shows that interactions with people around them influence how they develop. Social cultural theory is therefore one of the ways trough which we can learn about child development.


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    • Liztalton profile image


      11 months ago from Washington

      Very well written and knowledgeable article about child development.


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