Physical and Psychological Factors (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
The mental capabilities and skills of humans develop gradually over a period of time during childhood and adolescence. The quality of the processes by which an individual responds to and adapts thinking to particular situations and evaluates, plans, and solves problems also changes over time.
In childhood, the brain develops very rapidly. At birth, the human brain already weighs about 25 percent of its adult weight. By six months of age, this figure is 50 percent. By the age of five, the child’s brain has achieved 90 percent of its eventual weight. While the basic structure of the brain is genetically and biologically determined, environment and experience play a significant role in the growth of cognition. Children’s biological constitutions may affect the way in which they interact with and respond to their environment.
According to the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, the cognitive growth of all children follows a universal or holistic pattern of development through infancy, childhood, and adolescence. The thought processes of young children are less mature and complex than those of older children, and as children grow and experience life, their cognitive structures become more sophisticated, as well as qualitatively different from those of children in earlier or later stages of development. Cognitive structures, or “schemes” as Piaget called them, are thought patterns that children...
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Sociocultural Factors (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
The Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky believed that cognition is sociocultural, that it is influenced by values and beliefs of cultures as well as by the specific tools that each culture uses for adaptation and problem solving. Children are born with simple mental processes like attention, memory, perception, and sensation. These processes develop into what Vygotsky called higher mental functions, or more competent ways of using intellectual capabilities. The strategies and tools for thinking are taught to children by their culture and develop as young children interact and collaborate with capable adults or peers, who guide and model problem-solving techniques that encourage cognitive development. Vygotsky called the difference between children’s level of achievement when working independently and their potential development when guided by a competent adult the zone of proximal development.
For Vygotsky, language plays an important role in cognitive growth. Adults use language to transmit the culture’s ways of thinking to the child. The child uses language to plan and regulate activities and behavior and to solve problems. Language helps children organize thought and reach objectives. Younger children verbalize phrases and words aloud during this process, but older children and adults internalize speech that, although no longer uttered aloud, still organizes and guides thinking and action.
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Disorders and Effects (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
The importance of experience on the cognitive development of children implies that when children live in intellectually impoverished environments, their cognitive development may be stunted or fail to reach its potential. Studies show the children whose parents play and interact in a variety of ways with them and provide stimulating materials to engage their interest and attention do better in school than children who lack this cognitive stimulation. Verbal interactions between parents and children, collaborative activities with competent peers, and guided activities with adults have been found to help children improve their thinking and planning abilities. Mary Ainsworth’s research on mother-infant attachment showed that mothers who interacted with their infants had securely attached children who, in turn, felt confident enough to explore their environment more independently than less securely attached infants. In this way, cognitive growth was affected by social functioning. Some longitudinal studies have found that securely attached children demonstrated more cognitive competence through childhood and adolescence than children who did not have secure attachments. Parental support and responsiveness encouraged cognitive growth over time.
The effects of the curriculum within programs and schools for children can maximize or discourage cognitive development. The Cognitively Oriented Curriculum, developed at the...
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Perspective and Prospects (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
The cognitive and intellectual development of children was not studied seriously or scientifically until the late nineteenth century in Europe and America. G. Stanley Hall was the first person to develop an instrument—the questionnaire—to study the minds of children. The twentieth century saw the emergence of developmental theories such as the psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud and the psychosocial theory of Erik Erikson. Behaviorism, which viewed children’s learning and development as passive and therefore controllable, dominated much of the earlier part of the century. John Watson proposed that children were like blank tablets on which anything could be written. In other words, children’s development was shaped by their environment and by the people around them. This view had been held in the seventeenth century by the philosopher John Locke. Watson’s theory was extended by B. F. Skinner, who evolved a learning theory based on the use of reinforcement and external stimuli to influence and control behavior. Albert Bandura’s theory of social cognition departed from the earlier passive learning theories of Watson and Skinner. He believed that individuals actively process information. Bandura also emphasized the role of observational learning, or learning by observing others and thinking about outcomes, in the process of children’s development.
During the 1950’s, a cognitive revolution occurred as...
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For Further Information: (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Berk, Laura E. Child Development. 8th ed. Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon, 2009. A text that reviews theory and research in child development, cognitive and language development, personality and social development, and the foundations and contexts of development.
Berk, Laura E., and Adam Winsler. Scaffolding Children’s Learning: Vvgotsky and Early Childhood Education. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1995. The authors examine Lev Vygotsky’s life and the key concepts of his developmental approach, which stresses the strong links between a child’s social, cognitive, and psychological existence, in a clear and understandable way. Implications for early childhood education are discussed.
Bjorklund, David F. Children’s Thinking: Developmental Function and Individual Differences. 4th ed. Belmont, Calif.: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2005. The book provides a detailed description of theory and research in the field of cognitive development. It includes discussions on the biological foundations of cognition, individual differences, and the impact of culture and schooling.
Elkind, David. Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987. The author discusses the many pressures on modern children, explaining how their physical and emotional health may be at risk when schools and parents attempt to “miseducate”...
(The entire section is 306 words.)
Cognitive Development (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
The development of thought processes, including remembering, problem solving, and decision-making, from childhood through adolescence to adulthood.
Historically, the cognitive development of children has been studied in a variety of ways. The oldest is through intelligence tests, such as the widely used Stanford Binet Intelligence Quotient, or IQ, test first adopted for use in the United States by psychologist Lewis Terman (1877-1956) in 1916 from a French model pioneered in 1905. IQ scoring is based on the concept of "mental age," according to which the scores of a child of average intelligence match his or her age, while a gifted child's performance is comparable to that of an older child, and a slow learner's scores are similar to those of a younger child. IQ tests are widely used in the United States, but they have come under increasing criticism for defining intelligence too narrowly and for being biased with regard to race and gender. In contrast to the emphasis placed on a child's native abilities by intelligence testing, learning theory grew out of work by behaviorist researchers such as John Watson and B.F. Skinner (1904-1990), who argued that children are completely malleable. Learning theory focuses on the role of environmental factors in shaping the intelligence of children, especially on a child's...
(The entire section is 1317 words.)
Cognitive Development (Encyclopedia of Children's Health)
Cognitive development is the construction of thought processes, including remembering, problem solving, and decision-making, from childhood through adolescence to adulthood.
It was once believed that infants lacked the ability to think or form complex ideas and remained without cognition until they learned language. It is now known that babies are aware of their surroundings and interested in exploration from the time they are born. From birth, babies begin to actively learn. They gather, sort, and process information from around them, using the data to develop perception and thinking skills.
Cognitive development refers to how a person perceives, thinks, and gains understanding of his or her world through the interaction of genetic and learned factors. Among the areas of cognitive development are information processing, intelligence, reasoning, language development, and memory.
Historically, the cognitive development of children has been studied in a variety of ways. The oldest is through intelligence tests, such as the widely used Stanford Binet Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test first adopted for use in the United States by psychologist Lewis Terman (1877956) in...
(The entire section is 3167 words.)