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