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Changing Conceptions of
Childhood
Changing conceptions of childhood

Historical Background
 Poverty; high mortality rates
 Child


abuse common
Norms:
 Child labor; child abandonment
among poor
17th & 18th centuries: philosophers’
visions

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
century
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
JEAN PIAGET
1896 – 1980 ‘GENETIC EPISTEMOLOGY’
COGNITIVE STAGES


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
Development

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
Piaget

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XwjIruMI94
Evaluating Piaget’s Sensorimotor
Theory

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.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2ovHFt5YXc

Object permanence may reflect memory development

Cultural limitations as well