The development of children varies from individual to individual, depending on their distinctive nature, learning style, culture environment, and family upbringing. There are also significant variances in the development with each individual’s genetic heritage and socioeconomic status. Observing a child is a great way to learn more about the development, cognitive, and social skills they may have. A pretentious difference such as family living arrangements and former experiences alter and affect a child’s level of cognition. Some children who live a normal traditional lifestyle, can sometimes take for granted the significance of love and compassion. Other children who have not been as fortunate and lack the warmth and comfort of a parent’s love take nothing for granted and appreciates even the small minor details in life.
For my childhood observation report I chose two different children in particular to observe. I chose the two specific children because they have been raised in completely different conditions and have undergone extremely opposite experiences from one another. My interest is in how certain experiences and living environments shape and form the child through the process of development and if and how these diverse circumstances might reflect in their personalities and skills. My first subject is a five and a half year old Caucasian female that I will refer to as Jill. Jill comes from a well-loving, stable home with the daily nurturing of both of her biological parents. My second subject is an eight year old Caucasian male that I will refer to as Jack. Jack has not experienced the kind of stable and loving upbringing as Jill. He has witnessed several traumatic events throughout his childhood. Although these two children are very similar in many ways, I soon learned how their very distinctive and diverse upbringings have affected their individuality through character, cognition and behavior.
Let’s begin with my first subject, Jill. Jill lives with both of her biological parents, an arrangement known as a nuclear family (Berger, Part IV Middle Childhood: Psychosocial Development, 2011) in a secure and warm home in the rural part of Newnan, Georgia. Jill appears to be a typical five year old girl and seems right on target in her physical and cognitive development. She is a vibrant, happy, energized and very imaginative little girl. She began kindergarten this year and is very socially active in sports and church activities. She is the older of two children and her younger sister will soon be one year old. Jill’s parents are the average middle class, working family. They attend church regularly and are very active in church activities and with their community. Her paternal grandparents are frequently involved in her life and spend a great deal of quality time with Jill and her sister. Her maternal grandmother passed away one year before Jill was born and her maternal grandfather has very little involvement with Jill and her family, although he only lives forty-five minutes away. Jill’s extended family consists of three uncles, one aunt, and two cousins who enjoy regular visits with the family.
Holiday’s and gatherings are yearly traditions with Jill’s family and they all enjoy their time together. Jill is constantly surrounded with people who adore her and whom lovingly express their affection and encouragement. Over the course of my observance of Jill, which took place in the natural setting of her home, we interacted in several activities such as playing house, dressing baby dolls, and playing games outdoors. Jill has an enormous imagination and a large variety of cognizance and was eager to show it. While dressing baby dolls Jill expressed to me to clothe her doll in a pretty dress and never put pants on her because she was a girl, not a boy. I was immediately aware of Jill’s cognitive development currently being in Piaget’s second characteristic of preoperational intelligence, focusing on appearance (Berger, Part III Early Childhood: Cognitive Development, 2011) believing that if a girl wears pants instead of a dress she will be considered as a boy. During the activity of “playing house,” and again when Jill’s mother asked her to watch her baby sister while she prepared a meal for the family, Jill demonstrated the impersonation of her mother through sociodramatic play (Berger, Part III, Chapter 10, Early Childhood: Psychosocial Development, 2011).
Playing and interacting with her younger sister mimicking the exact words and phrases she has witnessed her mother saying. Speaking to and caring for her younger sister as if she were the mother. During this episode I noted that Jill was showing an example of extrinsic motivation (Berger, Part III, Chapter 10, Early Childhood: Psychosocial Development, 2011), seeking the praise of good babysitter from her mother. According to the psychoanalytic theory (Berger, Part III, Chapter 10, Early Childhood: Psychosocial Development, 2011) Jill’s behavior during this event shows that she is coping with fear through identification (Berger, Part III, Chapter 10, Early Childhood: Psychosocial Development, 2011). During my next visit with Jill, her two cousins, one girl who is one year younger than Jill and one boy who is two years younger than Jill, were there visiting with her and they were all playing in the backyard together. During their playtime, I noticed Jill’s attitude become more sassy and bossy towards her cousins. In hardly no time at all Jill and her female cousin begin showing antipathy (Berger, Part III, Chapter 10, Early Childhood: Psychosocial Development, 2011) towards her male cousin.
Calling him names and shouting phrases such as “boys are stupid,” “boys are gross,” and “we don’t want you to play with us anymore.” Both girls were obviously practicing antisocial behavior (Berger, Part III, Chapter 10, Early Childhood: Psychosocial Development, 2011) and bullying aggression (Berger, Part III, Chapter 10, Early Childhood: Psychosocial Development, 2011). After carefully sorting out the dramatics of the situation, Jill stated to me that the reason for her behavior towards her male cousin was because he refused to go into the woods and retrieve the ball that he himself had kicked into the woods. I assessed her enraged conduct as to show reactive aggression (Berger, Part III, Chapter 10, Early Childhood: Psychosocial Development, 2011).
