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Stages of Childhood - Adolescence, Infancy, Middle Childhood, Toddlerhood - PRESCHOOL

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ADOLESCENCE Ronda Copher, Jeylan T. Mortimer

INFANCY M. G. Carelli, M. Cusinato

MIDDLE CHILDHOOD M. Cusinato, M. G. Carelli

PRESCHOOL M. G. Carelli, M. Cusinato

TODDLERHOOD M. Cusinato, M. G. Carelli

Changing Identities

The establishment of identity is widely viewed as the key developmental task of adolescence, sometimes accompanied by emotional strain as adolescents grapple with the question of who they are and what they want to become. Identities can be based on roles, relationships, status in an organization, or those related to character traits (psychological and behavioral attributes). Westerners conceptualize adolescents as playful, experimental, carefree, even reckless, while adults, in contrast, are thought to be independent, productive, hardworking, and responsible. Yet the experiences of many youth worldwide differ from these ideals; many quickly assume adult role identities. Issues of adolescent identity are further complicated by diverse legal definitions. For example, in Japan, the ceremony of seijinshiki occurs when a youth reaches twenty years of age and indicates legal adult status. However, this ceremony does not necessarily mean that the youth has the social status of an adult.

Given asynchronies in the age-grading systems of different societal institutions, the adolescent (and youth) is subject to recurring status inconsistencies and identity conflicts. Independent, autonomous character identities, characteristic of adulthood, are confirmed in some contexts, but not in others. As a result, it is widely believed that adolescence and youth are stressful life stages, and that problems diminish with the successful entry into adult roles. Characteristic of one-third of American adolescents at any given time is a "midadolescence peak" of depressed mood (Petersen; Compas; Brooks-Gunn; Stemmler; Ey; and Grant 1993). Researchers in other countries, such as Canada and Germany, have reported similar findings. Moreover, depressive affect and disorder show marked increases in adolescence, especially among girls (see Marcotte, Alain, and Gosselin 1999). Adolescent well-being overall tends to be lower in those countries where the standards of living are poor (Grob, Stetsenko, Sabatier, Botcheva, and Macek 1999).

Because of their capacity to engage in formal operational thought, adolescents may recognize A Muslim Palestinian woman and her adolescent daughter prepare traditional foods during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. How much time adolescents spend with their families and their expected contributions to the family varies according to social norms and family needs. ANNIE GRIFFITHS BELT/CORBIS the multiplicity of choices available to them, and the likelihood that their choices may not be optimal. This process of identity exploration is more highly differentiated and sophisticated in areas salient to adult possible selves, such as the domain of work and family. Further, the resolution of important identity issues facilitates career choice, the formation of stable intimate relationships, and political-religious ideologies. Optimally, those identities sought by adolescents will foster a coherent, unified set of self-images and activities, congruent with social niches.

Yet the multiplicity of options is problematic for many adolescents as they attempt to manage their lives in a changing world of sociopolitical as well as economic upheaval. Adolescents must navigate between traditional expectations and contemporary conditions. For example, despite their patriarchal culture, many adolescents in India think that all family members, including women, should be involved in decision making (Verma and Saraswathi in Brown et al. 2002). In particular, changes such as women's participation in paid employment have altered family life by requiring more help within the home and increasing young women's expectations. Although not all change is positive, as in Southeast Asia; the disruption to family life by women taking paid employment and migration into urban areas are seen as precursors to increased sexual activity for youth (Santa Maria in Brown et al. 2002). Ideas about premarital sex further illustrate the conflict of past and present beliefs, as more adolescents are sexually active despite traditional social views to the contrary. Moreover, at least two-thirds of young adults in the United States and northern European countries are avoiding conventional marriage, choosing instead to cohabitate (Hurrelmann and Settertobulte 1994).

Educational Attainment

Considerable attention has been directed to adolescent educational attainment, given its clear link to socioeconomic standing in adulthood. For youth worldwide, education is of central importance for occupational attainment, a critical component of adult status. Many countries have multiple secondary education institutions to assist adolescents in achieving occupational success: for example, college preparatory or vocational, where students learn trades like carpentry or auto mechanics. Apprenticeships combine occupational training in the context of work organizations and educational training for youth in Europe. By age fifteen or sixteen, adolescents in Germany select their apprenticeships, and thus their occupational destinations (see Mortimer and Kruger 2000). For better placement into secondary education institutions, students in China and Japan spend extra time after school preparing for entrance exams (Stevenson and Zusho in Brown et al. 2002).

The prolonged character of educational preparation is a worldwide trend. Currently in Europe 20 to 40 percent of young people are attending institutions of higher education (Lagree 1995). In the United States, more than 60 percent of high school graduates enter college, yet less than 30 percent of recent cohorts complete a four-year degree. Jeffery J. Arnett (1998) argues that continued participation in education extends the transition to adult status, thus creating an emerging adulthood period. Current market conditions favor the more highly educated. Adolescents may be pursuing further education for better jobs, but it also prolongs their pre-adult status. Barbara Schneider and David Stevenson (1999) maintain that the exclusive emphasis on attaining higher education in the American high school provides little vocational direction for young people, contributing to "floundering" and the less-than-optimal utilization of educational resources.

Education offers opportunities for improving the conditions of youth worldwide, but there are inequities based on social class. For example, in India, those in the lower castes are disadvantaged by their class position, limiting their social mobility. Adolescents from families with fewer resources are unable to continue their educations due to cost, which is increasingly problematic in Latin America (Welti in Brown et al. 2002). Adolescents of higher social class background in the United States have higher educational and occupational aspirations, which, in turn, foster higher attainments. The more socioeconomically advantaged parents also engage in more supportive childrearing behavior, fostering personality traits that are conducive to occupational attainment. Geographic location also affects the availability of education. In Southeast Asia, 70 percent of out-of-school youth reside in rural areas (Saint Marie in Brown et al. 2002) where educational facilities are often more limited than in urban areas.

Increasingly throughout the world, women receive more formal education than was previously allowed. Despite having the highest illiteracy rates among females, in Latin American countries, more young women are given access to education than in prior years. In China and Japan, families are more likely to provide resources for men to attend school because sons perpetuate the family name and are expected to contribute to the support of their parents (Soled 1995).


Most adolescents work while they are attending school to obtain spending money; many save at least part of their earnings for higher education and other goals. This is the normative pattern in the United States and Canada. Parents typically hold quite favorable opinions about their adolescent children's work, believing that this experience will help them to become responsible and independent, to learn to handle money, and to manage time. Yet Ellen Greenberger and Laurence Steinberg (1986) alleged that employed adolescents have more cynical attitudes toward work than those who are not employed. Employment during high school predicts more stable work histories and higher earnings in the years immediately following (see Chapter 4, National Academy Press 1998). David Stern and Yoshi-Fumi Nakata (1989), using data from noncollege youth in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in the United States, reported that more complex work in adolescence predicts lower incidence of unemployment and higher earnings three years after high school. Furthermore, evidence from the Youth Development Study, a longitudinal investigation of a representative panel of urban high school students, suggests that in the United States, the quality of adolescent work matters for psychological outcomes that could influence adult attainment, such as a sense of competence or personal efficacy, depressive affect, and occupational reward values (see Grabowski, Call, and Mortimer 2001). The most beneficial pattern, with respect to educational attainment, is for youth to engage in stable employment of low intensity (Mortimer and Johnson 1998), allowing them to participate in diverse, developmentally beneficial activities in their schools, families, and peer groups. Whereas middle-class white youth have the most bountiful work opportunities, minority youth, particularly those who reside in inner cities, are less likely to be employed. Given the benefits to be drawn from youth employment experience, the lack of job opportunities for minority teenagers is cause for concern (Newman 1999).

Upon completion of secondary schooling, youth in the United States who do not go on to college obtain jobs that are usually in the secondary sector of the economy. They experience high unemployment and job instability. At the same time, employers express preference for low-wage workers who do not require fringe benefits and are not likely to unionize. When filling adultlike primary jobs, employers seek evidence of stability or settling down. The absence of a clear channel of mobility from education to work in the United States, unlike Germany and Japan (Hamilton 1990), reduces the level of human capital investment (e.g., in the form of job training and continuous work experience) of noncollege young people in the years after high school.

In other countries, there are stronger bridges from education to work. In Germany, part-time adolescent work is tied institutionally to the apprentice system, which influences later employment. In Japan, linkages between schools and employers provide another kind of institutional bridge, though this is weakening with economic decline (Brinton 2000).

