Childhood and Adolescent Development


Study of child and adolescent development can help in a variety of ways. This includes understanding the health implications affecting these categories and subsequent development of appropriate programs to cater for their health. In addition, it can help the development of appropriate education curriculum and child care programs that goes hand in hand with the knowledge on their development. For instance, constructivist theory of learning was developed on the basis of the Piaget writings (Huitt, 2003). The knowledge can also aid the development of appropriate parenting skills and related advisory programs.

Research has dwelled on the exploration of individual development and it seems that while some agree that there are various stages of development where each stage is characterized by fair stability, others hold the view that individual development takes place in a smooth and continuous form. The proponents of the idea that children are smoothly and continuously developing posit that children add new skills and grow steadily and at uniform speed-physical, emotional, social and psychologically. Proponents of the idea that children grow in stages view that children develop capabilities and experiences specific to certain ages. Despite these ideas, there is reason to believe that children develop certain capabilities at certain predictable times.

Various theories have been developed relating to childhood development. Such include the psychosexual stage theory by Freud, psychosocial stage theory developed by Erikson and cognitive development theory by Piaget among others. Apart from positing that all children underwent various phases in the sexual development (where gratification is derived from various parts of the body), Freud came up with three characteristics of individuals, the Id, Ego and the Super-Ego. The latter three characterized the conscious and unconscious development aspects of the child. The Id described the child urge for gratification, which is also selfish, unconscious and instinctual. The Ego represented the realistic and possible urge for gratification, while the Super-ego represented the values and rules acquired from outside world. The Id represented unconscious and immediate urge for gratification, which would be fought by the Super-ego in conjunction with the Ego.

A child develops a state of consciousness which would fight with the concepts of what is right and what is wrong. The responsibility of the development of this state was attached to the Super-ego (Oswalt, 2008).

Erikson developed the psychosocial theory which postulates that there are various psychosocial stages occurring in chronological order, each experienced at specific time of life, in which people mentally and psychologically acquired beliefs and became adjusted to their environments. These stages for example, included trust versus mistrust which is encountered when children are born to when they are about 1 year. Other stages focus on development of shame, doubt, guilt, inferiority, intimacy, isolation, confusion, integrity and despair (Oswalt, 2008).

Childhood and Adolescence Development: Impact of the Interaction of cognitive, physical, and psychosocial

Research has identified that although every child is special in the way they develop, there are general patterns followed by all children as they grow from day 1. Research indicates that all children experience growth in various aspects such as social, cognitive, emotional and physical development. These aspects take place at the same time during various phases, meaning that at any specific stage, children are growing socially, psychologically and emotionally at a go. As they develop, children grow in size and weight. At puberty, children experience a physical change.

Children experience various physical exercises as they grow, including the ability to craw, walk and craw, among others. Psychological development is characterized by the taking in and processing of information as they grow. Children learn how to remember important things, solve problems, and respond to the information rendered to them by the environment. The physical activities in children appear to be influenced by brain development. Impaired brain development as a result of biological factors may stimulate delayed physical and cognitive development in both children and adolescents.

According to Piaget, movement from one cognitive development stage to the next was facilitated or influenced by biological development. This has been supported by other research (Renner, et al., 1976) for various stages of development such as sensorimotor and preoperational stages. Kuhn, Langer, Kohlberg & Haan (1977) reveal that some adolescents may not move to next stages of formal operations cognitive development as they mature biologically (cited in Huitt, 2003). In order to attain the formal operations stage, most adolescents will require specific environments even when maturation establishes a basis for this development.

Social and emotional growth and development is characterized by development of skills for interacting with others, forming friends, playing, handling and recognizing enemies, as well as working with others. Social development also is characterized by children identifying their emotions and feelings, as well as those feelings and emotions displayed or possessed by others. Emotional development is characterized by recognizing different types of emotions and developing skills to handle these emotions.

Children also learn what is wrong and what is right as they grow up, and as a result, they shape their identity and morality. In addition, children also acquire a sense of self-esteem as they go through the various stages of development. Sexual development is characterized by the knowledge of their sexual and gender identity, knowledge of sexual working of the body, responding to sexual urge, and balancing between sexual needs and appropriate behavior (Oswalt, 2008).

Adolescence development is a stage which requires support of the growing young adults, from families and other social communities. Like childhood development, people can engage in risky behavior at their adolescence, resulting in distorted adolescence and adulthood. Adolescence is where people experience final stages of brain development, usually from 20 years and completing at 25 years of age. Brain maturity completes with the development of prefrontal cortex.

