Early Childhood


Childhood begins when the helplessness of babyhood is over, at approximately the age of two years, and extends to the time when the child becomes sexually mature, at approximately thirteen years for the average girl and at fourteen years for the average boy. After the child has become sexually mature, he is known as ‘adolescent’. During this long period of life roughly eleven for girls and twelve for buys- there are marked changes taking place in the child both physically and psychologically. Some of them come from maturation but most come from learning. Because cultural pressures and expectations to learn things at one age are different from the pressure and expectations of the other age, a child in the early part of the childhood is quiet different from a child in the latter part of the period. Hence it is widely recognized that childhood should be subdivided into period’s early and late childhood. Early childhood extends from two- six years and late childhood from six to the time when child becomes sexually mature. Havighurst (1953).

Growth during early childhood proceeds at a slow rate as compared with a rapid rate of growth of babyhood. Early childhood is the time of relatively even growth, though there are seasonal variations, with July to mid December the most favourable seasons for increase in weight and april to mid- august the most favorable for height increases Thompson (1954).

 Development Autonomy Versus Shame and Doubt- Erikson's second stage of Autonomy versus shame and doubt occurs in late infancy and toddler-hood (1 – 3 years).  After gaining trust in their caregivers, the task is to develop a healthy independence.  As toddlers try to express their will, they might develop a sense of- shame and doubt if they are restrained too much or punished too harshly.

Autonomy builds on the infant's developing mental and motor abilities.  At this point in development, not only can infants walk, but they can also climb, open Fired close, drop, push and pull, and hold and let go.  Infants feel pride in these new accomplishment and want to do everything themselves, whether it is flushing a toilet, pulling the wrapping off a package, or deciding what to eat.  It is important for parents to recognize the motivation of toddlers to do what they are capable of doing at their own pace.  Then they can learn to control their muscles and their impulses themselves.  But, when caregivers are impatient and do for toddlers what they are capable of doing themselves, shame and doubt develop.  Every parent has rushed a child from time to time.  It is only when parents consistently overprotect toddlers or criticize accidents (wetting, soiling, spilling, or breaking, for example) that children develop an excessive sense of shame and doubt about their ability to control themselves and their world.

Erikson also believed that the stage of autonomy versus shame and doubt has important implications for the development of independence and identity during adolescence.  The development of autonomy during the toddler years gives adolescents the courage to be independent individuals who can choose and guide their own future.

Initiative versus Guilt- Initiative versus guilt is Erikson's third stage of development, occurring during the preschool years.  As preschool children encounter a widening social world, they face tore challenges.  The task is to develop active purposeful behavior to cope with these challenges.  Preschool children are challenged to assume responsibility for their bodies, behavior, toys, and pets.  Developing a sense of responsibility, increases initiative.  A child who is irresponsible and is made to feel too anxious might develop uncomfortable guilt feelings.

By now, children have become convinced that they arc a person of their own; during early childhood, they must discover what kind of person they will become.  They intensely identify with their parents, who most of the times appear to them to be powerful and beautiful, although often unreasonable, disagreeable, and sometimes s. During early childhood, children use their perceptual, motor, cognitive skills to make things happen.  They have a surplus of energy that permits them to forget failures quickly and to approach new areas that seem desirable even if they seem dangerous-with undiminished zest and some increased sense of direction.  On their own initiative, then, children at this stage exuberantly move out into a wider social world.

The great governor of initiative is conscience.  Children now not only feel afraid of being found out, but they also begin to hear the inner voice of self-observation, self-guidance, and self-punishment (Bybee, 1999).  Their initiative and enthusiasm may bring them not only rewards but also punishments.  Widespread disappointment at this stage leads to an unleashing of guilt that lowers the child's self-esteem.

Whether children leave this stage with a sense of initiative that outweighs their sense of guilt depends in large part on how parents respond to their children's self-initiated activities.  Children, who are given the freedom and opportunity to initiate motor play, such as running, bike riding, sledding, skating, tussling, and wrestling, have their sense of initiative supported.  Initiative is also supported when parents answer then. Children’s questions and do not deride or inhibit fantasy or play activity.  In contrast, if children are made to feel that their motor activity is bad, that their questions are a nuisance, and that their play is silly and stupid, then they often develop a sense of guilt over self-initiated activities that may persist through life's later stages (Elkitid, 1970).

Developmental Changes cause children to verbally communicate their ideas, research on self understanding in childhood is not limited to visual self recognition, as it is during infancy.  Mainly through interviews, researchers have probed children’s conceptions of many aspects of self-understanding, including mind and body, self in relation to others, and pride and shame in self.  In early childhood, children usually conceive of the self in physical terms.  Most young children conceive of the self as part of the body, which usually means the head.  Young children generally confuse self, mind, and body (Broughton, 1978).  For them, because the self is a body part, it can be described along many material dimensions, such as size, shape, and color.  Young children distinguish themselves from others through many different physical) and material attributes.  Says 4 year -old Sandra, "I'm different from Jennifer because I have brown hair and she has blonde hair." Says 4-year-old Ralph, "I am different from Hank because I am taller, and I am different from my sister because I have a bicycle.
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Researchers also believe that the active dimension is a central component of the self early childhood (Keller, Ford, & Meacham, 1978 If we define the category physical" broadly enough, we can include physical actions as well as body image and material possessions.  For example, preschool children often describe themselves in terms of activities such as play.  In sum, in early childhood, children often describe themselves in terms of a physical self or an active self.

