Summary of child psychology

Child Psychology/Child DevelopmentEdit

Field of study in which researchers work to understand and describe changes that take place as children grow.

Kinds of developmentEdit

  1. Physical development
    • growth in size
  2. Cognitive development
    • perception, thought process, memories, language
  3. Socioemotional development
    • Communication and emotional problems


Nature/nurture componentsEdit

  • Nature: Biologoical conditions influencing development
    • Genetics
  • Nurture: Environmental conditions influencing development
    • economic
    • cultural environment**nutrition

Child Development TheoriesEdit

  • Psychoanalytic Theories - Focuses on how conscious and unconscious aspectsinfluence behavior and on the structure of personality.

      1. Oral and anal

        • Id desires pleasure from erogenous zones. The ego is emerging andkeeping the id in check as children learn to delay gratification
    • dont do it
      1. Phallic

        • As a result of unconscious sexual desires for opposite-sex parent,children learn to identify with same-sex parents. It is through thisidentification that the child acquires the superego.

      1. Latency

        • emergence of superego produces shame because of sexual desires. Sexualfeelings are repressed.
      1. Genital
        • Children mature into adolescents. Sexual identities are formed.
    • Erik Erikson - psychosocial theory & crisis stages
      1. trust vs mistrust 0-1 years
        • +infant learns to trust world, people are trustworthy, self-confidence.
        • -infant is neglected, mistrust.
      2. autonomy vs shame 2-3 years
        • +child gains independence
        • -child doubts self and abilities
      3. initiative vs guilt 4-5 years
        • +
        • -
      4. industry vs inferiority 6-12 years
        • +
        • -
      5. identity vs role confusion adolescence
        • +
        • -
      6. intimacy vs isolation early adulthood
        • +
        • -
      7. generativity vs stagnation middle adulthood
        • +
        • -
      8. integrity versus despair later adulthood
        • +
        • -
  • Behavioral and Social Learning Theories - Intended to be more quantifiable.
    • Watson - stimulus-response connections by classical conditioning
    • Skinner - learning through consequnce (aka operant conditioning)
    • Albert Bandura - social learning, modeling, gives way into cognitivetheories
  • Cognitive Theories
    • Piaget - cognitive development theory, mental schemes. Objects inenvironment are assimilated and adapted into schemes.
      1. sensor motor
      2. preoperational
      3. concrete operational
      1. formal operational
    • Vygotsky - sociocultural theory, culture and language influence thoughtand perception
  • Biological Theories
    • ethology - evolutionary adapability of behaviors - Konrad Lorenz and NikoTinbergen
    • neuropsychology
    • Systems Theories
    • Urie Bronfenbrenner - ecological systems theory, layers of influentialsystems
      • Microsystem- direct interactions with people in immediate environment
      • Mesosystem- elements in larger social environment (school, neighborhood,day care).
      • Exosystem- larger social networks (extended family, government).
      • Macrosystem- cultural customs, values, and laws.
      • Chronosystem- how all of these systems can change over time, shifting allsystems
  • Dynamic Systems Theories - integrating systems used to understand complexelements of the variables influencing behavior.

Ethical ConsiderationsEdit



  • Alternative techniques for conception
    • Artificial insemination
    • In vitro fertilization
    • Cryopreservation
    • Assisted in vivo fertilization
    • Surrogate mothers

Prenatal EnvironmentEdit

Prenatal devlopment is the development of an organism before its birth.Fertilization normally occurs in the fallopian tube.

Stages of Prenatal DevelopmentEdit

  1. Germinal stage - conception to 2 weeks
    • Begins at conception and ends when the zygote implants itself in themother's uterine lining.
    • Between 8 and 12 days after conception, implantation occurs. this is whenthe zygote embeds itself in the inner lining of the mother's uterus
  2. Embryonic stage - 3 to 8 weeks after conception
    • blastocyst differentiates to form three cell layers in the embryo: theectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm.
      • The ectoderm is the outer layer of the cell mass, and during theembryonic stage it gives rise to the nervous sytem, sensory receptors, and outskin layers.
      • The mesoderm becomes the circulatorty system, skeleton, muscles,excretory system, reproductive system, the outer layer of the digestive tract,and the inner layer of the skin.
      • The endoderm will eventually become the respiratory system and theremainder of the digestive system.
    • chronological development following conception
      • 3rd week - vulnerable brain cells and spinal cord form from the neuraltube
      • 3rd and 4th week - placenta and umbilical cord form
      • by 4 weeks - eyes begin to form, torso continues to form, heart tissuebegins to beat, arm buds appear
      • by 5 weeks - arms are developed and legs buds begin to form
      • during 8th week - organogenesis is complete, signaling the end of theembryonic stage and beginning of the fetal stage
  3. Fetal stage - week 9 to birth (38-40 weeks)
    • chronological development following conception
      • 9 through 12 weeks - first arm and leg movements begin, reflexes appear,sex organs develop.
      • 17 through 20 weeks - mother begins to feel movement, heartbeat can beheard with a stethoscope.
      • by 24 weeks - fat forms and rapid weight gain begins
      • 26 through 28 weeks - lungs are mature enough to allow breathing
      • 28 though 40 weeks - major organ systems are functional and braindevelopes rapidly.


