Chapter 2 The development of the primary school child
According to Lindgren (1985:39), the term “development” refers to changes in size, character, function or behaviour of the human organism. There are at least four aspects of development: physical, cognitive, social and affective. Physical development is the most basic of all development. This kind of development is the most visible evidence of physical maturation, which includes increases in height, weight and body build. Physical development is said to be basic to all other aspects of development because the ability to engage in intellectually and socially mature behaviour depends on physical maturation. Cognitive development refers to activities that involve thinking, perceiving and/or problem-solving activities that can be considered “intellectual”. Social development refers to any form of behaviour that involves relations with others, whereas affective development refers to feelings and attitudes.
The age of the primary school child varies between 6 and 12 years. This chapter will discuss how the above aspects develop during the primary school years. Social development, which is the most important aspect of development for the research topic, will be discussed in more detail in chapter 3
PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE PRIMARY SCHOOL CHILD
“Physical development” refers to changes in physical characteristics such as height, weight, body build and motor development. Physical development is the most basic aspect of development since it sets the stage for cognitive, affective and social developmental changes to take place in the individual. According to Lindgren (1985:68), the timetable of physical development sets a pace that determines to a considerable degree, when other types of developmental changes will occur. When looking at the child’s physical development, it is therefore necessary to also look at its concomitant effects on the other aspects of development.
Growth in height and weight
One of the most striking features of the development of the primary school child is that it is a period of slow and relatively uniform growth until the changes of puberty begin (Hurlock 1980: 158 and Smart and Smart 1982:300). Hamachek (1990:78) mentions that physical development during this period is primarily a move toward greater balance of proportion rather than a sheer increase in size. For example, by eight years of age, the arms and legs are nearly 50 percent longer than they were at the age of two, yet overall height has increased by only 25 percent.
According to Papalia and Olds (1993:375), research findings indicate that changes in height and weight are not completely parallel in boys and girls. By the time girls are nine years old, they have, after a slight dip, caught up with boys in height but they fall steadily behind in weight until, at an average age of 10 and 11, they overtake boys.
Hurlock (1980: 158) maintains that body build, good health, nutrition and emotional tension tend to affect height and weight in the primary school child. According to her, the ectomorph, who has a long, slender body, can be expected to weigh less than a mesomorph, who has a heavier body. Children with mesomorphic builds grow faster than those with ectomorphic or endomorphic builds and reach puberty sooner. Also, the better the health and nutrition, the bigger children tend to be, age for age, as compared with those whose nutrition and health are poor. Papalia and Olds (1993:376) also conclude that children from more affiuent homes tend to be bigger and more mature than children from poorer homes. With regard to emotional tension, placid children are reported to grow faster than those who are emotionally disturbed, although emotional disturbance has a greater effect on weight than on height.
During the primary school phase some of the bodily disproportions evident in a preschool child now begin to disappear (Hurlock 1980:159). The child’s head is still proportionately too large for the rest of the body, some of the facial disproportions disappear as the mouth asd jaws become larger, the forehead broadens and flattens, the lips fill out, and the nose becomes large and acquires more shape. The trunk elongates and becomes slimmer, the neck becomes longer, the chest broadens, the abdomen flattens, the arms and legs lengthen, and the hands and feet grow longer, but at a slow rate.
Two types of abnormal growth patterns can occur during the primary school child phase. Firstly, growth could be below normal, which is evident in children who are shorter than their classmates. One of the reasons for this could be poor health and nutrition, while another reason could be biological, where the body fails to produce enough growth hormone. The other type of abnormal growth is obesity. According to Papalia and Olds (1993:380), obesity is when people become overweight through consuming more calories than they can expend. Evans and Eder (1993: 148) found that being obese can have a damaging effect on the child psychologically. Obese children are often considered unattractive and less popular. They are also more likely to have a negative body image and since people’s body image greatly influences their overall self-image, being overweight and unattractive can affect their affective, social and personality development (Greene 1990:34; Magnusson 1992: 121; Rauste-von Wright 1989:72).
According to Hamachek (1990:80), one of the reasons why overweight children are viewed as less popular and have more social problems is that they are not able to run and move as freely and agilely in play as their peers. Because they are not able to keep up as easily, they may be excluded more frequently from most activities and this leads to a feeling of being rejected which, in tum, fosters a negative self-concept.