Freud said that our early childhood experiences, many of which he believed were sexually laden, are too threatening and stressful for us to deal with consciously.  We reduce the anxiety of this conflict by repressing these experiences.  Let’s further explore Freud’s belief the in the importance of early childhood experience.

As Freud listened to, probed, and analyzed his patients, he became convinced at their problems were the results of experiences early in life.   He thought that usual impulses shift their focus as children develop and that we go through stage of psychosexual development: oral, anal, phallic latency, and genital.  He believed that in each of these stages we experience more assure in the area of the body that dominates that age than we do in other area of the body.  Freud specially thought that our adult personality is by way we resolve conflicts.  Freud’s theory has a significantly referred by a number of psychoanalytic theorists Eagle, 2000; Western, 2000).  Many contemporary psychoanalytic theorists place less emphasis on sexual instincts and more emphasis on cultural experiences as determinants of an individual’s development.  Unconscious thought remains a central theme, but most contemporary psychoanalysts believe that conscious thought makes up more of the mind than Freud envisioned.

What skills the young child will learn will depend partly upon his maturational readiness to learn but mainly upon the opportunities he has to learn them and guidance he receives in mastering them quickly and efficiently. Children from poorer environments, it has been reported, generally master skills earlier and in large numbers than children from more favored environment. This is not because of precocious maturational readiness but because their parents are too busy to wait on them when it is no longer necessary. Bossard (1966).

There are sex differences in the types of skills children learn. Early in childhood, pressure are put on boys to learn play skills that are culturally approved for members of their own sex and to avoid mastering skills that may lead to the reputation of being “sissies”. They are for example encouraged to learn skills involved in ball play just like girls are encouraged to learn skills related to homemaking play. Govatos (1959).

Early childhood is the time when emotions are more common and more intense than usual. It is a time of disequilibrium when the child is “out of focus” in the sense that he is easily aroused to emotional outbursts and, as a result, is difficult to live with and guide. Although any emotions may be heightened in the sense that it occurs more frequently and intensely than is normal for the particular individual, heightened emotionality in early childhood is characterized by temper
tantrums, intense fears and unreasonable outbursts of jealousy. Part of this emotionality of children at this age may be traced to fatigue from strenuous and prolonged play, from their rebellion against taking naps, and from eating too little for their needs- the result of their rebellion against eating at meals. Elizabeth. B. Hurlock (1968).

New experiences lead to new meanings which are associated with meanings established in babyhood. The child now begins to notice details which formerly escaped his attention. As a result, he is not so apt to confuse objects, situations, or people that have elements in common, as he formerly did. His concepts become more specific and meaningful to him. The young child feelings and emotions have a marked influence on his developing concepts. In time, they
become “emotionally weighted” and, as a result, are difficult to change. Woodruff (1961).

In the first Stage of Piaget’s theory (up until 7 or 8 years of age)  - preoperational intuitive religious thought – children’s religious thought,' were unsystematic and fragmented. The children often either did not fully understand the material in the stories or did not consider all of the evidence.  For example, one child's response to the question “Why was Moses afraid to look at God?" (Exodus 3:6) ",as "Because God had a funny face!"

The preoperational stage, which lasts from approximately 2 to 7 years of age, is the second Piagetian stage. In this stage, children begin to represent the world with words, images, and drawings.  Symbolic thought goes beyond simple connections of sensory information and physical action.

Because this stage of thought is called preoperational, it might seem that not much of importance occurs until full-fledged operational thought appears.  Not so.  The preoperational stage stretches from approximately 2 to 7 years of age.  It is a time when stable concepts are formed, mental reasoning emerges, egocentrism begins strongly and then weakens, and magical beliefs are constructed.  Preoperational thought is anything but a convenient waiting period for concrete operational thought.  However, the label preoperational emphasizes that the child at this stage does not yet think in an operational way.  What are operations?  Operations are internalized sets of actions that allow the child to do mentally what before she could do only physically. Operations also are reversible mental actions.  Operations are highly organized and conform to certain rules and principles of logic.  For example, mentally adding and subtracting numbers arc examples of operations.  We will have more to say about the reversibility of mental actions shortly.

Thought in the preoperational stage is flawed and not well organized.  Preoperational thought is the beginning of the ability to reconstruct as the level of thought what has been established in behavior.  It also involves a transition from primitive to more sophisticated use of symbols.  Preoperational thought can be divided into substages: the symbolic function substage and the intuitive thought substage.

The Symbolic Function Substage The symbolic function substage is the -first substage of preoperational thought, occurring roughly between the ages of 2 and 4. In this substage, the young child gains the ability to mentally represent an object that is not present.  The ability to engage in such symbolic thought is called symbolic function and it vastly expands the child's mental world (DeLoache, 2001).  Young children use scribble designs to represent people, houses, cars, clouds, and so on.  Other examples of symbolism in early childhood are language and the prevalence of pretend play.  In sum, the ability to think symbolically and to represent the world mentally predominates in this early substage of preoperational thought.  However, although young children make distinct progress during this Substage, their though still has several important limitations, two of which are egocentrism and animism.

The intuitive thought substage is the, second substage of preoperational thought, occurring between approximately 4 and 7 years of age. In this substage, children begin to use primitive reasoning and want to know the answers to all sorts of questions.  Piaget called this time period initiate because, on the one hand, young children seem so sure about their knowledge and understanding, yet they are so unaware of how they know what they know.  That is, they say they know something but know it without the use of rational thinking.