Is Children’s Development a Universal Staged Process or a Social and Cultural Process?

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Is Children’s development a universal staged process or a social and cultural process?

There are three main approaches to child development, the scientific, the social constructionist and the applied approach. Each of these approaches look at children’s development from a different stand point. I will go on to explore each approach in turn and how they can help us answer the above question.

The scientific approach to child development seeks to explain the facts about child development. It does this by devising theories which are then tested through observations and experiments. A classic example of this is Jean Piaget (1896-1890) who was one of the most influential theorists in child development. Piaget built up a theory about how
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Different cultures, religions and social economic conditions have different expectations and beliefs around childhood. These have also been different throughout history. For example in Victorian Britain, children were expected to work in the home, field, streets or in factories. However in modern Britain we expect our children to spend much of their childhood learning at school. Another example is, Maya’s (U212 Video 1, band 1) experiences of childhood in the poor area Chittagong being different to the twins Yasir and Yamin’s experiences in middle class Chittagong. Each have different expectations of their roles within society according to their social boundaries, gender, family and beliefs.

Central to the social constructionist approach is the concept of competing discourses of childhood. A discourse is a particular way of thinking or a particular view point that is influenced by our gender, language, history, beliefs, experiences and social boundaries. There are numerous discourses but a romantic discourse sees children as inherently good; a child would only do terrible things if damaged in some way. Contrary to this is the puritanical discourse which sees the child as inherently evil, doing evil things because they are wicked and need punishing. Using the social constructionist view allows us to recognise that a child who is a killer can be seen through these two very
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