Child Psychology Notes
This is a sample of our (approximately) 29 page long Child Psychology notes, which we sell as part of the Edexcel Psychology Notes collection, a A package written at The Portsmouth Grammar School in 2014 that contains (approximately) 189 pages of notes across 8 different documents.
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Child Psychology Revision
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Child psychology Define child psychology
Part of developmental psychology and is the scientific study of the thinking and behavior of individuals from the pre-natal period through to adulthood.
Research in this field focuses on development, including maturational changes which happen as children grow older and those that come about through experiences within the social and cultural world.
Development can be divided into various inter-related areas and although some research such as the case study of Genie looked at many of these areas, including physical, intellectual, linguistic, emotional and social development, other studies focus on specific areas such as the work of Mary Ainsworth which focused specifically on socio-emotional development, and in particular, attachment between mothers and infants.
Child psychologists are interest typical development; that is the expected changes that occur in the majority of children with a specific society/culture but also in atypical development, where children may be experiencing global or specific deficits or delays or may be especially advanced in comparisons with other children of their age and culture.
Many different research methodologies are employed from naturalistic observations of children in familiar settings or more structured observations where specific behaviours are elicited for observation through placing the children in standardized conditions. These sorts of studies may only provide a snapshot in time however and since child psychology is about change, psychologists often like to revisit the same children many times to make comparisons, within a longitudinal design.
Research in child psychology has been pivotal in altering our perception of children and their role in society and in bringing about changes to the law and policies affecting their rights and wellbeing. Terms and definitions Attachment
Shaffer, (1993) defines attachment as an intense, reciprocal, emotional bond between two persons (infant and caregiver) characterised by mutual affection and a desire to maintain proximity (closeness).
Attachment is a gradual process which takes place over the first 9 months or so of life. By this time the majority of infants and their caregivers will have formed intense and reciprocal emotional bonds which can endure over a lifetime.
The nature of the attachment will be dependent upon interaction, parenting style and the child's own temperament. A secure attachment will be characterised by certain behaviours from the child including seeking proximity of the attachment figure, social referencing, safe base behaviour, stranger fear and separation anxiety.
The process is deemed to be important in providing a prototype for future relationships or as Bowlby says an 'internal working model' of how people should behave with one another and if a child does not develop an attachment within the first three years, this is thought by some to lead to irreparable damage to the child's socio-emotional development, although research suggests this claim may be over-stated Deprivation
Deprivation refers to bond disruption which occurs when an attachment bond has been formed but is subsequently broken.
This could occur when separation is temporary but frequent, repeated and prolonged, semi-permanent as in the relocation of a parent following divorce, or permanent as in the death of a parent or abandonment.
Bowlby argued that when an infant is unable to experience warm, intimate and most importantly continuous relationships they will have an increased risk of socioemotional and behavioural disorders in later life.
These could include such severe outcomes as anaclitic depression and withdrawal, juvenile delinquency, affectionless psychopathy, developmental retardation and even developmental dwarfism.
Many studies have been conducted looking the effects of deprivation for example in institutionalised children in orphanages and care homes who have been removed from their families. Define what is meant by privation Page 2
Privation is a term coined by Rutter (1981) meaning a complete failure to develop an attachment to anyone. This is distinct from the situation whereby an attachment has been formed but broken, causing bond disruption, (deprivation).
Research suggests that the effects of privation may be more severe and pervasive than deprivation including failure to reach cognitive and language milestones and social and emotional problems such as affectionless psychopathy, which may lead to exploitation of others and a failure to experience guilt or remorse.
Case studies of children who have been neglected or abused have conflicting findings about whether the effects of privation are reversible as following rehabilitation, Genie never developed age-appropriate language skills or social behaviour, while the Koluchova twins went onto complete their education, get married and have their own children.
Alternative studies of privation have included monitoring the progress of children raised in very poor orphanages and children's home such as those in Romania, however it is often hard in these circumstances to draw conclusions about whether any subsequent deficits and delays on the children's development is a results of emotional privation or of lack of intellectual stimulation.
Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection describes the process by which successive generations change over time. These changes may affect how a species looks and behaves. These differences are caused by genes, unit of inheritance which biologically shape the way an organism develops.
Any physical features or behaviours which help the organism to survive and to find a suitable mate will be genetically passed onto any offspring, whereas features which inhibit survival or reproduction will be less likely to be apparent in successive generations as the organisms that carry these features will be less likely to survive, find mates and reproduce, and therefore the genes become less frequent. Page 3
With regard to child psychology, theorists such as Bowlby believed that attachment was an innate process which aided survival by keeping infants close to their mothers, meaning that they would be more likely to receive food and be protected.
He describes how infants have evolved 'social releasers' such as smiling and cooing, which adults find appealing, thus eliciting care giving. Evolutionary theory describes how infants that possess these genetic abilities will be more likely to survive and therefore a have a chance at reproduction, and thus the opportunity to pass these features on, making attachment more likely for future generations. Day-care
Day care is temporary care and supervision provided for a child by someone other than the child's parents/guardian or other relative.
