Child development – physical and emotional growth

When a baby is born, it weighs an average of 3.5kg and is about 50cm long. Boys are an average of 100g heavier than girls. A baby will generally have doubled its weight within 4-6 months and have tripled it within a year of birth. During the baby’s first year, the limbs grow at a very quick rate while the head grows at a slower rate. Here the baby’s bones increase in density and the muscle fibres become larger. We can see that the overall growth rate at this age is very rapid. All newborns come into the world equipped with many motor skills that allow them to act on their environments. Here they acquire new behaviours through learning. The nervous system is developing rapidly at this age. By the time a child is 2 years old, their weight is usually about four times their initial birth weight and between the ages of 2-4 their growth proceeds a little bit slower than before until the next growth spurt at age 4.

In the infancy and toddler age the child would do actions such as sucking, show a characteristic stepping action and grip tightly objects placed in his/her hands. Here the infant responds to loud noises by turning the head, closes hands and pulling his legs. As the child grows, s/he would also develop the posture and locomotion. This includes the head control, ventral suspension, sitting, crawling and standing. In toddler age, the child would be able to walk on his hands and feet, creep upstairs, kneel, jump, run and pedal a tricycle.

In childhood, growth is constant but slower than the growth of 0-1 year olds. The sex differences in the bone and skeletal development may lead boys and girls to pick up different activities.

Here the children would be more confident in their movements like walking down the stairs one-step at a time. They would be able to draw recognisable pictures and learn to write their name. They would also start to build models with building blocks and learn to catch a ball. In middle childhood, the central nervous system continues to develop and the child would be able to do more complex things like learn to play a musical instrument, ride a bike, swimming or gymnastics.

In adolescence, puberty changes occur and so we see the appearance of secondary sexual characteristics. In males, the voice becomes deeper, growth of characteristic body hair patters, wide shoulders, narrow hips and the production of sperm begins. In females the menstruation begins and ovulation would usually start a year later, the fallopian tubes will grow longer, the breast would develop, the pelvis becomes wider, the voice pitch drops and growth of axillary hair.

Young adults are often at the peak of their physical performance between the ages of 18 and 28. Here exercise can help develop the physical fitness and athletic skills. In adulthood, females’ menopause occurs between the ages of 45 to 55 years. Therefore, the woman stops ovulating and there would be a drop of oestrogen and progesterone hormone levels. Males would have changes in their reproductive system such as the sperm production would be slower, sexual arousal would take longer, erections would be less frequent and do not last long and the ejaculation would be less powerful and less frequent.

In old age, the brain would slow down for most tasks and can lead to Dementia. Here the senses start to reduce. The bones become lighter and more breakable. The skin becomes wrinkled, looks papery and abnormal pigmentation may appear. Metabolic rate would slow down and this would result in less energy and stamina. The temperature control would also decrease. The heart would become less efficient in pumping blood around the body. Tissue walls of the blood vessels become rigid and blood flow would be impaired. Breathing becomes shallower and gas exchange would be affected. Digestive processes become less efficient to digest food and peristalsis and the breaking down of food would slow down. (Ciantar, 2008)

Intellectual

Piaget who was a biologist became interested in the intellectual development of children and came up with certain theories such as the process of adaptation and the stages of cognitive development. He believed that infants are born with the ability to adapt to and learn from their environment. Piaget named these innate mental processes as schemas. This process consists of:

i. Assimilation where the child takes in new information and tries to make it conform to what is already known from previous experiences.

ii. Accomodation, which is the adjustment that takes place in ones understanding of something following new experiences.

iii. Equilibration that involves a periodic reform of schemas into new structures.

