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Lev Semenovich Vygotsky was a pioneer for the advancement in developmental psychology. His contributions like the socio-cultural theory, Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and others have been incomparable in the field.
The Socio-Cultural theory by Vygotsky believes that a child’s higher functions are developed through the implementation of various social interactions within a cultural group. Vygotsky believed that the environment played an important role in the development of a child and it was through various interactions with the people and the environment they are surrounded with that they advance their cognitive understanding of the world. The theory states that “people and settings influence a child”. On the other hand, when addressing the cognitive development in preschool years, Vygotsky introduced the concept of “Zone of Proximal Development” as the age at which a child can almost perform a task independently. He believed that at this stage a child was ready for advanced learning and thinking. Apart from that, Vygotsky also emphasized on the importance of language in a child’s life.
By the use of these findings, pediatricians can understand that children depend heavily on social interactions for their cognitive learning and thus it is essential to guide them and support them in their learning processes. Along with that, it is essential to provide them with a healthy environment as their knowledge of society comes from there. Along with that, cooperative learning is planned so they can learn in a friendly environment and help each other as they do so. This will not only improve their cognitive skills but also their social skills.
Jean Piaget has heavily influenced the understanding of the cognitive development that a child goes through. Piaget formulated a fixed number of stages through which a child’s cognitive development occurs. He believed that thinking got complex with age, with a constantly changing understanding of the world. According to Piaget, the quality and quantity of knowledge increases with an increase in the stage, with the knowledge getting more sophisticated each time. Piaget also related the concept of thought with language stating that they were interconnected and any substantial progress in the understanding of the language for child led to an improvement in the thought processes and structures. Both Piaget and Vygotsky emphasized on the importance of the environment, practice and advancement in language.
Via the teachings imparted by Piaget, pediatricians and child care facilities understanding the importance of nurturance according to the stage of thinking the child is at. They can understand the development stage a child is at and stimulate his/her environment accordingly. By placing a child in a specific stage of cognitive development the pediatricians can identify which aspects of the child’s brain need to be stimulated. Along with that, the pediatricians can listen to a child’s ideas and try to understand their thought process. Improvements in the language abilities can also be made in a child to improve their thinking. Pediatricians get a better understanding of a child’s capabilities and interests using these findings.
Urie Bronfenbrenner was yet another influencer to the world of developmental psychology. According to Bronfenbrenner, the world and environment that a child grows in has a major influence on the child’s growth. He describes this as a two-way influence; not only does the environment affect the growth and development of the child but the presence and behaviour of the child also affects the environment and people in it. He termed this process the “reciprocal interaction”. Bronfenbrenner also acknowledged the influence a child’s biological makeup and hereditary factors can have on the growth and development of a particular child. It can be noted that Bronfenbrenner’s findings resemble those of Jean Piaget.
By properly understanding these findings pediatricians than help various families understand the way the family environment affects a child’s growth and the importance of a healthy family environment. A child must be surrounded by an informative environment which stimulates growth and learning. Similarly, the parents need to adapt according to the child (thus getting influenced by it). Apart from that, it is also important that the various program used by healthcare services for children reflect the society and culture of the world we live in to mould the children accordingly.
John Bowlby was yet another important developmental psychologist who studied various aspects of children including the attachment that occurs in between parents and children. Describing it as a psychological connection of the mind in between human beings, Bowlby identified four distinct phases in which attachment develops. He was also largely interested in the bond in between a mother and her child and was convinced that the special bond had a biological basis. He believed that if a mother and her child were separated during the bonding process it would face repercussions and have a long-lasting impact on the child, the mother and their relationship. Bowlby also briefly studied the concept of separation anxiety amongst children and the impact it can have on the growth of a child.
From the studies taken up by Bowlby, it is essential to understand how important the early years of a child’s life are in terms of development. Any irregularities or failure to make secure bonds can impact the later behaviour of a particular child which can have long-lasting effects on his/her personality and thinking. It is essential for pediatric cares to make parents aware of the importance of these early bonds and promote healthy bonds among the parents and their children. Children with stable bonds tend to be more independent, less depressed and have higher self-esteem. Along with that, the caregiver must be competent, which creates a safe base for the child. The caregiver should be able to take care of the needs of the child and provide it with an interactive environment where he/she can learn and grow accordingly.
Burrhus Frederic Skinner was another American child developmental who worked on the concept of “operant conditioning”. Operant conditioning is the process of modifying a particular behaviour by using punishment or reinforcement. Along with that he also introduced the concepts of positive and negative reinforcements. These methods of introducing the desired response after a desired behaviour or removal of an undesired response after the desired behaviour to promote such behaviours are now heavily used with children to mould their behaviour according to the expectations of the society. This way good behaviour is promoted with rewards and undesired behaviour is reduced using punishments. Along with that, extinction is the process where a behaviour is neither promoted nor discouraged and eventually fades away.
Through these findings, health care authorities and pediatricians can understand how the behaviour of a child can be changed according to the requirements of the society. Educators should provide positive feedback after a desired behaviour and negative feedback after an undesired behaviour to influence the child’s behaviour and teach him/her what is acceptable and what is not. However, it is important to remember that the term “punishment” is not used for real psychical or mental punishments that might affect a child’s behaviour. The punishment has to be something small and irrelevant like a black star for bad marks. The caretakers should understand the extent of these practices of reinforcement and apply them with moderation.
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