Understanding Children and Childhood

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSES 2011054

Semester and Year Offered: 1st Semester (Monsoon Semester 2019)

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Shivani Nag

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None

Aim and objectives of the course: This course aims to introduce students to methods and theories that will help them understand child and adolescent development. An introduction to major theoretical frameworks, current issues of concern and debates in child development will provide the context to an overview of the extensive theoretical and empirical work in the different aspects of development – physical, cognitive, language and socio-emotional. Students will also be familiarized with the cultural and contextual concerns that have emerged in recent decades and which pose a challenge to mainstream psychology. A critical perspective will thus be introduced by analysing the universal descriptions of development from a socio-cultural perspective and begin to understand the developmental pathways and the forces that influence the trajectory.

Course outcomes

At the end of the course, the students should be able to:

  1. Identify the biological and the cultural processes of development and explain how the two are dynamically intertwined.
  2. Describe the major theories of child development and critically examine the theories as they apply to the lives of culturally diverse children and their families.
  3. Select appropriate design and methods for carrying out research with children
  4. Observe children in their natural environments and describe their development in the social, emotional, physical, language, and cognitive domain.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Unit 1- Understanding Child Development: Issues and debates

This unit focuses on ‘what is development’- its’ domains, stages of development and context. It examines the nature-nurture debate and also draws linkages between the cultural and biological evolution of humans. It discusses human culture, tools of the culture and processes through which it is inherited by children. It also briefly describes ways in which individual’s genetic endowment gets expressed in physical and psychological characteristics/ traits.

Unit 2- Theories of Development

This unit focuses on the psychological theories of development and aims to enable students engage with how the different theories of development address development in various domains, at various stages and also the interactions that happen across domains and stages. The key approaches/theories studied will be: Behaviourism and social learning theory; Psychoanalytic perspective (works of Freud &Erikson) & Bowlby’s Attachment Theory; Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory; Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory; Ecological Systems Theory; Theories of Moral development

Unit 3- Methods of studying development

This unit will focus on development research focusing on design, methods of research and ethics of doing research with children and adolescents.

Unit 4 –Infancy and Early childhood

This unit will cover the developmental aspects of socio-emotional and cognitive aspects for children between age group 0-2 years.

Unit 5 Middle childhood & Adolescence

This unit focuses on the development of children during middle childhood years, their experiences in the school, their relationships with peers and adults, socialization processes and their sense of self and identity. This unit also focuses on the biological changes that occur during this period and its effects on the child’s ability to function. The physical, cognitive and social emotional development of adolescents will be discussed with reference to existing theories and research.

Assessment Details with weights:

  1. Group Presentations on theories 30% (Mid September)
  2. C lass test 20% (Mid- October)
  3. Child- Observation report 30% (Mid- November)
  4. End term-exam 20%

Reading list:

  • Berk, L.E. (2001). Development through the life span. Pearson Education India.
  • Bisht, S., &Sinha, D. (1981).Socialisation, family and psychological differentiation.In, D.
  • Sinha(Ed.), Socialisation of the Indian child. pp. 41 – 54. New Delhi: Concept.
  • Cole, M. (1985). The zone of proximal development: where culture and cognition create each other. In J. V. Wertsch (Ed.), Culture, communication, and cognition: Vygotskian perspectives (pp. 146—61). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Dalal, A., & Misra, G. (2010). The core and context of Indian Psychology. Psychology and Developing Societies, 22(1), 121-155.
  • Lightfoot, C.,Cole., C M., & Cole, S. R. (2009) Development of children. Worth Publishers.Chapters 2 and 3
  • Kakar, S. (1981).The inner world: The psychoanalytic study of childhood and society in India. New Delhi: Oxford.
  • Rogoff, B., & Gauvain, M. (1986). A method for analysis of patterns illustrated with data on mother-child instructional interaction. In J. Valsiner, (Ed.), The role of the individual subject in scientific psychology. (pp. 261 – 290). New York: Plenum.Saraswathi, T.S. (1999) , Culture, socialisation and human development. New Delhi: Sage.
  • Shonkoff, J.P. and Phillips, D.A. (2000). From neurons to neighbourhoods: the science of early child development. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press
  • Weisner,T.S. (2002). Ecocultural understanding of children’s developmental pathways. 5(4):275-281.
  • Raby, R. (2007). “Across a Great Gulf? Considering research with adolescents.” In Amy L. Best (Ed.) Representing youth: Methodological issues in critical youth studies. NY: NYU Press, pp. 39-59.

Additional References:

  • Gopnik, A. (2012). What’s wrong with the teenage mind. Retrieved on 10th February, 2012
  • Gottlieb, A. (2012). Promoting an anthropology of infants: Some personal reflections. Retrieved on 2nd July, 2013 from AnthopoChildren, 2012, 1, Gottlieb:
  • Verma, S. & Sharma, D. (2003). Cultural continuity amid social change: Adolescents’ use of free time in India. In S. Verma and R. W. Larson (Eds.), Examining adolescent leisure time across cultures. (pp. 37 – 51). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Sharma, D. (2003). Childhood, family and socio-cultural change in India. Reinterpreting the inner world. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  • Nespor, J. (1999). “The meanings of research: Kids as subjects and kids as inquirers” Qualitative Inquiry,4(3), 369-388.
  • Punch, S. (2002). “Research with children: The same or different from research with adults?” Childhood,9(3), 321–341.