A Comparative Analysis of Child Psychology and Childhood Studies

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Part 1: Children’s moral development: comparing video material with the Reader chapter Within the video clip ‘video on moral development’, they discuss how experiments have been conducted on chimpanzees to compare their behaviour with the behaviour of children. Within the video clip it shows an experiment taking place where an adult has dropped an object and the chimpanzee then goes and picks it up without any prompting from anyone or any evidence that they will be rewarded for doing this. This shows evidence that primates show pro social ways as well as children do. Although the video clip shows similarities between primates and children it also discusses the differences that they have in their pro social ways. They explain that primates cannot collaborate and that they usually compete with one another. Whereas children can put their heads together and work together on something that they may not have been able to do alone. The video clip of the chimpanzees is relevant to children’s moral reasoning as it suggests that there are roots in evolution and that pro social ways have developed significantly within humans.

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Kohlberg’s theory of moral development describes a six-stage theory of the development of morality, the pre-conventional phase (stage one and two), the conventional phase (stages three and four) and the post conventional phase (stage five and six). His research used different dilemmas to show how people would react to certain situations and how people rationalise their actions. Dillon (2014) explains how Kohlberg suggested that females usually achieve a moral judgement rating that is lower than males. Kohlberg was criticised on his theory, in which one of his biggest critics Carol Gilligan believed that there was a gender bias in Kohlberg’s stages of moral reasoning. Gilligan questioned how relevant the theory was towards females as Kohlberg’s moral development stages seemed to be biased more towards men. Gilligan has since updated this theory taking into consideration sex differences, believing that ‘females are not less mature than boys’. I agree with Gilligan’s work and feel that males and females may justify moral judgements in different ways and that equality should be recognised between males and females.

I believe that moral reasoning is quite complex and feel that to a certain extent it is something that babies are born with but certain behaviours can be learnt. The social world around children enables them to learn the differences between what is right and what is wrong. Within the video clip it shows a man trying to open a cupboard in which a toddler comes over and opens it for him. The toddler was not prompted to do this by his mother and was not given any reward for doing this. This shows that children are capable of helping strangers without being told to and therefore have their own moral reasoning. Lawrence Kohlberg built on Piaget’s stage of development and believed that individuals go through different stages of moral understanding. Within the first stage of moral reasoning individuals look at the consequences that will happen to them. Individuals recognise the benefits for themselves when behaving in a certain way in stage two of an individual’s moral reasoning. Stage three of moral reasoning is driven by the approval of what their social world around them will think of them, whereas stage four is guided more by laws and set rules as well as judgement from their social world. Therefore I believe moral reasoning is something that can be learnt. The social world around individuals plays a big part in their moral reasoning’s, which is something that is learnt as an individual grows up within their society.

Social context is important as it enables individuals to develop a moral understanding of the world around them. Within the video clip it shows an adult acting aggressively towards a toy in which a child then copies the behaviour of the adult. This suggests that children model certain behaviours that they witness and this is something that can have an impact of a child’s moral behaviour. This therefore shows that social context can have an impact on a child’s moral development and depending on certain situations they are exposed to they will more than likely act the same way as individuals within their social world. A child’s culture, education and the individuals that they interact with in their social environment plays a detrimental effect on their development for their future. Children learn certain behaviours from their social environment which enables children to learn their own moral reasoning and the differences between what they believe is right and wrong.

Part 3: Discuss why it is important to look at childhood from the perspectives of both childhood studies and child psychology. Using evidence from the module, evaluate how these different perspectives can have an impact on policy and practice (2000 words)

Childhood studies looks at a child’s life experiences and how certain factors can have an impact on children’s lives. Whereas child psychology is mainly based on scientific experiments and research methods. Although childhood studies and child psychology have many differences within their methods, they both seem to share the main focus of the study of children’s lives and focuses on children’s development from birth to 18 years of age. Both childhood studies and child psychology are interested in the development of children. Within this essay I will be focusing on block 1 on how childhood studies has had an impact on children’s rights and also a child’s agency. I will also be concentrating on block 3 on how child psychology has impacted on children’s education and their formal schooling. I will be discussing how these different perspectives of childhood can have a significant impact on policy and practice.

Childhood studies looks at all aspects of children’s lives, covering multiple types of methods of study. This covers the entire age range of children from 0 to 18 years (early years, middle childhood, and youth). Childhood studies focuses on issues around socialisation and believe that children’s experience in their social environment can shape their lives in very different ways. Childhood studies considers childhood to be the product of culture and sociologists and anthropologists are interested in the role of childhood within different cultures. Childhood studies pays attention to how children’s lives develop through their social, cultural and economic surroundings and how children’s different life experiences can impact on their lives. Childhood studies also focuses on different laws that surround children as well as the rights that children may have. They believe that children have agency and have the ability to understand and make their own choices (Montgomery, 2014) and that they can influence their own lives as well as the lives of others. Social anthropology looks at children’s culture and how this can shape the lives of children and young people. One of the key points of childhood studies is giving children the rights to protection, provision and participation.

Child psychology is interested in how children develop through ‘milestones’, looking at cognitive, social, physical and emotional development in children and how children typically achieve developmental milestones by a certain age, based on children’s average abilities or performance. Child psychology looks at all aspects of children’s development from 0 to 18 years of age, focusing on universal aspects of children’s development regardless of their cultures. Child psychology is mainly based around scientific experiments and research methods. This includes a range of methods and approaches including experimental and non-experimental techniques. Gjersoe (2014) explains that child psychologist’s primary focus is describing and explaining children’s development from all outlooks. As well as understanding ways to support children that are experiencing delays in their development. Child psychology also looks at how children’s development is shaped through internal and external influences such as their economic and social surroundings and how this can impact on a child’s development. Child psychologists strive to make sense of children’s development, from the way they learn, think and emotionally respond and interact with others around them (Gjersoe, 2014).

