Cognitive and Behavioral Development in Orphans Abstract

Cognitive development and behavioral development are indispensable in discussions about children`s developments. There are different psychological theories that guide people`s understandings of these realms of development two of which were propagated by Piaget and Erickson. Piaget came up with a four-stage theory which explains cognitive development while Erickson came up with an eight-stage theory explaining psychosocial development. The two theories are considered universal and they heavily suggest that the environments in which children live and relationships they build during early years have direct impacts on their developments. The theories find high applicability among children who live in orphans. In particular, their application to Russian and Eastern Europe orphanages leads to the conclusion that children who live in those orphanages wind up with developmental delays especially when they are adopted by parents in countries such as the US. Cognitive and psychosocial developmental delays are common among children who are adopted at later stages compared to those who are adopted at birth.
Cognitive and Behavioral Development in Orphans
Child development is one of the most discussed concepts in psychology. Due to the progressive nature of human growth and development, various psychologists have come up with theories that seek to give people deep insight into human growth and development. There are different areas of development including cognitive and behavioral development. These have been captured by Jean Piaget and Homburger Erickson. This research outlines the basic tenets of the theories of development outlined by these two theorists, relates their tenets to children growing up in orphanages and outlines differences between orphans in the United States to those in Russia and Eastern Europe. The research also looks into possible delays that are recorded among these children and whether children adopted from birth have fewer delays than older children and whether adopted children from Russia living in the USA experience cultural difference which may cause delays.
Piaget`s Theory
Jean Piaget`s theory is on cognitive development. The theory has four basic stages and these apply to all children according to him as stated by Resse & Overton (1970). The first stage is the sensory-motor stage which lasts from zero to two years. This stage is characterized by the development of mental schemas. These schemas are representations of the objects around them and the way they ought to deal with different situations that they encounter. According to Piaget, behavior is largely determined by the stimuli to which children are exposed. The child develops action schemas by learning to use limbs and muscles, develop understandings about how certain things affect others and begins to understand time and space. Infants understand objects around them and what they can do with those objects. Babies at this stage take it that when they do not see an object, it seizes to exist. They then start to look for these objects if they do not see them when they are between the ages of 8-12 months. This way, they develop what Piaget termed as Object permanence.
The second stage outlined by Piaget is the Pre-operational stage (Resse & Overton,, 1970). This lasts between 2-7 years. This stage is characterized by developments in the processes of thought. They develop from being children to being toddlers and acquire more vocabulary. At this stage, children are ego-centric. They feel that they are the center of attention and that their beliefs should be shared by all people. The stage is also characterized by animism in that to children all objects around them are conscious to a certain extent. They also imagine that what they feel is also felt by all other objects around them. Children also depict characteristic of developing symbolism and moral realism by beginning to tell between what is right and what is wrong. They begin to understand rules and obedience and may not consider motive.
The third stage outlined by Piaget of the concrete operations stage (Resse & Overton, 1970). This is said to last between 7 years and 11 years. While the second stage may not be characterized by rational thought, this is achieved to a higher level at this stage. Thoughts are at this stage more operational compared to the second stage. Children can at this stage think logically about objects and the levels of ego centrism and animism reduce. Even so, Piaget states that some of these elements are deductable among adults. Children at this stage can imagine things from what they see and can conserve thoughts and ideas. They are said to learn the concept of “reversibility” so that even when objects are rearranged, they can still be put back the way they were.
The last stage is the formal operations stage according to Resse & Overton (1970). This stage lasts between 11- 16 years. At this stage, children are said to have more abstract representations in their minds. Adolescents are said to develop better problem solving skills so that when they are faced with challenges, they look at all the possible solutions available to them before they settle on the best option. Adolescents are able to operate beyond visible and tangible objects but can simply use information and symbols to reason. Development is at this stage characterized by hypothetic-deductive reasoning and is propositional in nature.
Erickson`s Theory
The second theory which was developed by Erickson outlines eight stages of psychosocial development. The theory, unlike that by Piaget, is spread across a lifetime and therefore to him development does not end during teenage years. The first stage he came up with was the basic trust vs. mistrust stage (Resse & Overton, 1970). The development of hope is the target of this stage. This stage is based on parent`s presence and behavior towards the child. The stage lasts between 0 to 1 years and when parents during this time show the child adequate, consistent and nurturing care, the children develop basic trust. They feel safe and know that people around them are dependable. In case adequate, consistent and nurturing care is not provided to the child, he develops feelings of mistrust. The development of trust leads to a sense of hope and confidence while basic mistrust leads to paranoia, withdrawal and depression.