The majority of adolescents worldwide seek employment after leaving school in order to contribute to their families' resources or to satisfy their own immediate needs, as Lewis Aptekar (1994) describes among street children in Africa. When working, adolescents are often underemployed and receive low wages in comparison to adult laborers in similar jobs. Employers in India rely on young labor as an inexpensive and compliant source of workers (Burra 1997). Yet, as in Africa, some countries are attempting to create more gainful and sustainable employment for adolescents.

Despite the low wages that are available to them, adolescents often migrate to urban areas in search of employment. In the Philippines, Indonesia, and Zambia, adolescents leave rural areas in hopes of increased employment in urban environments. Latin American adolescents relocate to the cities to work, sharing residence with other working teens. Although migration may result in employment, there are also substantial costs involved. It is estimated that upwards of eleven million youth live on the streets of India (Phillips 1992). Separation from family disrupts transmission of important cultural values and mores, disadvantaging adolescents. Further, many youth are denied formal education, which limits their skills and available human capital. These adolescents are also at risk from poor nutrition and various environmental hazards.

Youth Problem Behaviors

For many youth, adolescence is a period of increased risk taking that later declines with age. Sometimes youth problem behaviors, such as delinquency and substance use, are attributed to the absence of meaningful, valued adult social roles, despite adolescents' growing capacity to fill them. Some behaviors that are considered problematic or even legally prohibited when engaged in by minors (e.g., smoking, alcohol use, and sexual activity) are legitimate in adulthood. Over 40 percent of high school seniors in the United States have experimented with illicit drugs, though the numbers are declining (Monitoring the Future 2000). These behaviors are seen as attempts to affirm maturity or to negotiate adult status. In addition, adolescents worldwide are using tobacco and alcohol in record numbers. The potential consequences of substance use and abuse (e.g., addiction, automobile accidents, crime, and health problems) make this quite prevalent behavior problematic.

Although there is continuity in conduct problems in childhood, adolescent delinquency, and adult criminality, adolescents, particularly males of lower socioeconomic background, have distinctly high rates of criminal behavior. These are not always reflected in conviction rates because of the tendency to dispose of adolescent arrests informally. Juvenile delinquency has multifaceted causes: macrostructural (e.g., the failure of the society to provide opportunities to obtain widespread success goals legitimately); familial (e.g., indifferent or inconsistent parental monitoring and discipline or parental criminality); network-related (e.g., involvement with delinquent peer subcultures); personal (e.g., low levels of moral development, low IQ; see Hirschi and Hindelang 1977); and other biological or genetic deficits.

Drug use, whether criminal or conventional, poses serious health risks for youth worldwide. Adolescent drug use is more legally problematic in the United States than, for example, in Switzerland, where drug use has been decriminalized (Buchmann 1994). Only 25 percent of Swiss youth, aged fifteen to twenty-five, report ever smoking marijuana, compared to over 36 percent of twelfth graders in the United States (Monitoring the Future 2000). Canadian adolescent drug use is also higher than in European countries (Galambos and Kolaric 1994), while narcotic drug use by Arab adolescents is less frequent than in Western countries. The most prevalent use of drugs by adolescents involves alcohol and tobacco. Tobacco is used by between 20 to 50 percent of adolescents in Western countries. Tobacco smoking by Russian youth is widespread (Prokhorov and Alexandrov 1992); the average age of onset of smoking by boys has decreased to eleven years, by girls to thirteen (World Health Organization 2000).

Adolescent experiences vary throughout the world, yet these years in the life-course provide the foundation for adult roles and responsibilities. Youth in Westernized countries enter into the arena of adulthood relatively late, while in developing nations, formal assumption of adult responsibilities occurs at a much younger age. Clearly, cultural, social, and economic variations across nation-states affect the definition and the experiences of adolescents. There are opportunities for intervention during the period of adolescence, to encourage and improve the outcomes for youth throughout the world. In 1996, the United Nations created a set of goals for youth worldwide. Its policy recommendation addresses basic human rights of health and freedom, and importantly calls attention to the need for access to education, sustainable employment, and participation in decisions that affect young people's lives (see Sarawathi and Larson in Brown et al 2002). Enacting these principles would offer youth the opportunity to develop the skills necessary for adulthood, engage productively in their constantly changing environments, and develop healthier and more satisfying lives.


Aptekar, L. (1994). "Street Children in the Developing World: A Review of their Condition." Cross-Cultural Research 28:195–224.

Archer, S. L. (1991). "Gender Differences in Identity Development." Encyclopedia of Adolescence, ed. by R. M. Lerner, A. C. Petersen, and J. Brooks-Gunn. Vol. 1: 522–524.

Arnett, J. J. (1998). "Learning to Stand Alone: The Contemporary American Transition to Adulthood in Cultural and Historical Context." Human Development 54:317–326.

Brinton, M. C. (2000). "Social Capital in the Japanese Youth Labor Market: Labor Market Policy, Schools, and Norms." Policy Sciences 33:289–306

Brown, B. B.; Larson, R.; and Saraswathi, T. S. (2002). The World's Youth: Adolescence in Eight Regions of the Globe. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Buchmann, M. (1994). "Switzerland." In the International Handbook of Adolescence, ed. K. Hurrelmann. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Burra, N. (1997). Born to Work: Child Labor in India. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Clausen, J. (1993). American Lives. New York: Free Press.

Galambos, N., and Kolaric, G. C. (1994). "Canada." In the International Handbook of Adolescence, ed. K. Hurrelmann. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Grabowski, L. S.; Call, K. T.; and Mortimer, J. T. (2001). "Global and Economic Self-Efficacy in the Educational Attainment Process." Social Psychology Quarterly 64:164–179.

Greenberger, E., and Steinberg, L. (1986). When Teenagers Work. New York: Basic Books.

Grobb, A.; Stetsenko, A.; Sabatier, C.; Botcheva, L.; and Macek, P. (1999). "A Cross-National Model of Subjective Well-being in Adolescence." In the Adolescent Experience: European and American Adolescents in the 1990s, ed. F. D. Alsaker and A. Flammer. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Hirschi, T., and M. J. Hindelang. (1977). "Intelligence and Delinquency: A Revisionist Review." American Sociological Review 42:571–587.

Hurrelmann, K. and Settertobulte, W. (1994). "Germany." In the International Handbook of Adolescence, ed. K. Hurrelmann. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Lagree, J. C. (1995). "Young People in the European Community: Convergence or Divergence?" In Growing Up in Europe: Contemporary Horizons in Childhood and Youth Studies, ed. L. Chisholm; P. Buchner; H. H. Kruger; and M. du Bois-Reymond. New York: Walter de Gruyter.

Marcotte, D.; Alain, M.; and Gosselin, M. J. (1999). "Gender Difference in Adolescent Depression: Gender-Typed Characteristics or Problem-Solving Skill Deficits?" Sex Roles 41:31–48.

Mortimer, J. T., and Johnson, M. K. (1998). "Adolescent Part-Time Work and Educational Attainment." In The Adolescent Years: Social Influences and Educational Challenges, ed. K. Borman and B. Schneider. Chicago: National Society for the Study of Education.

Mortimer, J. T., and Kruger, H. (2000). "Pathways from School to Work in Germany and the United States." In the Handbook of Education, ed. M. T. Hallinan. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Press.

National Academy Press. (1998). Protecting Youth at Work: Health, Safety, and Development of Working Children and Adolescents in the United States. Washington, DC: National Academy Press

Newman, K. S. (1999). No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City. New York: Alfred A. Knopf and the Russell Sage Foundation.

Nsamenang, A. B. (1992). Human Development in Cultural Context: A Third World Perspective. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Petersen, A. C.; Compas, B. E.; Brooks-Gunn, J.; Stemmler, E.; Ey, S.; and Grant, K. E. (1993). "Depression in Adolescence." American Psychologist 48:155–168.

Phillips, W. S. K. (1992). Street Children of India. Noida: Child Labor Cell.

Prokhorov, A. V., and Alexandrov, A. A. (1992). "Tobacco Smoking in Moscow School Students." British Journal of Addiction 87:1469–1476.

Schneider, B., and Stevenson, D. (1999). The Ambitious Generation: America's Teenagers, Motivated but Directionless. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Schraedley, P. K.; Gotlib, I. H.; and Hayward, C. (1999). "Gender Differences in Correlates of Depressive Symptoms in Adolescents." Journal of Adolescent Health 25:98–108.

Soled, D. E. (1995). China: A Nation in Transition. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly.