This part of brain is known to govern the superior activities of reasoning, controlling impulses, as well as guiding advanced thought. It is likely that adolescents will engage in risky behavior as they respond to changes in their physical, emotional and social aspects. Various mental and other functions are affected as a result of changing of brain neurotransmitters at adolescent. For instance, problem-solving capabilities, concentration and memory may be affected as a result of changes being realized on the dopamine, a brain neurotransmitter. Adolescents will likely involve themselves in high risky behavior and stimulation in such of the excitement levels they experienced at childhood, because at adolescents, they are no longer thrilled by things which thrilled them at childhood.

During the adolescent stage, people are likely to rely on emotional parts of their brains for decision making. This is because they have not yet fully acquired a developed frontal region of the brain (Coalition for Juvenile Justice, n.d.).

Age 0-2 years

This stage is referred to as infancy. Development is signaled by growth in size and weight, although more is happening in the psychological, emotional and cognitive aspects of growth. Physical development is characterized by developing the abilities to crawl, walk and run. The physical development is associated with the development of sensory and mental aspects.

This stage was referred to as the Sensorimotor by Piaget. During this stage, the child interacts with its environment using its senses and learns about the same environment. Children will at this stage learn to speak, make movements and make sense out of things. They can receive and respond to stimuli according to the senses, hence, they are able to respond to pain, touch, hearing, feel hungry, and respond to soothing. It appears that this reception and respond to stimuli is mostly unconscious. The experience gained through the response to the environment through the senses plays an important role to learning about the environment. The sense of seeing is not well developed in children like other senses. Children have a visual acuity of 20/600 and see far objects as dark and shadowy (Oswalt, 2008).

They are able to differentiate their mother’s breast milk and milk from a different source. They can differentiate between bitter, sour and sweet things, and prefer sweet things at birth. At between 1-6 months, children start having a taste for saltier things and eat solid food. They develop individual preferences for tastes latter on through experience of different foods.

Piaget explored into the subject on how children develop and think, and his work has remained influential for research and practice (see also Donaldson, 1984; Satterly, 1987; and Wood, 1998). According to Piaget, children use reflex at the age of 0-1 months and have limited cognitive ability (CliffNotes, 2011). During 1-4 months of age, children engage in behaviors which have specific results. Children are likely to normally repeat these behaviors in order to acquire similar results, and at 4-8 months, they are likely to explore how the environment is impacted by their behaviors. Behaviors that are purposive and goal-directed are portrayed at age 8-12 months of age.

Children recognize that there is existence of out-of-site objects as they try to search hidden objects at ‘object permanence’ stage (from about 9 months of age). Cause-and-effect relationships begin at about 12-18 months (Atherton, 2011). Representational thought begin to appear at 18-24 months of age as toddlers start internalization of objects. At this stage, it is possible to call specific items by specific names (CliffNotes, 2011). Children at this age are likely to adapt and assimilate their behavior to situational requirements.

According to Erikson’s psychosocial stage model, children at this age learn to trust those who provide for all their basic needs. However, they have the ability to develop mistrust for their caregivers and those around them. They learn to trust those who love and care for them. This is an important aspect of child development because it determines how a child develops a positive self-image, develops love for others as well as develops strong relationships with others.

Children develop mistrust if they are not well provided for at this stage. It is this aspect which would make them learns to question their caregivers and learn that other people will not always be there to take care of their needs (Oswalt, 2008). This stage is characterized by overdependence to parents and care givers. This is a difference between abnormal and normal child development at this stage. Children are therefore, also likely to develop antisocial behaviors due to mistrust and poor self-image.

At infancy, children interact with their parents and cope with contact of the mother and nature. They are able to internalize the type of image their mother displays, for example; either good or bad while having an eye contact with their mother. In addition, abnormal development may spur damaged relationships with others. At latter stages, problems with bondage and separation are likely to stir borderline personality disorder where children hate themselves and others too (CliffNotes, 2011). Children are able to form the difference between self and object while they are adjusting to separation and loss. Normal development helps the child accept good and bad sides of the mother and that of itself too. Abnormal development means they are not able to accept between good and bad. In addition, they are incapable of separating concept of good self or a bad mother.