According to Piaget, infants, from birth up to 18 months would develop the sensorimotor stage, which is their first schema. Here the infants will start coordinating their sensory perceptions and simple motor behaviours. From 2 up to 7 years would develop the pre-operational stage where infants are developing a range of schemas. Here they can represent reality to themselves through the use of symbols, which include mental images, words and gestures. From 7 up to 11 years would develop the concrete operational stage where the children can now decentre and reason logically and from 12 years onwards would develop the formal operational stage where children are now able to reason logically and to deal with abstract concepts. (Thomson, Meggitt, 1997)

Different components of intellectual ability give us a clear picture of change and stability across the adult years. Here theorists have come up with many ways to subdivide the intellectual tasks of adults. However, the most influential of these theories is that of Cattell and Horn of crystallised and fluid intelligence. Here this theory suggests that intelligence is composed of a number of different abilities that interact and work together to produce overall individual intelligence. Crystallised intelligence is learning from past experiences and learning situations and fluid intelligence concerns the person’s ability to deal with new or unusual problems.

According to Knox, these form the global capacity to learn, reason and solve problems that most people refer to as intelligence. Fluid and crystallised intelligence are complementary in learning tasks, which can be mastered mainly by exercising either fluid or crystallised intelligence. Both types of intelligence increase throughout childhood and adolescence. Fluid intelligence peaks in adolescence-early adulthood and begins to decline with time around age 30 or 40 whilst crystallised intelligence continues to grow and increase throughout adulthood. (Ciantar, Tanti, 2008)

Intellectual development from adolescence to adulthood is that they do more complex and further thinking. In old age, there would be changes in memory from certain aspects. The skills, which are established, remain unaffected such as managing money. On the other hand, memory for names and everyday tasks may be affected. Here we can see that old age people sometimes mix up an imaging event with a real one. (Thomson, Meggitt, 1997)

Socioemotional

Socioemotional is the development of the self-image and identity from infancy through adulthood as well as the development of relationships and socialisation. Here in infancy, children would develop emotional expressions such as joy, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger and fear. They begin to smile at others around 6 to 8 weeks of age and begin to show warriness of strangers and separation distress. Between 7 to 9 months of age, more complex emotions such as embarrassment, pride, shame and guilt become evident.

Individual differences in infants’ socioemotional development have developmentalists for decades, particularly infants’ attachment styles and excitable differences. Attachment refers to a lasting emotional tie that one-person form to another. This is a tie that the infant takes as a protective figure, finding increased security in their presence, missing them in their absence, seeking them in times of stress or alarm and using them as a secure base from which to explore.

In childhood, children’s behaviour seems to be natural. They would have more emotions such as anger, fear, jealousy, curiosity, envy, joy, grief, affection, interest in self and in clothes. There might be difficulty if children face negative life events or are raised in an inappropriate environment. Children at this stage are influenced by parenting styles these are authoritarian where the parents are demanding but not responsive, permissive where the parents are responsive but not demanding, uninvolved where the parents are neither demanding nor responsive and democratic where the parents help the children to be responsible for themselves. At this stage, friendship changes in quality and becomes more important as children grow older.

Adolescence is a period when the individual becomes integrated into society of adults. It is a period of change. In adolescence, adolescents experience puberty, which their attitudes towards other people. At this age, adolescents want to be accepted by others and not feel left out. However, their own behaviour is rather unsocial and so they feel that they are being rejected and this leads to temper outbursts, which makes matters worse. Here adolescents pass from many changes both physical and psychological where they must make new adjustments. Here we can see that new worries set in as they are not children anymore and must start thinking about their future because of this, adolescents will pass from uncontrolled and sometimes irrational behaviours and emotions.

In early adulthood, adults need to adjust to getting married, responsibility, work and being independent. Here adults would be afraid of social isolation because they could not go out with their friends because of marriage. Here another problem in that while trying to adjust, the young adults has to balance their financial issues. In cases of single parents, problems might be intensified as the single parent must cope with the child and work commitments. All this can create anxiety in the young adult. In middle adulthood, adults would have a full time job and others would do an evaluation of their life. Some of them would also be afraid that they are going to be alone because their children get married and some of them might become grandparents themselves. At the same time, they might have to start to care for their own parents who are now ageing as well.

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