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Changing Conceptions of
Changing conceptions of childhood
Historical Background
 Poverty; high mortality rates
 Child
abuse common
 Child labor; child abandonment
among poor
17th & 18th centuries: philosophers’
John Locke
 Humans
born a “tabula rasa”
Jean Jacques Rousseau
 Infants
are innocent
 We should lovingly nurture babies
These practices not instituted until early 20th
Changing Conceptions of Childhood
Late 19th Century: kinder, gentler view of children
20th Century: Adolescence: identified by G. Stanley Hall
Childhood protected, dependent life stage
Universal education: primary school mandatory
Stage of “Storm and Stress” between childhood and adulthood
In the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered high school
attendance as mandatory.
Emerging Adulthood: newest life stage
Age 18 to late 20s
Time for personal exploration
Through observation noticed that children make similar
errors in cognitive tasks
Mental structures;
 Cognitive systems that organize thinking into
coherent patterns so that all thinking takes place
on the same level of cognitive functioning.
 Maturation: Innate biologically based program is
the driving force behind development.
 In contrast to behaviorists, believed that children
also construct their learning.
Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive
Piagetian key terms:
 Schemes-cognitive
structure for processing,
organizing and interpreting information
 Assimilation-new
existing scheme
information is altered to fit an
 Accommodation-changing
new information
a scheme to adapt to the
Piaget’s Sensorimotor Stage
Sensorimotor stage
Composed of 4 substages
Object Permanence
Object permanence -objects continue to exist even
when not aware of them
 Under
 4-8
4 months no understanding
months-some uncertain about existence
 8-12
months-Developing awareness
 Will
still make A not B error
Evaluating Piaget’s Sensorimotor
Criticisms include
Underestimating infants ability especially regarding
object permanence
Renee Baillargeon and researchers tested infant abilities
using the violation of expectations method. Children
look longer in the spot, even though don’t grab for the
object there.
Object permanence may reflect memory development
Cultural limitations as well
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