Please enjoy the following report from a recent Friday Workshop in Kilimanjaro titled “Psychology of Children” and presented by Education Volunteer, Belina Modest.

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“The workshop was opened at 1pm on Friday, September 18th.  The facilitator Belina began the session by welcoming all attendees.  Then she introduced the main topic which was ‘Psychology of Children’ and gave instructions on how she was going to conduct the session.

Next, Belina gave questions to the tutors to discuss in groups, and after the discussion each group started to share their ideas according to their understanding on the topic.  The questions provided were:

  • What is psychology?
  • What is psychology of children?
  • What is the importance of studying psychology of children?

All the tutors participated well in answering the questions.

Belina then started presenting the topic by summarizing the answers the tutors had provided depending on the questions they had discussed in their groups.  Then she continued to explain the meaning of psychology in deep, the meaning of child psychology, the importance of studying child psychology and psychosexual theory and psychoanalytic theory by Sigmund Freud, its structure and stages of development.  Also, she explained in short about psychosocial theory and winded up the session by welcoming tutors to give out questions and comments.

PSYCHOLOGY OF CHILDREN

Psychology is the science dealing with human nature and the function and phenomenon of the soul.

Child psychology is the science that deals with the mental power or interaction between the conscious and subconscious element of a child.  Child psychologists observe how a child interacts with his/her parents, him/herself, and the world around to understand mental development.  They study a child’s mind and how it functions to understand behavior of children from the prenatal phase through adolescence, and how children grow physically with their mental, emotional, and social development.

The main aim of studying child psychology (and any psychology) is to gain an increased understanding of why people respond as they do.

OBJECTIVES OF CHILD PSYCHOLOGY

Knowledge of child psychology will help us to:

  • Understand each child better
  • Plan our interactions better
  • Identify problems of psychosomatic origin
  • Modify each child’s developmental process
  • Teach parents and children the importance of primary and preventive care

Theories of child psychology are classified into two groups:

PSYCHODYNAMIC THEORIES

  • Psychosexual theory/psychoanalytic theory by Sigmund Freud
  • Psychosocial theory/model of personality by Eric Erickson
  • Cognitive theory by Jean Piaget

BEHAVIOUR LEARNING THEORIES

  • Classical conditioning theory by Ivan Pavlov
  • Operant conditioning theory by B.F. Skinner
  • Social learning theory by Albert Bandura
  • Hierarchy of needs by Maslow

Belina decided to focus on Freud’s psychosexual theory which provides a commonly known and understood comprehensive approach to the understanding of psychic development, emotions, and behavior as well as psychiatric illness.

She explained the structures for understanding psychic process and personality development as the Id, the Ego, and the Superego.

  • ID (Pleasure Pain Principle) – Reflex action, primary process thinking, for example, “I want it now!”
  • EGO (Reality Principle) – Secondary process thinking, for example, “I want it, but need to do a bit of planning to get it.”

The Ego is the component of personality that is responsible for dealing with reality, conscious and unconscious.  Also, it is the mental structure that interacts with the real world to satisfy Id demands.  The Ego provides for delayed gratification, eventually allowing the behavior but only in the appropriate time and place.

  • SUPEREGO – Emerging at age 5, it provides guidelines for making judgments and strives for perfection.

Having explained the Id, Ego, and Superego, Belina then went on to describe the stages of development in terms of age.

STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT

  • Oral stage – 0-2 years, from birth to 18 months

The oral stage is the site of identifying needs; infants depend on adults for getting their needs fulfilled.  It is also the time for satisfaction of oral desires such as feeding, thumb-sucking, and babbling, all of which aid in the development of trust.  If a child’s needs are not adequately met in this stage, the following traits could develop: excessive optimism, narcissism, pessimism, envy, or jealousy.

  • Anal stage – 18 months to 3 years

At this time, the maturation of neuromuscular control occurs such as control over sphincters, particularly the anal sphincter results in increased voluntary activity.  This stage is characterized by the development of personal autonomy and independence.  A child realizes his control over his needs and practices it with a sense of shame or self-doubt.  The anal stage can be characterized by abnormal behavior like disorderliness, abstinence, stubbornness, willfulness, or fragility.

  • Phallic stage – 3 to 6 years

The erogenous zone shifts from the anus to the genitals.  Males have the potential to develop an Oedipal Complex while females may develop an Electra Complex.  The child learns to realize the difference between males and females and becomes more aware of sexuality.

  • Latency stage – 7 to 11 years

This is the transitioning period between the phallic and genital stages and focuses on areas like academics and athletics.  Same sex friendships develop during this stage.

  • Genital stage – 11 to 13 years

Here, we see the establishment of mature relations.  A child makes contacts and forms relations with members of opposite sex.

Now, Belina briefly switched over to Erickson’s psychosocial theory for comparison.  She explained that unlike in Freud’s theory where the stages are pre-prescribed, Erickson believed that individuals are influenced by their social environment and that this environment makes impact on social experience across the whole lifespan.

Wrapping up, the tutors agreed to read more about the psychology of children because it’s important to know how children think, behave, and grow in different environments.  They also agreed to help students according to their psychological needs.

Belina reported to Ema and Augustino that she enjoyed using the projector because it helps in time management, and reduces repetition in reading notes for tutors during the session.”