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What have psychologists learnt about typical development from studying children with developmental difficulties?

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Introduction

What have psychologists learnt about typical development from studying children with developmental difficulties? The development of children is a broadly researched and discussed area of psychology. Psychologists are interested in how typical development enables us to function as human beings and how children will develop as they grow in to adults. The study of children with developmental difficulties has enabled psychologists in some ways to define what is considered typical, but this is not without criticism. The definition of what is 'normal' or typical is contentious, and this essay will seek to examine some of the theories and research that either support or reject this The stability and security of forming early relationships are believed by many to be the building blocks for future psychological well-being. The attachment theory was originally proposed by John Bowlby who believed that children need to form strong emotional bonds with their primary caregiver, namely the mother. He proposed that babies have an inbuilt behavioural system which is activated by the threat of separation from the caregiver. This is usually in the form of crying or clinging (Bowlby, 1958). Bowlby based his theories on studies based on the experiences of delinquent adolescent boys. He discovered that these boys were likely to have been taken into care and did not have a permanent mother figure. ...read more.

Middle

The patterns of causation remain unclear and therefore typified behaviour cannot be deemed conclusive. The two studies that have been looked at suggest an underlying reason of poverty, deprivation, and an unstable family upbringing for disturbing behaviour in children. A more controversial explanation relates to the influence of temperament. Research carried out by Chess and Thomas has suggested that a 'difficult' temperament in 4 and 5 year olds can lead to behavioural difficulties in later childhood (Chess and Thomas, 1984). This would depend on environmental factors, which has been described as the 'goodness of fit'. The impact of family adversity is therefore dependant upon the child's ability to adapt and cope. In a more recent study Rutter has been able to make more typified conclusions on temperament. He believes that boys are more vulnerable to difficult behaviour than girls as they are more susceptible to a neurological disorder, which means that they are less able to cope with stress. Boys are also more likely to display anti-social behaviour and their temperamental characteristics make them more likely to be the object of parental criticism (Rutter, 1987). A major educational development for children is the acquisition of literacy. Psychologists have found that through the development of language and the ability to distinguish sounds, children will typically be able to develop reading and writing skills. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, it is questionable whether using these types of children in current research is desirable or moral. It would seem right that today's researchers should seek to understand problems so that appropriate interventions can be sought, rather than using children as 'guinea pigs' for the greater good of the general population. Belsky, J. (1988), details of Belsky's work cited in Cowie (1994) p.14, 'Child Care and Attachment', in Barnes, P. (ed), Personal, Social and Emotional Development of Children, Milton Keynes, The Open University. Bishop, D. and Adams, C. (1990), details of Bishop and Adams's work cited in Bancoroft (1995) p.158, 'Language Impairment and Dyslexia', in Bancroft, D. and Carr, R. (ed), Influencing Children's Development, Milton Keynes, The Open University. Bowlby, J. (1958), details of Bowlby's work cited in Cowie (1994) p.20, 'Child Care and Attachment', in Barnes, P. (ed), Personal, Social and Emotional Development of Children, Milton Keynes, The Open University. Goldfarb, W. (1947), details of Goldfarb's work cited in Cowie (1994) p.8, 'Child Care and Attachment', in Barnes, P.(ed), Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Milton Keynes, The Open University. Gregory, S. (1995), 'Psychology and Deafness', in Bancroft, D. and Carr, R. (ed), Influencing Children's Development, Milton Keynes, The Open University. Richman, N. et al (1982), details of Richman et al's work cited in Woodhead (1994), 'Disturbing Behaviour of Young Children, in Barnes, P. (ed) p.56, Personal, Social and Emotional Development of Children, Milton Keynes, The Open University. Rutter, M. ...read more.

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