The paper analyzes the influence of various external factors on the cognitive and physical development of children. The results of an interview with an old relative are used to analyze the real-life implications of such influences and interactions. The paper includes the discussion of Piaget’s development theory, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and touches upon the questions of food insecurity, maternal personality, and their influence on the developmental and socioemotional outcomes in children. The goal of the paper is to analyze how multiple factors influence children’s development in real-life conditions.
The paper can be used in the analysis of the parent-child interactions and the role in the cognitive and physical development of children. Lifespan Development That physical and cognitive development of children is influenced by a multitude of factors is difficult to deny. The availability of the basic resources like food, family environment, social conditions of living and relationships with peers altogether produce a marked impact on how children grow, how they interpret the reality and what they learn about themselves and their lives.
A wealth of theories was created, to explain how different factors influence children’s physical maturation and cognition. However, only real-life cases and the analysis of real-life personalities can provide researchers with the detailed information about how children develop and learn. For the purpose of this paper, an interview was conducted with one of the distant relatives: a 85-year-old woman, she has numerous stories to tell about her childhood. Born in extreme poverty, she learned the difficulties of the infant life in a poor family at the early age.
Her father died when she was 4 years old, and her mother was left with two older children, no job, and no desire to continue her life. The woman was growing and getting mature in the atmosphere of the continuous family stress. She remembers her mother, living in a constant state of depression, because she could not provide for her children. It was not before she was 9 that her mother married for the second time, and they gradually returned to a normal pace of living, with abundant food, clothes, and even additional resources to travel around the country.
Before that time, all the woman could remember was hunger. Neither during her infancy nor during the first school years could she create close attachment bonds with her mother. Her mother was never interested in her school successes. She never asked about her problems and was never willing to share her concerns with the other children. There was a continuous sense of separation between them and their mother. As a child, the woman experienced serious problems at school. She failed to catch up with the learning successes of her peers and was one of the worst pupils in her class.
She did not have any opportunity to learn at home because of the stressful atmosphere and the feeling of hunger. She could not devote herself to studies and learning, especially after the lunch time which she usually spent away from her classroom room. Surprisingly, but she was able to form numerous friendly relations with the peers from her neighborhood – now she deems these friendships as the only way to escape the stressful atmosphere of her family and house and to have someone to answer her questions about life. Those were the questions her mother could never answer.
Another problem was in that she was the smallest in her class, and her classmates used to mock her because of this. Often, she would run away from school and miss lessons because she could no longer tolerate the pressure of her better-off classmates and felt absolutely unprotected in the face of social inequality. The woman believes that it was due to her family difficulties and her mother’s negligence toward her problems and personality that she could not learn to read until the age of 9 and that she lagged behind her peers in the basic disciplines.
Based on this information and the results of the recent studies, it is clear that the lack of food and constant hunger did influence the woman’s physiological and cognitive maturation. The lack of maternal attachments/ bonds and family stress added to the complex family atmosphere and made it difficult for the woman to become a successful learner at school. The woman says that school years were the years of discovery and the time when she finally learned the reasons of her failures.
This is logical given that, according to Piaget, at the age of 7 the child enters the stage of concrete operations (Anonymous, 2009). At this stage of development, the child learns to conceptualize the surrounding reality and to create logical structures that explain his or her physical experiences (Anonymous, 2009). School experiences led the woman to link her school failures to her hunger, her socially disadvantaged position compared with other classmates, and the lack of maternal support (the woman says that she felt absolutely unprotected in the face of the social inequality).
Her failure to close the knowledge gap is easy to explain through the prism of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. According to Maslow, physiological needs are the first and the most important. “These are biological needs. They consist of needs for oxygen, food, water, and a relatively constant body temperature” (Simons, Irwin & Drinnien, 1987). The lack of appropriate food and the constant feeling of hunger created conditions, in which a young girl could not think about anything but the physiological desire to eat.
Whether the lack of food explains why the woman was the smallest in her class is difficult to define, but it is clear that she could not successfully meet her learning needs and goals until she could meet her physiological needs. Because of hunger, she could not concentrate on her studies, and felt weak and unprepared to grasp the new knowledge in the classroom. Abraham Maslow states that higher levels of needs are impossible to achieve and satisfy, until the first levels have been satisfied (Simons, Irwin & Drinnien, 1987).
Surprisingly or not, the sense of hunger in the small girl was constantly accompanied by the lack of maternal support. The feeling that she was not attached to her mother was a part of her daily reality. Those feelings and the pressure of the stressful family atmosphere on the physical and cognitive development of the young girl are easy to explain: Zaslow et al. (2009) discuss the implications of food insecurity for attachment and mental proficiency during infancy and toddlerhood. According to Zaslow et al.
Food insecurity is “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire food in socially acceptable ways” (p. 66). Zaslow et al. (2009) are confident that food insecurity does produce a marked impact on the cognitive and physiological development of children and results in behavioral and cognitive problems. Food insecurity raises the probability of grade repetition at school and leads to increased maternal stress and, consequentially, the lack of parental attachment (Zaslow et al. , 2009).