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Child Psychology

Child psychology is the branch of psychology (the study of the human mind and its workings) that focuses specifically on children, generally meaning on those people under the age of eighteen to twenty. It has two primary divisions: developmental psychology and abnormal psychology.

Developmental Psychology

Child PsychologyYour Paper may begin: Developmental psychology looks at how children’s minds develop over time and in response to their environments. It considers such things as at what age children pass through which stages of intellectual, emotional, social, physical, and educational growth. One of the most famous theorists in this area was Jean Piaget, who developed a theory of the stages a child must grow through. Sigmund Freud also had theories about developmental psychology, such as his idea that boys go through an Oedipal phase in which they wish to displace or kill their father so that they can marry their mother.

According to the Clinical Child Psychology Organization, research from developmental psychology testifies to the importance, beginning in infancy, of caring, nurturing, emotionally healthy experiences and relationships to long-term physical and mental health and to the lifetime development of harmonious, reciprocal, psychologically productive relationship. Diverse developmental psychologists have argued and shown that the all-important human capacity for establishing and sustaining constructive relationships with others is in large part the result of an individual’s history of attachment relationships—a history that is fundamentally based on transactional patterns that begin to evolve with childs’ early interactions with their caretakers. These infant-caretaker interactions become internalized as mental working models that have decisive impacts on how the infant will form attachment relationships with other people as s/he proceeds through life.

Abnormal Psychology

Abnormal child psychology looks at the diseases and disorders that can complicate normal development. For example, ADHD is a common diagnosis now and receives a lot of study. Another area of in which great progress is being made is that of neuropsychology, especially how childhood trauma affects the actual physical development of the brain. This area includes disorders like PTSD and Reactive Attachment Disorder. Some children even suffer from major mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder, which must be treated differently than in adults.


Assessing Exactly What is Abnormal in Child Psychology

  1. The first theory to account for abnormalities in behavior is the biological paradigm or disease approach.  This theory suggests that aberrant somatic, or bodily processes cause mental disorders.  Currently, this approach focuses on genetic and biochemical factors the underlie abnormal etiology.  Treatment under this theory consists of treatment utilizing various chemicals to alter or correct body chemistry that has gone awry.
  2. The second approach to accounting for abnormal behavior is the psychoanalytic paradigm.  Originally pioneered by Sigmund Freud, this theory contends that abnormal behavior results from unconscious conflicts.  Unlike the biological approach, this theory focuses on the mind and in essence what it does itself.  Totally discounting the role of biological influences, the main course of treatment under this paradigm is the exploration of the mind with psychodynamic therapy in the hopes of seeking out and curing repressed memories or conflicts.
  3. The third paradigm that many psychologists use to explain the root causes of abnormal behavior is the learning paradigm.  This paradigm is a set of assumptions that abnormal behavior is learned in the same way that other normal behavior is learned.  This line of reasoning lead to the development of a school of psychology known as behaviorism.  Behaviorists believe that through a careful process of introspection, a person can discover the “building blocks” the led him or her to their abnormal behavior.  After which, new behaviors can then be learned to correct these abnormalities.
  4. The final paradigm on which abnormal behavior is judged is the cognitive paradigm. The cognitive paradigm focuses on how people structure their experiences, how they make sense of them, and how they transform environmental stimuli into information that is usable.  Therapists who ascribe to this theory believe that if they can change the thinking process of their patients, their will effective change their emotions and behaviors.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to abnormal psychology.  When the topic of abnormal psychology was introduced, it seemed like an easily understandable area of psychology—people act weird and mental health professionals observe them and diagnose their illnesses accordingly.  This is not the case.  Abnormal psychology, although fascinating is an extremely complex area of study.  It is no wonder people like Jung, Freud and Adler had to dedicate their entire lives in order to understand only a small portion of this field.

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