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Child Development Observation: Alfred Huang’ Case Report

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Updated: Oct 7th, 2020


Children are different from adults. Unlike adults, they may be spontaneous and unpredictable. The complexity of their nature is made worse by the fact that they may be unable to express themselves verbally. Given the unpredictable nature of these young individuals, researchers have realized that the best way to understand them is to make observations (Berger, 2014).

In this report, the author is going to document the findings of an observation conducted on a child from a Cantonese background. The child is Alfred Huang, a three years old boy. Both his parents are Cantonese. The boy has an older brother and a younger sister. The observation approach is naturalistic as it targets one child.

Interview with Parents

How would you describe your child to someone who has not met him?

Alfred is a shy boy when in the company of new people. However, he is observant, especially when it comes to what other children are doing. He may not engage in conversation due to his limited English and Cantonese background. Nevertheless, he imitates what he has observed with the intention of getting attention. Once he has gathered enough courage, he seeks to play with the child who has got his attention.

What pleases you the most about your child’s development? What qualities and characteristics would you say are unique to your child?

Alfred is an adorable child and he relates well with his family members. He has a special relationship with his grandparents. Like children his age, he is inquisitive and seeks adults’ approval on what he does. Alfred is a well-mannered child. All the people around him commend him on his well-mannered responses to adult stimulus. Although he throws tantrums at times, he is not violent, something that we are grateful for. We are all happy with his growth and development so far.

Do you see any improvements needed in your child’s development?

Alfred is growing up normally and as a parent, I am happy with the progress. The only thing that makes me concerned is his shy and reserved nature. I do not want to say that I think it is a problem, but I would be happy if he could be a bit social to enable him to interact with other children, especially at playtime at school.

What is your opinion of the childcare and pre-school education your child is currently receiving, including the strengths and weaknesses?

Alfred’s school offers an environment that is healthy and interactive. I must say that the teachers are good at what they do. The environment has helped Alfred start to cultivate interactive skills. The boy has learned a few things that make him love school. I had feared that his shyness would make him dislike school. Although I do not think that it is a problem, I am concerned that he comes home a bit tired and almost irritable. I do not know what to attribute the behavior to. Perhaps it is because of a change in the routine he was used to before he started school.

How much television does your child watch in a day? Do you think that your child’s television watching is a positive or negative influence? Why?

Alfred is fascinated with the TV but only when the cartoons are being screened. He may perhaps spend about an hour as he is being prepared for bed. So far, the TV does not seem to have any negative influence on him since his exposure is intermittent. The family is disciplined on matters to do with the TV.

Please explain your parenting “style” and how you discipline your child when he has misbehaved.

As a family, we have decided that it would be more beneficial to talk to the child regarding discipline issues. In spite of this, it is important to know that children will always be children. When he is inattentive or does not respond to instructions, such as when he is told to stop doing something we regard as inappropriate, we may repeat the instructions twice. I cannot say that we have had a discipline problem with Alfred yet.

Please explain how you teach your child the moral and ethical values you believe to be important.

Teaching a child the moral value starts with the parent practicing and living an ethical life. Secondly, it is important to have some talk with the child and explain what is ethical and morally right and why it is important. The church is also a good place to introduce moral and ethical practices.

Describe in detail the following factors that could influence your child’s development

The child’s immediate surroundings, such as family, including parents, siblings, grandparents, and other relatives

We live at ABC in Hong Kong. It is a middle-class neighborhood. The child was born in the US. The child lives with the mother, father, grandmother, and grandfather. Alfred is likely to be influenced by the people around him positively. The reason is that they are good role models for the child. The boy is not yet subjected to the neighborhood interactions and I would expect that there would not be a lot of exposure to negative behavior.

Local institutions, such as schools, churches, hospitals, health clinics, and social services

Within the neighborhood, there is a small hospital that caters to the medical needs of the community. There is also a church. The church is full of wonderful people. Both the church and the school are two institutions that are likely to shape Alfred’s life. The larger community would also offer some form of support. However, I am concerned that the child may pick negative behavior. In spite of this, it is my hope that the love and guidance from the family members will steer Alfred in the right direction.

