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The Importance of Theory and Research in Child Development Essay

In order for us to understand how a child develops we must conduct research on theories that we believe and others believe to be true. When we do understand the development of children we will be able to understand the skills and behaviors of children. This will help us to understand why they will not eat certain foods or how children of different ages react differently to certain things. In the early 20th century many theories were put forward to help explain why and how children develop. A theorist who played a major influence in how we understand children was Jean Piaget. According to Mossler (2014) “While administering Binet’s intelligence test to Parisian schoolchildren, he became fascinated by children’s incorrect answers. After many years of observing the mental limitations of children, including his own, Piaget came to the conclusion that children of different ages think differently.” (p. 16) When an individual says the phrase “I did that with my children and it worked fine for them,” I believe that they are trying to get the other individual to do what they did with their children.

Whether they are explaining to them how they punished their children or how they made it easier for them to learn something. This statement is not true in all cases. How one child understands and learns can be different than how another child understands and learns. For example, growing up my parents would punish me by spanking me, by doing this I learned that what I was doing was wrong. In order to teach me something new, my parents would show me how to do it once and then let me try it. This method of teaching has always worked with me but with my little sister, she had to study it a few times before she got the hang of it. It is important to utilize developmental theory to explain a foundational knowledge of children’s development so that parents and caregivers will be able to properly raise these children in healthy and trusting environments. According to Virginia Department of Social Services (2004) Child development is the foundation upon which early childhood practice is based.

Because the psychomotor, socioemotional, cognitive, and linguistic developmental domains are inter-related, early childhood professionals in all types of programs (e.g., family child care homes, early childhood education centers) must comprehend both the processes of development and the adult’s role in supporting each child’s growth, development, and learning. (p. 1) Scholarly researchers will form a hypothesis, and then while referring back to previous research or writing by other academics or scholars, conduct research on the hypothesis in order to make their information available to the rest of the scholars. Unlike scholarly research, anecdotal evidence is something that is experienced by the researcher and is not considered very reliable. According to Mossler (2014) “Anecdotal evidence is not a substitute for good research. Only controlled experimental studies can properly answer the question of cause and effect.” (p. 48) Cognitive developmental theory is founded on the idea that children gain knowledge by exploring and influencing the world that is all around them.

According to Mossler (2014) “After many years of observing the mental limitations of children, including his own, Piaget came to the conclusion that children of different ages think differently. Mental activity evolves in a predictable pattern of distinct stages related to natural maturation of the brain (Piaget, 1983).” (p. 16) The key points to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development are the four stages of his theory. The first stage is the sensorimotor stage, which occurs from the time the child is born up to the age of two. In this stage the idea that infants “think” by influencing the world around them is considered. The second stage is the preoperational stage, which occurs from the age of two to the age of seven. This is characterized stage by the impression that children use symbols to represent their discoveries.

In the third stage, the concrete operational stage, transpires when the child is seven up to eleven years old. This stage is categorized by the idea that children’s reasoning becomes focused and logical. In the final stage, the formal operational stage, children from ages eleven to adulthood are described by the indication that children develop the ability to think in abstract ways. (Boundless, 2015) The value of continued learning is important for an individual to learn and grow. The way we think and act is constantly evolving and this happens from new understandings, new knowledge and new skills. We should incorporate both personal experience and scholarly research grounded in theory in order to learn new things and help others learn them as well. Most research starts with an idea and is developed from there.

References
Boundless. “Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development.” Boundless Psychology. Boundless, 27 Jun. 2014. Retrieved 05 Apr. 2015 from https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundless-psychology-textbook/human-development-14/theories-of-human-development-70/piaget-s-theory-of-cognitive-development-270-12805/ Mossler, R. (2nd ed.). (2014). Child and Adolescent Development. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education. Virginia Department of Social Services. (2004). Competencies for early childhood professionals’ area II: Understanding child growth and development. Retrieved from http://www.dss.virginia.gov/files/division/cc/provider_training_development/intro_page/publications/competencies/chapters_individually/04.pdf


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