An Overview of Child Development Theories

child development theorists

Child development theorists are those who believe that every child has the capacity to develop beyond their birth environment. They believed that children are innately creative and capable of experiencing pleasure and pain in the same way as an adult. They also thought that such feelings and thoughts arise from a psychological understanding of human beings. According to these child development theorists, children are capable of experiencing happiness and sadness, joy and sorrow. Their theories also implied that children experience the feeling of anger and hate at different stages of their lives depending on their social interactions and developmental level. Thus, they said that these feelings arise from their individual experiences and can be understood by the adult.

An Overview

Critics of the child theorists believe that there are several flaws in their arguments. First, it is important to note that all these theories were formulated over a century ago. Second, it is also important to note that there has been significant progress in the field of education and research in the past few decades. Third, the theories do not address the factors that are responsible for children’s emotional and behavioral problems such as the home environment, low self-esteem or the lack of parental guidance.

Child developmentists and Piaget researchers are both confronted with the same challenge: how do we understand children’s thinking processes without presupposing that all thinking processes are the same? They believe that the child development model should be constructed from cognitive development and knowledge acquisition models. Cognitive development models are based on the study of human beings, and they draw from the developmental psychology of children as well as the work of Piaget. Piaget believed that babies learn through imitation and that the cognitive process that develops through learning is shared by humans as well as animals.

Innovative Ideas

A young boy wearing a hat

Piaget’s ideas formed the basis for many child development theory models including the five-stage model. The theories were criticized by a group of French intellectuals who claimed that the theories were too simple and could be proved wrong. Early childhood education specialists adopted Piaget’s work and made it even more simple and easy to understand by organizing their discussions around the themes he raised.

Some early childhood education specialists adopted Piaget’s thoughts and came up with a new way to think of children. Some said that children learn through visual stimuli (photonesis). Others said that they learn through internal processes, through repetition and association. Still others believed that they learn through both physical and psychological stimuli. The new information coming from Piaget’s studies and his research convinced many early childhood educators.

Latest Information

One piece of the new information about the child mind, according to Piaget, is that it thinks in pictures. When a child sees an object repeated, she associates it with food, and if the repeated image makes her happy, she will eat. The psychologists who adopted his ideas saw children differently. They did not think of a child as being simply mentally limited because she was unable to see visually what the object symbolized. They thought of her as having a complex set of concepts, some based on external stimuli from the world, others from internal experiences, such as happiness.

The Piaget theory also provided a basis for other social interaction theories. He said that children develop through social interaction and that the social interaction must be positive, and this must take place in the presence of other children. According to the Vygotsky theory, children develop better when they work with their parents, other siblings or adults. The Vygotsky theory of development was followed throughout the 20th century, by many educationalists, such as Educational Researchers, and became widely accepted. Other social interactionists noted the importance of Vygotsky’s work and incorporated his theories in their own work.


The Vygotsky theory, in combination with the Piaget theory, helped to make early childhood education more easily understood by laymen. Early childhood education was established as a mandatory part of school education. Today, it is mandatory for all children, regardless of social status or economic class to receive some form of early childhood education. Early childhood education specialists, such as child psychologists, are able to assist children in meeting their basic learning opportunities.

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