As you reenter the realm of childhood, this time with an adult’s eyes, Part I of this book can serve as a map or guide. It traces routes that investigators have followed in the quest for information about what makes children grow up the way they do, presents routes for studying child development, points out the main directions students of development follow today, and poses questions about the best way to reach the destination: knowledge.
In Chapter 1, we describe how the study of child development has evolved and introduce its goals and structure. We look at the many contexts in which a child develops—from the family to the culture—at a given point in time.
In Chapter 2, we introduce some of the most prominent theories about child development—theories that will come up in more detail later in this book. We explain how developmental scientists study children, what research methods they use, and what ethical standards guide their work.
About Child Development: A Preview
THE STUDY OF CHILD DEVELOPMENT
The scientific study of child development began during the late nineteenth century and has evolved to become part of the study of the full life span.
Developmental scientists study change and stability in the physical, cognitive, and psychosocial areas.
Development is subject to internal and external influences.
Important contextual influences on development include family, neighborhood, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, culture, and history.
THEORY AND RESEARCH
Theoretical perspectives on child development differ on three key issues: (1) the relative importance of heredity and experience, (2) whether children contribute to their own development, and (3) whether development is continuous or occurs in stages.
Major theoretical perspectives are called psychoanalytic, learning, cognitive, sociobiological, and contextual. Various theories of development are influenced by these perspectives.
Basic methods of data collection include self-reports, tests, and observation. Basic research designs include case studies, ethnographic studies, correlational studies, and experiments.
To study development, children may be followed over a period of time to see how they change, or children of different ages may be compared to see how they differ.
The Study of
There is nothing permanent except change.
—Heraclitus, fragment (sixth century B.C.)
FOCUS: Victor, the Wild Boy
THE STUDY OF CHILD
DEVELOPMENT: THEN AND NOW
Studying the Life Span
An Emerging Consensus
THE STUDY OF
Victor, the Wild Boy of Aveyron*
Change and Stability
On January 8, 1800, a naked boy, his face and neck heavily
Domains of Development
Periods of Development
scarred, appeared on the outskirts of the village of Saint-Sernin in the sparsely populated province of Aveyron in south central
France. The boy, who was only four and a half feet tall but looked
about 12 years old, had been spotted several times during the previous two and a half years, climbing trees, running on all fours, drinking from streams, and foraging for acorns and roots.
When the dark-eyed boy came to Saint-Sernin, he neither spoke nor responded to speech. Like an animal accustomed to living in the wild, he spurned prepared foods and tore off the clothing people tried to put on him. It seemed clear that he had either lost his parents or been abandoned by them, but how long ago this had occurred was impossible to tell.
The boy appeared during a time of...
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