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The paper explores psychology of parenting in a greater detail. It focuses on the child development stages as defined by Piaget and Albert Bandura and shows how children grow to become adults. The essay explores the importance of mass media on the children’s development and its impact on children’s and adult aggression. Parenting might be a very difficult task to people who have little experience with it or who possess no knowledge of it. The following essay explores the theoretical concept of Children’s development promulgated by Piaget and Bandura as well as comments on the impact of mass media on children’s violence and behavior.
Piaget attempted to study the cognitive development of children and believed that all children progressed through stages without incurring much conflict or crisis. Although children may go through these stages at different rates and different ages, they all go through the same stages and in the same order. Piaget called this movement “invariate sequence” (Thomas, 2001) These are the stages:
- Stage 1: Sensorimotor (Ages 0-2). Stage 1 is also called sensory motor intelligence stage, and generally occurs between birth and two years of age. This is the very stage when children organize their physical action schemes such as grabbing, sucking, and hitting. This stage generally applies to very young children; and by the age of two these children are moving on to the next stage. One should not forget that a very important consideration in this stage is the so called “attachment”, and how “children make attachments to their caregivers” (Lerner, 27).
- Stage 2: Pre-operational (Ages 2-7). Stage two is pre-operational thought, ages two to seven. This is when children learn to recognize symbols and images. Something that children in this stage especially need is to learn self-help skills. They learn to dress themselves and feed themselves. We can provide both role models and a list of available options. Also, they start to develop language. We can help by using correct language ourselves, so that as they emulate us, they will learn correct grammar and vocabulary. Social interaction is an important part of this stage (Cowan, 2000).
- Stage 3: Concrete Operations (Ages 7-11). Children in this stage are learning to understand symbolic things, but only as they relate to concrete objects. Parents show the children examples and the children follow them. I should also note that it is only in the concrete-operational stage, between the ages of seven and eleven, that children begin to understand that a variety of operations can be conducted on objects in the world that alter the objects’ appearance but leave their basic essence unchanged. One must not forget that during this period, children also become less egocentric than they were in the preoperational stage; they begin to understand that other people do not always share their perspective (Saraswathi 2003).
- Stage 4: Formal Operations (Ages 11-adult). Formal operations focuses on abstract thought and more systematic ways of thinking. I should also draw the reader’s attention to the fact that the formal-operational stage begins around age eleven; by age fifteen, most of the dramatic changes in cognition associated with this stage have taken place. Development over the rest of the life course, according to Piaget, is gradual and incremental. During the formal-operational stage, the adolescent starts to think in a truly logical fashion (Valsiner 2005). The role of parents is to concentrate on developing these logical skills in children, which can be achieved through playing different logical games, assembling puzzles and other related games.
Speaking about the social learning theory (SLT), I have to note that Mr. Albert Bandura was among the most famous social learning theorists. SLT focuses on the social context and believes that people develop by learning from one another (Cowan, 2000).
The SLT has its followers and distinct characteristics as shown below:
- People learn only by observing other people and can also engage in analysis.
- Follow the model. Many people dress in a way to match the group.
- Third Person. Many people would wear Air Jordan Nike shoes to look and play basketball like M. Jordan.
- Learning does not always have to change the behavior. This is different from behaviorist school that believes that learning is always about some behavioral change,
- Cognition in learning is vital and means that people do things after analyzing all the rewards and punishments that they might incur when doing things (Lerner, 133).
SLT states that when imitated the person immediately gets positive reinforcement and this is very important for psychology of parenting. If someone sees that other people are enjoying things, she/he is likely to start enjoying them, too. Vicarious reinforcement is a term that describes how one can be reinforced by the model. Bandura noted that showing movies about the war, victory and awards that the soldiers get, would certainly motivate more people to join the army and willingly die. The monetary compensation would not be the most important thing here (Britz-Crecelius 2000).
Speaking about the role of television and media, they both have their positive and negative sides, i.e. impact children in different ways. Among the positive ones, one may certainly name the possibility to have quick access to information to learn and explore new things. Among the negative sides, however, there is an impact, that media puts upon recipients of a message, which it communicates. One of the most burning issues nowadays is a negative effect that violent media content has on people and especially on children (Saraswathi 2003).
The first point that is necessary to bring up, when speaking about the impact of media violence on level of human aggression, is children’s subjection and reaction to this sort of content. According to a 15-year longitudinal study, which was carried out by American Psychological Association, it has been identified, that children, who are exposed to viewing violent shows, frequently associate themselves with same-sex aggressive character from the TV show. (Huesman, 2003) Later in a life of that child, significant changes may happen due to those identifications. According to the same research, those children form a perception that violence on TV is realistic. This perception later transforms into increased levels of aggression, demonstrated by children, when they become young adults. These findings have been proved to be relevant for all children regardless of type of their family, initial aggression levels, social status, their parent’s aggressiveness, parenting styles, or intellectual capabilities of a child. (Huesman, 2003)
From the research mentioned above, one learns that young adults, who grew up being exposed to violent content of the media, generally demonstrate higher levels of day-to-day aggression, and tend to be more violent toward the society, than their peers, who have not been exposed to violent media content. Certainly it is quite natural, if one looks at the phenomenon, as at the result of a constant message, that had been perceived by those people. The message of violent media content claimed that violence and aggression are normal and natural phenomenon, and it is absolutely common for anyone to be aggressive. Moreover, according to this message, frequently, being aggressive is associated with being “cool”, and therefore should provide certain level of social proof and respect from other surrounding (non-aggressive especially) people. (Boyle, 2005) “Inadequate” reaction to aggression demonstrated by those adults generates only greater aggression. This happens due to the fact, that in violent content media, problems are not usually solved in any other, except for violent, ways.
The last, but not least point, which also must be mentioned, when speaking about the impact of media violence on levels of human aggression, is relationships among people in the families. Unfortunately media frequently demonstrates violent relationships, and positions them as common and normal. A superhero of a movie or of a TV Show is usually a tough guy, who demonstrates his power through violent actions, which are depicted in a positive environment, and therefore perceived as positive. Violent media generates certain stereotypes of violent behavior, which leads to increase of violence in the families (Isaacs 2001).
To summarize, Piaget explored through the ‘invariate sequence” the way children progress in their development to adulthood, hinting how parents should act during each stage to benefit their children the most. Bandura and his SLT went on to directly describe how children learn and what motivates them to act in a certain way, again hinting the parents to serve as an example of learning for their children. Both theories are important for the psychology of parenting. As for the impact of mass media, the levels of media violence have proportional relationship to levels of human aggression in the society. As one may conclude from the evidence suggested above, currently humanity is highly exposed to potential threat of critical increase of levels of aggression among humans, due to the fact that most of contemporary young adults have been exposed to violent media content since childhood. This means, that the longer violent media content is promoted, the higher are the risks of wars, and other aggressive acts in the world. The role of parents certainly cannot be overestimated because they directly have access to their children as they progress through various developmental stages and thus can influence the development of the children all the way into adulthood. The parents, who want to master psychology of parenting, need to remain aware of these stages and of the principles that motivate children to learn and act. As a result they should actively assist children in the learning and developmental process and do everything possible to allow children clearly see the impact of mass media. The children should be protected from the harmful (violent) mass media and computer games especially during the early stages of development if the parents want to prevent the child from developing aggressive attitudes and way of thinking. Reading books, playing outdoors, interacting with peers and parents and playing sports can be viable alternatives to watching television and playing computer games.