Early childhood, also known as the theory that relates to the teaching of children from birth up to the age of eight.
Theory is a belief system about the way the world works, for example, the way young children learn and develop. Theory is designed to explain rather than change the world. Although teachers may use theory to guide their actions that lead to learning and development of children.
There are several theories related to early childhood development that have been proposed by different psychologists and researchers over the years.
Theories of Child Development
- Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development
- Lev Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory
- Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory
- John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory
- Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory
Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development:
This Child development theory proposes that children go through four stages of cognitive development, each characterized by different ways of thinking and understanding the world. These stages are the sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage, and formal operational stage.
This stage occurs from birth to about 2 years of age, where infants develop their senses and motor skills to explore their environment. They begin to understand cause and effect relationships, object permanence, and develop their first mental representations.
This Child development stage occurs from about 2 to 7 years of age, where children start to use symbols to represent objects and events. But they have difficulty understanding abstract concepts or complex relationships.
Concrete Operational Stage:
This stage occurs from about 7 to 11 years of age, where children begin to think logically and understand concrete operations.
Formal Operational Stage:
This stage occurs from about 11 years of age onward, where individuals develop the ability to think abstractly and logically. They can understand hypothetical situations, use deductive reasoning, and engage in systematic problem solving.
Lev Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory:
According to this theory, children’s cognitive development is shaped by their interactions with more knowledgeable adults and peers, as well as by the cultural and social context in which they grow up.
Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory also suggested that children internalise and learn from the beliefs and attitudes that they witness around them. He believed that culture played an important role in shaping cognitive development and therefore that this development varied across cultures.
Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory:
This theory posits that children go through eight stages of psychosocial development, each of which is characterized by a different crisis or challenge that they must resolve in order to develop a healthy sense of self and identity.
The stages that make up his theory are as follows:1
- Stage 1: Infancy from birth to 18 months
- Stage 2: Toddler years from 18 months to three years
- Stage 3: Preschool years from three to five
- Stage 4: Middle school years from six to 11
- Stage 5: Teen years from 12 to 18
- Stage 6: Young adult years from 18 to 40
- Stage 7: Middle age from 40 to 65
- Stage 8: Older adulthood from 65 to death
John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory:
This theory emphasizes the importance of early attachment experiences in shaping children emotional and social development. Bowlby proposed that children who have secure attachments with their caregivers are more likely to develop positive relationships with others and to have better mental health outcomes later in life.
Bowlby viewed attachment as a product of evolutionary processes. While the behavioral theories of attachment suggested that attachment was a learned process, Bowlby and others proposed that children are born with an innate drive to form attachments with caregivers.
Throughout history, children who maintained proximity to an attachment figure were more likely to receive comfort and protection, and therefore more likely to survive to adulthood. Through the process of natural selection, a motivational system designed to regulate attachment emerged.
Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory:
This theory emphasizes the role of multiple levels of environmental influence on children development. For instance;
- The microsystem (the immediate environment in which the child lives),
- The mesosystem (the relationships between different microsystems),
- The exosystem (the broader social and institutional contexts in which the child lives),
- The macrosystem (the larger cultural and societal values and beliefs that shape the other systems).
According to Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory, children typically find themselves enmeshed in various ecosystems, from the most intimate home ecological system to the larger school system, and then to the most expansive system which includes society and culture. Each of these ecological systems inevitably interact with and influence each other in all aspects of the children lives.
Child development theories have all had a significant impact on our understanding of early childhood development and continue to be influential in research and practice today.