Soon after, using the parenting technique known as authoritative parenting (Berger, Part III, Chapter 10, Early Childhood: Psychosocial Development, 2011) I invited the children to sit with me in a circle and talk about what had just happened and the reason Jill displayed such rage and anger toward her cousin for an act out of mere accident. A short time later, all conflicts and bitterness between the three children now worked out, Jill revealed feelings of empathy (Berger, Part III, Chapter 10, Early Childhood: Psychosocial Development, 2011) to her cousin she had previously mistreated. Through social mediation (Berger, Part III, Chapter 9, Early Childhood: Cognitive Development, 2011) and guided participation (Berger, Part III, Chapter 9, Early Childhood: Cognitive Development, 2011) we all played the game red-rover, and then enjoyed a picnic together.
Jack on the other hand is quite contrary to Jill. Throughout his short eight years of childhood, he has witnessed his father being arrested on two different occasions, and his mother being arrested on one occasion. On two separate instances Jack has been physically and formally removed from his home by the state’s department of children services. Although like Jill, Jack appears to be the normal typical eight year old child on the outside who seems to be developing at the standard rate, but internally he suffers extensively. Jack has a sweet loving personality; he does well in school and thrives to do his absolute best at everything he attempts. He has the nature of a quiet, shy, and lonely child who desires to be loved. The level of pain and grief that Jack holds within and attempts to hide throughout each day of his life has affected his disposition and outlook on life. At such a young age, Jack has experienced some very disturbing events that have left him with feelings of not being wanted, and craving to be loved and nurtured.
My observance of Jack took place in his home at his maternal grandmother’s house, which now has permanent guardianship over Jack. Over the course of my time with Jack we engaged in activities such as throwing the baseball to each other, taking a nature walk though trails, coloring and through guided participation (Berger, Part III, Chapter 9, Early Childhood: Cognitive Development, 2011) we baked cookies. The developmental period Jack is currently in is known as middle childhood (Berger, Part IV, Chapter 11, Middle Childhood: Biosocial Development, 2011), and presently in Erik Erikson’s fourth psychosocial crisis known as industry versus inferiority (Berger, The Developing Person Through the Life Span, 2011). This psychosocial stage is evident in the majority of social interactions and activities that Jack engages in. While baking cookies together Jack displayed concrete operational thought (Berger, Part IV, Chapter 12, Middle Childhood: Cognitive Development, 2011) by explaining to me what would happen if we used too much flour in the cookie mix and why it was best to use smaller chocolate chips instead of the larger baking squares.
I admired his knowledge at such a young age. Through sociodramatic play (Berger, Part III, Chapter 10, Early Childhood: Cognitive Development, 2011) Jack pretended to be a chef and served me a plate of cookies and a glass of milk make believing to be a waiter; he sported an apron and wrote my order down on a small notebook he classified as the order pad. After enjoying the delicious cookies Jack and I baked, we decided to go on a nature walk through the wood trails around his neighborhood. As we were walking, Jack began to tell me about his love for the college football team, Georgia Bulldogs. Jack’s knowledge base (Berger, Part IV, Chapter 12, Middle Childhood: Cognitive Development, 2011) of the college sports team was nothing short of admirable. Spurting out information about his favorite players, how many wins and losses the team has had, and how he thought they would perform in their next upcoming game. This conversation rolled over into another one on the subject of baseball.
His intrinsic motivation (Berger, Part III, Chapter 10, Early Childhood: Psychosocial Development, 2011) is to be a successful professional baseball player after he graduates from high school. Jack is currently in third grade and recently brought home a progress report with all A’s, he has also made “student of the week” several times. Jack is well aware of the need to achieve good grades in school as he hopes to one day earn a scholarship and attend college. After arriving back from our walk, Jack and I spent some time throwing the baseball around. He is currently a member of a little league team in his community and says playing baseball helps him to forget about the bad things that have happened to his family, and helps him not to miss his mom so much.
In conclusion, in reviewing the results of my two subjects, I have learned a great deal on just how much a person’s culture, family demographics, and previous experiences have altered and shaped the person to become who they are. All of the formal circumstances and background experiences, both positive and negative, that each child lives through, substantially effects their character, cognition level, and behavior. Jill comes from a traditionally loving home and has no indication to what it’s like to desire unconditional love from her parents. She has everything she could ever need to become a happy, successful young woman. Unaware of sadness and thoughts of loneliness, she tends to think nothing of the spiteful hurt words she sometimes says to her playmates. Jack on the other hand has suffered a great deal of sadness and lacks the feeling of being unconditionally loved. Although, inside he is greatly depressed and unhappy, he keeps these emotions tucked away and refuses to let them surface. He treats everyone he meets with respect and kindness and tries hard not to anger over trivial things. Although Jack has not been given a “perfect life,” he holds the motivation and desire to accomplish his goals and become the best person he can possibly be.
Berger, Kathleen S., (2011). The Developing Person Through the Life Span. Part III, Early Childhood, Chapter 9-10, pages 238-285. Part IV, Middle Childhood, Chapter 11-13, pages 295-359.