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The Developmental Stages of Children and Adolescents


Kwame is nine months old. As the observations, and the developmental assessment made it clear, the child has some behavioral and emotional problems. When Kwame is upset, it is difficult to calm him down, and sometimes it is difficult to establish a sound emotional connection with him because Kwame may reject it.

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Overall, the child is physically healthy and doesn’t demonstrate any significant delays in the physical development. But his gross and fine motor skills, as well as the cognitive abilities, were assessed as slightly underdeveloped. He doesn’t show a lot of interest in the exploration of the environments and, moreover, he feels intimidated in the new situations with the unfamiliar people. Based on this, it is possible to say that Kwame experiences some difficulties with the development of the socio-emotional skills. At the same time, according to the pediatrician’s assessment, the child has fairly mild to positive reactions in most of the situations of social interactions, and the negative emotions occurred in him only in the cases when it was expected, i.e. separation from a caregiver.

Physical Development

The early physical development in the child is interrelated with many other developmental aspects, especially cognitive ones. Thus, physical activity plays a significant role in the determination of the consequent cognitive and neurologic functioning, as well as the psychosocial and emotional coping mechanisms’ development, in a child at the further stages of his/her development. Usually, the physical development assessed by the examination of multiple health indicators such as skeletal and muscular health, motor development, cognitive abilities, etc. Naturally, the healthy children demonstrate a high level of physical activity. It is important for the caregivers to pay attention to the children’s physical activity habits as they are usually tracked to the further developmental stages.

The literature findings indicate that the sufficient amount of physical activities in children may significantly contribute to the enhancement of their cognitive aptitude and academic performance; activity reduces the risk of the cognitive abilities’ deterioration and the occurrence of various neurological diseases in adulthood (Carson et al., 2015, p. 2).

Since Kwame demonstrates some delays in motor and cognitive development, it is possible to suggest that the increase in the amount of his physical activity may positively impact his further developmental process and improve his cognitive and psychological indicators.

Cognitive Development

“Cognitive development has been identified as a critical health indicator in this age group” (Carson et al., 2015, p. 2). According to multiple research findings in neuroscience, the personal experiences and environmental factors affect early childhood development to a large extent, and they may affect the course of individual’s adult life as well. According to Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development, the individual’s development is divided into four stages: “sensorimotor period (birth to age 2); the preoperational thought period (about age 2 to age 7); the concrete-operations period (about age 7 to age 11); and the formal operations period (about age 11 to age 15)” (Lefmann & Combs-Orme, 2013, p. 640).

The sensorimotor period may be considered the fundamental stage of child’s development because the basic cognitive abilities start to form during the first two years of his life. At this stage, the elementary cognitive processes facilitate the further development of abstract thinking, estimation aptitude, and cognition skills.

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The favorable cultural, physical, and social environment and sound communication are crucial for children at early stages of development. The sensory and motor development commence at the neurologic levels in the brain – the neurons start transmitting messages to each other, and the connections between them become stronger as the child keeps exploring the world (Lefmann & Combs-Orme, 2013, p. 642).

Touch, sound, and visual experience help a child to learn faster. And on the contrary, lack of communication and environmental stimulation result in developmental delays. According to Bornfenbrenner’s theory, the obstacles and barriers a child faces in the learning environment at the level of micro-social and environmental system, such as lack of interactions in the family, may negatively affect the patterns of social interactions, communication, and cognition at the broader macro-social levels that require an individual to have the abilities of functioning in the larger cultural and social environments (Lau & Ng, 2014, p. 426).

Social and Emotional Development

The children become prone to the emotional and social developmental delays in case they experienced the lack of positive caregiving environments in the early periods of their lives. On the contrary, the positive caregiving environments facilitate the sound and healthy brain development and are of significant importance in the first two years of a child’s life.

According to the attachment theory, the concept of psychological security plays a determinant role in the early emotional and social development of a child. “Attachment security” evolves in the child if his/her relations with the parents are close and have the emotional value (Psik, Psik, & Gencos, 2014, p. 234). The feeling of psychological security is considered a prerequisite for the sound development of personality and social identity.

The infant’s attachment to the caregiver is essential to its survival. The process of attachment involves the identification and remembering maternal features through the learning of her odor and patterns of her behavior. According to Gunning and colleagues (2011), “Attachment theory states that early interactions with primary caregivers have an enduring influence on how individuals engage in close relationships across the lifespan” (p. 27). The styles of parent-child relationships and attachment are characterized by the fashion the individuals perceive themselves and others. It is mentioned that anxiety or avoidance performed by the caregivers, and other aspects of their communicative behavior may negatively affect the emotional development of a child (Gunning, Waugh, Robertson, & Holmes, 2011, p. 29).

In the same way, Erikson’s theory emphasizes the significance of parent-child relationships for the healthy psychological development. A family is regarded as a micro-social environment in which a child learns the skills of interaction and accumulates knowledge related to his personal, social, and cultural identity. Through receiving the cultural and subcultural narratives from parents, a child learns about his/her social macro-environment. Comprehension of the cultural identity takes a significant part in the individual’s process of socialization.

