Physical development

The American theorist and researcher Arnold Gesell (1880 1961) was an early proponent of maturational theory. 

He identified the role of nature or heredity in children’s development. There is a long-running debate about whether our biological heritage ( nature ) is more important than the environment we are brought up in ( nurture ).

In this context, environment  or nature is seen to be everything external that contributes to our development, such as care giving strategies, parenting styles and other influences. Nature is considered to be our biological inheritance.

The genes in our bodies determine what colour eyes we have, for instance, and also at what age we start walking. Gesell gathered normative data on a range of children and made this information accessible to the general public.

He unfolded according to a genetic timetable. He developed a timetable of developmental events which we still use today.

Language development
Understanding theories of language can form a foundation for your own views and beliefs on how you think children develop their language and communication skills. The theories discussed here are those by Lev Vygotsky, BF Skinner, John Watson, Albert Bandura and Noam Chomsky.

Lev Vygotsky
Vygotsky identified four different stages of speech development.

1.Primitive speech stage- Birth to 2 years. During this stage, the child is beginning to learn to speak, mainly imitating words and naming objects, or responding emotionally (crying) or socially (laughing).

2.Naïve psychological stage -2 to 4 years. The child in this stage is beginning to realise that words are symbols for objects. They have a great curiosity as to what objects are called.

3.Egocentric or private speech stage- 4 to 7 years. Children often talk aloud to themselves as they perform tasks or solve problems in this stage of development. This “private speech” is the child’s demonsration of their thinking.

4.Ingrowth or inner speech stage- 8 years on. During this stage childern’s private speech declines and becomes much more internalised. They solve problems “in their head’ or usng inner speech; however, you will still hear people using private speech when faced with unusual or complex problems (Nixon and Aldwinckle, 2003).

BF Skinner, John Watson and Albert Bandura
Skinner, Watson and Bandura belong to a group of theorists called the behaviourists, or ‘learning theorists’. The behaviourists have played an important role in our understanding of language development. One main premise of behaviourism is that if behaviours are rewarded, they will be repeated, but behaviours that are ignored or punished will decrease. For example, when a ‘child says’ Da. Da. Da’ for the first time, we promptly get very excited and repeat the sounds to the child, reinforcing the behaviour so the child is more likely to try to reproduce it. Behaviourists focus on the process of how language is acquired. The emphasis is on environmental factors of imitation,
learning and conditioning.

Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky developed the nativist approach. Proponents of this approach believe that children have innate abilities to learn language an in-built ‘language acquisition device’ (LAD) which is “wired’ to help them learn language. Once they begin to hear language around them, nativists suggest that children are ‘programmed to understand the structure of that language’ (Nixon and Gould, 1999)  theory focuses on biological dispositions, brain development and cognitive readiness. It emphasises the need for language in the environment to stimulate children’s innate abilities.

Other language theories
Interactionists see language development as a result of the interaction between both nature and nurture (the environment and experiences of the child).

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