The larger social setting, including cultural values, economic policies, political processes, and the economic resources of the family

The larger social setting would have some influence on the child. I would, however, prefer to bring him up surrounded by the family members just as I have done so far. We live with both grandparents, who are an inspiration to the child. We like going out for dinner on Wednesday nights together as a way of bonding. I am planning on taking a holiday with all the people around Alfred.

Historical influences and conditions, including parental backgrounds

I was brought up by a humble couple who were very loving. However, they passed on early in my childhood and I had to live with an elderly aunt. Perhaps that is why I want Alfred to be surrounded by the people who matter in our lives. I do not want him to be lonely.

Influence from peers and friends, neighbors, teachers, and role models

The influences from the role models and teachers are likely to help Alfred grow up as an upright child. With regard to the influence of his peers and friends, I will have to keep a keen eye on him for possible negative peer pressure. I cannot choose who he associates with, but I can help him know when he is being misled.

Styles and Strategies used to Shape and Modify Alfred’s Behavior

I spent over two hours with the child and his mother. During that time, I was able to observe the kind of upbringing Alfred was getting. He has a loving family made up of his parents and his grandparents. Although it is evident that the mother dots on the child, it is clear from the interview that the parents’ approach to parenting is authoritative. Alfred’s mother, for example, is soft-spoken but firm at the same time. She takes time to listen and explain to Alfred what needs to be done. In addition, she displays flexibility in decision making (Berger, 2014, p. 299). The parents are observed as being patient and demonstrate the ability to accommodate the child’s behavior while maintaining authority over him. Such parenting, according to Berger (2014), is described as authoritative.

Authoritative parenting is demonstrated every time the mother wants the child to do something. Using her soft voice, she will instruct him while giving him the reason why she thinks the activity should be done as she has suggested. The child will respond by asking a question to confirm what the mother has said. The interaction between mother and child is involving and it demonstrates that a child can respond to authority when certain conditions are explained. Berns (2012) opines that giving the child a reason why certain activities and situations need to be responded to in a certain manner helps in the learning process.

From the observation, Alfred’s mother exhibits the characteristics of a parent who is consistent with what she wants and says. Although she is flexible, she does not compromise on what needs to be done (Berger, 2014). Although the observation and the interview did not provide an opportunity to discipline the boy, it can be assumed that the approach she has taken does not involve intimidation of the child or screaming at him so that he can feel scared. Sadly, many parents assume that screaming or beating up a child would make them highly disciplined (Berger, 2014).

Cognitive Development

According to Piaget’s theory of development, children are born with a simple mental structure (Berger, 2014). Learning is based on this structure. An observation of Alfred during the second visit revealed that his cognitive development is at the level of a normal three-year-old child. In order to confirm this assertion, I decided to use the video by Piaget to carry out the cognitive experiment. After getting acquitted with Alfred, I presented him with two glasses, which had some water.

The glasses were of the same type. When asked whether the two glasses had the same level of water or not, Alfred replied in the affirmative. When the water in one of the glasses was poured into a narrower and taller glass, Alfred could see the difference. However, he could not understand why the difference occurred.

Alfred can be described as being at the pre-occupational stage. Although he can clearly see the difference between the levels of water in the two glasses, it is obvious that he cannot comprehend how such a thing is possible (Berns, 2012). That observation is supported by Berger (2014). His mother took her usual role in explaining how and why the water in the two glasses appeared to be different. I left the mother and son practicing some more on the concept.

On the third observational visit, I suggested to Alfred’s mother that the three of us should play the dough game. We gathered the necessary materials and each of us, including Alfred who was excited by the opportunity to play with adults, made balls using the dough. As the game progressed, I asked his mother to make her ball into an extended strip of dough. Then we placed them together. Alfred, who was surprised that his mother’s dough seemed longer, was asked whether he thought the strip had the same amount of material as the others or not. He was hesitant to answer. It appeared as if he thought that the strip had more dough than the others, but he could not confirm.

According to Berger (2014), exercise is used to demonstrate the pre-occupational cognitive development. In a repeat exercise, Alfred was asked to group a set of colored balls into shapes. He demonstrated an understanding of the differences between the shapes. Although the child was able to display some element of perception of shape, he still needs more exposure to cognitive exercises. Consequently, it can be concluded that the child is within the cognitive growth stage. Of course, when left alone with the dough, he designed his own games. The games were a combination of what we had done and what his imagination told him.

