Children’s Mental Development
Jean Piaget’s book talks about children’s cognitive development right from a very tender age. It offers great insight into how they perceive and analyze things. It becomes very clear from the book that children have a different way of thinking and understanding things compared to adults. According to Piaget, children at birth have a basic mental structure (1969). It is upon this structure that subsequent learning and acquisition of knowledge are based. This nullifies the previously held assumption that children are just less experienced and incompetent thinkers in comparison with adults.
The initial response by children to their environment is just spontaneous. This means that no reason or thinking is attached to the child’s reactions. This can be explained by the fact that the infants in their initial stages of mental development have not yet formed any sound mental and cognitive system. The initial mental structure of infants is majorly from genetic inheritance. However, with environmental experience and some biological maturation, children start having a more organized mental structure.
In my opinion, I highly agree with the writer on a number of issues pertaining children’s mental development. First of all, the idea that a child’s reaction to the environment is spontaneous rather than being informed by reason is factual. From observation and extensive reading, I have noted that small kids exhibit a reflexive kind of a behavior. Take an instance where you holding a baby and by any chance you place a finger in its palm. The most immediate thing that the baby will do is to grasp it. Another example can also be given about placing a finger in a child’s mouth. The baby will immediately start suckling the finger. This brings out a clear understanding that at the early days of their lives, children’s behavior is reflexive in response to their senses.
In addition to that, Piaget’s theory that children’s behavior is a combination of their genetic make-up and an environmental experience is also real. This is because as they grow, children will keep changing their physical behaviors according to their surroundings. Immediately after birth and the following period up to 4 months, children cannot comprehend anything in the external world other than themselves. However, as they grow, they start perceiving and responding more to their surroundings. The kind of behavior they exhibit is however backed by their genetic make-up inherited from parents. This proves that even though genetics play an important part in a child’s mental and physical development, the effect of their environment cannot be ignored. It is well known that children brought up in the same environment are likely to show similar characteristics in a number of ways. They may exhibit related physical traits and have more or less related ways of responding to various things in life. All these explain the importance of environmental influences to the development of children.
On top of what Piaget has provided in his book, there are more issues about child development that I feel should also be considered. Chief among this is the effect of social, economic, and socioeconomic aspects in a child’s development. In the social context, I refer to the kind of relationships that exist between children and their parents, their peers and other people. These kinds of relationships affect how children think, learn and develop. The culture on which a child is being raised also plays a vital role in their development. It influences the way they perceive life and how they relate with others, as well as the kind of values and virtues they pursue. I belief that all these issues are important in a child’s life and effort should be made to ensure that the best conditions are availed to them for proper growth and development.
Piaget, J., & Inhelder, B. (1969). The psychology of the child. New York: Basic Books.