The second stage is autonomy vs. shame and doubt as stated by Resse & Overton (1970). This stage lasts between 2-3 years. Will is the target area of development in this stage. If children are firmly and gradually guided, praised and their attempts to be independent are accepted, they develop autonomy. In this case, they acquire the will to do things and they build self-esteem in childhood and adulthood years. In case of the opposite, children feel doubt and shame. Children may in this case grow up trying neurotically to feel in control of themselves and to develop competency.
The third stage is initiative vs. guilt (Resse & Overton, 1970). This stage lasts between 4- 5 years and purpose is the target of development during these years. Children develop curiosity about adults and people in general. In this stage, children identify more with parents of the opposite sex and view the parent of the same sex as a rival but oedipal complex develops only in extreme cases. Children show initiative and if this is appreciated, they develop purpose. In case initiative is met by punishment, children develop senses of guilt and experience inhibition. However, when children develop purpose to an extreme level and are not punished at all, they become ruthless.
The fourth stage is industry vs. inferiority (Resse & Overton, 1970). This stage lasts between 6-12 years of age. Children begin school and they learn to tame impulses and imagination to please other people. This stage marks the development of competence. In case caretakers support children competence is developed as desired but in case they are not supported, they develop feelings of being inferior and helpless. On the other hand, the development of too much competence leads to fast tracked development into adulthood and people become histrionic. The above stages are known as the “figuring out the world stages”. They are followed by another four during which people are said to figure themselves out.
The fifth stage is the identity vs. confusion stage which has fidelity as its target developmental area. It covers the years ranging from13-19 according to Resse & Overton (1970). At this age, adolescents and young adults develop their ideas about weaknesses, strengths, occupations, goals, gender roles and sexuality. These are part of developing their identities. They go through identity crises and if the same are resolved, fidelity is developed. On the other hand, if the identity crises are not resolved, identity diffusion is the result. People in this case end up feeling threatened and unstable. Extreme development in identity may lead to fanaticism while extremely low development in identity may make people join cults.
The sixth stage is intimacy vs. isolation and it lasts between the ages of 20-24 (Resse & Overton, 1970). At this stage love is the ultimate goal of development. In the development of intimacy, people should be in positions to love and get close to others. Identity forms the basis of development in this case. When people fail to develop love, they resort to promiscuity and in some instances to exclusion.
The seventh stage is generativity vs. stagnation (Resse & Overton, 1970). The core target for development at this stage is care. It lasts between 24-64 years and when people are highly creative, generativity is developed and they care for the generations to come. On the other hand lack of creativity leads to stagnation. People who are stagnated are self-absorbed and do not care that much about the people around them. Extremely high generativity leads to overextension while extremely low generativity translates to rejectivity.
The last stage is ego integrity vs. despair according to Resse & Overton (1970). This stage lasts from 65 years to when a person dies. Its target area of development is wisdom. In this case, people ought to accept their failures and successes, accept loss and the fact that they are ageing. Ego integrity is developed in this case and in case people have succeeded in life, they develop wisdom in that they detach their concerns from life and face death. On the other hand, those who are not satisfied with their achievements feel despair and they dread death. They feel that they cannot change their lives. Excess despair leads to disdain while presumption is the results of excess wisdom.
Effects of Piaget`s and Erickson`s theory on children developing in orphanages
As outlined, the different stages in Piaget`s and Erickson`s theories mark transitions in the lives of children and the latter theorist covers transitions even in adulthood. The two theories have various implications for children in orphanages. The theories suggest universal development in children and the existence of universal environments and experiences to guide these developments as stated by Volger, Crivello & Woodhead (2008). These scholars state that transitions are upward shifts and that they cover children`s lives both in the social and educational dimensions. Volger, Crivello & Woodhead (2008) claim that the “socio-cultural aspect cannot be disintegrated from childhood transitions”. They state that theories such as Piaget`s outline set biological standards of development and transitions but that conformation to these propositions is marked by socio-cultural contexts in which children grow up.
Volger, Crivello & Woodhead (2008) claim transitions are distinguishable between children who grow up in different socio-cultural settings. They emphasize the importance of historical changes, individual links and macro-social processes which determine child development and their linkages with people in the environment. Volger, Crivello & Woodhead (2008) state that caregivers and the environment in which children grow determine to a great extent children`s mastery of culturally accepted behavior and their overall development thus determining transition. The environments determine schemata that are absorbed by children and further transitions that emanate from the same according to Volger, Crivello & Woodhead (2008).
