Children Development




Roleof Environment on Children’s Development

Theword development covers a wide scope of aspects.However human development refers to the journey that a human beingcovers right from the conception to his death. The science of humandevelopment seeks to answer some of the questions about the changesthat one undergoes in his life span. The child development definesthe changes that a child encounters from his birth to the time hereaches adolescence stage. These changes are in form ofpsychological, biological and emotional changes (Kaelet al, 2013). Theydescribe an individual progression from being dependent toindependent, in his life. The changes are continuous and give eachchild a unique course in his life cycle.

Aspectsof Human Development

Thereare several aspects of human development which have been broughtforward by different scholars. They include social,physical, emotional, personality and cognitive aspects of development(Zerucha et al, 2004). All aspects of development try to analyze the relationship that aperson assumes, with the rest of the society including his family.The physical part of development looks at biological changes that achild encounters and the effects that these changes have on his life.In addition, emotional aspects cover the mental changes that anindividual faces. It is closely related to cognitive changes thatrefer to the thinking and learning abilities of an individual. Thisincludes also the mental ability of processing information(Rogoff, 2003).However, it should be noted that these aspects are sometimescategorized in different ways by various scholars.


Accordingto studies, it is believed thatphysical growth of an individual,in both his weight and stature, takes place for over 20 years afterhis birth. This means that a child experiences physical changes fromhis birth until he reaches over 20 years. A child, according tostatistics, is believed to be born with an average weight of 3.5 kgand 50cm in length. However, this is applicable when there is a fullterm birth. This sizes changes as he grows to being an adult.

Atthe same time, a child experiences proportional changes of his bodyorgans (Staudinger et al, 2003). Duringbirth, a child has relatively small limbs and torso, while havingproportionally larger head. As a child grows the length of his torsoand limbs changes while the size of his head gets relatively smaller.This pattern of a child’s growth can be categorised into two, basedon the direction. The inward to outward direction of growth is knownas proximodistal while the growth pattern fromhead to toes is referred to as cephalocaudal.

Inaddition, the speed at which a child physically develops is higher inhis early ages. However, this trend slows down as he gets older. Itcan be observed that on the first twelve months, the weight of achild is tripled and quadrupled when he reaches twenty four monthsold. It is at this particular time that a slow growth rate isexperienced until he nears puberty stage (nine to fifteen years).After this time, there is a high rate of growth. However, asdescribed above, this does not happen proportionally to all bodyparts of a child.

Accordingto studies, the genetic factors are believed to be the major causesof these changes. This is supported or not supported by theprevailing environmental changes. These factors can be nutrition,reproductive maturity or health issues such as diseases.

Cognitive/ Intellectual Development Aspects

Acognitive study of a child development is concerned with hiscapabilities of using his mind in problem solving, memorizing andspeaking. This development of mental abilities of an infant startssoon after birth. It involves ability to remember, learn, symbolizingof information and finding solution to problems. A good example isbeing able to differentiate between inanimate and animate beings.There is an increase in speed of processing information and learning,while a child’s memory becomes longer. The use of symbol anddevelopment for abstraction capacity goes on until adolescence.

Braindevelopment of a child is widely associated with genetic issues(Martin et al, 2009). However, environmentalfactors also affect child development such as food, parent’sresponsiveness, physical activities, love and also daily experiences.Formal learning in school has also been related to cognitionabilities such as abstraction (Gardner, 2009).Differences in cognitive abilities of children can be observed invarying degrees. The society tries to fill this gap by takingchildren to formal education. Girls and boys also show somedifferences in their cognitive abilities but this is slightlyobserved in different ethnic communities. This is mostly associatedto environmental and cultural factors.

HumanDevelopment Theories

Theoriesfor human development provide a platform for understanding theprocess of human development from his conception (Vasta,1997).

EcologicalSystem Theory

Itis also known as ‘human ecology’ or ‘development in context’theory. This theory was initially developed by Urie Bronfenbrennerand identifies four nested types of environmental systems. Among andbetween these nested systems, there exist influences which arebi-directional. These four systems are Exosystem,Macrosystem, Microsystems and Mesosystem. The four systems consist ofdifferent roles, rules and norms that have ability of determining thehuman development. The publication of this study has seen a shift onthe approach of various scholars towards how environment shapes humandevelopment from childhood to adulthood.

JeanPiaget Cognitive Development TheoryPiaget wasa scholar from Switzerland who studied ‘intellectual development’in early 1920s. He was a strong believer of the fact thatintelligence of human being starts from psychology(Thomas, 2005).This saw him start the process of intelligence testing and later onhe developed an interest on the growth of children’sintellectuality. His main aim was to understand how children are ableto change on their thinking abilities as they grow. In thisconnection, he was able to come up with four stages of cognitivedevelopment, namely:sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete-operational andformal-operational stage. These stages were between the ages ofbirth to 2, 2 to 7, 7 to 12 and 11 to 12 and beyond, respectively(Damon, 2006). Thesensorimotor stage is described as the step in which a child dependson his senses and believes that objects do exist. He develops whatPiaget calls ‘objects permanence’. A child is able to feelobjects and look for them even when something is hidden, for instancea toy.Preoperationalstage starts when a child begins to talk, until the age of sevenyears. It is also at this stage that a child starts to analyze hisenvironment through the use of imaginary symbols. A child uses imagesand words to describe objects or situations he comes across. At theage of three to four years, they are egocentric, where they areunable to see other people’s points of view. Research has indicatedthat it is at the age of seven years that children become moreintuitive. At this age they think more of how an object looks like,as opposed to applying rational thinking. Concretestage is where a child starts to develop mental operations(Mosher et al, 2006). A child is able to apply this thinking in various events andsituation that he comes across. He is able to rearrange mentalsymbols and images in forming a reasonable thought.

