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Psychological Perspectives on Children’s Behaviour

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Childcare
Wordcount: 2408 words Published: 21st Nov 2017

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The main psychological perspectives as applied to the understanding of the development of children’s behaviour are; behaviourist, cognitive, social, psychodynamic, humanistic, cognitive and the developmental perspective.

The behaviourist perspective is the influence of the outer environment on children’s behaviour. It discards the idea that children pass through set developmental stages or milestones. But are affected by the environment to which they are exposed to. The behaviour perspective focuses on how the outer environment influences how a child behaviour. It also focuses on how the environment affects their behaviour. “The behaviourist perspective looks at learning as the result of conditioning and that behaviour is learnt by positive and negative reinforcement” (Foster, S., Green, S and Kellas, S. (2008) BTEC National Children’s Care, Learning and Development , Nelson Thornes) A key theorist linking to the behaviourist theory is Albert Bandura. His theory was the Social Learning Theory (Observational Learning). It was most recently called ‘Social Cognitive Theory’. This theory looks at the moral and social behaviour in humans. He believes we learn through conditioning and by observing others. Bandura’s experiment was called the ‘Bobo Doll experiment’. The responses were all convoyed with verbal responses. I.e. one of the types of behaviour the adult showed was aggressive behaviour. The clip showed the adult punching the Bobo doll on it’s side, placing it on the floor and sitting on it and punching it on the nose. Whilst the adult was punching the Bobo doll on it’s nose. The adult continued to kick the Bobo doll around the room. The television clip also showed the adult using a mallet and whacking the doll with it. After the television clip had finished the children were left in a playroom with the Bobo doll for ten minutes. The children were then let into a room to play with the Bobo doll. The children showed hostile and aggressive behaviour toward the Bobo doll. Some of the objects used were mallets, like the adult had. However other objects were used such as guns. The experiment revealed that behaviour can be copied through observing and imitating others. An example of this in placement would be when I was sitting at the table with the children during dinner time. During this time two children were playing around with their food and they throwing it. I showed them that we eat this type of food with our hands. I then then ate some to show them that it tastes nice and they shouldn’t be afraid to eat with their hands. This then resulted in two children copying me and eating their dinner with their hands.

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The second psychological perspective is the cognitive perspective. The cognitive perspective or approach is the “psychological perspective emphasising active and interpretive nature of human information of human information processing” (Coolican, H., Cherchar, A., Walley, M, Cassidy, T,. Penny, G and Harrower J Page 367). The cognitive perspective is about how children make their own choices. This perspective focuses on how what a child learns affects their actions. This means this what a child learns influences their actions. This is done by a child’s thoughts and how a child processes and stores information.

The third psychological perspective is the social perspective biological perspective. This perspective looks at how a child’s behaviour is done to their genetics. This means this perspective looks at a child and how they develop an understanding of the world and their surroundings around them. A theorist that believes this is Vygotsky. Vygotsky believed children learn best through social interaction with other peers and through adult intervention and through this is, is how they develop other skills. Vygotsky felt that children were capable of achieving past their potential and their stages of development however only with support and assistance from adults. “The difference between these two levels was known as the ‘zone of proximal development’, and this has huge implications for the adult who would help extend the child’s learning and reinforce it”. (Hill., K., Tassoni P., Page 256)An example of this would be if a child who suffers from OCD. OCD is a biological condition. If something is not in the correct place, or doing certain actions. A child at one of my placements suffered from Autism and OCD, if that child didn’t have snack at a certain time, the child would get very upset. As I worked with him during reception, snack time was available throughout the whole day and was not at a specific time, he found this difficult time. To help this child, me or another teacher would go through what activities were available to him that day and what he would like to in order. This was very effective and beneficial as he knew what was happening during the day. An example of this in placement would be through free play, the children have a chance to interact and integrate with other children. Adult intervention is very important in my setting. We welcome each child into the setting and talk to them about how they feel and what they would like to do. Communication goes hand in hand with adult interaction with adult intervention. I and the other staff at my placement scaffold the children’s learning when needed with certain tasks and activities. An example of this would be me helping a child to build a tower with wooden blocks. I helped the child to build a tower, thus helping them reach their goal. The next time they were able to build a tower on their own.

The fourth psychological perspective is the psychodynamic perspective. This perspective focuses on the subconscious and the part in plays in us making the decisions we do. Freud is a key theorist that links into this perspective. Freud’s theory is the ‘Psychosexual stages of development’. Freud’s theory is based on the early childhood experiences form the behaviour we acquire as adults. Early attachment relationships with parents form a great impact on this.