Stern, D., and Nakata, Y. F. (1989). "Characteristics of High School Students' Paid Jobs and Employment Experience After Graduation." In Adolescence and Work: Influences of Social Structure, Labor Markets, and Culture, ed. D. Stern and D. Eichorn. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Other Resources

Monitoring the Future. (2000). Trends in the Lifetime Prevalence of Use of Various Drugs for Eighth, Tenth, and Twelfth Graders. Available from http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/data/00data/pr00t1.pdf.

World Health Organization. (2001). Highlights on the Health in the Russian Federation. Available from http://www.who.dk/country/rus01.pdf.


Cognitive Development

The aim of research on infant cognitive development is to describe how babies think and how and why thought processes change with age. In the view of Jean Piaget, one of the most prominent cognitive developmentalists of the twentieth century, children are active participants in the development of knowledge. In constructing their own understanding, children try to impose order on the information they receive through their senses and to adapt to the world around using sensorimotor schemas (such as grasping, throwing, sucking, banging, and kicking). These are representations of a class of sensory or motor actions used to attain a goal. For example, the actions of holding, touching, and throwing are children's schemas for round objects. Twelve-month-old children spend most of their playtime exploring and manipulating objects by using different sensor motor schemas, putting things in their mouths, shaking them, and moving them along the floor. Infants acquire knowledge about objects through their actions with them. Children learn, for example, that an object is a thing that tastes and feels a certain way when it is touched, or has a particular color. This wholly practical, action-bound kind of intellectual functioning is acquired through a sequence of stages, which together make up what Piaget termed the sensorimotor period, extending from birth until about two years of age (Piaget and Inhelder 1969).

One way of summarizing cognitive development in infancy is to say that the infant "knows" in the sense of recognizing or anticipating familiar, recurring objects and events, and "thinks" in the sense of behaving toward them with mouth, hand, eye, and other sensory-motor instruments in predictable and organized ways (Flavell 1985).

As infants near their first birthdays, they show important changes in their cognitive skills. They learn more rapidly and remember what they have learned for longer periods of time. They are able to anticipate the course of simple familiar routines (or scripts), and they act surprised if their expectations are violated. They have expanded the rudimentary categories they use to interpret their experiences and guide their actions. These new achievements make it possible for them to play simple games such as "peekaboo."

Developmental research has shown, however, that infants are more competent than what traditional theories indicated, and that they seem to display certain cognitive capacities much sooner than Piaget believed. Piaget thought that as early as the first months of life, infants could imitate their own actions, such as hand gestures, but could not imitate other people's facial gestures until late in the first year. Later research has shown that newborn babies can imitate certain facial gestures, such as tongue protrusion (Anisfeld 1991). Furthermore, nine-month-old babies can defer their imitation over a period as long as twenty-four hours, and can keep several actions in mind at the same time (Meltzoff 1988). Babies as young as two months also show preferences for attractive faces (Langlois et al 1991).

Even infants younger than six months are skilled at categorization—the ability to mentally sort objects by their properties. With increasing experience, both the categories and the properties used for categorizing grow in complexity. Research on memory development indicates that infants easily forget, but their implicit memory can be reactivated with reminder sessions of past events. Carolyn Rovee-Collier (1993) has found that babies as young as three months of age demonstrate implicit memory for actions with specific objects over periods of as long as a week (see Rovee-Collier 1999 for a review of infant memory).

In summary, Piaget seems to have underestimated the ability of infants to store, remember, and organize sensory and motor information. Very young babies pay much more attention to patterns, sequences, and prototypical features than Piaget thought, and can apparently represent them over at least short intervals. Many later theorists have concluded that babies come equipped with a range of built-in knowledge on their ways of understanding the world (Mandler 1997; Spelke and Newport 1997).

Language Development

In the early stage of language acquisition children are able to discriminate sounds, learn to segment and produce the basic sounds of language, and show a predisposition to respond to language as a unique auditory stimulus. Many of the developments during the prelinguistic (before the first word) phase are significant precursors to language. Around two months of age babies begin to make vowel-like noises called cooing; gradually, at around six months of age, they add consonants and start babbling. During this phase of language development infants repeat consonant-vowel combinations in long strings, such as "bababa" and "nanana."

At about one year of age the earliest words appear. Some of these early words are combined with gestures to convey whole sentences of meaning, a pattern called holophrase. During this one-word period infants spend several months expanding their vocabularies one word at the time. They talk mostly about moving or manipulating objects that interest them and show a vocabulary spurt or naming explosion between eighteen and twenty-four months of age. The first two-word sentences normally appear between eighteen and twenty-four months and are short and grammatically simple, lacking the various grammatical inflections. The child at this age can nonetheless convey many different meanings, such as location, possession, and agent-object relationships.

From a cross-cultural point of view there is some evidence of large similarities in early vocabularies. For example, the prelinguistic phase seems to be identical in all language communities. All babies coo, then babble, and the babbling stream resembles the sounds of the child's language community (at around one year of age). All babies understand language before they can speak it, and babies in all cultures begin to use their first words at about twelve months. In all language communities studied, a one-word phase precedes the two-word phase, with the latter beginning at about eighteen months. The functions of the first combinations of words seem to be present in infants in all language communities, and prepositions describing locations are added essentially in the same order. Finally, children in all cultures studied seem to pay more attention to the ends of words than to the beginnings, and thus learn suffixes before they learn prefixes (see Mohanty and Perregaux 1997 for a review).

Emotional Development

Do babies experience and display specific emotions such as happiness or sadness? At birth, infants have different facial expressions associated with several emotions, including interest, pain, disgust, joy, and surprise. By the time babies are two to three months old, adult observers can also distinguish expressions of anger and sadness, with expressions of fear appearing by six or seven months (Izard and Harris 1995). Early in the second year of life, at about the same time that children show self-recognition in the mirror, there is the emergence of self-conscious emotional expressions such as embarrassment, pride, and shame, all of which involve some aspects of self-evaluation. Infants are not only able to show emotions, then, but they also seem to be able to discriminate other people's emotional expressions. Haviland and Lelwica (1987) found that when mothers expressed happiness, their ten-week-old babies looked happy and gazed at them. However, when the mothers expressed sadness, babies showed increased mouth movements or looked away; when the mothers expressed anger, some babies cried vigorously, while others showed a kind of "frozen" look.

As early as five months of age infants associate emotional meaning with different tones of voice, such as encouraging or disapproving intonations. A father's expression of alarm can tell an infant how to react to an unfamiliar event. At about six months of age, infants begin to use social referencing—searching the expressions of others for emotional cues. Social referencing becomes increasingly distinct and important when crawling (at about nine months) and walking (at about twelve months) make infants independent and the active period of exploration begins. A detailed longitudinal study by Malinda Carpenter, Katherine Nagell, and Michael Tomasello (1998) has shown that nine- to fifteen-month-olds follow a standard sequence: They follow their parents' expressions and gestures, then they actively share in mutual emotional experiences, and finally they are able to lead the process by using their own words and gestures to engage their parents' attention.

From a cross-cultural perspective, "the available evidence is that emotion[s] exist in all cultures . . . events considered relevant to major concerns are seen to elicit emotional responses, including facial expressions, physiological changes, hedonic experiences, and important shifts in the control of behavior pertinent to interactions with the environment. . . . [Nevertheless] there is evidence of consistent cultural differences as well as similarities in each component of emotions" (Mesquita, Frijda, and Scherer 1997, p. 287).

Parent-Child Relationships

Modern theories in developmental psychology conceive the interaction between the caregiver and the child as crucial to all psychological growth. A child's parents and the emotional atmosphere of the home greatly influence the kind of person the infant will become. During the early years parental attitudes toward the infant are critical: The infant may receive feelings that will foster a sense of love and security or those that will promote anxiety and mistrust. Infants are interested in social interaction virtually from birth—voices and faces are among the first stimuli to capture a newborn's attention.

By the age of two to three months, babies start to respond to parents in a special way: they smile, show wider grins, coo, and show other reactions that signify special status in their unique worlds. Many parents report that their own affection for their babies deepens at this time, in a sense that parents proceed from a newborn phase of caregiving to a family phase in which the child becomes a social partner who reciprocates their love (Berger 2001). Progressively that initial face-to-face play becomes a more coordinated interaction. This synchrony helps the infant to develop some of the basic skills of social interaction, such as taking turns, which they will use throughout life.

Cross-culturally, these episodes of face-to-face play are a universal feature of the early interaction between caregivers and infants. However, the frequency, duration, and goals of these episodes differ among cultures. For example, U.S. mothers employ more social overtures (such as tickling) that stimulate and excite their babies; mothers in Kenya are more soothing and quieting in their initiatives (LeVine et al. 1994); while Japanese mothers typically focus on establishing mutual intimacy by maintaining eye contact with their infants as well as kissing and hugging (Bornstein and Lamb 1992). Fathers seem to be active partners, and older siblings and other adults also assume active roles in infant care and participate in social play with babies in many non-Western cultures (Tronick, Morelli, and Ivey 1992).


