Childhood Developmental Psychology - Child Development Stages

Developmental psychology is the scientific study of the psychological changes that take place in people as they grow older. Child developmental psychology focuses on the mental, emotional, educational and social development of kids and how this development affects them psychologically. There are also developmental psychologists who study the development of adolescents, adults and the elderly. Teachers, parents and psychologists can find ways to support children and improve their lives by applying the findings of child developmental psychology to children's lives.

Child Development Theory

Theories on child development have moved on a lot since the emergence of developmental psychology as a form of scientific study. For example, the well-known theories of Sigmund Freud on child development - particularly his ideas about the Oedipus Complex - are now rejected by many contemporary psychologists and psychoanalysts, even though they highly value Freud's contribution to the field. Perhaps in 100 years from now, psychologists will consider our theories about children and developmental psychology to be ill-informed and outdated, but for the moment, we have to accept the knowledge we currently have, and do our best to put into practice the best possible child-rearing methods for our kids.

Currently, an upsurge in interest in child development disorders such as autism and ADHD, as well as mental health issues affecting children - childhood depression, childhood bipolar disorder and even childhood schizophrenia, means that new theories to help families battling these problems are coming to the fore. Although psychologists' ideas as to how to treat these conditions will always differ, they are able to offer parents support in deciding whether to use medications, or rely solely on behavioral or psychotherapies in the hope of counteracting a psychological development problem.

Clinical Child Psychology

Of course theories are all very well, but at some point they have to be put into practice. This is where clinical child psychology comes in. A clinical child psychologist is a psychologist who primarily works face to face with children who have developmental issues (bad behavior, insomnia, anxiety, speech problems - the list goes on) and their families, and implements the theories drawn up by researchers. A clinical child psychologist may work in connection with a certain school, or have a private practice of his own. Children may attend appointments on their own or together with their parents. There are also usually sessions just with the parents in which the psychologist explains the child's progress and what practices need to be implemented at home to support him. If a child has suffered abuse, sexual or otherwise, or any sort of a traumatic event, a clinical psychologist (and indeed a team of psychologists from other fields) may cooperate to help the child come to terms with his experiences and go on to lead a healthy and fulfilled life.

Child Behavioral Psychology

Child behavioral psychology techniques can sometimes be implemented in the home, without the need to directly consult a psychologist. For example, poor behavior usually becomes an issue with most kids at some point during the child development stages - it's normal for kids to test their parents and push boundaries. Using child behavioral psychology to teach kids right from wrong is all about ignoring bad behavior and rewarding good behavior. Prime examples of this technique, which many parents already use in their homes, are the "time out" and the rewards system.

Time Out

The time out is implemented when a child behaves badly. The child is made to go and sit somewhere alone (usually the corner of the room, or the first step on the stairs) for a certain period of time (usually one minute for each year of his life). During that time, he is ignored by his parents, even if he acts up and behaves badly. Until he calms down, he doesn't get any attention from them. At the end of the time out, if he apologizes and is calm, he can leave the time out area.

Rewards System

This technique highlights and rewards good behavior. A child is set a concrete target, for example, to finish his vegetable portion at dinner every day for week. For every day on which he meets his target, he gets a gold star on a progress chart on the wall. When he collects 7 stars - he gets a surprise from Mom and Dad.

Child Forensic Psychology

Forensic child psychologists work in connection with children who for whatever reason are involved with the legal system. They may work with children who have to take part in a trial, criminal or otherwise. They may also support children who have been victims of or witnesses to a crime.

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