child development theories

Child Development Theories By Famous Researchers and Psychologists

Various researchers and psychologists have developed different child development theories that focus on how children grow, what changes they experience in transition periods from one phase to another, and what developmental milestones children should achieve by a certain age.

Understanding these child development theories can help parents, teachers, and healthcare bring the needful modification in behaviour by understanding their behaviour and uplifting their social, emotional, and cognitive development.

Here are some important child development theories proposed by researchers and theorists.

1. Freud's Psychosexual Developmental Theory

Sigmund Freud’s proposed theory on psychosexual development. His theory explains human behaviour is influenced by unconscious thoughts, memories, and urges that shape their behaviour. This theory comprises three aspects of the psyche: the id, ego, and superego. The id is unconscious, while the ego operates consciously in the mind.

He also explained that childhood experiences intensely influence the healthy development of children,  following five distinct stages:

  • Oral Stage
  • Anal Stage
  • Phallic Stage
  • Latent Stage
  • Genital Stage

2. Erikson’s Psychological Development Theory

Erik Erikson’s ideas are considered one of the best-known child development theories.

Erikson gave the eight-stage theory of psychosocial development. It describes growth and changes in a child’s development,  throughout life. It focuses on social interaction and conflicts that the child faces at each stage of development.

Successful management of these challenges ensures optimal development of the child at each stage.

3. Behavioural Theories

Behavioural theories discuss how environmental factors influence behaviour. It is based on sum-total theories of renowned theorists-  John B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov, and B. F. Skinner. The theory considers behavioural changes in reaction to rewards, punishments, stimuli, and reinforcement. In other words, it focuses on how experience shapes us into becoming who we are.

Two important types of learning have emerged from this theory: classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

4. Piaget's Cognitive Developmental Theory

Piaget’s cognitive developmental theory was a revolutionary theory that highlighted the idea that “children think differently than adults”.

Paget proposed the theory in a sequence of the following development order.

 Sensorimotor Stage: Since birth to 2 years of age, a child develops sensory perceptions and motor activities to interact. Motor responses respond to sensory stimuli.

Pre-Operational Stage: It is  2 to 6 years of age. During this period, the child learns language and understands logic.

Concrete Operational Stage: It is 7 to  11 years of age. Children gain a better mental understanding of mental operations, start thinking logically, and also understand imaginary, abstract, or hypothetical concepts.

Formal Operational Stage: It is adolescence from 12 to adulthood. Skills such as logical thinking, deductive reasoning, and systematic planning develop during this stage.

5. Attachment Theory

John Bowlby proposed attachment theory. It is one of the oldest theories. Bowlby believed that earliest caregivers and relationships play a major role in designing a child’s behaviour. In other words, children like to stay closer to their caregivers, who provide them with a safe atmosphere for stress-free exploration.

6. Bandura’s Social Learning Theory

It explains that children learn by observing the activities of their caregivers, peers, teachers, and closest friends. They continuously keep acquiring new knowledge and update their behaviours accordingly.

7. Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theory

Like Piaget, Vygotsky believed that children learn actively and through hands-on experiences. According to Vygotsky, learning is an inherently social process, and parents, caregivers, and educators help in shaping higher-order development.

If your child is also manifesting behavioural troubles, you can connect with Dr Arif Khan. Dr. Arif is a British Board-certified Consultant in Pediatric Neurology and founder of  ‘Neuropedia’ a reputed, in-region comprehensive Children’s Neuroscience Centre in UAE. Book an appointment to discuss your issues.