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Who Is A Child
Development Theorist?

A child development theorist is a professional who attempts to explain and interpret a child's behaviour.

Child Development Theorist

A developmental theorist tries to make sense of facts that are accumulated about children through various forms of research, and organize this knowledge in a systematic way.

Developmental theories are used to explain past events and predict future events, and help us speculate about the probable behaviour of a child who is in a certain circumstance.

A theorist may follow one of the four general categories of theories of child development...

Environmental theories try and explain behaviour based on a child's learning, their past behaviour and their external environment.

Epigenetic theories focus on the interactions between a child's outside environment and their inherited characteristics.

Both learning theories and cognitive theories emphasize the development of a child's ability to learn or think.

Each theorist who follows their own theory of development provides a different set of explanations for behaviour, so there is not a single theory that is best or most useful. It is generally most productive to examine child development from both the environmental and epigenetic perspectives.

Gesell was a child theorist who developed a sequence of behaviour, in which he concluded that a child's maturation and change in behaviour was caused by the development of their nervous system.

Gesell felt that in order for a child to learn something new they had to be biologically ready to learn it, and that practice or training had little effect if a child was not ready to learn a particular skill.

Piaget was a child development theorist who described a series of orderly changes that take place in the way children think and solve problems. Piaget felt that children develop ways to think and solve problems as they mature, because their brains become better able to process and retain information.

Piaget's theory of cognitive development is organized into four stages...

  • The sensorimotor stage covers infancy.
  • The preoperational stage focuses on children 2 to 7 years old.
  • Concrete operations focus on children 7 to 11 years old, and
  • Formal operations focuses on the cognitive abilities of adolescents.

Sigmund Freud was an environmental development theorist who concentrated on early childhood conflict. Freud was one of the first to suspect that many emotional problems lay in the mind and not in the body.

He emphasized how our unconscious motives influenced our behaviour. Through psychoanalysis Freud attempted to identify a person's unconscious desires so that they could resolve conflicts from bad childhood experiences.

John B. Watson was a child theorist who developed a Learning Theory of child growth and development. This theory states that behaviour is not inborn but is learned.

A child theorist who specializes in a social learning theory believes that children learn new responses by watching and imitating others, especially if they are rewarded.

Although the beliefs of various child theorists differ, there are many aspects of each theory that can help explain a child's behaviour and can add to our knowledge of child development.

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