From this it can be concluded that obese children who are regarded by their peers as being unattractive are more likely at risk of becoming social isolates. Lerner et al (1991 :300), Thornton and Ryckman (1991:85) and Page (1992: 150) found that there is a positive relationship between physical unattractiveness and sociometric status: the more attractive children are, the more popular they are. These findings indicate that since obese children are regarded as being unattractive by their peers, they are likely to be less popular, rejected and isolated. Both Evans and Elder (1993: 148) and Rubin et al (1993: 531) also found a positive relationship between social isolation and physical appearance. According to them, children whose physical appearance was not within the socially acceptable range were most often isolated by their peer group.
Although there are no clear findings on the effects of being below the normal growth of development, it may be assumed that these children could also suffer the same effects as obese ones. Because of their shortened height and body build, these children could also become emotionally disturbed at not being able to do what their normal counterparts do, such as being selected for soccer or netball teams. Being left out in certain activities and games could result in a feeling .of rejection, which, in turn could. result in social isolation.
According to Page (1992: 154), the important implication of these findings for the educator, is that educators should emphasize the inherent value of young people as unique human beings. They should try to develop a feeling of unconditional self-worth by making individuals realise that they are important and worthwhile regardless of performance or appearance, simply because they are unique human beings. They should help normal children to be accepting to those who are less attractive in terms of size and weight. Teachers and sports organisers should, wherever possible, try to include children who are under or over sized in games and sports so as to create a feeling of acceptance in these children.
According to Hamachek (1990: 83), gross· motor (large muscle) skills outstrip fine motor (small muscle) coordination in the early primary school child. This, however, changes during the later stages when children in Grades 6 to 8 (Std 4-6) gradually exhibit greater smoothness and command of small-muscle expression, which is reflected in better coordination in activities ranging from handwriting to batting a ball. Better detail work and longer periods of concentration can be expected from most children in these higher grades. However, energy levels remain high, making it difficult for children to sit still for extended periods. The relevance of this for teachers is that they should allow a certain amount of time for moving about and talking.
From his findings Hurlock (1980: 161) concluded that by the time they reach late childhood, most children are predominantly right or left-handed and that changing handedness is far from easy. In addition many left-handed children become ambidextrous in late childhood, though there is a tendency to favour the left hand. According to Hurlock, trying to change the handedness of primary school children could be difficult and emotionally disturbing, and teachers should not insist that children replace left-handed with right-handed skills. Instead they should encourage left-handers to learn new skills with their right hands and only when children show a strong desire to change from the use of the left to the use of the right hand, should teachers help or encourage them to do so. Kidd (1981:30) found that being left-handed could lead to social isolation. He asserts that the formation of clubs for the overweight, for girls over six feet tall and or for the left-handed are increasing, which indicates how painfully isolating these factors can be.
It is therefore important for teachers not to allow left-handed learners to be excluded from class activities. Activities should be designed not to require the rigid use of the right hand only. Right-handedness should never be imposed on learners. Often the activities ( eg. drawing, woodwork) are 11 ambidexterous11 but the way the seating, equipment or workplace is arranged favours right-handedness. Teachers should take the necessary precautions to prevent such a situation from prevaling at schools
COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PRIMARY SCHOOL CHILD.
Cognitive development refers to the changes or progress made by children in their ability to think and understand their world. According to Mussen et al (1990:262), the processes of thinking and knowing, called cognition, include :
- classification and remembering of information
- evaluation of ideas
- inferring of principles and deducing rules
- imagination of possibilities
- generation of strategies
Before looking at recent developments and findings in the cognitive development of the primary school child, we shall examine Piaget, Bruner, the information-processing and Vygotsky’s theories of cognitive development. Since Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is the best known and widely accepted theory in the field of child development, his theory will be discussed in greater detail than the others.
Piaget’s theory of cognitive dev~lopment
For a comprehensive account of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, it is necessary to examine the principal concepts of his theory and his stages of cognitive development.
Principal concepts ofPiaget’s theory of cognitive development
According to Slavin (1991:26), the four main concepts of Piaget’s theory are schemes or schemata, assimilation, accommodation and equilibration.
