Developmental psychology primarily focuses on childhood development since it is the period within which a lot of changes take place. This field focuses on the interplay of nature and nurture and their influence on individual development; with nature concerning matters of genetic inheritance and maturation whereas nurture focuses on the impact of our environment and experience. As mentioned earlier developmental psychology focuses on a number of areas including language development.
Language refers to the expression of human communication through which knowledge, belief and behavior can be expressed using a system of symbols and rules. Language development begins quite early in life when a person begins to acquire language by learning it either through speaking or mimicking others. It begins as early as in the fetal stage, after birth it begins in form of cooing, which progresses to babbling then making of holophrastic speech, use of one word and two word phrases and eventually gaining full command in adulthood. The langauge development of children becomes progressively complicated as they advance in age.
This research seeks to explore the relationship between language and child development, through discussing its relevance to developmental psychology, as well as its important in a multicultural perspective. To this end, six articles focusing on language and child development will be analyzed through a synthesis of their purpose and significance in relation to one another.
Golinkoff et al (2005) focused on the study of language development. They looked at the five structural components of language which are phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax and pragmatics . They then further grouped the structural components into three essential aspects; content, form and use. These elements appear separately but they work together in communication . Problems with language may arise if any of the three components is interfered with. Golinkoff, et al not only looks at the language problems but also tried to give some insight on intervention measures. These scholars broadly explored issues of language development. According to them academic success is dependent on language competence as it predicts the child’s ability in tackling certain issues such as reading, writing and mathematics. Language development occurs throughout an individual’s life but childhood is the most crucial stage of language acquisition. Children achieve language milestones at different rates; some children experience a lot of difficulty with regards to language content, form and use. Most language disabilities can be detected quite early while others manifest themselves overtime. Language therefore is a developmental process since it doesn’t just occur randomly but occurs progressively and is governed my certain rules or syntax.
According to Brandone (2005) language development in children is influenced by their interaction with their social environment that is their peers and caregivers. Children who have a rich language input most times display a rich language output. Methods used in the prevention of language disabilities aim to create a conducive environment for language acquisition. Every individual involved in the child’s language development should work in collaboration to ensure effective language acquisition. This sort of collective efforts will have a long lasting effect on the students or child’s social, cognitive and linguistic development. Mercer and Mercer (1998) provide a list of techniques that teachers can incorporate in the teaching of language in a normal classroom context. These techniques include; teaching language in a context through the use of relevant communication, following the sequences of normal language development, vocalize thoughts and ongoing activities, use modeling to teach specific language skills, use expansion to see how an idea can be expressed in different ways, recognize the relationship between comprehension and production and to plan and reach the generalization of classroom lessons to natural communication.
Massoud (2004) looked at the developmental stages of child language. His aim was to investigate the categorizations proposed for the early syntactic developmental stages in language one acquisition and also discuss the characteristics of early child syntax in first language acquisition. Two skills that are of importance in describing language development are; the receptive skill and the expressive skill. The receptive skill begins at birth whereas the expressive skill develops when children begin to actively participate in speech and language. Speech development begins in the form of babbling, advances to reduplication which refers to the repeat use of sounds consisting of vowels and consonants, they then move on to holophrastic language where they use single word utterances. Masooud also looked into matters of development of past time references in the language one acquisition. This refers to the child’s ability to refer to objects that are not in the present context. The child has moved past here and now and can talk about past events or objects. In this stage children normally experience difficulty in expressing words in past tense .
All healthy human beings have the ability to acquire a native language with equal ease . Kess (1993) says that no child fails to learn a native language and this acquisition takes place in the same manner in all children and often occurs effortlessly and rapidly. He further goes to state that language acquisition occurs in stages. There is no confirmed explanation of how language development takes place. Halliday (2003) states that language of children has much to tell us about what language is and its role in human development.
Massoud also discussed caretaker speech. He states that caretaker speech used by adults provides evidence and a source of understanding of children’s language development. One distinct feature is the use of here and now i.e. language is based on issues that are there present. The use of the caregiver speech enables him or her to easily understand what the child is trying to say. This is relevant in field of developmental psychology because it gives in depth understanding of how we develop our language skills.