In John Bowlby's (1958) view, attachment is the affectionate bond between infant and caregiver, and is a vital component of healthy functioning. Bowlby believed that every infant, like the young of the other animal species, is endowed with a set of built-in behaviors (e. g., smiling, grasping, crying, gazing) that help to keep the parent nearby and thereby increase the chances that the infant will be protected from danger. Contact with the parent also ensures that the baby will be fed, but Bowlby was careful to point out that feeding is not the basis for attachment. Instead the attachment bond has strong biological roots, and can best be understood within an evolutionary framework in which survival of the species is of utmost importance.

The development of attachment takes place in three phases. During the first phase (from birth to two to three months), very young babies cannot identify their mothers and therefore cannot exhibit differential emotional responses to them. Infants do, however, recognize their own mother's smell and voice, but they are not yet attached to her, and they do not mind being left with an unfamiliar adult. By three months of age babies begin to respond differently to a familiar caregiver than to a stranger. For example, they smile more freely when interacting with the mother and become calm more quickly when picked up by her. As infants engage in face-to-face interaction with the parent and experience relief from distress, they learn that their own actions affect the behavior of those around them. As a result, they begin to develop an expectation that the caregiver will respond when signaled. At that stage babies still do not protest when separated from the parent, despite the fact that they can recognize and distinguish her from unfamiliar people. During the third phase (between six to eight months and eighteen months to two years) the attachment to the familiar caregiver is evident. Babies of this age show separation anxiety in that they become very upset when the adult on whom they have come to rely leaves.

Cross-cultural comparisons indicate that separation distress is a universal feature of the attachment process. It emerges in the second half of the first year, increasing until about fifteen months, and then starts to decline. Infants construct enduring affective ties to caregivers out of their experiences during the developmental course of attachment. This inner representation of the parent-child bond serves as an internal working model, or set of expectations concerning the availability of attachment figures, a model that serves as a guide for all future close relationships (see Waters et al. 1995 for a review).

Research on what leads to variations in patterns of attachment has focused on several factors: the infant's temperament and capacities, the mother's responsiveness, stresses within the family, and the child-rearing patterns of the cultural group to which the mother and the child belong. Many theorists believe that the major influence on the quality of the infant-caregiver attachment relationship appears to result primarily from the caregiver's responsiveness. Mothers who are more sensitive to their babies' signals and who adjust their behavior to that of their children are more likely to develop secure attachment relationships (Ainsworth 1983).

Family Environment

The specific family environment in which child-rearing takes place also affects infants' development. The belief that the family environment has a great impact on the characteristics that infants will have as adults has led many researchers to try to identify the optimal conditions for infant development. Ideas about the nature of optimal environment depend on the historical and cultural values of the society into which a child is born. In Western societies it is commonly held that the ideal conditions should include a variety of objects for the baby to investigate, some free opportunity to explore, and loving, responsive, and sensitive adults who talk to their infant often and respond to the infant's cues (Bradley et al. 1989). Different cultures value different strategies for achieving their optimal pattern. Japanese mothers, for example, seem very responsive to their children, to the point of encouraging considerable emotional dependence (Miyaki et al. 1986). In contrast to U.S. society, which values self-determination and independence, Japanese society fosters interdependence and cooperation.

A different set of conditions prevails in areas in which children are born into very poor and hostile environments. Mothers of children living, for example, in the areas of northeastern Brazil have different beliefs about childrearing that seem uncaring by the standards of middle-class Western societies (Scheper-Hughes 1992). They view children who are developmentally delayed or who have quiet temperaments as weak and unlikely to survive and as a consequence might neglect these children. Further, mothers expect five- to six-yearold children to start contributing to the family's livelihood. But as the research by Nancy Scheper-Hughes points it out, these mothers are doing the best they can to prepare their children to survive and successfully adapt to their environment.

Cross-cultural studies of this kind are becoming increasingly important. They indicate that any final statements about the optimal conditions for infant development must take into account the actual circumstances in which children in different cultures live (Cole and Cole 2001).

The End of Infancy

Between the second and the third birthdays, children complete the period of infancy. The end of this important part in their lives is marked by changes in biological processes, by expanding physical and mental abilities, and by the appearance of a new relationship with themselves and the social world. Significant changes combine to produce a transition to a new stage evidenced by a new self-concept and autonomy (including the decline in the level of separation distress that children show when they are separated from their caregivers). The increased abilities to think and play in symbolic ways, to engage in more complex problem solving, and to express themselves in elementary phrases make infants ready to enter a new distinctive stage of development.


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Cognitive Development

The most important achievement of cognitive development during middle childhood is the attainment of the concrete operational stage. According to Jean Piaget and Bärbel Inhelder (Piaget and Inhelder 1969), concrete operational reasoning is far more logical, flexible, and organized than cognition was during the preschool period. Children between seven and eleven years understand logical principles, and they apply them in concrete situations. They are able to engage in mental operations that have reversibility. For example, a child understands that subtracting a few coins from a jar of coins can be reversed by adding the same number of coins to the jar. Another important cognitive acquisition is the capacity of decentration, that is, children can focus their attention on several attributes of an object or event simultaneously and understand the relations among dimensions or attributes.

Concrete operational thinkers understand that objects have more than one dimension (e.g., "A car is both large and heavy") and that these dimensions are separable. The physical world becomes more predictable because children come to understand that certain physical aspects of objects, such as length, size, density, and number, remain the same even when other aspects of the object's appearance have changed. However, school-age children cannot think abstractly. That is, they are able to think in an organized, logical fashion only when dealing with concrete information they can directly perceive. Thus, youngsters cannot truly analyze their own thoughts or think about problems in the future.

Are these characteristics of the concrete operational thinking universal? According to Piaget, brain maturation with experience in a stimulating environment should lead children in every culture to reach the concrete operational stage. However, cross-cultural research has shown that specific cultural practices have a great deal to do with children's mastery of Piagetian tasks (Dasen 1994; Rogoff 1990), and that concrete operational reasoning may not be a form of logic that emerges universally during middle childhood, but it may be a product of direct training, context, and cultural conditions (Light and Perret-Clermont 1989). Marshall Segall and his colleagues (1999) argued that when Piaget's clinical procedures are applied appropriately, by using contents with which people have extensive experience, the concrete operational thought is a universal cognitive achievement of middle childhood, just as predicted by Piaget.

Although all developmental psychologists do not agree with Piaget's theory, there is general consensus that children's thinking during middle childhood becomes more two sided, in that the children can think about objects from more than one perspective and are able to hold one aspect of a situation while comparing it with another. There is also a general agreement that this special characteristic of concrete operational thought is due to an increased memory capacity and abilities. Important memory changes seem to be characteristic of this period, including an increase in the knowledge about the things one is trying to remember (Chi and Koeske 1983), the acquisition of more effective strategies for remembering (Schneider and Bjorklund 1998; see also Rogoff and Mistry 1990 for a cross-cultural perspective), an increase in the speed of memory processing and memory capacity (Kail and Park 1994), and the emergence of metamemory, or the ability to think about one's own memory processes (Schneider and Pressley 1997).

In addition to the two-sidedness of thought and more powerful memory abilities, there is another important milestone in children's cognitive development during the school years. They become aware that the content of their thinking is partly under their conscious control. Children develop metacognition, which means "thinking about thinking" (Flavell, Green, and Flavell 1995). The ability to control one's mental processes emerges during the preschool years, but it is only during the school years that control processes become markedly better, especially in regard to intellectual efforts. It is difficult for preschoolers to judge, for example, whether a problem is difficult or easy, whereas children in the school years know how to identify challenging tasks, and how to evaluate their learning progress.

The Influence of Schooling

Schooling during middle childhood is available in every nation. Where it varies considerably is in who receives instructions, in what subjects, and with which teaching techniques. There is some sort of inequality in the distribution of formal schooling in developing countries, so that more boys than girls attend elementary school (58% versus 42%); and in most Western countries, less is generally demanded of poor children and girls, specifically in science and mathematics (Unesco 1997, cited in Berger 2001). There are many ways to assess the cognitive impact of schooling (see Morrison, Griffith, and Alberts 1997 for a review). One of the most interesting lines of evidence for the way in which schooling affects development comes from Robert LeVine and his colleagues, who have studied the impact of schooling on the childrearing practices of parents who have, or have not, gone to Middle childhood is a developmental stage referred to as the school years. Across cultures, children in this stage show an ability and eagerness to learn. Gender segregation in peer relations becomes virtually complete at this stage. FRANK GRIZZAFFI/TEXAS CATHOLIC HERALD school (LeVine et al. 1996). This study shows that mothers who had several years of education talked more with their children and used less directive childrearing methods, and most significantly, their children performed better in school and on standardized tests of cognitive development.