  • A teratogen is any environmental agent that causes damage during the prenatal period.

The harm done by teratogen depends on:

   1) dose
   2) heredity
   3) other negative influences
   4) age

In the period of the zygote, teratogens rarely have an impact. The embryonic period is the time when serious defect are most likely to occur because the foundations for all body parts are being laid down. During the fetal period teratogenic damage is usually minor although organs such as the brain, ears, eyes, teeth and genitals can still be affected.

  • Effects of alcohol use

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) encompasses a range of physical, mental and behavioral outcomes caused by prenatal alcohol exposure. Children with FASD are given one of three diagnoses:

 1) Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)
 2) Partial fetal alcohol syndrome (p-FAS)
 3) Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND)

Alcohol interferes with cell duplication and migration in the primitive neural tube. The body uses large quantities of oxygen to metabolize alcohol and draws the oxygen away from the developing organism.

  • Effects of illegal drug use:

Babies born to users of cocaine, heroin or methadone are at risk for prematurity, low birth weight, physical defects, breathing difficulties and death at or around the time of birth.

These infants are born drug-addicted. They are often feverish, irritable and have trouble sleeping. Their cries are abnormally shrill and piercing. Throughout their first year heroin and methadone exposed babies are less attentive to their environment and their motorskill development is slow.

Several researchers have linked marijuana exposure to smaller head size and to sleep, attention and memory difficulties in childhood and poorer problem-solving performance in adolescence.

  • Effects of cigarette smoking

The best known effect of smoking during pregnancy is low birth rate. The likelihood of miscarriage, prematurity, impaired heart rate and breathing during sleep, infant death, asthma and cancer later in life is also increased.

Newborns of smoking mothers are less attentive to sounds, display more muscle tension, are more excitable when touched and visually stimulated, and more often have colic. This suggests effects on brain development.

  • Sexually transmitted diseases


stages of laborEdit

  1. dilation
    • This stage of labor is the longest, lasting 6 to 14 hours.
    • This stage begins when the uterus starts regular contractions, which causedilation.
  2. delivery
    • During this second stage of labor, the baby actually moves through thebirth canal and is delivered. Lasting an average of 30 minutes to 2 hours. Thisstage ends with the delivery of the baby
  3. after birth
    • During the third and final stage, the placenta and other membranes emergethrough the birth canal.
    • This stage usually lasts an hour, and the mother continues to experienceweaker contractions.
  • Types of delivery
  • Drugs during delivery

Infants and Toddlers (0-2 years)Edit

Physical DevelopmentsEdit

  • Prematurity
    • occurs before 37 weeks of gestation or about 3 weeks earlier than thenormal due date
    • Low birth weight is weight less than 5 ½ pounds at birth (2 pounds lighterthan average); indicates potential for health risks
    • Very low birth weight is weight less than 3 ½ pounds at birth (4 poundslighter than average); indicates greater potential for health risks
    • Small for gestational age (SGA) is born below the tenth percentile ofbirth weight for gestational age; indicates serious health risks
    • Prevention includes childbirth classes, healthy lifestyles and especiallygood prenatal care, but sometimes there is nothing you can do
  • Infant Mortality
    • Refers to deaths that occur before the age of 1 year
  • Having a Healthy Baby
    • Prenatal care is important
  • Growth of the Body and Brain
    • Physical Growth
      • Average birth weight is 7 ½ pounds, with males, about ½ pound heavier thanfemales
      • Baby's weight doubles in first 5 months
      • About 20 inches at birth and half of adult height by age 2
    • Feeding and Nutrition (Breastfeeding)
      • Sterile, cheap, “specially formulated”
      • Colostrums are a thick, yellowish substance in breast milk containingimportant antibodies (only for the first few days of breastfeeding)
      • Breastfed babies are at less risk of SIDS, asthma, and other illnesses
      • Breastfeeding helps mom lose weight faster, and lowers risk of breast andovarian cancer
      • Infectious diseases can be spread via breast milk, so some mothers can’t(iron enriched formula)
      • Exclusively for 6 months, slowly introduce iron-rich foods from 6-12months, judgment call after
      • More likely if mom married, higher income, and supported to breastfeed,but only ¼ by 6 mnths
  • Structure of the Brain and Nervous System
    • Spinal cord is the “information superhighway”
    • Brain stem controls automatic functions
    • Cerebellum is on the back of the brain and controls posture, bodyorientation, and complex muscle movements
    • Neurons are specialized cells that process information and allowcommunication in the nervous system (form by 7 weeks)
    • Cerebral cortex is the “gray matter” that forms the top portion of brainand is divided into the 4 lobes (10 wks)
  • Forming the Brain and Nervous System
    • Neural tube at about 4 weeks, which later develops into central nervoussystem
    • Synaptogenesis is one form of neuron maturation in which dendrites andaxons branch out to form an enormously large number of connections withneighboring neurons (by 23 weeks)
    • Most neural connections (synapses) form AFTER birth, as a result ofmaturation and experiences
    • Myelination is a form of neuron maturation in which the fatty insulation(myelin sheath) grows around the axons; occurs in different parts of the brainat different times
    • Programmed cell death is a process by which many neurons die duringperiods of migration and heavy Synaptogenesis (we lose half before even born!)
  • Sensory Capabilities
    • Vision
      • Visual acuity is the ability to see fine detail
      • Infants prefer faces
      • Newborns vision is somewhere between 20/150 and 20/600, reaches 20/20 bybout 6 months
      • Normal color vision by 3 months
      • Prefer to look at green, yellow, or red over gray
      • Depth perception by just under two months, but afraid of cliff by timecan crawl
      • Binocular disparity is the difference between the images projected on thetwo eyes
      • Pictorial cues are relative size and density of the pattern elementsshown beneath the glass
    • Hearing
      • Hearing is functional before birth
      • Recognize own names by 5 months
    • Smell and Taste
      • Facial expressions show that newborn babies react to certain odors andtastes similar to adults
      • The fetal system is well enough developed sometime near the end ofgestation to sense and store information about odors encountered before birth
  • Motor Development
    • Reflexes
      • Reflexes are involuntary movements elicited by environmental stimuli
      • Important early indicators of nervous system function
      • Primitive reflexes disappear around 4 months; help the infant to findnourishment or might have served protective functions during earlier periods ofevolution
      • Postural reflexes disappear by 12 months; help infants to keep theirheads upright, maintain balance, and roll their heads in the direction of theirbody motion
      • Locomotor reflexes disappear by 4 months; mimic locomotor movements suchas crawling, stepping, and swimming
    • Voluntary Movements
      • Gross motor development is the process of coordinating movements with thelarge muscles in the body (first step around 1 year)
      • Fine motor development is the process of coordinating intricate movementswith smaller muscles
    • Influences on Motor Development
      • Maturation of the muscles and brain
    • Opportunities for practice
      • culture differences in early experience

