Recent research states that by the age of 3, the brain grows about 80% and almost adult size (90%, nearly full-grown) by 5 years. Thus, it elucidates the importance of the early years of development in a child. At this dynamic stage, many times, a parent, caregiver, or guardian may feel perplexed, and have concerns about the child’s social, physical, emotional, and cognitive growth. Therefore, getting in touch with a professional could be good supportive guidance.

Awareness about the different stages and aspects of a child's growth is empowering. It provides a vital roadmap that will help identify normal to divergent red flags of a child’s development. Further to understand childhood, we need to look at the stages of child development from birth till 12 years of age. Each of these stages has a basic developmental attribute and character to it. Moreover, awareness about these stages can help better understand the connection and coping mechanism between the parent or caregiver and the child. 

Bill Gates said that "The first 5 years have so much to do with how the next 80 turnouts", this stands true even through the lens of professional expertise as explained in the stages below:-

  1. The Prenatal stage ranges from conception till birth ( 9 months approximately) of the child. In this stage, the child's body & brain develops the fastest across all lifespan as they develop from a single cell to a complete human.
  2. The Neonatal stage ranges from birth to 1 month. This is the second stage when the child adapts to the environment outside the mother’s womb.
  3. The onset of the third or Infancy stage ranges from 1 month - 12 months. This is when the child develops motor, social, thinking, and language skills.
  4. In the fourth or Toddler stage, these skills are further refined. This period ranges from 12 months - 36 months.
  5. Preschoolers, the fifth stage begins at three years and ends at six years. In this stage, the child develops the knowledge of self, thus becoming more self-reliant.
  6. The sixth/ Middle childhood/ school-age stage is achievement-based development focused on learning self-control. 

The limited ability of the child to express and communicate with others may be a challenge in these phases which may impact the development of various vital aspects. A childcare professional like a Pediatrician, Child psychiatrist, Child psychologist, early childhood educator, special educator, etc., can help your child evolve to the best optimal level. 

The mind and body both play a vital role in helping a child develop their skills, personality, and character in a gestalt manner. Therefore, mental health professionals can play a crucial role in facilitating the child's smooth and successful cognitive, psychological, and emotional development. 

Many scholars, scientists, and theorists have tried to unwind and understand the enigma of childhood and developmental years. The principles, facts, and concepts elucidated by them are shared below. These concepts will help you recognize the sensitivity, complexity, and scalability of the matter at hand. So, let's look at childhood through the lens of pioneers and theorists who redefined the concept for us to work upon as child caregivers and professionals.

➔ Erik Homburger Erikson was a German-American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst who coined the term "Identity crisis." He is famous for his theory of psychosocial development across the lifespan. He, along with Joan Erickson, conceptualized the Stages of Psychosocial Development. According to the theory, each stage has positive and negative psychosocial attributes attached to it. These attributes are vital for the virtue we elucidate in our lives. 



➔ Edward John Mostyn Bowlby was a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, and Psychoanalyst known for his work on maternal deprivation and pioneering the attachment theory. Bowlby's work on maternal deprivation emphasized that children's experiences of interpersonal relationships were crucial to their psychological development. The theory of attachment emphasizes that the bond connecting the child forms in the early years of life with their caregiver has a tremendous impact on the child, and it continues across the lifespan. It’s a child’s primary process of seeking proximity to an attachment figure with who he/she identifies, thus improving the child’s survival chances.

➔ Sigismund Schlomo Freud was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of Psychoanalysis. Freud proposed that personality development in childhood occurs during five psychosexual stages: the oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital stages. During each stage, sexual energy (libido) is expressed in different ways and through different parts of the body.

Sigmund Freud had also explained the concept of the Oedipus complex, and Carl Jung gave the concept of Electra complex is a part of normal developmental process approximately during the age of 3 years - 6 years, in which the child identifies with the same-sex parent. The successful resolution of this complex is a key psychological and emotional experience to develop a mature role and identity related to sex, sexuality. 

Men and women may end up fixated in the Electra or Oedipus stages of Psychosexual development, also known as “father or mother fixated.” A girl child may develop Penis Envy via castration anxiety. In contrast, a boy child may develop womb envy, and the unsuccessful resolution may lead to neurosis, psychological and sexual problems later in life.

➔ Albert Bandura is a Canadian American Psychologist who founded social learning and self-efficacy theory. It emphasizes that learning occurs through observation, and imitation of behavior, and consequent reaction of others to that behavior explained by Bandura in the Bobo Doll experiment. The likeliness of their imitating the role models’ behavior depends on the aspects mentioned below.

a) A child is more likely to copy the behavior of the role model they identify with more, for example, people of the same gender. 

b) The child repeats the behavior depending on the reinforcement that follows after -positive reinforcement is a rewarding reaction like a compliment, approval, or negative reinforcement, which involves reactions such as scolding, punishment, disapproval. 

c) The child is also more likely to copy that behavior from their models in which their models get a positive reaction/consequence. 

➔ Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development suggests different stages on how children construct, acquire and use knowledge throughout their lifespan; as they construct a mental model of the world. 

  • The Sensorimotor stage begins from birth to 2 years, where the child learns through their senses, and understands the world by exploring and discovering. They do this through concepts of object permanence, self-recognition, deferred imitation, and representational play.
  • Towards the end of this stage and beginning of the Preoperational stage (spans from 2 - 7 years), the child understands the importance of language. Animism begins as they realize that words can be used to represent objects and feelings. As they develop mental imagery and acquire the ability to think about things symbolically. 
  • The Concrete Operational stage period is from 7 - 11 years where the child begins to think logically about events. In the Formal Operational stage (12 years and above), adolescents can deal with abstract ideas, hypothetical problems considering the many possible solutions that are amplified over the lifespan. Concrete operations are associated with things, whereas formal operations are associated with ideas. 