Overall, research on cognitive consequences of schooling has produced a mixed picture. A wide variety of studies have led to the conclusion that school experiences improve cognitive performances, by teaching specific information-processing strategies that are relevant primarily to school itself, by increasing children's knowledge base, including ways to use language, and by changing children's overall life situations and attitudes.

On the other hand, there is only minimal support for the idea that schooling is directly responsible for broad changes in the way the mind works (Cole and Cole 2001). Perhaps the most important aspect of schooling is at the social level, so that success in school seems to be an important contributor to children's later economic well-being, at least in literate societies.

Emotional Development

During middle childhood, the child becomes emotionally more flexible and acquires a greater emotional differentiation. Comparing with infants and preschoolers, school-age children's range of emotions becomes more specific, diverse, and sophisticated. Also evident at this time is the child's growing ability to detect and understand the emotions expressed by others. During middle childhood, there is a decline in fears related to body safety (such as sickness and injury) and in the fear of dogs, noises, darkness, and storms. However, there is no significant decline in fears of supernatural forces, such as ghosts and witches. Most of the new fears emerging at this age are related to school and family, in accordance with children's expanding social boundaries. Fears of ridicule by parents, teachers, and friends also increase, as do fears of parental rejection and disapproval. Many school-aged children also report fearing that their parents will die (DeSpelder and Strickland 1992).

One of the skills that appears later in childhood is the ability to mask or fake an emotional state. By this time, children understand behaviors prescribed by cultural rules (for example, you are supposed to look happy when you are given a gift even if you do not like it). By the middle school years, children have developed a broad understanding of the social norms and expectations that surround the display of feelings or emotional display rules (Harris 1989).

In summary, emotional development in older children is closely related to advances in cognition that allow children to think in more abstract and complex terms. In addition, it is apparent that the way in which children express and understand emotions can be a major component in their success with social relationships. Children who are popular with their peers know how to deliver positively toned messages to their playmates. Similarly, the emergence of guilt and shame is related to moral development and altruism, two other important aspects of social development.


The self-perceptions of preschool children are tied to visible concrete characteristics, such as what they look like, whom they play with, rather than to more inner qualities, such as personality traits or basic abilities. During the school-age period, this concrete self-concept gradually shifts toward a more generalized self-definition, to a more abstract categorical self. A five-year-old might describe himself as "smart" or "nice," but a nine-year-old is more likely to say she is "not as good at volleyball as my friends." School-age children's self-concept is less based on external aspects and more focused on stable, internal qualities and, for the first time, they develop a global sense of their own self-worth. They begin to measure themselves in terms of a variety of competencies; they can, for example, realize that they are weak at playing a musical instrument, talented at playing sports, or basically good at making friends. This increased self-understanding brings automatically self-criticism and self-worth. According to Susan Harter (1999), the child experiences some degree of discrepancy between what he or she would like to be (or thinks he or she ought to be) and what he or she thinks he or she is. When that discrepancy is high, the child's self-esteem will be much lower, and vice versa.

A school-age child often abandons the imagery, rosy self-evaluation that he or she had during early childhood, and is more able to evaluate him- or herself through social comparison. They also are more sensitive to how parents, teachers and peers look at their actual behavior (Grolnick, Deci, and Ryan 1997; Pomerantz et al. 1995).

Social Development

One of the most important shifts in children's social development in the years of middle childhood is the increasing centrality of the peer group. In this period of life children prefer to play with other kids, and playing (along with watching television) takes up virtually all their free time (Timmer, Eccles, and O'Brien 1985). Shared play interests continue to form the major basis of these school-age peer relationships. Furthermore, children of this age define play groups in terms of common activities, rather than in terms of common attitudes or values (see O'Brien and Bierman 1988). The rise of the peer group as a major context for development seems to be a rather general characteristic of middle childhood. For the first time, children must define their status within a group of relative equals without the intervention of adults. In many cultures, interactions with peers become coordinated with games governed by rules serving as surrogates for adult control. The experience of negotiating these interactions and comparing themselves with peers contributes to children's mastery of the social conventions and moral rules that regulate their communities. Peer interactions also provide crucial contexts within which children arrive at a new, more complex and global sense of themselves (Cole and Cole 2001).

Another important feature of social development at this age is the emergence of gender segregation, that is, children's tendency to play with peers of the same sex, so that boys play with boys and girls play with girls, each in their own areas and at their own kinds of games. They avoid interacting with one another and show strong preference for their own gender and negative stereotyping of the opposite gender (Powlishta 1995). An interesting study by Eleanor Maccoby and Carol Jaklin (1987) showed that given a forced choice between playing with a child of the opposite gender or a child of a different race, elementary school-age children will make the cross-race choice rather than the cross-gender choice. Gender segregation in the elementary school seems also to be a universal pattern of peer-group interactions that occurs in every culture in the world (Archer 1992).

During middle childhood, children's concepts of friendship also become more complex and psychologically based. Friendship is no longer simply a matter of engaging in the same activities, but is a relationship based on mutual trust and assistance, in which children like each other's personal qualities and respond to one another's needs and desires. As a consequence, events that break up a friendship are different than they were during the preschool years. School-age children regard violations of trust, such as not helping when others need help, breaking promises, and gossiping behind the other's back as serious breaches of the friendship.

Family Influences

Parent-child relationships. The fact that children now attend school, have greater interaction with their peers, and display heightened levels of independence places the family in a new perspective. School children continue to use their parents as a safe base, they continue to rely on their presence, support, and affection (Buhrmester 1992), and they continue to be strongly influenced by their parents' judgments. What does change is the agenda of issues between parents and children. Parents no longer act as if their children are adorable; school-aged children are expected to behave appropriately and to do regular chores. The children, for their part, are often embarrassed when their parents do show them affection in public, and tend to argue with their parents and point out their parents' inconsistencies or mistakes. In general, they also are more severe and more critical of parents' mistakes than when they were preschoolers.

In many non-Western countries, parents also must now begin to teach children specific tasks, such as agricultural work and care of younger children (or animals), all of which may be necessary for the survival of the family. In these cultures, children of six to seven years are considered intelligent and responsible, and are given almost adult-like roles. In some Polynesian and West African cultures, it is also common for children of this age to be sent out to apprentice with skilled tradespersons or to foster care with relatives (Bee 1998).

Despite cultural variation in the precise age at which the various competencies are expected to be achieved, most parents expect their children to attain competence in activities that contribute to the families' means of subsistence during middle childhood. In economically developed countries, school is a prominent arena in which children's achievement is judged by parents. Parents worry about how involved they should become in their children's schoolwork and other school-related problems. On the other hand, in less economically developed countries, where a family's survival often depends on putting children to work as early as possible, parents worry about their children's ability to take care of younger kin in the absence of adult supervision, and to carry out important economic tasks such as caring for livestock or hoeing weeds (Weisner 1996).

As children grow older, parents try to influence their behavior by reasoning with them, arousing their sense of guilt, or appealing to their self-esteem or to their sense of humor. Maccoby (1984) introduced the term coregulation by indicating the share of responsibility between the parents and children over the children's lives. Coregulation is a cooperative process from both sides: Children must be willing to inform their parents of their activities and problems; parents, in turn, must monitor, guide, and support their children, using the time they are together to reinforce their children's understanding of right and wrong. Shared responsibility seems to be a critical ingredient behind healthy family relations. By sharing responsibility, children learn to believe in their capacity to make contributions, to be responsive to other family members' feelings. They also learn to breed other important positive traits, such as affirmation, respect, and trust.

Family support and favorable environment. Children need to experience a favorable climate throughout all of childhood, but this is especially true during the school years. Children need the support of parents as they seek to meet the challenges of this age. Favorable home environments are those capable of providing warmth and acceptance to children. Positive home climates usually employ consistent measures of discipline, encourage social and emotional competence, and are responsive to the child's growing needs. Furthermore, positive home environment encourages learning, develops self-esteem, and provides harmony and stability. Given these qualities, children are apt to become emotionally stable, cooperative, and happy. The rejected child, on the other hand, often becomes withdrawn, resentful, lonely, and insecure (Holcomb and Kashani 1991).