Early Childhood (3-6 years)Edit

Before the age of six years a child will learn more easily and efficiently than at any other time in his or her life. In the Montessori program development is fostered by the use of sensory materials that help children classify and identify the stimuli they encounter. The environment, rather than the child, is controlled so that the individual child can experience the use of materials pertinent to the child's current stage of development. There are over 1000 hands on lessons in the classroom. Everything in the clasroom has a purpose. The teacher's role, or "guide "as we like to refer to them as, is to connect the child with the materials that are pertinent to the child's specific needs. Every child is different and unique and will learn at different timeframes. The guide will show the child how to use the material and will also show them proper care and placement upon finishing. When you visit, you will notice the children are engaged and focused on their lessons. It is a peaceful and productive setting where children love to learn . The environment fosters strong foundations for higher learning concepts. Montessori children are better prepared for future success due to their ability to concentrate, love for order, and ability to make good choices. This is a proven method, successful for over 100 years. Please call us to schedule an observation to see this in action.

Middle childhood (7-11 years)Edit

Stages of Development for Children 7-11 Years

As children reach the age of seven years they begin the “middle childhood” years often associated with rapid progress in all developmental and skill areas.

The tasks of middle childhood are: 1. acquiring social and physical skills necessary for ordinary games 2. learning to get along with peers 3. building a wholesome concept of self 4. learning about sexuality 5. developing fundamental skills in reading, writing, and arithmetic 6. breaking family ties and developing a growing independence by entering school 7. developing conscience, morality and a value judgement system

Late childhood years are characterized by the continued practice of those tasks learned in middle childhood.

The necessary level of understanding and learning are: 1. learning to become self reliant 2. developing and maintaining friendships with peers 3. gaining a perspective of one’s peer group role 4. developing a moral code of conduct 5. a growing understanding of self and the world

Adolesence (12 years +)Edit

Early Adolescence (12 - 14 years old)

Developmental Milestones

Early adolescence is a time of many physical, mental, emotional, and social changes. Hormones change as puberty begins. Boys grow facial and pubic hair and their voices deepen. Girls grow pubic hair and breasts, and start menstruating. They might be worried about these changes and how they are looked at by others. This will also be a time when your teenager might face peer pressure to use alcohol, tobacco products, and drugs, and to have sex. Other challenges can be eating disorders, depression, and family problems.

At this age, teens make more of their own choices about friends, sports, studying, and school. They become more independent, with their own personality and interests. Some changes younger teens go through are:

Emotional/Social Changes

1.More concern about body image, looks, and clothes. 2.Focus on self, going back and forth between high expectations and lack of confidence. 3.Moodiness 4.More interest in and influence by peer group. 5.Less affection shown toward parents. May sometimes seem rude or short-tempered. 6.Anxiety from more challenging school work. 7.Eating problems sometimes start at this age. For information on healthy eating and exercise for children and teenagers, visit

Mental/Cognitive Changes

More ability for complex thought. Better able to express feelings through talking. A stronger sense of right and wrong. Many teens sometimes feel sad or depressed. Depression can lead to poor grades at school, alcohol or drug use, unsafe sex, and other problems.