➔ John B. Watson was an American Psychologist who is widely known as the father of Behaviourism. He explained the concept by saying that all behaviors are learned through the process of conditioning, i.e., interaction with the environment. Thus, behaviorism emphasizes the importance of environmental factors in influencing one’s behavior, and they are used to date for behavioral training, therapy (for example, behavior modification).

Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in, and I’ll guarantee to take anyone at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select- doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant- chief and yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.” 

The famous Little Albert experiment elucidated the idea of behaviorism conducted by Watson. Rosalie Rayner explains Little Albert’s behavior when the white rat was exposed and paired with a loud noise, which made Albert fearful of the white rat consequently other white objects. Through the experiment, they illustrated how conditioning can be used to get an emotional reaction in humans which became the basis for behavioral modification.

Right from conception until the child reaches levels of self-dependence, the age-old question discussed over time is child-rearing and nurturing methods. The best aspect about each era, century, or decade is that it offers its golden principle. The views on children have been influenced by many eminent thinkers, philosophers, and children themselves, showing what they can do. 

Let's view the vibrant perspective and varied characteristics of children through the dynamic lens. When human beings lived in the jungle where survival of the fittest was the principle to stay alive, children were carriers of the genealogy and part of the natural process of livelihood. When humans began colonizing tribes, the role of children was extended to carrying forward the traditions, beliefs, values of their tribe. After civilization, children were objectified as resources where they were trained since childhood for various skills, leadership, etc. Moreover, they were exposed to the brutality of slavery and abuse. 

The belief system that children are born as a blank slate {Tabula Rasa} was propagated by Aristotle (384–322 BC), who was an eminent Greek philosopher. It emphasized that a child learns socialization and other required skills through education and training. An English philosopher, John Locke (1632–1704), believed that their environment and experiences shape children's development. 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), a French philosopher, propagated the inner goodness view where he emphasized the importance of expression to produce a well-balanced and freethinking child. He further stated that children would develop to their fullest potential morally and educationally if they develop naturally without constraints. 

Chanakya/ Kauṭilya/ Vishnugupta was an eminent philosopher, an economist who proposed that if you treat your kid like a darling for the first five years. Then scold them for the next five years and by the time they turn sixteen, treat them like a friend would make them better adults, leading your grown-up children to be your best friends.

Buddhism considers three factors vital for the child's development:

  • The environment in which the child lives.
  • The Karmic inheritance they have got from past lives.
  • The degree to which they develop their mind. 

The Japanese concept of child development focuses on inculcating principles of self-discipline, commitment, perseverance, and kindness. In addition to that, it also focuses on them being strong, being healthy, and being diligent in the study, sympathetic - empathetic, socially conscious, cooperative - harmonious, as they are expected to be a supportive and responsible group member of the society.

The transition of the aspects of children and childhood from the prehistoric era to the current era has been most dynamic and rapid in the past few years. It shows children have become the center of focus on many vital matters. Skills develop at a swift speed at times preceding the age range described earlier. The bar for achievement, drudgery has been raised by many children who are famous as child prodigies, activists, etc., elucidating the change in aspects related to children.

  1. Truptraj Pandya, born in Mulund, is the youngest tabla player in the world. He started to play the tabla at the age of 18 months. At the age of 2 years, he performed at Somaiya college of Mumbai. When Truptraj was just 3 years old, he performed live on All India Radio. He also played the tabla on Dooradashan at the age of 4 years. His father believes that he was a born prodigy. During the early years of his life, he used to play aluminum containers as an instrument when his grandmother used to sing devotional songs. At the tender age of 6 years, he was honored with the Guinness Book of World Records certificate for being the youngest tabla player in the world. Musical maestros like Ustad Zakir Hussain, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasiya, and Ustad Iqbal Ahmed Khan have been helping him master and enhance new skills.
  2. Jaylen Arnold, the founder of Jaylens Challenge Foundation, Inc., came up with this concept at the age of 8 after being bullied for Tourette’s syndrome. He was not only diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome but also with Asperger’s and OCD. He used to get bullied by his peers because of his differences. As a result, the situation started getting even worse. This is what acted as fuel for his idea of educating children and adults about bullying. It included how to recognize bullying and how to understand each other’s differences. He took the help of a few adults to create a website to educate people about his disorders and his bullying experiences. He also talked about the prevalence of bullying in schools and workplaces. In addition to that, he also discussed how people across the globe are suffering because of this. His initiative started to combat bullying, has successfully led the message to spread worldwide and came out as a very positive step. He also inspired many people to find their strength in their negative experiences and come out of them even stronger.
  3. Stevie Wonder was born on May 13, 1950, in Steveland Judkins Morris and was an American child prodigy. He became a skilled musician in his early childhood despite being born in poverty and suffering from complete blindness. He learned to write music, singing and playing many instruments like the harmonica, piano, organ, and drums. He began singing with Motown’s Tamala Label at the age of just 11. At the age of 12, he started with professional performances under the name of Little Stevie Wonder. He established himself as a skilled and wonderful musician in the coming years, combining songwriting with a mastery over various music styles including rock, jazz, funk, soul, rhythm, and blues. By the age of 21, he gave more than a dozen hit songs written or co-written by him. In 1989, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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