Many psychology theorists have explored various developmental stages during childhood. According to some of the psychology theorists, childhood involves four developmental stages, including infancy (1-24 months), early childhood (3-8 years), middle-childhood (9-12 years), and adolescence. Moreover, the definitions of these stages are organized around the primary aspects of development, such as cognitive, social, emotional, and physical developments. However, the boundaries between the stages are malleable. Children undergo physical, cognitive, and socioemotional development when they are between three to twelve years old, and many of these changes relate to the developmental aspects that Erick Erikson’s psychosocial theory proposes.
Early Childhood (3-8 years)
During the period between 3-8 years, children tend to encounter rapid growth in various areas of development, including the physical, cognitive, and socioemotional aspects. During this stage, children begin developing characteristics that may help them in the other developmental stages, such as middle childhood. Physical Development takes place in stages. For an individual to enter the early childhood stages, he or she has to pass through the infancy one, in which a child’s height and weight tend to double. Not only do children in the infancy stage experience tremendous growth related to physical development, but they also develop skills that may be essential in the future developmental stages, including middle childhood. Such skills that they might develop include scribbling, walking, sitting, having the ability to throw and catch a snowball.
After the infancy stage comes the early childhood phase, which is considered to be between 3 to 8 years. Here, children tend to grow in all areas of development (Hoffnung, 2010). They experience rapid body growth and develop fine-motor and gross motor skills between the age of 3-5 years. At five years, children usually demonstrate fine-motor skills in their ability to use pencils and crayons (Hoffnung, 2010). Moreover, Hoffnung (2010) argues that children demonstrate their grossmotor skills by either balancing on one-foot or engaging in other activities, such as running and skipping. Children develop more refined fine and gross motor skills between the age of five and eight years. The fine motor skills allow children to engage in smaller, more precise movements, by using their hands and fingers, while the gross-motor skills enable them to engage in large body movements, especially involving the whole body.
Cognitive development is another essential area that children in the early childhood tend to experience tremendous growth in. While children undergo cognitive and language developments during infancy, these aspects are refined during early childhood. During the infancy stage, children develop a spoken vocabulary of between 300 to 1000 words (Smith & Hart, 2011). Children also learn to use the language they have developed during the first three years to describe the environment that surrounds them. Furthermore, according to Smith & Hart (2011), as they grow and enter the early childhood stage, they often have a vocabulary of approximately 1500 words, and they can use the words to create sentences. By the time children attain five years of age, their language skills advance but remain limited in some sections. For example, children are unable to make effective sentences; they only produce five to seven-word sentences, which they are not sure of the meaning although they aim to communicate (Smith & Hart, 2011). Cognitive development is essential in amongst children during the early childhood stage as it allows them to develop attention and thinking skills that can enable them to interact with the world around and their peers, families, and teachers.
Socioemotional development is another key aspect of a child’s development, and it starts when a child is born. According to Brumariu and Kerns (2011), attachment formation of between the children and caregivers is an essential aspect during the early infancy stage. The attachment theory asserts that the bond that children develop during the infancy stage tend to shape their future social relationships and interactions with others including their peers, families, teachers, and members of society at large, and how they conduct themselves in the world they live in (Brumariu & Kerns, 2011). This implies that if children develop strong bond with their caregivers at the infancy stage, they are likely to develop strong social relationships with others, however, they tend to develop ineffective relationships with others in future if at all they encounter weak bond with their caregivers in the infancy stage.
During the early childhood stage, especially between the age of three to five years, children develop socio-emotional skills, including the development of morals. The development of morals is concerned with their ability to understand and choose between what is right or wrong. Between the age of three and five years, children find it difficult to consider other people’s perspectives (Brumariu & Kerns, 2011). For instance, five-year-olds often want others to share their possessions with them, but at the same time, they are possessive of their items such as toys. Brumariu and Kerns (2011) argue that at five to eight years old, social relationships are heightened, and children start to consider other people’s perspectives. During this period, children freely share their possession with others as it is what determines their relationship with their peers. Changes children encounter related to socioemotional development often provide them with the ability and skills they can use to establish effective relationships with others such as their peers, families, teachers, and other members of society. It is worth mentioning that children during the early childhood tend to effectively interact with individuals they have developed strong social relationships with, and do not interact with those that they might not developed a strong bond with.
Middle Childhood Stage (9-12 years)
In middle childhood, physical development amongst children is less dramatic compared to early childhood and adolescence. During the middle childhood, children tend to every slow growth rate compared to the early childhood between the age of three to five years when they tend to experience tremendous growth in various areas of development. Nevertheless, the age at which children enter puberty varies, and it has been reducing over time. The age that children begin puberty depends on gender, and there is sufficient evidence that females start puberty earlier compared to males. Physical development in the middle childhood stage allows children to start engaging in moderately complex activities, such as washing, performing house chores, among others.
Another areas of development that children tend to encounter slow growth rate during the middle childhood is in the cognitive aspect. During the middle childhood, children tend to develop more refined skills compared to their early childhood cognitive skills, however, they tend to develop cognitive skills at a slow rate. The refined skills are of great importance as they help children to begin comprehending more abstract in the next developmental stage, which is adolescence (Hoffnung, 2010). Children’s reasoning at this stage is more concrete compare to in the previous stages, and they can understand and communicate in abstract ideas. Hoffnung (2010) contends that they can effectively construct long sentences that have a precise meaning, unlike in the previous developmental stages. Although children are more mature compared to infancy and early childhood, they require concrete support on various learning activities (Hoffnung, 2010). Cognitive development in middle childhood teaches children about skills that they need to learn effectively. This helps children to build transferable problem-solving and study skills that they can apply in any subject. Developing cognitive skills in middle childhood allows children to build upon previous knowledge and ideas.