Despite the differences in the lives of Western and non-Western children, there are interesting similarities among children in the school-age period. In many cultures, children in middle childhood develop the cognitive underpinnings of reciprocity, learn the beginnings of what Piaget called concrete operations. They also develop individual friendships, segregate their play groups by gender, and acquire some of the basic skills that will be required for adult life. The overall pattern of changes associated with middle childhood seems to be consistent, and thus suggests a distinctive stage of children's life.


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The period from ages two to six is usually called early childhood, or the preschool period. It is also referred as the play years, because the preschool period is considered as the most playful of all. Young children spend most of their time at playing. They play with words and ideas, developing their minds; they invent new games and dramatize fantasies; but they also acquire new social skills and learn moral rules (Berger 2001).

Cognitive Development

Cognitive development enables preschoolers to think in qualitatively different ways than infants or toddlers do. Preschoolers' thinking is more advanced, especially in regard to the refinement and elaboration of concepts. Their thinking becomes more systematic and deliberate, and they do not become discouraged as easily with cognitive challenges, so they become motivated to do tasks at hand.

Moreover, there is an important cognitive advance in this period: a rapid development of a more sophisticated theory of mind. The term refers to children's understanding of the mental world— what they think about other people's intentions, thoughts, beliefs, and desires—and the theories they form about how they think (Frye and Moore 1991). Jean Piaget's position on this topic was clear: "The child knows nothing about the nature of thought. . . ." (Piaget 1929, p. 37). Piaget stated that children are not capable of distinguishing between mental and physical entities until the school years. To the child under the age of eight, dreams and mental images are as real as any events in waking, conscious life.

Despite Piaget's claims, research has shown considerable evidence to the contrary. By the age of three, children begin to understand for the first time that others not only think and believe differently from themselves, but that others act on the basis of their beliefs and can even have false beliefs (Lewis and Mitchell 1994). In addition, they understand that thoughts (as well as dreams and memories) are not physical entities. A common interpretation of this achievement is that children begin to think of themselves and others as acting on the basis of representations of the world, in other words, mental events, rather than as acting directly on the world. From the age of three, children's ideas about how the mind works are more differentiated, organized, and accurate enough to qualify as a "theory" (Wellman 1990). Older preschoolers know that both beliefs and desires determine actions, and they understand the relationship among these three constructs. Children apparently have well-articulated theories of mind by the time they are ready to enter school.

Children from different cultures including China (Flavell et al. 1983), Japan (Gardner et al. 1988), and the preliterate Baka society of Cameroon (Avis and Harris 1991) show similar developmental changes in their understanding of beliefs. A provocative possibility is that, even if there is a universal pattern in the emergence of the theory of mind (but see also Vinden 1996), this concept may have distinct biological roots. Nevertheless, researchers disagree on the extent to which this early understanding is due to maturation or social experiences common to most young children.

The acquisition of theory of mind has important implications for social development: The child is now able to predict, explain, and influence others' intentions, thoughts, and beliefs. Without a theory of mind children would never be able to understand the social world, just as they cannot make sense of the physical world without a grasp of time, space, and the permanence of objects.

The period from ages two to six is referred to as the play years. Children in this stage spend most of their time at play—playing with words and ideas as well as developing new games. TERRY WILD STUDIO

Emotional Development

A process that is linked to the emerging theory of mind and that expands greatly in the preschool years is the child's ability to understand emotions. To become a socioemotionally competent individual, young children must learn to interpret the emotional states of those around them, to be able to modify their own emotions, and to learn how to mask their true emotions when it is necessary. By age four, children's emotional vocabulary has expanded enough that they can recognize facial expressions on other' faces and situations that convey the emotions happy, sad, mad, loving, and scared. Furthermore, preschoolers begin to understand the links between other people's emotions and their circumstances. The preschool-aged child also begins to figure out that particular emotions occur in situations involving specific relationships between desire and reality.

During preschool years, the child also learns to regulate his or her own expression of emotions (Dunn 1994; Saarni 1999). Part of this process is the development of impulse control, the growing ability to inhibit a response, to wait rather than to cry, to protest verbally rather than to hit. When an infant is upset, it is the parents who help to regulate that emotion by cuddling or soothing. Over the pre-school years, this regulation process is gradually taken over more and more by the child. Two-yearolds are only minimally able to modulate their feelings in this way, but by ages five or six, most children have made great strides in controlling the intensity of their expression of strong feelings. They can avoid or reduce emotionally charged information, for example, by closing their eyes, turning away, and putting their hands over their ears.

Another important aspect of this regulation of emotion is the ability to display emotions in a socially appropriate way. Cross-cultural research has shown (see Thompson 1998) that during early childhood children in different cultures acquire the ability to recognize when people are masking their feelings. Furthermore, learning the social rules of emotional expressions seems to be gender related, in that girls are generally better able to display and recognize a masked emotion than boys. Finally, there is a great cultural variation in the age at which children learn to display emotions appropriately and the conditions under which it is expected. For example, four-year-old girls from India were more sensitive to the need to hide negative emotions than were English girls at the same age ( Joshi and MacLean 1994), but English preschoolers show display rules for masking negative emotions earlier than Italian children (Manstead 1995).

Knowledge about emotions can have ramifications for children's social development. For example, children who have substantial knowledge about the emotions that usually accompany given situations (such as fear during a nightmare) are better liked by their peers (Denham et al. 1990). The reason may be that these children are more likely to respond appropriately to the emotional expressions of their age-mates.

Social Development

Peer interaction. Children's peer relationships are an important part of early childhood. In the company of others, youngsters become individuals in their own right, gaining insight into their own personalities, observing what effects their behaviors have on others, and refining their self-concepts through social interactions with peers. Peers, in fact, provide the child with direct feedback about how well she or he is doing in the academic, social, and emotional realms, information that can significantly influence the child's self-esteem. Preschool children have sharp increases in their attachment to peers, and their social relationships become closer, more frequent, and more sustained. It is in this period of age that children start to prefer same-sex peer groups and to choose same-sex best friends.

This tendency persists and intensifies through the years of middle childhood, although it is more pronounced in boys than girls (Berndt and Ladd 1989). Preferences for same-sex interactions or gender segregation have also been confirmed in several cultures (Leaper 1994). As children become older, they are more willing to participate in joint efforts, coordinate their activities more effectively, and often collaborate successfully in solving problems.

Ethnic and racial identity. The preschool period is also the period in which children's ethnic and racial identities emerge. That is, they acquire "an enduring, fundamental aspect of the self that includes a sense of membership in an ethnic group and the attitudes and feelings associated with that membership" (Phinney 1996, p. 922). Already, four-year-olds are aware of group ethnic and racial differences, and they also become aware of their own ethnicity and form judgments about it. Children's attitudes toward their own and other people's ethnicity depend on both the attitudes of their adult caregivers and their understanding of the power and the wealth of their own group in relations to others (see Jackson, McCullough, and Gurin 1997).

Moral Development

Moral understanding in childhood is a rich and diverse phenomenon not completely described by any single theory. When young children are asked to reason about their moral understanding, they display moral judgments that are considerably more advanced than predicted by Jean Piaget's ([1932] 1965) and Lawrence Kohlberg's (1976) theories. Preschoolers even have a beginning grasp of justice in that they distinguish moral rules from social conventions. During early childhood and later in middle childhood, children's notions of how to divide up resources fairly become more differentiated and adapted to the requirements of situations. Four-year-olds recognize the importance of sharing, but their reasons for doing so often seem contradictory and self-serving. When asked why they gave some of their toys to a playmate, preschoolers typically say something like, "I let her have some, but most are for me because I'm older." Only later, around five or six years of age, do children start to express more mature notions of distributive justice and prosocial behavior, in that children begin to divide rewards according to an equality principle, with all children receiving the same share, whatever their input (Damon 1988; Eisenberg et al. 1991).

Cross-cultural research on moral development in early childhood stresses the importance of the effects of culture beliefs on moral development. For example, the developmental trend in moral thinking that was detected in India was different from the developmental trend detected in the United States (Shweder et al. 1990). With age, Indian children saw more and more issues as matters of universal moral principle, whereas U.S. children saw fewer issues in the same light and more as a matters of arbitrary social convention that can legitimately differ from society to society. Richard Shweder and his colleagues (1990) also questioned whether all children are able to distinguish between moral rules and social-conventional rules from an early age. They argued that the concept of social-conventional rules was simply not meaningful to Indians of any age. The general issue of cultural variations in thinking about moral rules and social convention is still in dispute. The reason might be that most of the relevant cross-cultural data have been collected from adolescents and adults, making it risky to draw conclusions about the role of cultural factors in such reasoning during early and middle childhood.