Aformal operation stage is the final in cognitive development theoryof Piaget. At this phase, a child is able to systematically andrationally think on abstract concepts and also hypothetical events. Achild is about to enter adolescence and come to recognize the reasonsfor certain behaviors in people. They are however faced with theissue of egocentrism (Wesley, 1986). They haveimaginary audiences with them, where they feel that they are judgedby almost everything that surrounds them. They also have a ‘personalfable’ in them, meaning they feel a sense of uniqueness.

VygotskyTheoryThiswas a theorist from Russia, who came up with a socio cultural theory.He believed that children learn a lot from their hands-on experience(Covin, 1974).Despite this, he contended that intervention by parents assistschildren to even learn more from the environment. He termed this as&quotscaffolding,&quot Heemphasizes that cultural experience moulds a child’s cognitivedevelopment. He argues that any function in cultural development of achild comes two times, which are social and individual levels. Henamed these as inter-psychological and intra-psychologicalrespectively. He accepted that development is a process where a childis faced with crisis in which he transforms cognitively.AttachmentTheory

Thistheory came from the early works of John Bowlby. Mary Ainsworth laterdeveloped it. Attachment theory is ethological, evolutionary and alsopsychological in nature. It attempts to explain the existence ofinterpersonal relationship among human beings. John observed that theexistence of attachment and emotional bond between an infant and hiscaregivers is crucial in forming both emotional and social bonds of achild (Child development, 2007).

ErikErikson Theory of Human Development Eriksonwas an ardent follower of Freud’s school of thought. He broughttogether both his and Freud’s theories to come up with humandevelopment stages, which he called ‘Psychosocial’. These stagesare infant (Mistrust vs. Trust), toddlerhood (shame vs. Autonomy),preschooler (Guilt vs. Initiative), young adolescent (Industry vs.inferiority), adolescent (role confusion vs. Identity), youngadulthood (isolation vs. Intimacy), middle adulthood (stagnation vs.generatively) and old age (despair vs. Ego integrity),(Crain, 2014).All these stages are influenced by both genetic and environmentalinfluences that form a child’s development. Othertheories that explain a child’s development include behaviorismtheory of John B. Watson that formed the foundation of behavioralmodel of human development and Sigmund Freud’s theory ofpsychosexual, where he explains the sexual development of a childfrom infancy stage(Peet et al, 2009).EnvironmentalFactors That Affect Child’s Development Thereare numerous environmental influences that affect a child’sdevelopment. One of these is the way a child is nurtured by hisparents or caregivers. A research shows that a child who is givensupportive and loving environment is most likely to have healthydevelopment. A parent needs to help a child in solving life problemsand provides a good learning environment. Astimulating environment also affects the way a child grows(Rogoff, 2003).This refers to the exposure a child should be put in, to help himgrow, especially cognitively. Good examples include playing withtoys, games, reading, among others. Nutrition,tremendously affects the way a child grows. A child’s body organsand immunity is very delicate at a young age. He needs proper dietfor his healthy growth. Failure to provide proper nutrition to achild, affects maturation of body organs such as brain. Thesenutrients include carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and proteins inproper quantities. Socioeconomicstatus, which refers tostandards of living of a family, in termsof income, education and occupation, influences a child development.It is observed that the level of these factors greatly affect the waya child grows in all areas. Those children from well-off families,according to a study, have a higher level of intelligent quotientcompared to those that are stricken by poverty. However, this dependson how long a child is exposed to such environment. Other factorsinclude poisoning, parasites that causes diseases to a child, amongothers.RiskFactors that Threaten Child’s Development

Mostof the risk factors in child’s development are believed to causetrauma and psychological stress to a child. In a child’sdevelopment, there are many stressful events that he may be exposedto. These include domestic violence, terrorism issues, warringcommunities, natural disasters and also consistently being exposed tohorrifying news. These occurrences can make a child to feel at riskand uncomfortable.

Achild can also have a very difficult time after experiencing thedeath of parents or primary care givers. Losing motherly love for achild is the most unfortunate thing to happen. It is even moretraumatic if it takes place when a child’s cognitive ability hasdeveloped considerably. Other factors include diseases, climaticconditions or family structures, for instance single parentedchildren.

Childrenhave different ways of coping such as through feelings and emotions,a child may try to express his feelings through anger, grief, sorrowor anxieties. Coping can also involve socializing with those that arenear them such as parents, relatives or other children. Children alsouse their imaginations of events, for instance making toys in copingwith risk factors. Finally they can involve their cognitiveabilities in solving problems such as sharing an event and reasoningout with their parents or peers. These styles of coping help a childto feel a sigh of relief


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