Although the methods that both childhood studies and child psychology may differ they both share the primary focus of the study of children’s lives, looking at children’s development and factors that influence the development of children. Child psychology is mainly based on scientific experiments and research methods, looking at a child’s individual development from their physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. They look at universal aspects of children’s development despite their culture, using children’s developmental milestones based around average abilities and performances. Gjersoe (2014) expresses how child psychology research is also drawn upon to inform national decision making. Conversely childhood studies considers how a child’s experience in life affects their lives, drawing on sociology and anthropology to gain their information. Looking at the idea that children have agency and are able to make their own choices and act upon the world around them (Montgomery, 2014). Therefore childhood studies focuses on children’s rights as well as the laws surrounding children.

A central focus in childhood studies is that children have rights. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) highlights that children not only have their own rights to protection and provision but also their own rights to participation. This means involving children in decisions that are made about them, as well as to have their voices heard and their opinions taken into consideration (Montgomery, 2014). Childhood studies listen to what children have to say which was strongly influenced by The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This has had a significant impact on the way that children are treated and focuses on the best interests of the child. The rights of children are outlined as a set of legally binding principles that aim to protect the welfare of children in regards to health, education and also the family, the rights set out in the UNCRC looks at three categories. Montgomery (2014), explains that the three categories are also known as the ‘3 P’s’ of children rights. These categories are provision which gives children the right to food, housing and education. Protection which gives children the rights against exploitation and abuse and lastly participation, which gives children the rights to take part in decisions made about them. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child stresses the importance of rights for all children and that adult’s intervention on behalf of their children should be prompted by actions that support the best interests of the child.

Childhood studies also believe that children have agency which is strongly linked to the idea that children have their own rights. They believe that children have the capacity to act independently and should be entitled to make their own choices and that children should be actively involved in decisions that involve them. Montgomery (2014) expresses that identifying and acting upon a child’s agency enables policies and practices to grow and also enables them to take into consideration the opinions and views of children. Alison Clark and Peter Moss’s ‘Mosaic approach’, recognised the agency of children under the age of five. They viewed children as the experts in their own lives (Montgomery, 2014), and set out a framework that listened to the views of young children. The Mosaic approach takes into account the opinions and wishes of children which enables the development of policy and practices. The mosaic approach shows the importance of both adults and children working together to gain research. Some of the techniques used within the mosaic approach such as sitting back and observing children and giving children short interviews enabled children to be ‘experts’ within their own lives. This enabled researchers to find out exactly what children saw as priorities in their lives (Montgomery, 2014), therefore giving adults a better understanding of children and what is important to them.

Child psychology is used within schools and education and is used in connection to intervention and also how a child’s development is affected by their backgrounds. John Dewey an American philosopher believed that children are active learners and play an important part in constructing their own learning (Cooper, 2014). Dewey’s idea was very influential within educational programmes and encouraged adults to support children with their learning and assist children with their individual learning needs. Dewey’s idea also influenced the work of Montessori and Reggio Emilio, in which they highlight the importance of providing children with learning environments where they have support and that adult’s work alongside children to nurture their natural curiosity and also a child’s passion to learn (Cooper, 2014).

Child psychology has had a massive impact on children’s education which offers a range of experimental and scientific approaches to exploring children’s development. There are several aspects of children’s development according to child psychologists, such as cognitive, social, physical and emotional development in which they look at ways to find out more about how they interact with others, learn and other development skills. Child psychology plays an important role in the impact of formal schooling, research has led to different techniques which looks at what effects children’s development and ways that we can help children with development issues. Vygotsky’s theory of social cognitive development is used within education today in which he argued that children’s development happens through children’s social interactions and that they develop as children begin to take on their learning. Cooper (2014) explains how education can influence a child’s learning and development. In which Vygotsky believed that adult or peer intervention when a child was on ‘on the edge’ of learning something new could speed the process up. Vygotsky referred to this as the ‘zone of proximal development’. This therefore showed how schools play an important role in ‘scaffolding’ children’s learning. Wood et al. (1976) introduced the term ‘scaffolding’ and believed that children should be supported by an adult when carrying out a task that they could not do alone (1976, citied in Cooper, 2014, p.158). Thus showing how adults can help support children in their learning and the important role that they play within a child’s development.

Research within child psychology has shown how schools can help support children and help nurture children’s social, emotional and cognitive development. This is something that is classed especially more important to looked after children. Research has shown the importance of education in supporting looked after children, and that having supportive relationships within schools with teachers and peers can make a significant difference within a looked after child’s lives (Cooper, 2014). Child psychology has also established national decision making such as Sure Start programmes. Sure start programmes began from findings within child psychology that children born into economically deprived areas suffered detrimental setbacks within schools. Cooper (2014) explains that sure start programmes were established as a fundamental way to break the cycle of poverty within families. Thus supporting children and their families to transform the lives of children for their future, through supporting children and their families.

To conclude, childhood studies and child psychology are both interested in the lives of children and share their focus on the development of children from birth to 18 years of age. Childhood studies and child psychology have many differences but they also have some similarities. Although their methods may differ they are both interested in the development of children and the factors that can influence a child’s life. It is also apparent that both childhood studies and child psychology have had a significant impact on policies and practices within their different perspectives. The impact that these different perspectives have had on policies and practices have also influenced the lives of children and their futures, providing children with support and more opportunities for them in many different ways.

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