Major Child Development Stages

There are a number of different ways to divide child development stages. Researchers and childhood development experts separated the childhood years into developmental stages for every aspect of growth-physical, socio-emotional and cognitive.

There are three major child development stages that can identify a child's growth in many facets.

Early Childhood: Birth to 8 Years Old
Early childhood is a period of significant growth and development in all areas. From birth, a child develops skills to take care of his own body and effectively interact with others.

Physically, a child doubles in height and quadruples in weight within the first three years of life.  By age 3, a child usually has learned how to sit, walk, use the bathroom, feed himself with a spoon, hold a crayon and throw a ball. By 5, he has mastered many fine motor skills and gross motor skills, such as using a pencil and scissors to do more detailed work, skip and balance on one foot.

Cognitively, a child's first three years of life are a time of learning to use language to describe the world around them.  A 3-year-old usually has a vocabulary of 300-1,000 words and by 5 can use a 1,500-word vocabulary to produce sentences and tell stories. By age 8, a child can understand concepts like time and money and enjoys make-believe.

The socio-emotional development of a child has him forming emotional attachments with a parent or primary care-giver at about 1 year. From 3 to 5, children begin to form peer relationships, become aware of gender, and start to understand the difference between right and wrong. By age 8, kids begin to develop more enduring friendships and begin to develop a sense of empathy and can take on more responsibility.

Middle Childhood: 8 to 12
Theorists believe that these "tween" years are important for a child's development of cognitive skills, motivation, personal relationships and personality. From age 8 to 12, children begin to understand the value of society.

Physically, growth during these years is slow, steady and less dramatic than early childhood and adolescence.

The same is true for cognitive development. In middle childhood, kids are building on and developing skills they learned in early childhood. Their reasoning is based on rules, they are learning to classify things and form hypotheses, and they are open to motivation.

Middle childhood is a time when social skills and friendship building are increasingly important. They are still heavily influenced by their families and are becoming more competent in dealing with others socially.

Adolescence: 12 to 18
Adolescence is a time of tremendous growth, physically, cognitively and socially, but primarily the adolescent years' single accomplishment is identity formation.

Many adolescents grow up to 4 inches per year and gain 8-10 pounds per year during these years, often in spurts. Children in adolescence become sexually mature through the release of testosterone in males and estrogen in females.

Emotional growth is dramatic in adolescence. The adolescent deals with mood swings, self-esteem issues, identity conflicts and experimentation with different behaviors.

Cognitively, adolescents begin to develop higher levels of thinking, reasoning and logic.  They begin to understand more abstract and hypothetical problems.

Socially, middle school and high school give children more responsibility, more independence and more emphasis on peers. Adolescents begin to identify less with their families and more with their friends.

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