Understanding Psychology

Chapter 3: Infancy and Childhood

Chapter Overviews

Developmental psychology—the study of the changes that occur as people grow up and grow older—is the focus of Chapter 3.

Section 1 discusses the physical and perceptual development of newborns and children. Infants are born with many reflexes that help them adapt and survive. As the child grows, maturation and learning foster growth. The development of language begins with the ability to make sounds and ends with combining words to make sentences.

Section 2 explores cognitive and emotional development in children. As the thought processes of children develop, they begin to think, communicate and relate with others, and solve problems. Jean Piaget described four stages that occur in children's understanding: sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operations state, and formal operations stage. This section also discusses how infants begin to develop emotional attachments by bonding to specific people, usually their mother.

Section 3 describes social development, or socialization, of children. Research shows that parenting styles, which can be authoritarian, democratic or authoritative, and permissive or laissez-faire, can affect children. Sigmund Freud's theory of psychosexual development and Erik Erikson's psychosocial development theory attempt to explain socialization. Learning theories suggest that social development is simply a matter of conditioning and imitation while cognitive-development theories suggest that the child acts upon his environment in an attempt to make sense of his experiences. The chapter concludes with a discussion of Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development.

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