Schemes or schemata
According to Slavin (1991 :26), the pattern of behaviour or thinking that children and adults use in dealing with objects in the world are called schemes. Schemes can be simple, ·as when a baby knows how to grasp an object within reach, or complex, as when a high school student learns how to approach a mathematical problem. Schemes can also be classified as behavioural ( eg, grasping, driving a car) or cognitive (eg, solving problems, categorising concepts). According to Lindgren (1985:44), schemata or schemes are cognitive structures representing what we know about our world, how we view it, and how we act towards it.
It is important to note that the key to the formation of schemata is action on the part of the child in attempting to adapt to the demands of the environment (Child 1986:146).
Slavin (1991:26) describes the process of assimilation as the process of incorporating a new object or event into an existing scheme. It is similar to putting new data into a computer, but, just as data must be correctly coded before being entered into the computer, the object or event to be assimilated must fit an existing scheme. Therefore, assimilation involves more than simply taking in new information. It also involves the “filtering or modification of input” so that the input fits.
For Gage and Berliner (1988:119), assimilation is like chewing and digesting food in order to transform it into something the body can use. Similarly, assimilation transforms new ideas into something that fits into already existing cognitive structures.
Accommodation, according to Gage and Berliner (1988:119), is the process of changing the cognitive structures so that they fit what is perceived. It is the process of modifying, extending or refining existing cognitive structures so as to come to grips with new or unusual ideas. Rice (1992:90) also defines accommodation as the process of adjusting to new information by creating new structures to replace the old. The following example by Rice clearly distinguishes between the concepts of assimilation and accommodation. Children may see dogs of various kinds (assimilation) and learn that some are safe to pet and others aren’t (accommodation). As children acquire more and more information, they change their constructs and accommodate to the world differently
Chapter 1 Analysis of the problem and research programme
1.2 ANALYSIS OF THE PROBLEM
1.3 FORMAL STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
1.4 AIM OF THE STUDY
1.5 THE RESEARCH PROGRAMME
Chapter 2 The development of the primary school child
2.2 PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE PRIMARY SCHOOL CHILD
2.3 COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PRIMARY SCHOOL CHILD
2.4 AFFECTIVE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PRIMARY SCHOOL CHILD
2.5 MORAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE PRIMARY SCHOOL CHILD
2.6 PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT OF THE PRIMARY SCHOOL CHILD
2. 7 CONCLUSION
Chapter 3 The social development of the primary school child
3.2 ANALYSIS OF THE PHENOMENON OF SOCIALISATION
3.3 SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PRIMARY SCHOOL CHILD
3.4 THEORIES OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
3.5 AGENTS OF SOCIALISATION
3.6 FRIENDSHIP DEVELOPMENT
3. 7 CONCLUSION
Chapter 4 The adolescent’s development
4.2 OVERVIEW OF THE PERIOD OF ADOLESCENCE
4.3 PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT
4.4 COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT
4.5 AFFECTIVE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ADOLESCENT
4.6 MORAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE ADOLESCENT
4. 7 PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT
Chapter 5 The social development of the adolescent
5.2 THEORIES OF ADOLESCENT SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
5.3 SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ADOLESCENT
5.4 THE VALUE OF FRIENDSHIPS IN THE SOCIAL ADAPTATION OF ADOLESCENTS
5.5 THE FRIENDSHIP FORMATION OF ADOLESCENTS
5.6 STAGES OF FRIENDSHIP DEVELOPMENT
5.7 FACTORS AFFECTING ACCEPTANCE AND REJECTION INTO THE PEER GROUP
5.8 THE FAMILY AS AN AGENT OF ADOLESCENT SOCIALISATION
Chapter 6 The empirical investigation: planning, execution and measurement
6.3 SELECTION OF THE SAMPLE
6.4 MEASURING INSTRUMENTS USED IN THE INVESTIGATION
6.5 PROCEDURE USED IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE QUESTIONNAIRE
Chapter 7 RESULTS OF THE INVESTIGATION
7.2 TESTING OF HYPOTHESIS
Chapter 8 Educational implications of the study and suggestions for future research
8.2 EDUCATIONAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE FACTORS THAT ACCOUNT FOR THE LARGEST PROPORTION OF THE VARIANCE IN SOCIAL ISOLATION AMONG PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOL LEARNERS
8.3 EDUCATIONAL IMPLICATIONS OF OTHER IMPORTANT FACTORS RELATED TO SOCIAL ISOLATION AMONG PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOL CHILDREN .
8.4 EVALUATION OF THE STUDY
8.5 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
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