One of my recommendations to the family is that Alfred is developing along the contours expected of a child of his age. Nevertheless, his growth would be enhanced if he was engaged in controlled experiments where the expected outcomes are demonstrable before he is allowed to play in his design (Berger, 2014).

Emotional and Social Development

Although Alfred appears as a shy boy, he demonstrates a remarkable level of emotional growth and sensitivity once he connects with his peers. Such an observation is usually associated with older children (Berger, 2014). When playing, he is the one who takes care of the children who are hurt. He does this by comforting them. We have had many instances where a child would fall and start crying. Alfred would go and sit down with the distressed child and offer emotional support.

He comforts the child by telling them that they are going to feel better. On one occasion at playtime, a child fell and slightly injured her knee. Alfred had the presence of mind to seek help since the injury was beyond his control. The emotional support demonstrates the development of social skills that the child will find useful in the future. To this end, Alfred’s emotional support to his friends and playmates is a reflection of what he witnesses at home (Berger, 2014, p.401).

Alfred’s demonstration of anger was not evident during the observations. On enquiring from his mother, she indicated that he sometimes gets upset when made to sleep, especially when there are guests around. He likes the company of his cousins when they make their weekly visits on Sunday evenings. Children who are shy may develop strong attachments to the few people they are able to interact with, especially those who are family members (Berns, 2012).

With regard to the issue of anger management, Alfred has learned from his mother that exhibiting violence is not the way to solve a problem. Children may react by hitting the annoying object. However, with demonstrable patience and by talking over such a reaction, the child should learn that it is not necessary to hit another person. The course of action for such a child is to report the offender to an adult and hope that justice will be delivered. Such lessons prepare a child for adult life where the incumbency of the decision-making process will lie on their heads (Berger, 2014, p.384).

As observed earlier, Alfred likes school. He often talks about his teachers and the other children. Although he is shy, he still enjoys being in school and the company of the other students. There are several children who like playing with Alfred and they make him happy. Being liked by other children is an important element in emotional development (Berger, 2014, p. 396). Alfred’s emotional development will also be enhanced by the morals that he is learning at church. The teachings of the Bible have a strong influence on young minds. In addition, they are important in shaping a child’s world outlook.

Unique Characteristics

One unique characteristic associated with Alfred is his shyness. The shyness is studied in detail in this report. Children who are shy find it hard to relate to strangers (Lao, Akseer, Bosacki, & Coplan, 2013). The second unique characteristic is exposure to two languages. Alfred is three years old and already can speak a little English and Cantonese (Hoff & Core, 2013). Exposure to the two languages is due to the fact that he was born in the US.

As such, he was exposed to English. His parents also communicate a lot in English. Exposure to the Cantonese language arises from the fact that his grandparents communicate using this language (Berger, 2014). His parents have relocated to Hong Kong to live with their aging parents.

Some psychologists have argued that exposure to two languages delays the development of the brain (Hoff & Core, 2013). They contend that this is because the brain is meant to process only one language. The contention has been proved wrong. According to such critics as Genesee, exposure to two languages does not demand from the brain more than what is observed when one is exposed to one language (Hoff & Core, 2013). Exposure to the two languages gives Alfred an advantage when communicating with members of the community. Hong Kong is an English and Cantonese speaking society. As such, the boy will have an advantage later in life. He will be able to communicate with both English and Cantonese speaking people.


Alfred is a healthy three years old child. His development has progressed through a normal curve, regardless of his reserved and shy nature. It is recommended that his parents and teachers should develop a program that would engage the boy in more socialization. The aim is to improve his confidence as he interacts with the other children. All children follow a similar developmental pattern. Some may be slow, but they soon catch up with their peers. Alfred is no exception.


Berger, K. (2014). The developing person through the life span (9th ed.). New York: Worth Publishers.

Berns, R. (2012). Child, family, school, and community: Socialization and support (9th ed.). Boston: Cengage Learning.

Hoff, E., & Core, C. (2013). Input and language development in bilingually developing children. Seminars in Speech and Language, 34(4), 215-226.

Lao, M., Akseer, T., Bosacki, S., & Coplan, R. (2013). Self-identified childhood shyness and perceptions of shy children: Voices of elementary school teachers. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 5(3), 269-284.

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