The fifth psychological perspective is the humanistic perspective. Freud believed that “the unconscious mind has a large part to play in how we feel and that the influences of the unconscious mind come from past experiences and form our instincts.” (Foster, S., Green, S. & Kellas S., Page 112) Freud’s developed five stages and these were ; the oral stage, the anal stage, phallic stage, laterncy stage and the genital stage. The oral stage is the first stage is about how a child finds pleasure in putting objects in their mouth. The child is intent on satisfying their libido, by placing all sort of objects in their mouth. This can however be replicated at a child’s later life by thumb sucking or nail biting. The oral stage is when a child is first born to the age of one. The anal stage takes place between the first, two years of age. The pleasure zone in this period is the anus. This stage focuses on a child controlling their bowels and bladder. This when the ego starts to develop and starts to control the id, this is done by the child asking to achieve potty training and toilet training. The next stage is the phallic stage, this takes place between the ages of two and six. The pleasure zone during this period is the phallus. This stage focuses on how a child has developed an awareness of their genitals and how a child plays with their genitals and gain pleasure from it. At this stage the superego develops. The laercy stage follows and takes place between the ages of six and eleven years. This stages’ pleasure zone doesn’t have one. This perspective focuses on what makes a child an individual by focusing on what makes a child an individual, and that is their characteristics. The Odeipus (boy) and Electra (girl) issues are resolved. A child can now build on a relationship with a same sex parent without feeling jealousy. The last stage is the genital stage. This is between the ages of 11 years into adulthood. The pleasure zone for this is the genitals. Its main characteristics is how a child can develop having sexual feelings (puberty) to then in adulthood settling down into a relationship. Freud believed though that if an adult is fixed at a certain stage such as the oral stage, their only pleasure of the relationship would be from kissing and not from sexual intercourse. This theory may be linked into practice by if a child is fixed at a certain stage such as the oral stage (this may be nail biting or thumb sucking) may be experiencing anxiety at home, thus not being able to move on to the next stage.

Freud believed that if a child didn’t progress through these set stages, then it would cause problems later on in life. He also believed that a child could stay fixed at a stage and this again would cause problems.

This links into children’s development because this perspective believes that children are influenced by the world and what they see and what they do.

The last psychological perspective is the developmental perspective. This perspective looks at the behaviour of a child and sees if they are meeting the requirements for their age and stage of development. A key theorist that links into this is Piaget and his four stages of cognitive development. This links into child development by seeing if children are meeting the development requirements for their age. An example of this at my placement is a behaviour specialist works closely with the school. She takes account of each child’s needs and see if they are meeting the requirements for their age and stage of development and if there is any issues. And if there are any issues, what can then be done to help the child to meet their targets.

Theories have informed practice in early years settings majorly. A lot of theories are using the theories in practice every day. Each theory can be placed into a different category of development.

B.F Skinner’s theory is that children use cognitive behaviour when given verbal communication. A key element in his theory is through trial and error. They will keep on trying until they succeed. A way a child learns this is through observing other adults and copy and repeats what they have heard or see. An example of this in placement would be was when I was sitting at the table with the children during dinner time. During this time two children were playing around with their food and they throwing it. I showed them that we eat this type of food with our hands. I then then ate some to show them that it tastes nice and they shouldn’t be afraid to eat with their hands. This then resulted in two children copying me and eating their dinner with their hands. One way to achieve this is by speaking clearly and getting down to their level and using eye contact. Another example of this in placement would be when a child was hitting another child. I got to the child’s level/ and used eye contact. I also used their name and said what that their behaviour was wrong and that we use ‘kind hands’ here and that their behaviour had made the child sad. I also said that you need to give the child a cuddle and say sorry.

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B.F Skinner also links into another theory of behavioural management. His This theory is that child should have a consistent behavioural management system. At my placement we respect that parents may have a different technique to the ones we use at placement, we take on board their wishes and use their technique to remain consistency so the child does not get confused about the consequences of their behaviour. There are many behavioural techniques to help manage behaviour, these are reward charts, child empowerment, inclusion games and assertive discipline.

Vygotsky’s theory is linked to intellectual development. His theory is that children learn new skills with the help of adult intervention. His theory also supports that a child should be supported doing a new activity or during a new learning experience. I and the staff support this theory by assisting the children with new tasks and scaffolding their learning. This means giving them the resources they need to fulfil or complete the task and letting them find a way of completing the task, without showing them. We also give verbal praise when a child shows good social interaction skills with other children.

John Bowbly is the theorist that is linked to emotional development. He links into the biological perspective. His theory focuses on that importance of early relationships a child has with their main caregiver. Bowbly believed children who had a positive attachment with their caregiver have more of higher self-esteem and children who have negative attachment their caregiver have a lower self-esteem. At my placement we support this by slowly introducing and easing a child into a setting. We had a new child recently who started. We believed it would be for the best if we slowly eased the child into the setting. This helps the child to ease into the setting, make themselves feel comfortable and familiar with the setting. This also helps prevent separation anxiety with the child and their main caregiver.


Foster, S., Green, S and Kellas, S. (2008) BTEC National Children’s Care, Learning and Development , Nelson Thornes, Nelson Thornes – 15/11/14

Squire, G., 2007. BTEC National Children’s Care, Learning and Development Student Book, United Kingdom: Heinemann - 15/11/14

Image - http://fateslayer99.hubpages.com/hub/Understanding-Psychological-Perspectives-and-the-Motives-Behind-Our-Actions - Last Accessed on 15/11/14 at 18:12


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