Children at this age are acquiring receptive language, and their brain development determines their physical activities. By the end of the first year of age, children are uttering single words. Psychologically, children develop traits and states from birth. Their response to environment and physical activity is partly influenced by this personal development. Sigmund posited that infants are egocentric at this age.

According to the psychosexual stage theory by Freud, children at this age would focus on pleasures derived from sucking and biting. Children would also be expected to develop unconscious and instinctual urges for gratification. Such gratification desire would not only be selfish in nature, but also immediate (Oswalt, 2008). Children at this age have not learned any rules and respond unconsciously to the environmental stimuli.

At abnormal development, children are likely to adopt various abnormal behaviors during the oral stage, which are centered on the mouth. Dfixation behaviors are likely to result at the oral phase when too much stimulation occurs at the mouth. These behaviors are likely to be indicated at adulthood, e.g. smoking, overeating and drinking.

11-15 years

Teenage development is characterized by physical changes in appearance as well as cognitive, emotional and psychological changes. At 12, children are at their genital stage posited by Freud. Puberty is triggered by female and male hormones. At puberty, children are experiencing the beginning of sexual maturity. Girls and boys are ready for sexual reproduction at the end of the stage, at normal development, while this does not happen for abnormal development. Physically, the experience development of their body as a result of production of hormones (primary and secondary sex characteristics fro example, develop).

Timing of puberty is influenced by health, genetic and environment factors. Male and female hormones are produced. Physically, the group realizes an increase in weight and height. Other physical characteristics include growth of hips, breasts becoming larger and increasing size of uterus in girls, while for boys, deepening of voice, enlargement of sexual organs, broadening of shoulders, and growth of hair in armpits is realized. Menstruation also begins at this age for girls. Normal and abnormal development is likely to be differentiated by biological ability/inability to produce the responsible hormones, for instance.

At this age, children are experiencing to think abstractly and deductively as compared to concrete thinking at childhood. They are able to test hypothesis, adjust to problems, look out for answers, and come up with conclusions about matters. Brain development influences their physical activity and life experimentations. They are able to acquire lessons for critical reasoning skills as evidenced at school. They are capable of developing componential, experiential and contextual intelligence. Normal development means that they are able to acquire these skills successfully, while problems may result in the way they process information and apply this information to solve various problems. The latter case result to abnormal development.

Psychologically, the adolescents are prepared to work and love as they approach maturity. Individuality is developed at this stage, though problems may result with damaged self identity, according to Erikson). They learn to identify career, college and parties, and shaping a personal role in the society. Their physical aggression against authority is depicted by emotional and sexual fluctuations as a result of hormonal changes. They are able to define the boundaries of existing relationships. Normal development means that they must be capable of managing these emotions and relationships. Abnormal development means they become aggressive and spur conflicts at home and school. Adolescents at this stage feel they need independence from parents and to become more responsible. During this stage, children continue with sexual orientation, and conflicts may continue effects of homosexuality behavior begun in early childhood stages. Adolescents are looking for gratification of their desires at this age and may form short-term relationships. Abnormal development occurs as a result of low self-esteem, insecurity, and hostility, which may result to promiscuity at adolescent. This behavior may also be caused by dependence and immaturity. Sexual gratification is normally through petting and masturbation rather than sexual intercourse. Irresponsible behavior means that they may acquire unplanned pregnancies and sexually acquired diseases through sexual intercourses (CliffNotes, 2011).


Atherton, S. (2011). Learning and teaching: Piaget’s developmental theory. Web.

CliffNotes. (2011). Cognitive development: Age 0-2. 2011. CliffNotes. Web.

Coalition for Juvenile Justice. (n.d.). Adolescent brain development & juvenile justice fact. Coalition for Juvenile Justice. Web.

Donaldson, M. (1984). Children’s minds. London: Fontana.

Huitt, W., & Hummel, J. (2003). .

Kuhn, D., Langer, J., Kohlberg, L., & Haan, N. S. (1977). The development of formal operations. in logical and moral judgment. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 95, 97-188.

Oswalt, A. (2008). Child & adolescent development: Overview. Web.

Renner, J., Stafford, D., Lawson, A., McKinnon, J., Friot, E., & Kellogg, D. (1976). Research, teaching, and learning with the Piaget model. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Satterly, D. (1987). Piaget and Education. In R. Gregory. (Ed.), The Oxford Companion to the Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wood, D. (1998). How Children Think and Learn (2nd edition). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

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