Moral Development in Childhood
Urie Bronfenbrenner is one of the leading scholars in the field of developmental psychology. In his ecological systems theory, also the development in context or human ecology theory he argue that child development is influenced by experiences arising from social and cultural systems and also child’s immediate environment. He specifies four nested surrounding systems, with bi-directional influences within and between the systems. This paper attempts to discuss his perspective on the impact of the systems in relation to child development. Jean Piaget, who defines himself as an epistemologist, was interested in the process of the qualitative development of knowledge. In his theory he argues that he intends to explain knowledge development as a process of equilibration using two main concepts in his theory, assimilation and accommodation, as belonging not only to biological interactions but also to cognitive ones Wikipedia (2010).
As per wikipedia, Urie’s the sytems are : microsystem which is the immediate environment, mesosystem – a system comprising connections between immediate environment, exosystem which is the enviromental settings which only indirectly affect development, macrosystem, and chronosystem.
Microsystems is the setting in which an individual lives, in this system the individual is not a recipient of an experience but rather a person who helps in establishing the system. It comprises peers, family, and the neighborhood. Most interaction with social agents like parents and peers takes place. How these groups interact with the child will have effect on how the child grows. If the relationships and places are more encouraging and nurturing, the child will grow better. The way a child acts or reacts to the people ultimately depends on the way they treat her. The child’s temperaments affect the way others treat them (mentalhelp, 2010).
Mesosystem describes how various parts of a child’s microsystem works in unity for the sake of the child’s growth. In this case, a child doesn’t have an active role. Examples are the relation of family experiences to school experiences, school experiences to church experiences, and family experiences to peer experiences. For example, children whose parents have abandoned them may have difficulty developing constructive relationships with their teachers.
Exosystem involves all the other people and places that the child may not interact with but they still have a big impact on child development such as parent’s work place, the extended family and the neighborhood. A good example is the effect produced if a parent get laid off from work, he or she will not able to meet the needs of the child. This is has negative impact on the child’s growth. On the other hand if a parent is promoted the child is in a better position to be provided with her basic needs.
Macro system is the largest and it describes the culture in which a child lives in. the cultural context includes developing and industrialized countries, socioeconomic status, poverty, and ethnicity. They greatly affect the moral standards of a child since one grows as a product of the society. They either affect the child positively or negatively. It is from this setting that a child develops a sense of belonging to a culture and learns the differences between their culture and other cultures. It is from this stage a child might become a tribalist, or develop hate to other cultures which he or she will carry on in her life.
Chronosystem is the last system according to him. It is the patterning of environmental events and transitions over the course of life, as well as sociohistorical circumstances. In this case we can focus on divorce as one of the transition. Divorce as per how research has shown adversely affects the behavior of a child; the negativity of divorce has been seen to peak on the first year of divorce (wikipedia, 2010).
Jean Piaget also writes about child development and discusses it in steps. He proposed that children’s thinking doesn’t develop smoothly, there are some points it takes off and moves to the new areas and capabilities. As per him the transitions occurs at eighteen months, seven years and eleven or twelve years. Before these transitions children aren’t capable of understanding things in certain ways. The stages involved are: sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage, and formal operational stage.
In sensorimotor stage, it spans from birth to age two. A child employs the five senses to explore the world. During this stage children cannot perceive the world from other people’s perspective that means they are egocentric and self centered.
This stage can be classified into six stages: simple reflexes- from birth to one month old. Infant uses rooting and sucking, first habits and primary circular reactions – spans from one to four months old, infant learns to coordinate sensation and habits and circular reactions this is evident when a child tries to repeat what was done as a mistake e.g. thumb sucking, secondary circular reactions- it spans when infant is four to eight months old, they become object oriented which implies that they becomes aware of things beyond their bodies.
The fourth sub stage involves coordination of secondary reactions occurring at 8 to 12 months old. They can do things intentionally at this stage. It is at this stage that they recognize that objects continue to exist even when out of sight. The fifth sub stage occurs between 12 to 18 months. In this stage, infants explore all ways and trying different things to get diverse results. The last sub stage ends when a child attains two years. It usually involves symbolic thinking which marks the end of the first stage of development.
The preoperational stage spans from ages 2 to 7. In this stage egocentrism begins strongly and then weakens, a child is not able to use logical thinking. They mostly apply magical thinking. Concrete operational stage which spans form ages 7 to 12 where a child start to think logically but are still concrete in their thinking so they only think logically only with practical help. There are no signs of being egocentric.
The last and fundamental stage is formal operational stage which is from 12 years onwards. It involves development abstract reasoning and logical thinking. They are able to conceive in their mind.
The two theories of development dicussed above have simmilarities since they bring arguments about child development but piaget’s theory is more clear since it gives stages of development interms ages of development i.e. it groups certain behavior of certain ages togerther.