What is Child Psychology and why is it important?

August 13, 2022

What is Child Psychology and why is it important?

Apply effective Techniques that will help Nurture children’s Developing Mind!

Every parent and educator wants to know their children as they are developing gradually. Knowing your children includes knowing how they feel and see the world; and how they learn to think and reason things throughout the process. Every parent also wants to mentor the way their children feel and be aware of their changes. All of these things are part of being a good parent. However, the process has never been that easy. This is where the specialized branch of developmental psychology and child psychology has developed.

Children have historically been regarded as mini-adults – to the extent that in the past, they were dressed like adults and had to work alongside adults in mainstream employment. Therefore, child psychology was a foreign concept. Jean Piaget is regarded as the founder of modern child psychology. His work, from the 1920s onwards, supported the idea that children and adults think differently from each other. One of his major contributions was that throughout the course of their childhood, children pass through distinct stages of emotional and mental development. He also proposed that intellectual development is closely linked to emotional, social and physical development. 

Today we know that childhood is a very influential time in a person’s life. Events that happen when we’re young – even small and seemingly insignificant ones – can have a direct impact on how we feel and behave as adults. A child psychologist works within this very important life period, a specialised branch of developmental psychology called child psychology or child development.


Child psychology is the study of subconscious and conscious childhood development. Child psychologists observe how a child interacts with their parents, themselves, and the world, to understand their mental development. Merriam-Webster defines child psychology as “the study of the psychological characteristics of infants and children and the application of general psychological principles to infancy and childhood.”

It is a specialized branch of developmental psychology and a lot of specialized psychologists work as child psychologists work to observe how a child feels and sees the world, reason things, interact with themselves, their parents, and the world at large. After observation, they use their expertise on children and adolescents to diagnose and help resolve issues that cause emotional or behavioural problems. 


When a child grows up, he has to go through the developmental stages, from birth to adulthood, which is definitely of a progressive nature. Besides, a lot of factors including genetic, environmental, and cultural factors influence these developmental stages. Child psychology is important because it can help parents and teachers better understand how their kids tick as well as how best to support them to become well rounded individuals. According to psychologists, the development process is so fast that children don’t even realize what they are going through let alone being able to express their feelings to others.

Therefore, this is where child psychology functions to aid the parents and teachers with valuable and necessary information. Apart from these, child psychologists can identify the abnormality at a very early stage. Thus, they help to identify and get to the roots of such abnormal behaviors, e.g., anxiety, hyperactivity, and other issues concerned with learning. As they get into the root, they aid to prevent, diagnose and evaluate the delays in normal development or the abnormalities, for instance, autism.


There are 5 basic areas of child psychology. These main areas are further divided into sub-areas.

1) Development

Three areas of Child Development:

i) Physical development refers to physical body changes. These generally occur in a relatively stable, predictable sequence. It also includes the acquisition of certain skills, such as gross-motor and fine-motor coordination.

ii) Cognitive or intellectual development, refers to the processes children use to gain knowledge. This includes language, thought, reasoning, and imagination.

iii) Social and emotional development are so interrelated that they are often grouped together. Social development refers to learning to relate to others, while emotional development involves feelings and the expression of feelings. Trust, fear, confidence, pride, friendship, and humour are all part of one’s social-emotional development. 

While they may be divided into categories for the sake of easier understanding, the physical, cognitive, and social-emotional areas of a child’s development are all inextricably linked. Development in one area can strongly influence that in another. For instance, writing words requires both fine-motor skills and cognitive language skills. In addition to different areas of development, research has shown that development follows key patterns, or principles. Understanding these principles has an enormous influence on how we care for, treat and educate children today.

2. Milestones

Developmental milestones are an important way for psychologists to measure a child’s progress in several key developmental areas. They act as checkpoints in a child’s development to determine what the average child is able to do at a particular age. Knowing the milestones for different ages, helps child psychologists understand normal child development and it aids in identifying potential problems with delayed development. 

For example, a child who is 12 months old can typically stand and support his or her weight by holding onto something, some children at that age can even walk. If a child reaches 18 months of age but still cannot walk, it might indicate a problem that needs further investigation. 

4 Categories of Developmental Milestones:

i) Physical milestones: Pertains to the development of both the gross and fine motor skills.

ii) Cognitive or mental milestones: Refers to the child’s developmental aptitude for thinking, learning, and solving problems.

iii) Social and emotional milestones: Pertains to the child’s ability to express emotion and respond to social interaction.

iv) Communication and language milestones: Involves the child developing verbal and non-verbal communication skills.