What kind of parenting could foster the child's moral maturity? Childrearing studies consistently imply that use of inductive discipline promotes moral maturity. Inductive discipline is a nonpunitive form of discipline in which an adult explains why a child's behavior is wrong and should be changed by emphasizing its effects on others. On the contrary, power assertion (use of superior power to modify the child's behavior) is often associated with moral immaturity. However, Grazyna Kochanska (1997) proposed that the most effective kind of parenting on foster children's internalization of moral rules depends on the child's temperament (see van Haaften, Wren, and Tellings 1999).

Research has also shown that children themselves prefer inductive discipline to other approaches, and they view this approach as the right way to deal with transgressions, and they may be motivated to accept discipline from an adult whose world view matches their own (Siegal and Cowen 1984).

Language Development

During the preschool period language accomplishments include learning 10,000 words or more. Accounting for how children manage to learn words as quickly and accurately as they do is the main arena where different theoretical orientations clash in the study of lexical development. Proposals consonant with a nativist view of language development suggest that children know something about how words work before they learn any words. One counterproposal claims that children can find all the information they need for word learning in the social context in which words are encountered, whereas another argues that ordinary processes of attention and memory explain word learning.

One interesting account for children's word learning is that children make basic assumptions that help them to learn new words (Woodward and Markman 1998). Children do not have to consider all of the many possible meanings each time they hear a new word, but they enter word-learning situations with several assumptions about how the lexicon works. They assume, for example, that words refer to whole objects (rather than to their parts), that each object has only one label, and that a word has several meanings.

Between the ages of three and six, children also show marked growth in their understanding of basic grammatical forms. Once childen begin combining two or more words, they show evidence of syntactic awareness and later, when they master the auxiliary verb, they learn to form negatives, questions, and the use of passive voice.

As the preschool years end, children use most of the grammatical structures of their native language competently. Children of this age, however, often over-regularize, or apply grammatical rules where they do not fit (e.g., "I knowed him"). Therefore, these kinds of mistakes do not reflect a grammatical defect, but instead indicate that children apply grammatical rules creatively, since they do not hear mature speakers use these over-regularized forms (Marcus et al. 1992).

Compared with toddlers, the pragmatic quality of preschoolers' language is more diverse. Reciprocal turn-taking and a greater range of expressions to convey messages now accompany preschoolers' speech. More complex styles of interaction between speaker and listener are also evident, such as initiating and terminating conversations. Preschoolers also know that when listeners move away they have to raise their voices in order to be heard. All these outpourings indicate that, in addition to their awareness of grammatical rules (and the cognitive capacities to grasp these rules), preschoolers are better at understanding the social implications of language use (Turner and Helms 1995).

Although three-year-olds can be considered language-using human beings, their language development is obviously incomplete. All aspects of language continue to develop during childhood. Moreover, as children begin to acquire the specialized skills they will need to cope with an adult life in their culture, deliberate teaching may begin to play a conspicuous role in language development.

Parent-Child Relationships

Parental socialization. Parents differ along two broad childrearing dimensions: acceptance/responsiveness and demand/control (Maccoby and Martin 1983) When considered together, these dimensions yield four patterns of parenting. In general, accepting and demanding (or authoritative) parents who appeal to reason in order to enforce their demands tend to raise highly competent, well-adjusted children. Children of less accepting but more demanding (or authoritarian) parents and accepting but undemanding (or permissive) parents display less favorable developmental outcomes, and children of unaccepting, unresponsive, and undemanding (or uninvolved) parents are often deficient in virtually all aspects of psychological functioning (Baumrind 1971).

In recent years, it has become clear that this last style of parenting is the least successful parenting style. Research has demonstrated that by age three, children of uninvolved parents are already relatively high in aggression and such externalizing behaviors as temper tantrums (Miller, Woody-Ramsey, and Aloise 1991). Furthermore, they tend to perform poorly in school later in childhood, and often become hostile, selfish, and rebellious adolescents.

Robert Le Vine (1988) studied childrearing practices in many cultures and proposed that parents follow three major goals. The most important goal for parents is their children's physical survival. It is not until the safety and health of their children appear secure that parents can focus on the other two goals: the economic goal, to ensure that their children acquire the skills and the other resources needed to be economically productive adults, and the cultural goal, to ensure that their children acquire the basic cultural values of the group. In order to achieve these two goals, a family will try to establish stable daily routines that ensure a workable fit between the family's resources and its local ecology. Although these three basic parenting goals are universal and all families seek to create a set of activities to ensure that they are achieved, the manner in which parents go about achieving them vary dramatically, depending on local economic, social, and cultural circumstances.

An interesting example of how differences in family life shape the development of children especially during early childhood comes from the study by David MacPhee, Janet Fritz, and Jan Miller-Heyl (1996). They observe that Hispanic and Native-American parents are more inclined than European-American parents to maintain close ties to a variety of kin and insist that their children display proper, calm, and polite behavior and a strong respect for others, as opposed to independence, competitiveness, and pursuit of individual goals. Asian and Asian-American parents also tend to stress interpersonal harmony and self-discipline, whereas research with African-American families (although it is difficult to summarize the diversity of childrearing practices that characterize this ethnic group) indicates that urban African-American mothers (particularly if they are younger, single, and less educated) demand strict obedience from their children and are inclined to use coercive forms of discipline (Ogbu 1994).

In sum, parents from different cultures, subcultures, and social classes have different values, concerns, and beliefs on life that influence their childrearing practices. Yet, parents from all cultural backgrounds emphasize the characteristics that contribute to success as they know it in their own ecological niches, and it is inappropriate to conclude that one particular style of parenting is somehow better or more competent than all others (Cole and Cole 2001).


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Cognitive Development

In their second year toddlers find new ways to achieve their goals, first by actively experimenting with objects and actions, and then by manipulating mental images of objects and behaviors. They can pretend, remember what they did days before, and repeat the same action.

In Jean Piaget's terms (Piaget and Inhelder 1969), after the child has completed the sensorimotor stage and acquired the symbolic function (i.e., the capability to mentally represent reality), he or she steps into a qualitatively different phase of cognitive development, called the preoperational stage (two to six years). The child's cognitive adaptation is faster, more efficient, mobile, and socially sharable. The transition from the sensorimotor to the pre-operational period brings problems as well as advances. Piaget concluded that children of this age are egocentric (self-centered) and captured by appearances. Subsequent research suggests, however, that toddlers (and preschoolers) are less egocentric than Piaget originally thought, but have problems in distinguishing between appearance and reality. Research on children's ability to take others' perspectives shows that even two or three-year-olds can understand that other people experience things differently from them. For example, they can adapt speech or play to the demands of their companions. They play differently with older or younger playmates and they talk differently to younger or handicapped children.

John Flavell and his collaborators (Flavell et al. 1992) examined children's understanding of appearance and reality by presenting objects under colored lights to disguise their original colors or putting masks on animals to make them look like other animals. Their main finding was that twoand three-year-olds consistently judge things by their appearances. More broadly, toddlers show a form of logic that Piaget considered impossible at this stage, but still they do not experience the world with so general a set of rules as older children do. Their thinking is often dictated by their own views rather than by reality.

During toddlerhood the child's representational capacity is transformed in symbolic play activities. By the age of two, children invent new uses of objects: A cup can become a hat, a ball can represent a piece of food. Children are now capable of symbolism; they can either create or accept an arbitrary relationship between an object and an idea. This is probably a uniquely human quality. Animals have not been observed to engage in pretend play without prior training (Newcombe 1996).

An important change occurs late in the second year, during which children begin to replace themselves with toys as the active agents in play. They may put a telephone beside a doll's head rather than their own. Between twenty-four and thirty-six months children begin to engage in cooperative social pretend play, such as bus driver versus passenger, store owner versus customer. Nevertheless, toddlers still do not play games with rules and their play episodes last only a few minutes.

Early Self-Awareness

During toddlerhood children make important steps toward self-recognition. Between eighteen and twenty-four months children begin to express self-awareness, a capacity to perceive their own characteristics, states, and abilities. Research with mirrors, videotapes, and photographs indicates reliable self-recognition by about the age of two. Early signs of self-awareness can be observed in other behaviors as well, such as the determined rejection of help and insistence on doing things for himself or herself, or in the new attitude the child takes toward toys ("mine"). Much of the famous terrible twos can be understood as an outgrowth of self-awareness.

