Child psychology is a branch of developmental psychology, dedicated to the exploration of patterns of mental development of the child. The main subject of analysis is driving causes and conditions for ontogenetic development of individual mental processes, including the formation of different types of a child behavior.
Child psychology, as a science of mental development of the child, originated as a branch of comparative psychology in the late 19th century. The starting point for systematic research on the psychology of the child is a work «Die Seele des Kindes» by Darwinian William Preyer. The work described the results of the Preyer’s daily observations on the development of his own son, paying attention to the development of his senses, motor skills, will, mind, and language. Despite the fact that the monitoring took place long before the Preyer’s book was published, Preyer’s undeniable priority was the study of the earliest years of the child and the introduction of the method of objective observation to child psychology, developed by analogy with the methods in the natural sciences. In modern terms, Peyer’s views are seen as naive, limited to the level of development of science of the 19th century. For example, he considered the mental development of the child as a version of the biological development. (However, strictly speaking, even today, there are hidden and explicit proponents of this idea…). Nevertheless, Preyer was the first who made the transition from introspective to objective study of the child psyche. Therefore, he is considered the founder of child psychology by the unanimous recognition of the psychologists.
The objective conditions of establishing child psychology, created by the end of the 19th century, are linked to the intensive development of industry, with a new level of public life, which created the need for a modern school. The question was how to teach and bring up children? Parents and teachers no longer considered physical punishment as an effective method of education. The issue of understanding the child became a part of the day. On the other hand, the desire of an adult to understand himself has prompted researchers to treat children more carefully, as only through the study of child psychology there was a way to understand what adult psychology was.
However, investigating the same object, psychological development, genetic and child psychology are two different psychological sciences. Genetic psychology interested in problems of the emergence and development of mental processes.
Child psychology differs from all other by the fact that it is dealing with special units of analysis, which are the age or period of development. It should be emphasized that the age is not reduced to the sum of the individual mental processes, it is not a calendar date. Age, by definition, is a relatively closed loop of child development that has its structure and dynamics. Duration of age is determined by its internal content: there are periods of development and, in some cases, periods equal to one, three, and five years. Chronological and psychological ages do not match.
Unlike genetic, child psychology studies the periods of child development, their transformations and transitions from one age to another.
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