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Childhood Developmental Changes

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1.) Help Identify and discuss at least two key changes in childhood development from each of the following categories:

Physical Changes
Emotional/Personality Changes
Cognitive Changes
Social Changes

2.) In what ways that we can nurture the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development of our children.

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Lifespan Development: Childhood Development

Upon first inspection, one would imagine that lifespan development refers to the ongoing process of change and growth which individuals experience from conception till death, where the development of human life is influenced by several factors including biology, personal experiences, social and cultural differences, and environmental exposure just to name a few. Many individuals might question what relationships exist between development in one period of life compared to another, while others might view the interaction of the environment and innate factors critical or irrelevant in respect to shaping the course of development.

However, an individual's view of this process can evolve with the support of literature and scholarly research which presents lifespan development as progressive in nature, where progression and regression of various areas of development (i.e. social, emotional, cognition, physiological) occur during differing stages within one's lifetime (McNeal, Vogel & Merriweather, 2006). Development in fact occurs across the biological, cognitive, and psychosocial domains which all consist of overlapping relationships of growth within the individual. In an effort to evaluate the knowledge of the various aspects of lifespan development ideology, the periods of developmental growth will be examined and contrasted with initial viewpoints, influential theories of development will be discussed, and the hierarchical influence of developmental stages will be evaluated and supported with research.

Early Childhood
Preceding personal studies of early childhood education and growth have provided a considerable amount of previous knowledge about this period of development. The lifespan stage of early childhood development is known to occur from ages two to six years old, where social, emotional and cognitive development continue to develop at varying rates depending upon the individual child. From observation, one can conclude that social interactions provide moments of learning about the environment for the developing child. In addition, literature states that fine and gross motor skills continue to evolve while language and memory ability development within the individual. In addition, the brain structures supporting social, emotional, and mental development are developed in early childhood (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010).

Research studies support the notion that play becomes more complex, parenting styles affect the development of the individual, and gender role differences are seen within children. More importantly, it is suggested that early childhood family structure determines parent-child quality interactions within this developmental period, while additional research shows that race and ethnicity moderate the effects of family structure (Gibson-Davis & Gassman-Pines, 2010). Additional studies and literature conclude that social status classifications correlate to the behaviors of children during this stage and how they are perceived by others (i.e. popular, rejected, neglected), in turn affecting peer relations (Walker, 2009). Ultimately, play and hands-on experiences are crucial for learning cognitive skills and social behaviors within the early childhood period. During this stage, the following areas proceed to develop based upon observation and newly gained knowledge; these areas include: gross motor skills, vision and fine motor abilities, hearing and speech, and social behavior/play. However, it is important to note that children at this age learn using various methods, need to be motivated to learn by their environment and caregivers, and must be taught learning skills by others within their environments.

Middle Childhood
The lifespan development stage of middle childhood is observed as occurring from ages seven to twelve years within children. Previously held knowledge and supporting literature concur that biological development occurs with puberty, whereas cognitive growth is influenced by the educational years. During this time, social skills develop and gender differences are noticed, while brain growth and physical development slow. From personal experience, peer groups often become significant and influential for the child during this period when coping skills and interpersonal strategies develop. More importantly, literature states that school-age children are affected by either growth or regression within the biological, cognitive, and psychosocial domains at this point in time. In particular, psychosocial development occurs within the school-age child which causes the creation of motivational systems of achievement and acknowledgement, an awareness of the outside world and social norms and expectations, and peer group influence and importance within the child's life. Students often shift their dependence from their families to their network of peers, establishing bonds, seeking help, desiring loyalty, and sharing interests amongst one another (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). Subsequently, as children increase their autonomy, observational changes in physique often occur as a result of puberty and aging.

During this time, research supports the notion that children often become aware of society's treatment towards individuals that do not conform to the expectations of the culture (i.e. body size and stature) and stereotypes are formed (Pavalko, 2002). Based upon professional experience, the social norms may challenge the school-aged child's sense of self and their esteem, in turn possible creating psychological and/or socio-cultural adaptation disorders. During this period of development, it is the social acceptance or rejection within childhood that in turn appears to influence the confidence levels, mental health, and interpersonal relationships of children.

Based upon previous knowledge, training and experience, the developmental period of adolescence occurs from ages thirteen to nineteen years, where significant biological changes take place for individuals. Throughout this time, independence and identity are of importance to the maturing teenager and the influence from peers can cause strained relationships with others (i.e. parents, siblings) (Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). Biologically, the individual is adjusting to emerging hormones and the transition into puberty. Emotions range in frequency and duration for the teen, thereby causing mood disturbances, sensitivity issues, and challenging behaviors.

In addition, literature states that risk taking behavior is prominent for the individual during these years, while bodily growth continues, and critical thinking development and self-regulation occur. Likewise, research supports the idea that identity issues and sexual orientation emerge for the teen, and intimacy and loyalty amongst relationships is sought after as well (Pavalko, 2002). More importantly, adolescence marks a time in a child's life of further biological, cognitive, and psychosocial growth which prepares them for ...

Solution Summary

This solution is comprised of a detailed explanation of childhood development as it pertains to changes that occur in the areas of physical, social, emotional, and cognitive areas. Supplemented with concrete examples and more than 500 words of text with references, this step-by-step explanation of this complicated topic provides students with a clear perspective of how we can nurture these changes in children and bring about age appropriate development.