Another aspect of psychological development that is essential at the middle childhood stage amongst children is socioemotional development. During this period, children begin to develop effective relations with those around them; they take into consideration other people’s feelings. In the period between age nine to twelve, children also develop effective social interactions techniques that allow them to build on their relationships with their peers and other members of the society at large (Brumariu & Kerns, 2011). Family members often play a crucial role in helping children during this period to develop effective interaction techniques to help them build better relationships with others. Besides, children tend to acquire more social skills by interacting with their family members and peers and develop strong interpersonal communication, which serves as a foundation to help them counter various challenges they are set to encounter in the adolescence stage (Brumariu & Kerns, 2011). Socioemotional development is of great benefit to children in the middle childhood stage as it gives them a better understanding of their feelings and their peers’ while creating conflict resolutions with guidance from their teachers.
The period from three to twelve years old is critical in the development of foundational skills in various aspects, such as cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional. Therefore, to ensure children achieve the desired progress in these areas of development, parents should help them through that critical period. For example, parents should spend much time with their children, as well as talk with them about their accomplishments and what challenges they are experiencing and how they can solve such challenges (Brumariu & Kerns, 2011). Parents should also try and help their children to develop a sense of right or wrong, which can be achieved by talking to them about the wrong things that their friends can pressure them to do, such as engaging in cigarette smoking and lying and other dangerous physical activities.
There are additional things that parents can do to help their children navigate the stage (3-12 years). According to Brumariu and Kerns (2011), parents should urge their children to engage in school or community activities such as sports or volunteer in a charity to enable them to build on their gross motor skills and develop effective relationships with others. Furthermore, parents can help their children to set goals. In the process, these caregivers can help children to identify their skills and abilities, and guide them on how they can improve on their skills. Brumariu and Kerns (2011) argue that parents should also educate their children on the importance of developing effective social relationships with others by respecting them. In the process, parents can encourage their children to help people when they need, and to respect others when they might be disrespectful and unkind to them. Parents can also help their children to develop a sense of responsibility (Brumariu & Kerns, 2011). That can include engaging them in house chores like cleaning and cooking and teaching them on some basics of life such as saving and spending money wisely.
Erick Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory
Several psychology theories critique the development of children in various aspects such as cognitive and socioemotional aspects during the time between the age of three and twelve, and Erick Erikson’s psychosocial theory is one of them. Erikson argues that an individual’s personality is developed in a series of stages. Unlike Freud’s psychosexual theory, Erikson opines that the socioemotional development and growth of human beings depend on their social interaction and relationships with others (Stevens, 2008). Erikson contends that individuals have to pass through various psychosocial stages such as autonomy versus shame and doubt, trust versus mistrust, initiative versus guilt, identity versus confusion, industry versus inferiority, as they develop their social interaction abilities. Through the theory, Erick Erikson largely critique about cognitive and socioemotional development of individuals and relates those aspects to various psychosocial stages.
Erikson’s psychosocial theory largely focuses on cognitive and socioemotional development amongst children. To critique those two areas of development amongst children, he proposes the psychosocial stages mentioned earlier. Erikson argue that children develop a sense of personal control during the early childhood, and that is well critiqued in the autonomy versus shame and doubt stage. According to Stevens (2008), Erikson argues that children try to gain a little independence at this stage. Initiative versus guilt is another critical stage in the early childhood that Erikson outlines in his psychosocial theory. According to Stevens (2008), in this stage, children begin to be aggressive in their interactions with others. Erickson argues that children who complete these stages often feel capable of leading others in plays and interactions, while those who do not complete the stage are left with a sense of guilt. Another essential psychosocial stage outlined in Erikson’s theory is the industry versus inferiority. Children experience this stage between the age of five to twelve. Erikson argues that, in this stage, children begin improving on their abilities if get motivated.
Erikson focuses on the psychosocial aspects of development in human beings and does not critique the physical development. The theory is effective in explaining psychosocial aspects of development, but it leaves out the physical aspects. Even though it would be difficult to incorporate the physical aspects of development in the Psychosocial theory, I propose that Erikson should have critiqued how children tend to react whenever they notice some rapid changes in their body.
The period between the age of three to twelve years is a critical time for children as they experience dramatic changes in their physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional development. Parents should offer children adequate support in various learning activities to ensure that children develop effectively in all those areas. Erikson tries to critique how children experience psychosocial development during the early and middle childhood development stages. He posits that children between the age of three to twelve pass through three psychosocial stages of development, including autonomy versus shame and doubt, initiative versus guilt, and industry versus inferiority. Nevertheless, his theory fails to account for the physical changes children undergo.
Brumariu, L. E., & Kerns, K. A. (2011). Parent-Child Attachment in Early and Middle Childhood. The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Social Development, 319–336. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781444390933.ch17
Hoffnung, M. (2010). Childhood. Milton, Qld.: John Wiley & Sons.
Smith, P. K., & Hart, C. H. (2011). The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of childhood social development. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.
Stevens, R. (2008). Psychosocial Identity. Erikson, 60–80. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-137-06606-0_5