Pruden et al (2006) looked at the social dimensions of language development. According to them social and cognitive developments go hand in hand. This they say is clearly presented in the case of language development. Language is acquired in a social context where certain social milestones seeming central to the language growth. On the other hand language is a cognitive process that can be dealt with by focusing on various behaviors. Pruden and his colleagues focused on the Emergentist Coalition Model ( ECM)model to evaluate the relationship between social cognition and language in typical situations. It helps us understand how behaviors interconnect in uncharacteristic populations and also helps in devising a new front line in neuropsychology and language.
Models such as the ECM discourage individuals from narrowly focusing in single factors in explaining language development rather they encourage us to use a multi factor approach in understanding human behavior. Behavioral data in the social and language cues offer us the means to view neurological researches. Neurological data not only gives us information on what the brain does but helps us understand how the social dimension affects the cognitive abilities such as grammar and lexical acquisition. They force us not only to focus on how single factors affect language but challenge us instead to focus on how these factors pave way towards the acquisition of language competence and how we can coordinate our different abilities in understanding language development. For example how we our perceptual cues give way to social cues which in turn facilitate language acquisition.
Developmental psychology focuses on the social, cognitive, psychological factors that are involved in development. This paper plays a role in aiding the understanding of how these factors combined can affect each other. That is in relation to this paper we see that social and cognitive factors both intertwine and exert influence on language development. We also get to understand that appropriate model shave to applied in the study of development.
Beitchman and Brownlie (2010), find that language development in children has an impact on children’s emotional and psychosocial development. They based their research on the Ottawa Language Study which focused on studying children with speech and language impairment that persisted into adulthood. They focused on English speaking children in the Ottawa- Carleton region in Canada where they administered language screening procedures to a sample of five year old children. The resulting sample size was 142 children who had language and speech impairments and another control sample of 142 children with corresponding age and sex to the initial group from the same school or classroom was collected. They both completed developmental, cognitive, emotional, psychiatric and behavioral assessments. Three follow up studies of the original OLS participants were done when the participants were between the ages of 12, 19 and 25. It was discovered that the retention rate in the follow up studies exceeded 85% of the original sample.
The study covered topics such as whether language impairments persist to adulthood, whether language impairments are associated with problems with behavior in childhood, adolescence and adulthood, whether language impairments act as predictors to academic achievement and vocational outcomes, whether child hood language impairments are associated with prevalence of psychiatric disorders across the life span and finally whether psychosocial outcomes of language impairments differ in terms of gender.
The research clearly reveals that language impairments often persist into adulthood. From the OLS study children and adolescents with language impairments had high rates of behavioral and psychiatric disorders mostly in issues of anxiety. The effects of language impairments varied between genders with boys showing significant association between developmental disorders such as ADHD and delinquency compared to girls whereas girls with language impairment were found to have higher rates of sexual abuse and gave birth earlier compared to girls with no language impairment . Individuals with language impairments also were found to engage themselves in jobs that didn’t require a lot of academic training. By age 25 both groups manage to secure jobs and achieve good quality of life and social support almost at the same rate.
This study has a great contribution to developmental psychology in that it shades a lot of light on how language impairments affect the emotional and psychosocial development among children, adolescents and adults. Through the use of this information it is then possible to be able to lookout for signs of language impairments earlier in the child’s development hence being able to offer proper solutions and treatments at an early stage of development. It also helps to focus on the how language impairment affects individuals from different genders hence making it possible to explore different interventions that cater to the needs of each gender.
Pruthi, Gauri.(2013) focused on language development in mentally retarded children. Their research focused on the different patterns of language acquisition that exist across different demographics of children affected by mental retardation. According to the DSM-IV is characterized by sub average intellectual functioning, reflected by an IQ of 70 or below. A retarded person is general limited in acquisition of adaptive skills communication or language being one of them. In this study children with mental retardation are compared to those who are developing normally. The focus of the study is the relation between mental retardation and the development of the language systems which include ;phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax and pragmatics and its influence on the expressive and receptive dimensions of language.
