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It is well known that mortality rates of children are going down day by day especially in the third world countries where mortality rates have been a disaster. Such dramatic reduction is attributed to the hard work of scientists in the field of medicine where discoveries in treatment and prevention of diseases have been realized, for instance, treatment of cancer, polio, and measles among others. Despite progress made in reducing child mortality especially in the developing nations, psychosocial and cognitive development of these children is still at stake hampering the overall development potential of these children who are the future key drivers of their country’s economies. Interestingly, even the developed nations have not been spared in developing cognitive and psychosocial abilities of their children. The thesis statement for this research is “The Importance of Children’s Interaction with Nature in their Development”.
This research paper seeks to give a rational and scientific analysis of the role nature plays in the development of children especially in the middle years. In addressing the thesis statement, the study highlights some important areas in understanding the consequences nature has on human development. These are the analysis of historical interaction between children and nature, the deterioration or extinction of nature experience in children, the importance of nature interaction on human development and lastly, the role played by the media as a substitute to nature.
It is approximately one hundred and fifty years since a renowned psychologist by the name of Herbert Spencer came up with development theory which he published in his book called “Principals of Psychology.” Instrumental in this publication was the “Surplus Energy Theory” which initiated a concept of surplus energy. He says the major reason why children and youths get into playing is to dispense off the surplus energy that accumulates in the body. This theory has received enormous criticisms from various quarters with researchers and developmental theorists leading the pack. Despite the heavy criticisms the theory has faced, many schools which form a basic environment for children have relied on this unfortunate assumption more so in developing their school yards where children play. In light of this, schoolyards are treated as mere playgrounds where children expend the rather destructive in-built energy and not for any other constructive development. This particularly, is a misguided approach that is likely to have a detrimental psychological development on young children. My attention for this research is ignited by the wrong assumptions schools make in developing their school yards, which seem to lean on the outdated theory developed by Spencer (Fjortoft et al., 2000).
History of Children Contact with Nature
Throughout the entire human history, children’s preference place for playing has been on a wild area like bushes or trees next to their home. It is reported many researchers that two hundred years ago, children spent a substantive amount of their time in surrounding fields and bushes next to their family homes or in the farms. But with the great development in economies in the world leading to urbanization, this changed drastically as most of the playgrounds where children would experience nature were converted into urban dwellings. But still in the periods of 1970s, children were privileged to have a taste of the natural environment and would utilize a greater part of their free time walking in the streets, parks, playgrounds and also on vacant slots. In short, in the early period, children had enormous freedom without a strict restriction for daily interaction with their environment and their learning was on high gear (Kuo, 2003).
Deterioration and Extinction of Children’s Experience with Nature
Away from the free life children enjoyed in the early periods, currently there has been a total shift with children under intense restrictions from their guardians. The result is that children have less opportunity to interact with their mother nature as their physical boundaries are redrawn. The change in children’s interaction with the environment can be attributed to several factors that have been on play. The major factor is the fear parents have developed on the safety of their children when they are out of their homes. This fear is linked to the increased insecurity levels in the world today. For instance, some researchers report that eighty two percent of mothers with children aged between three and twelve singled out crime and fear for safety as the dominant reason why they don’t allow their children to play away from their watch. The situation is further worsened in families where parents are in formal employment since they are unable to watch their children engage in interaction with the environment; this is because of work obligations making them be away from their families for long hours. Children have, therefore, been forced to live a structured lifestyle where parents go to an extra mile of selecting the kinds of plays and games where children should engage in; something that is misguided (Cheskey, 2001).
Significance of Children’s Interaction with Mother Nature
The significance of environment on adults cannot be underestimated and studies by various scholars ascertain this fact. Environment affects adults in various ways such as boosting psychological makeup, ensuring proper cognitive operation, faster and effective recovery from diseases as well as reduced affinity to contract diseases. On the other hand, researchers have found positive impacts environment plays on the children’s overall development. For instance, it is found that children with frequent contacts with environment score highly in their academic work compared to those enclosed within houses. Others are: children engaging in active environment sporting exhibit sophisticated motor make up and fitness such as balancing and agility and they rarely contract diseases. Playing in the environment fosters imagination of thought in children hence, developing their language and interpersonal skills. Cognitive development of children is enhanced through interaction with the environment as their reasoning and level of awareness are raised. Nature has also been found to be crucial in helping children to cope with normal day to day stress that waits them in their future life through a successful determination of alternatives they can use in a situation (Bixler et al., 2002).
Research depicts that children with frequent contacts with their nature are likely to develop a strong sense of creativity and desire for peace since they want to explore a world where war does not restrict their movement. Friendship management also refers to nature, and researchers are convinced that children who frequently interact with nature are well placed in managing and creating friendship ties with people they interact with. Lastly, nature is a major determinant in developing independence and autonomy among the children all through to adult. Hence, children with frequent interaction with nature are best to survive in disasters like death of their parents (Bixler et al., 2002; Harvey, 1989).
In light of current developments in the world economy limiting the space available for children to experience nature, schools should, therefore, take the responsibility of offering natural school yards to children since they stay longer in schools than at home. Children play sessions should not just be taken as a way of releasing the destructive surplus energy that Spenser hypothesized, but rather as an important learning session where children learn fast hand information from the environment. Governments at large must ensure proper security majorly within the cities to boost parents’ confidence of the safety of their children when they are out playing, hence, reducing restrictions parents impose on children.
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