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The paper “Cognitive Development and Social-Emotional Functioning in Young Foster Children” focuses on the investigation of the cognitive and emotional development delays in children. The authors attempt to evaluate the extent to which the social-emotional functioning in foster children is disturbed due to the adverse experiences in early childhood.
According to the research findings, the foster children’s behavior is found to be more problematic, and their competencies are poorer in comparison to normative sample group (Jacobsen, Moe, Ivarsson, Wentzel-Larsen, & Smith, 2013, p. 666). Comprehension of various influences on child’s cognitive and emotional development is important for the efficient intervention aimed at the revealing of individual’s developmental potential.
Delays in Cognitive and Emotional Development in Early Childhood
Foster children are frequently exposed to the “negative caregiving environments early in their lives before being placed in foster care” (Jacobsen et al., 2013, p. 666). As a result, the children are prone to the cognitive and emotional development delays. According to the study, the positive caregiving environments facilitate the sound and healthy brain development and are of significant importance in the first two years of a child’s life (Jacobsen et al., 2013, p. 666).
Through the application of the standardized developmental tests, the researchers established that the foster children’s cognitive performance was significantly lower that children who stayed in touch with their biological parents (Jacobsen et al., 2013, p. 667).
It is observed that foster children are prone to have problems with behavior and emotional control that may negatively affect their social functioning. The early identification of these problems may help parents to avoid challenges in interactions with the adopted child and help to improve the developmental progress.
According to multiple research findings in neuroscience, the personal experiences and environmental factors affect early childhood development of a human to a large extent may affect the course of individual’s adult life.
According to Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development, the individual’s development is divided into four stages: “sensorimotor period (birth to age 2); the preoperational thought period (about age 2 to age 7); the concrete-operations period (about age 7 to age 11); and the formal operations period (about age 11 to age 15)” (Lefmann & Combs-Orme, 2013, p. 640).
The sensorimotor period may be considered the fundamental stage of a child development because the basic cognitive abilities start to form during the first two years of life. Then, these elementary cognitive processes facilitate the development of abstract thinking, estimation aptitude, and cognition skills.
Negative environmental factors affect the sensitive period of prenatal neurodevelopment of an infant. The maternal factors include excess stress, use of medicine and substances, infections, and poor nutrition (Richetto & Riva, 2014, p. 20). It is observed that prenatal negative influences result in various cognitive impairments in a child and may result in the social-emotional and behavioral problems.
The favorable cultural, physical, and social environment and sound communication are crucial for children at early stages of development. The sensimotor development commences at the neurologic levels in the brain – the neurons start transmitting messages to each other, and the connections between them become stronger as the child keeps exploring the world (Lefmann & Combs-Orme, 2013, p. 642).
Touch, sound, and visual experience help a child to learn faster. And on the contrary, lack of communication and environmental stimulation result in developmental delays.
According to Bornfenbrenner’s theory, the obstacles and barrier a child faces in the learning environment at the level of “microsystem” such as lack of interactions in the family may negatively affect the patterns of social relationship and cognition at the broader levels of “mesosystem,” “macrosystem,” and “chronosystem” that imply the ability of functioning in the larger cultural and social environments (Lau & Ng, 2014, p. 426).
According to the Theory of Cognitive Development by Vygotsky, the development of “higher psychological functions” depends on the style of cooperation between and adult and a child (Alves, 2014, p. 24).
While Piaget focuses on the biological side of the cognitive development in children, Vygotsky emphasizes that cognition process can be constructed through the process of interrelation and the active participation of the child in this process. In this way, the intervention practice needs to involve both perspectives through the consideration of individuals’ developmental needs in early childhood both in terms of physiology and mental stimulation (Tucker-Drob & Harden, 2012, p. 251).
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In this way, the caregivers must be instructed to provide a favorable social and cultural environment for a sound development of an infant. Through communication that involves sensory and auditory interactions with a child, the parents may facilitate the development of neurocognitive mechanisms.
And through the “formation of a conceptual system based on reciprocal generalizing relations,” and implementation of other specifically elaborated mental activities it is possible to raise child’s awareness and improve his/her behavior, learning abilities, and emotional expression.
During the early childhood period, the development of elementary cognitive and social-emotional abilities takes place. Researchers emphasize that environmental factors such as communication, mental distress, or physical contacts significantly affect the developmental progression of infants.
Exposure to negative influences in prenatal or early childhood periods may provoke cognitive disorders. The establishment of the supportive and encouraging relationships between a child and his/her caregivers helps to avoid developmental delays. The reduction of the number of negative environmental factors helps to reveal child’s developmental potential.
Alves, P. F. (2014). Vygotsky and Piaget: Scientific concepts. Psychology in Russia, 7(3), 24-34. Web.
Jacobsen, H., Moe, V., Ivarsson, T., Wentzel-larsen, T., & Smith, L. (2013). Cognitive development and social-emotional functioning in young foster children: A follow-up study from 2 to 3 years of age. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 44(5), 666-77. Web.
Lau, J., & Ng, K. (2014). Conceptualizing the counseling training environment using Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 36(4), 423-439. doi. Web.
Lefmann, T., & Combs-Orme, T. (2013). Early brain development for social work practice: Integrating neuroscience with Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 23, 640–647.
Richetto, J., & Riva, M. (2014). Prenatal maternal factors in the development of cognitive impairments in the offspring. Journal of Reproductive Immunology, 104, 20-25.
Tucker-Drob, E., & Harden, P. (2012). Early childhood cognitive development and parental cognitive stimulation: evidence for reciprocal gene-environment transactions. Developmental Science, 15(2), 250-259.