According to Stack (1972), “Erikson has termed basic trust vs. basic mistrust: a general sense of correspondence between one’s needs and one’s world vs. a readiness for danger, an anticipation of discomfort” (p. 4). Trust is developed through the process of parent-child interrelations. When the parents don’t fulfill the emotional and psychological needs of the child, he/she will likely experience challenges in self-identification, and self-determination. As the result, lack of confidence and self-integrity may interfere with the achievement of success in multiple domains of the adult life. Therefore, the development of secure-based relationships in childhood is essential to individual’s effective performance in the social, cultural, and personal contexts.

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Parenting Impacts

The fashion of parenting is one of the crucial factors affecting the formation of child’s behavior and psychological development. It is observed that positive parenting provokes the development of the socially appropriate behaviour in child that is regarded as “a key component to a child’s early success and well-adjustment,” social acceptance, and academic success in the future (Danzig, Dyson, Olino, Laptook, & Klein, 2015, p. 412).

The concept of the positive parenting is primarily focused on the sound communication, provision of support, and emotional bonding with the child. The difficulties that Kwame experiences in the development of good socio-emotional skills may be partly caused by the caregivers’ attitudes, and inabilities to cope with the child’s adverse emotions. The underdevelopment of the cognitive aptitudes can be regarded as the consequence of the lack of parents’ interactions with the child and participation in his plays.

A higher level of parents’ involvement in the process of early child development facilitates the accumulation of child’s social and emotional competence. The parents’ emotional expressivity and the supportiveness of a child play a significant role in the child’s social adjustment. Thus, the timely intervention of parenting style may help to avoid the emergence of the behavioral problems in the future.

Potential Interventions

Kwame’s cognitive, motor, and socio-emotional skills are currently underdeveloped. Therefore, an intervention is needed. Many pediatricians and psychologists emphasize the role of caregivers in the effective enhancement of child’s performance.

According to the Theory of Cognitive Development by Vygotsky, the development of “higher psychological functions” depends on the style of cooperation between and adult and a child (Alves, 2014, p. 24). While Piaget focuses on the biological side of the cognitive development in children, Vygotsky emphasizes that cognition process can be constructed through the process of interrelation and the active participation of the child and his/her parents in this process. In this way, the intervention practice needs to involve both perspectives through the consideration of individuals’ developmental needs in early childhood both in terms of physiologic and mental stimulation.

In this way, the caregivers must be instructed to provide a favorable social and cultural environment for a sound development of an infant. Through communication that involves sensory and auditory interactions with a child, the parents may facilitate the development of neurocognitive mechanisms. And through the “formation of a conceptual system based on reciprocal generalizing relations,” and implementation of other specifically elaborated mental activities it is possible to raise child’s awareness and improve his/her behavior, learning abilities, and emotional expression.

“The ability to identify emotional expressions and cues is critical to children’s overall emotional development, as it enhances social functioning by promoting children’s ability to recognize emotions in others and communicate their own feelings in reciprocal fashion” (Fox et al., 2012, p. 555). The adaptive parenting has the purpose of dealing with the child’s adverse emotions more effectively. Through the expression of care and support, the parents positively influence the child’s emotional development and, by doing so, help him to adopt the coping mechanisms that would facilitate his social adjustment at the later developmental stages.


During the early childhood period, the development of elementary cognitive and social-emotional abilities takes place. Researchers emphasize that environmental factors such as communication, mental distress, or physical contacts significantly affect the developmental progression of infants. Exposure to negative influences in early childhood periods may provoke cognitive disorders. The establishment of the supportive and encouraging relationships between a child and his/her caregivers thus helps to avoid developmental delays. The comprehension of various developmental factors helps to cultivate the sense of trust and may provoke positive results in the behavior intervention, and the reduction of a number of negative environmental factors helps to reveal child’s developmental potential.

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Alves, P. F. (2014). Vygotsky and Piaget: Scientific concepts. Psychology in Russia, 7(3), 24-34. Web.

Carson, V., Hunter, S., Kuzik, N., Wiebe, S. A., Spence, J. C., Friedman, A.,…Hinkley, T. (2015). Systematic review of physical activity and cognitive development in early childhood. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. Web.

Danzig, A. P., Dyson, M. W., Olino, T. M., Laptook, R. S., & Klein, D. N. (2015). Positive parenting interacts with child temperament and negative parenting to predict children’s socially appropriate behavior. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 34(5), 411-435. Web.

Fox, J. K., Warner, C. M., Lerner, A. B., Ludwig, K., Ryan, J. L., Colognori, D.,…Brotman, L. M. (2012). Preventive intervention for anxious preschoolers and their parents: Strengthening early emotional development. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 43(4), 544-59. Web.

Gunning, M. D., Waugh, H., Robertson, F., & Holmes, B. (2011). Emotional intelligence, attachment and bonding and communication. Community Practitioner, 84(3), 27-31. Web.

Lau, J., & Ng, K. (2014). Conceptualizing the counseling training environment using Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 36(4), 423-439. Web.

Lefmann, T., & Combs-Orme, T. (2013). Early brain development for social work practice: Integrating neuroscience with Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 23, 640–647. Web.

Psik, I. A., Psik, N. E., & Gencoz, P. T. (2014). Emotional and behavioral problems associated with attachment security and parenting style in adopted and non-adopted children. Turk Psikiyatri Dergisi, 25(4), 234-43. Web.

Stack, L. C. (1972). An empirical investigation of Erik Erikson’s theory of the development of basic trust in three-year-old children. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Full Text. Web.

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