Day care can take a variety of different forms including crèches, where children are looked after briefly, for example, while parents go shopping or to the gym or longer term, for example while a parent goes to work. This type of care is provided through day nurseries, nannies or childminders.
Day care is distinct from institutionalized care where children are cared for 24 hours a day away from their families, as in a children's home or orphanage.
In the UK, day care providers are closely regulated, monitored and inspected to ensure that they meet the needs of every individual in their care and that children rights are safeguarded.
There is also a national curriculum of targets for infants from birth to three and from three to five, (The Foundation Curriculum) and this mean that day-care workers have to be much better educated about child development than ever before and are far more focused upon providing nurturing and stimulating environments for the children.
In the UK many children attend day care for at least part of the week and the government provides up to 5 free pre-school sessions for all 3-5 years olds meaning that many will experience day care that might not have done previously. Page 4
The argument regarding the pros and cons of day care is one of the most hotly contested in child psychology, due it social and political implications, especially regarding the role of women in the workforce. Those in favour focus on the benefits of exposure to adults and children outside the family and the wealth of activities that can be offered, whereas other s focus on the supposedly negative effects of separation from the primary attachment figure.
Separation anxiety refers to the protest and emotional disturbance shown by infants from around 7-8 months, when the primary attachment figure attempts to move away from the baby or leave the room.
This is a perfectly normal sign of a secure attachment and may intensify around the age of 9 months and then diminishing over the course of the second year. Separation anxiety may be particularly apparent in children with what is called an 'insecure resistant' attachment style; they will show extremely loud and persistent distress and are difficult to soothe when the adult does return. However, infants with 'insecure avoidant' attachment style may show very little separation anxiety.
In typical development, as children grow older the anxiety diminishes as they learn that their caregiver will return. However, in about 4% of children excessive separation anxiety persists and if this begins to affects the child's quality of life this may be diagnosed as a clincial disorder.
The reason that separation protest is not shown until the second half of the first year,, is that until this point, the infant does not have what Piaget termed object permanence; upto this point, if the adult was 'out of sight', he or she was literally 'out of mind'.
At around this age the child is able to maintain a mental image of the absent parent and thus understand that he or she still exists even though they can't be seen; this means that they are capable of wanting the person back again! This is also the age at which most children become increasingly mobile and this able to stray away from the caregivers, and therefore from an evolutionary point of view, it makes sense that they should develop further mechanisms which ensure that proximity is maintained where-ever possible. How science works Page 5
Naturalistic observation research methods
Conducted in child's natural setting Observation is not planned—controls not put in place. Qualitative (descriptions of child's activity) + quantitative (tallying) data are gathered. E.g. researcher that wants to investigate child's play goes to a playground. E.g. researcher that wants to investigate child parent rs goes to a home.
Ecological v- Carried out in a natural setting to observe children acting/interacting normally.
Demand characteristics- children influenced by being observe, may act abnormally.
Observer may drift from the aim of observation (e.g. get distracted by focusing on play and not in rs), lacking validity. Reliability
If time sampling is used (only making recordings for a specific period of time, e.g. during a one-hour investigation making records for 10 seconds each minute, the 50 seconds left take notes), inter-rater reliability + prepared categories for classifying data, it can be reliable.
No reliability- no controls in extraneous variables which occur in child's natural environment, difficult to find = conditions again + replicate the observation. Ethics
Need consent from parent or legal guardian.
Use of naturalistic observations in child psychology Description:
Take place in natural environments within natural situations. Can take place alone, at home or with peers. In a natural setting, a child shows their natural behaviour. Many features of child development studied such as language development and 'socialness'. Little interpretation or inference needed, so valid data. To understand real behaviour and therefore help children with problems develop appropriate behaviour. To have an understanding of the environment that the behaviour takes place in.
Time sampling- chunks of time allocated to see what behaviour happens during each specific time. E.g. child with aggressive problem. Not observed all day, observed at science lesson, at a family dinner and at the bus. Interventions- if we can observe certain triggers for certain behaviours (e.g. violence) then interventions can be put in place to stop the behaviour.
The only way to study the situation of a child naturally.
Can be used to observe what behaviour needs changing.
To see what triggers a child's behaviour in a natural environment so interventions can be created.
Hard to see a direct cause-effect relationship of a child's behaviour due to the lack of controls put in place. Structural observation research methods
Conducted in a set staged setting Observation is planned—controls put in place. Observer looks at the behaviour of a child in a set-up situation. Overt- knows they take part in observation. E.g. Mary Ainsworth carried out a structured observation, "The Strange Situation" to see the behaviour of a child when mother left them alone or with stranger.
Lack of validity because of unnatural situation
Demand characteristics- as it is overt, children know they're being observed and might behave in the way they think researchers expect them to do- unvalid data, doesn't represent real life. Reliability
Reliability- controls in place, setup situations that can be easily replicated.
Researcher bias- different points of view from different researchers about a child's behaviour. But, inter-rater reliability can overcome this. Ethics
Activities must not harm child + need consent from parent or legal guardian.
Use of structured observations in child psychology Description:
Set up situations or times to watch a child's problematic behaviour. This behaviour is recorded. Page 7
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