The History Of Child Psychology

The history of child psychology: there has been three major looks at childhood throughout history: the original sin view, the tabula rasa view, and the innate goodness view.

Childhood has become such a distinct period that it is hard to imagine that it was not always thought of in that way. However, in medieval times, laws generally did not distinguish between child and adult offenses. After analyzing samples of art along with available publications, historian Philippe Aries concluded that European societies did not accord any special status to children prior to 1600. In paintings, children were often dressed in smaller versions of adult-like clothing.

Some believe that children were actually treated as miniature adults with no special status in medieval Europe. Aries interpretation has been criticized, however. He primarily sampled aristocratic, idealized subjects, which led to the overdrawn conclusion that children were treated as miniature adults and not accorded any special status. In medieval times, children did often work, and their emotional bond with parents may not have been as strong as it is for many children today. However, in medieval times, childhood probably was recognized as a distinct phase of life more than Aries believed. Also, we know that in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome rich conceptions of children's development were held.

Through history, philosophers have speculated at length about the nature of children and how they should be reared. Three such philosophical views are original sin, tabula rasa, and innate goodness. In the original sin view, especially advocated during the Middle Ages, children were perceived as basically bad, being born into the world as evil beings. The goal of child rearing was to provide salvation, to remove sin from the child's life.

Toward the end of the seventeenth century, the tabula rasa view was proposed by English philosopher John Lock. He argued that children are not innately bad but, instead, are like a "blank tablet," a tabula rasa. Locke believed that childhood experiences are important in determining adult characteristics. He advised parents to spend time with their children and to help them become contributing members of society.

In the eighteenth century, the innate goodness view was presented by Swiss-born philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who stressed that children are inherently good. Because children are basically good, said Rousseau, they should be permitted to grow naturally, with little parental monitoring or constraint.

In the past century and a half, our view of children has changed dramatically. We now conceive of childhood as a highly eventful and unique period of life that lays an important foundation for the adult years and is highly

differentiated from them. In most approaches to childhood, distinct periods are identified, in which children master special skills and confront new life tasks. Childhood is not longer seen as an inconvenient "waiting" period during which adults must suffer the incompetence of the young. We now value childhood as a special time of growth and change, and we invest great resources in caring for and education our children. We protect them from the excesses of the adult work world through tough child labor laws; we treat their crimes against society under a special system of juvenile justice; and we have governmental provisions for helping children when ordinary family support systems fail or when families seriously interfere with children's well-being.

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