The study of Child and adolescent development involves examining the complex ways
in which children grow physically, cognitively, and social-emotionally. Physical development
focuses on how the child’s body develops throughout time, cognitive development focuses on how their brains develop, and social-emotional development focuses on how the child
acclimates to their society and how healthy their emotional well-being is. In the world of child and adolescent development, the term “children” focuses on those ages zero up until the child enters puberty, or age 12. Adolescence focuses on the time from which one enters puberty (13) through age 17. There are also other considerations to take into account that play important roles when discussing child and adolescent development, which include cultural implications, socioeconomic status, and the environmental factors.
Why Learn About Childhood & Adolescent Development?
It is important for people to study and understand child development because children
are reliant upon adults to help them navigate this world and need our full support in ensuring they develop normally. One group of people who arguably have the strongest impact on a child’s development are their parents. Today, there are so many parents who are not fit to have children, but still do anyway. When children are raised by people who do not know the first thing about child and adolescent development, there can potentially be negative implications for that child’s development in the future. One issue in child and adolescent development that is prevalent today is child abuse or maltreatment. This means that the child’s parent or caretaker is failing to help their child develop normally and their interactions and ways in which they treat them cause them to develop abnormally. This has been an issue for as long as there have been ways to document these types of incidents.
The difficult part of hearing about these atrocities is the question of whether or not these instances of abuse could have been prevented had the abusers known what irreversible harm they were inflicting on the children they were abusing.
Genie Wiley – The Feral Child
One heavily studied case in history was the case involving a young girl named Genie
Wiley who experienced extreme abuse and neglect at a very young age. From the time she
was an infant up until she was thirteen, she had spent her entire life confined to a dark room in her house where she was deprived of any kind of stimulation, whether it was linguistic,
physical, or social-emotional. Genie’s case fascinated scientists because it was the perfect
opportunity to study the effects of such extreme child abuse and neglect. They referred to her as the “feral child” because her behavior exhibited that of a child who had not been raised by people in polite society. At age thirteen, Genie was unable to speak, walk, or communicate in any other way. Her physical appearance resembled that of a seven-year-old. Scientists wondered if she could ever recover from this type of abuse as she grew older. She was able to learn some words but was unable to form sentences. Physically, she continued to grow, and socially, she slowly began displaying more normative behavior, however, scientists came to the conclusion that she would never behave like a normative adult and be able to function in normative society. Her case study serves as an example of how people who are not fit to be parents can inflict severe, irreversible damage onto their children.