One important characteristic of toddlers' self-concept is the tendency to focus on his or her own visible characteristics rather than on more enduring inner qualities. This pattern parallels with cognitive Children reach toddlerhood around the second and the third year of life. At this stage they are no longer dependent in fants but independent individuals. Toddlers can move around easily and communicate more clearly; however, they are not yet in control of their impulses and must have limits set by their parents. WALTER HODGES/CORBIS development in that children's attention tends to be focused on the external appearance of objects rather than on their enduring properties.

The development of self-awareness has important consequences on children's emotional and social development. A toddler is now able to experience self-conscious emotions, such as embarrassment, and becomes more socially skilled, more outgoing, and better able to cooperate with a playmate in order to achieve a shared goal (Brownell and Carriger 1990).

Empathy and Moral Sense

Another important consequence of the beginning of self-awareness is the emergence of empathy, that is, the ability to infer the emotional state of another person. Toward the end of the second year toddlers show an increased tendency to hug or kiss someone who has been hurt, or to give a victim a toy or food (Zahn-Waxler and Radke-Yarrow 1990). Around the second birthday children begin to evaluate actions and events as good or bad. They are amused by violations of adult rules and by events that will provoke disgust or disapproval in others (e.g., refusing to get dressed or eating on the floor).

The age at which this appreciation of right and wrong behavior appears seems to be similar in children from different cultures and families. Several studies have found that even three-year-olds from a variety of cultures can distinguish among moral, social, and personal rules (Turiel 1998). For example, they respond differently to violations of moral rules (e.g., hurting another child), of social conventions (e.g., wearing pajamas to school), or of personal rules (e.g., forgetting to thank someone for a gift).

There are cultural variations in the boundaries between moral and conventional rules, as well as differences within a culture on what might be considered as conventional behavior and what is a matter of personal choice. It will take children many years to acquire their respective cultures' In their second year toddlers can pretend, remember what they did days before, and repeat the same action. They also start to replace themselves with toys as the active agent in play. REFLECTION PHOTOLIBRARY/CORBIS normative separation and deciding in which situations certain rules should be applied (for a review, see Eckensberger and Zimba 1997).

Language Development

In the middle of their second year children's speaking vocabulary is about fifty words and they begin to express simple relations between words or concepts. In English these relations are generally communicated by word order: The sentence "Simon hit Sofia" means something quite different from "Sofia hit Simon." Thus, children acquiring languages that emphasize word order begin to express relations by putting words together in the correct order. The development of two-word sentences is followed by the emergence of short telegraphic sentences consisting mainly of nouns and verbs. They resemble a telegram, but despite grammatical omissions of articles, the words necessary to give the sentence meaning are included.

Besides, there are other important linguistic gains. The average vocabulary of a three-year-old is nearly 900 words and children's knowledge of syntax, semantics, and word meanings increases daily as they use language more and more as a vehicle to express their thoughts and feelings (Warren and McCloskey 1997). By the age of three, the pragmatic aspects of language (its use in social situations) improve, and toddlers become more effective participants in conversations, more skilled at adapting their verbalizations to the response of those around them, and begin to take into account the listener's needs. For example, children as young as two and a half years show that they can take the listener into account by modifying what they say to include information important to the listener. They also use simpler language when they talk to younger children than when they talk to adults, showing they are aware that younger children's language ability is more primitive than their own (Tomasello and Mannle 1995; see also Hoff 2001).

Emotional Development

During toddlerhood children's emerging linguistic skills and their cognitive growth affect the way in which they express emotions. Children can now not only communicate their feelings by verbalizing but also discuss the conditions causing a specific emotion and the actions that followed as a consequence. They can express new complex emotions, such as pride, shame, guilt, and more varied forms of joy and fear. By the age of two many children begin to show emotions that reflect a more complex understanding of social relationships. Guilt, shame, and envy are emotions that require understanding of another person's perspective and also consciousness about the self and one's relations to others. Toddlers also show visible signs of jealousy. The child might hit a sibling that a parent has just kissed or wedge herself between mother and father when they are hugging. As the child's cognitive capabilities, moral awareness, and social understanding grow, he can express more complex emotions and more elaborate and controlled forms of the basic emotions.

Cultural Influences on Children's Development

According to Piaget, cognitive structures undergo generalized transformations as children mature and acquire experience. By contrast, the cultural-context view (Cole and Cole 2001; Rogoff 1990; Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition 1983) has children developing context-specific abilities that are tied to the content and structure of events in which they participate. Parents have a powerful role in the cultural-context approach because they select and shape the environments in which children grow up through their own cultural beliefs, ways of earning a living, and social traditions.

Barbara Rogoff (1990) refers to guided participation to describe the ways adults and children collaborate in routine problem-solving activities with the adult at first directing the learning experience and then gradually transferring control and responsibility to the child. Through guided participation children receive help in adapting their understanding to new situations, in structuring their problem-solving attempts, and eventually in achieving mastery.

According to the cultural-context view, development during early childhood is uneven. The content and structure of new events in which young children participate will depend on the contexts provided by their culture and on the roles they are expected to play within those contexts. Cultures seem to influence the unevenness of children's development in some important ways (Feldman 1994). Examples of this include emphasizing activities that promote widely held cultural values, regulating the difficulty of the child's role, and arranging the occurrence and nonoccurrence of specific activities. A three-year-old growing up among the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert is unlikely to learn about taking baths or pouring water into a glass; a child growing up in Paris is unlikely to be skilled at tracking animals or finding water-bearing roots in the desert.

Another important way in which culture affects development is by determining the frequency of basic activities. Children growing up in a Mexican village famous for its pottery may work with clay every day, whereas children living in a nearby town known for its weaving may rarely encounter clay. Likewise, children in Bali may be skilled dancers by the age of four and Swedish children are likely to become good skiers. In each case adults arrange for children to practice activities that often promote the values of the community. The study of these values reveals important information about the kinds of adult skills and knowledge that children will acquire.

Parent-Child Relationships

Attachment. By the end of the second year, the process of attachment goes through the phase of a reciprocal relationship formation. Rapid growth in representation and language permits toddlers to understand some factors that influence their parents' coming and going and to predict their return. As a result, separation protests decline. Now children start to negotiate with the caregivers, using requests and persuasion to alter their goals, rather than crawling after and clinging to them.

A variety of factors affect the development of attachment. Infants deprived of affectional ties with one or more adults show lasting emotional and social problems. Sensitive responsive caregiving promotes secure attachment, whereas insensitive caregiving is linked to attachment insecurity. Even temperamentally irritable and fearful infants are likely to become securely attached if parents adapt their caregiving to the babies' needs. Some family conditions, including stress, instability, and parents' own history of attachment experiences influence the security of the infant-caregiver bond (Berk 1994).

Family environment. The growth of self-awareness, symbolic ability, and sense of morality in the second and third year might seem to be clearly valuable developments. Nevertheless, for many parents of toddlers the changes of these years make this special period of children's life into the aforementioned terrible twos. In fact, as infants develop into children with definite ideas and values of their own, these desires increasingly conflict with those of the adults around them and can lead to problems in caretaking. Areas of potential conflicts at this age can be toilet training (with great cross-cultural variation in when it is considered appropriate), standards of cleanliness, violations of daily routines (times to go bed), or limitation of aggressiveness. Parents, however, cannot simply wait for their children to mature, but they must care for their toddlers every day to protect them from physical harm and foster in them a sense of responsibility and morality, while at the same time not inhibiting their developing autonomy.

Effective caregiving and beneficial ways of socializing toddlers can be obtained by being sensitive to their behaviors and needs; by serving as warm models and reinforcing children's mature behavior; by using reasoning, explanation, and inductive discipline to promote morality and self-control; and by attributing children's failures to lack of effort rather than low ability. As children begin to exhibit behavior that parents want to change, parents need to think carefully about what behaviors they want to socialize. Then they can use verbal disapproval and provide reasons for restrictions. The effect of any of these childrearing practices depends, however, on their fit with the sociocultural context in which they occur.

The family's ability to support the child's development in these years is affected not only by the knowledge and the skills parents bring to the process, but also by the amount of outside stress they are experiencing and the quality of support they have in their personal lives (Crockenberg and Litman 1990). In particular, mothers who are experiencing high levels of stress are more likely to be punitive and negative toward their children, with resulting increases in the child's defiant and non-compliant behavior (Webster-Stratton and Hammond 1988). Depressed mothers are also likely to be negative toward their children, as are mothers from poverty-level families, who may well have experienced the same parents' attitude in their own childhood. Thus, toddlers, like children of every age, are affected by broader social forces outside the family as well as by the family interaction itself.


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