3. Behaviour

Behaviour challenges are the most common reason to consult a Child Psychologist. All children can be naughty, defiant and impulsive from time to time. Conflicts between parents and children are inevitable as the children struggle, from the “terrible twos” through adolescence, to assert their independence and develop their own identities. These behaviours are a normal part of the growing-up process. However, some children have extremely difficult, challenging behaviours that are outside the norm for their age. In fact, behavioural issues are the most common reason that parents seek the help of child psychologists. 

Child psychology involves looking at all possible roots to behavioural issues, including brain disorders, genetics, diet, family dynamics and stress, and then treating them accordingly. Behavioural issues can be temporary problems which are usually linked to stressful situations. For example, the birth of a sibling, a divorce, or a death in the family. Alternatively, behavioural issues that involve a pattern of sustained hostile, aggressive, or disruptive behaviours are not appropriate for the child’s age. The most typical disruptive behaviour disorders include oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These three behavioural disorders share some common symptoms, and can be further exacerbated by emotional problems and mood disorders.

4. Emotions

Emotional development involves learning what feelings and emotions are. Understanding how and why they happen, as well as recognising one’s own feelings and those of others, then developing effective ways of managing them. This complex process begins in infancy and continues into adulthood. The first emotions that can be recognised in babies include: joy, anger, sadness and fear. Later, as children begin to develop a sense of self, more complex emotions like shyness, surprise, elation, embarrassment, shame, guilt, pride and empathy emerge. As a result, the things that provoke emotional responses also change, as do the strategies used to manage them.

However, learning to regulate emotions is more difficult for some children than for others. This may be due to their particular emotional temperament – some children simply feel emotions more intensely and easily. They tend to be more emotionally reactive and find it harder to calm down. Emotionally reactive children also tend to get anxious more quickly and easily than other children. A child psychologist first identifies the reasons the child is having difficulty expressing or regulating his or her emotions. Then, they will develop strategies to help him or her learn to accept feelings and understand the links between their feelings and behaviour.

5. Socialization

Closely related to emotional development is social development. Socialisation involves acquiring the values, knowledge and skills that enable children to relate to others effectively and to contribute in positive ways to family, school and the community. While this is a continuous process, early childhood is a crucial period for socialisation. One of the first and most important relationships children experience is with their parents or primary caregivers. The quality of this relationship has a significant effect on later social development. In peer relationships, children learn how to initiate and maintain social interactions with other children. They acquire skills for managing conflict, such as turn-taking, compromising, and bargaining. Play also involves the mutual, sometimes complex, coordination of goals, actions, and understanding. 

Through these experiences, children develop friendships that provide additional sources of security and support to those provided by their parents or primary caregivers. Factors that can contribute to an inability to develop age-appropriate social skills include everything from the amount of love and affection the child receives to the socio-economic status of the family. Children who fail to properly socialise have difficulty creating and maintaining satisfying relationships with others – a limitation many carry into adulthood.

Graduate Diploma in Child Psychology & Mental Wellness

The Graduate Diploma in Child Psychology and Mental Wellness is a rigorous mental health programme in Singapore that enables students to acquire knowledge through the applications and understanding of one of the numerous branches of psychology, also known as child psychology. Child psychology puts great emphasis on the behaviour and mind of children, from prenatal development through the adolescent years. It deals with how children grow physically and through their social, mental, and emotional development.

Who will benefit from the programme?

The programme is ideal for educator, counsellor or parents who need to understand both normal or abnormal psychological patterns, you will be able to find out the best ways to communicate and influence a child very easily. Parents can also easily get to know their children and communicate with them to teach them how to control and deal with their emotions and other coping mechanisms. This way, it becomes easy to help the children to develop efficiently and thrive at all the concerned stages until adulthood.

You will have the opportunity to broaden their knowledge of the mental wellbeing issues affecting children and develop all-around crucial knowledge as well as sought-after skills surrounding the mental health of children. The course will also cover age-appropriate strategies for dealing with day-to-day struggles that will help you explain these concepts to your child. The programme will also discusses recent discoveries in neurobiological, genetic, familial, and cultural influences upon child development, especially those fostering childhood competence, resilience, and emotional wellbeing

Upon completion of the programme, you can progress to our suite of Masters degree in Counselling, Psychotherapy, Mental Health and Psychology. Learn more today here 


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