Psychology is the study of the way of thinking and acting of a given group of people (Salkind, 2006). Child psychology is, however, defined as the study of how the behavior and cognition of the child is changing with time, and what factors affect these changes. It is largely argued that behavior is developed based on the experiences of childhood (Salkind, 2006). It is, therefore, essential to comprehensively understand the stages of development of a child, especially in terms of cognition and behavior. This paper will look at and assess the cause of behavior of a 10-year-old child, with the aim of establishing the truth behind cognitive development theories, such as those developed by Freud, Erickson, and Piaget (Salkind, 2006).
Children at this age have only acquired the ability to recognize colors, understand what they are taught or what they do without having much memory of it, tell the difference between who is a grown up and who is not, and probably the difference between objects. Piaget best demonstrates this interstadial (stage-by-stage) development of children from birth to puberty through his Cognitive Development Theory (Levine & Munsch, 2011). According to this theory, children between the ages of 7 to 11, where the child (boy) in this case fall, are said to be in the Concrete Operational Stage. In this stage, children are able to learn the aspect of conservation. More specifically, they are able to recognize that the quantity of concrete materials, like liquids or objects, did not change even when its organization or shape was changed (Levine & Munsch, 2011). For example, if the same amount of water was poured in a glass of different size, it did not mean that the quantity of the water has changed. This indeed, was one of the most remarkable observations from interactions with the child in this case, who fall in this range being 10 years of age. Out of everything else the child was taught, he remembered, and could not be tricked about the quantity of objects, even if they were placed in different shapes and sizes of containers. For example, when asked which one between two kilograms of cotton and two kilograms of sand was heavier, he spoke plainly but answered with confidence that they were all the same: 2 kilograms in quantity. This was in absurd contrast to when he was asked to identify any differences between two seemingly similar pictures. The boy was unable to do this seemingly simple act, creating the impression that his reasoning had only developed to concrete level and not the abstract level that could have allowed him to recognize images and symbols (Levine & Munsch, 2011).
Erik Erickson supports this belief in the stage-by-stage cognitive development of children. Erik adds that every stage of this development is characterized by a unique conflict (Salkind, 2006). He argues that children must overcome the conflict at the various stages before they could move on to the next stage. If they fail to, the children remain stagnated at one stage, thereby causing personality disorders (Ellis & Bjorklund, 2005). According to Erik’s theory of Industry versus Inferiority, children between the ages of 6 years to 11 years have developed a sense of self-awareness and need to be accepted. As such, they lack confidence when dealing with matters about which they are not sure. Erik proposes that to overcome this conflict, a child at this stage will have to develop an immense self-confidence and self-esteem (Ellis & Bjorklund, 2005). This conflict at this stage is best observed when the children go to school. Children who cannot master their class work may consider themselves insufficient or even failure. As such, they develop feelings of inferiority that messes up their self-confidence (Salkind, 2006). Indeed, children at this stage have been recorded to run away from school or develop school fright, just because they could not master class work and were afraid of other students having low opinions of them. The boy in this case was very sensitive about what people thought about him. He did not take negative comments lightly, and they either caused him to cry or go on a relentless effort to prove the accuser wrong. All these are viewed to be his efforts to feel accepted.
Freud classifies children at this age using his Sexual Development Theory as a Latent Period. He argues that children between the ages of 6 years and puberty have not developed sexual feelings and are, therefore, at a latent stage, sexually speaking (Ellis & Bjorklund, 2005). Observing the boy in this case, Freud’s theory seems inaccurate. This is because the boy, who is 10 years of age, demonstrated immense opposite sex, and seemed to know exactly what attracted him to the opposite gender. Freud’s insistence that the libido of children at this stage is greatly suppressed, also did not pass, as the ten-year-old boy was observed to be sexually active. This brings into the picture another aspect of sexual latency: the aspect of environment (Harwood, Miller & Vasta, 2008). In the rapidly revolutionizing world where sexual contents are commonplace, it is only the environment that a child grows in that can determine how long he/she remains latent in matters of sex. However, like Freud states, children at this stage use their sexual energies to develop their communication skills and self-confidence (Ellis & Bjorklund, 2005). The issue of self-confidence and esteem emanates from the thrill and sense of achievement from convincing a member of the opposite sex to offer their friendship or even more (Ellis & Bjorklund, 2005).
In conclusion, the development of personality and behavior among children is indeed a stage-by-stage affair, with each stage characterized by a special challenge to the child. It is these challenges that help shape the character of the child. Regardless of the challenge, the level of confidence by which a child handles it is the determinant of his/her future character. Like the child psychologists insist, it is, indeed, the lack of confidence to handle the challenges at each stage of development that causes development of personality disorders.