Goodwin et al,(2000) focused on the impact of symbolic gesturing on early language development. Their aim was to evaluate the effect of verbal language development of purposefully encouraging hearing infants to use of gestures as symbols for objects. After careful assessment the results of the found that symbolic gestures enabled the toddlers to express themselves about details in their daily life. In this respect symbolic gestures therefore enabled the toddlers to communicate things that would otherwise go unnoticed.
These studies pushes us into looking at language as more than just verbal and also appreciate the fact that non verbal cues such as gestures and use of symbols are also of great importance in language development. From the results it is then safe to say that symbolic gesturing facilitate the early stages of verbal language development. Goodwin and his colleagues then came up with advantages of using symbolic gesturing. Firstly, they stated that symbolic gesturing increases infant-direct speech. This can be seen in the manner in which care givers respond to children who apply symbolic gestures, since symbolic gesturing occurs before verbal speech then infants get to enjoy these responses earlier in life. This continuous interaction with the infant enables the care give to assist the child in developing their verbal speech. The use of symbolic gestures also facilitates scaffolding by motivating the child to talk. The symbolic gestures generally also constitute the scaffold by enabling children to collect information about symbolic functions in general and specific objects, events. Lack of symbolic gesturing can slow derail the language learning process.
Language cannot be regarded as just an instrument for communicating meanings since it is a reflection of culture. It is also a symbol of communal beleefs and psychological make up of a social system. Language development is great importance in all cultures since it shapes how we view the world. According to Sapir –Whorf hypothesisis that language influences both our world view, as well as thinking. Cultural language differences demonstrated by how some cultures use single words to describe something whereas another one uses numerous words to describe the same thing.
Language fosters the acquisition of new skills but it may vary pragmatically depending on our cultural background. The world is made up of different cultural groups each with their own languages and rules to language. For example in most Western countries skills are taught using verbal language whereas in some cultures such as the Eastern culture skill learning may be nonverbal. McLeod (1994) states that clear distinctions have to be made between cultures that encourage independent and cooperative learning research conducted showed that differences in language competence was not based on race but on the differing cultural influences in each community.
In conclusion, Language is used universally in communication- communication cannot take place without communication. Though communication is universal language is not. Every community has its own language through which they express themselves. Distinct languages foster easier communication and gives a sense of bond to those who are well versed with the language being used. Life is a cycle that is characterized by a series of changes. The onset of life is marked by the fusion of tiny cells to form a living organism which eventually turn to babies, children, teenagers and eventually adults. Each new stage is accompanied by its own challenges, set of skills acquired, physical, emotional, psychological, language and cognitive milestones. These changes are progressive in any normal human being and one act as stepping stone to the next one. All these changes cumulatively refer to a process called development. Several factors are implicated in development, including genes, parental upbringing, parent’s educational and economic backgrounds and life experiences. Past events that are beyond our control also impact our development. Developmental psychology therefore is the scientific study of human beings and seeks to explain how children and adults undergo various changes over time.
Beitchman, J. and Brownlie, E. (2010). Language Development and its Impact on Children’s Pyschosocial and Emotional Development. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development.
Golinkoff, R.M., Brandone, A.C. & Salkind, S.J. (2005). Language Development. Delaware: University of Delaware.
Goodwyn, Susan. (2000). Impact of Symbolic Gesturing on Early Language Development. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior,24, 81-103.
Pruden, S.M., Hirsh- Pasek, K. and Golinkoff, R.M. (2006).The Social Dimension in Language Development: A Rich History and a New Frontier. Delaware: University of Delaware
Pruthi, Gauri.(2013). Language Development in Children with Mental Retardation. Dynamic Psychology 2013-dynapysc.org: National Council of Educational Research and Training.
Rahimpour, Massoud.(2004). Developmental Stages of Child Language. Journal of Faculty of Letters and Humanities, 47(190), 58-70.