As explained by the theories, children need to be exposed to appropriate environments and their caregivers ought to be loving and caring for them to transition from one stage to the other appropriately. Children in orphanages are subjected to different environments even though the baseline is that they are not exposed to the same environments as those in homes with their parents. They also do not receive personalized care as the case is with children who live with their parents.
In line with Piaget`s theory, children`s minds and their thinking are shaped by what they see and the experiences they are exposed to. This eventually determines their sensory-motor development and the development of rational thought. Erickson`s theory on the other hand calls for varied actions from caregivers which assist children in psychosocial development. Extreme situations have negative impacts on child development (Berrick, et al.,1997).
Orphans growing up in the United States
Sanghavi (2010) and Collins (2008) suggest that the Unites States has a well developed care system for its orphans. Sanghavi (2008) states that though in the past the US had a system which did not breed well developed children, this changed for the better. Children are not institutionalized but are rather placed in foster-care which is much better. Foster care promotes the development of attachments. The children feel loved and loved back and as a result, they find it easier to adjust and fit into families when they are adopted. Children are not subjected to routine lifestyles that foster detachment but are placed in statuses and environments that mimic those of actual families. Orphans who are placed in foster care in the United States are therefore more likely to be less violent, to love, to be more receptive to the love they receive and are less likely to suffer from psychological and mental problems in future.
Orphans growing up in Russia and Eastern Europe
Statistics by Sanghavi (2010) and Collins (2008) suggest that Russia is one of the most generous countries with its orphans. They state that Russia has historically recorded one of the highest numbers of children who are given to people outside the nation, especially to US. Sanghavi (2010) outlines fundamental differences between children who are brought up in Russian orphanages and those who are in US orphanages.
Russia is stated as having one of the highest numbers of orphans in its region. Hughes (2002) claims that since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia has been constantly characterized by economic instability and therefore there are more people who are unable to take care of their children. Children are left in orphanages with the hope that they will have better futures by being adopted but sadly the level of adoption at the local level is not as high as may be desired. A similar situation is prevalent in Eastern Europe.
The orphans in Russia and Eastern Europe and faced by several challenges which affect their developments and transitions from one stage of development to the other as outlined by Piaget and Erickson. Sanghavi (2010) highlights various characteristics that define Russian and Eastern Europe children who live in orphanages.
Sanghavi (2010) claims a Russian child was returned to Russia from the United States following his violent behavior and because he looked disturbed. The boy was 7 years old and as such, he had spent quite a considerable period of time in a Russian orphanage. This means that his development had surpassed several years stipulated under the timelines proposed by Piaget and Erickson in their stages. While this was a solitary case, it is a reflection of the circumstances under which children in Russian orphanages grow.
Sanghavi (2010) claims children in Russian and Eastern European orphanages are psychologically disturbed because of the environments in which they are brought up. He states that children coming from these orphanages record much higher psychological disturbance than those who come from Korean and Chinese orphanages. There are speculations about the reasons for high psychological disturbance. Sanghavi (2010) states that it may be attributed to an aspect such as fetal alcohol syndrome, but goes ahead to state that the orphanages are also not well equipped to take care of the orphans.
Sanghavi (2010) states that children in Russian orphanages are subjected to flawed systems which medicalize their care rather than personalize the same as the case is in the United States. Sanghavi (2010) states that while the current approach was used in the United States in the past it is no longer in use because the system managers realized it has detrimental effects on child development. Children are not given the time or the chance to get attached to their caregivers and this affects their developments and transitions.
Sanghavi (2010) highlights the routines at some observed orphanages are traces most of the psychological challenges registered among Russian orphans to the treatment they receive from birth onwards. He states that the children are wrapped up in blankets and are placed in cribs that are lined up and the same are observed through glass windows. The children are not allowed to form attachments with people and are not carried around in arms or curdled. They end up feeling along and neglected and they fail to form any kind attachments to people around them. The orphanages are said to focus so much on aspects such as cleanliness and nutrition but they do not nurture the kids as should be the case. Sanghavi (2010) builds on this by stating that the children are subjects to “excess” medical care and are labeled with illnesses that lead to further impersonation between them and their caregivers. The desperate need for attachment and a clear lack of the same breeds dysfunctional individuals. Sanghavi (2010) claims that even though the theory of attachment was developed and was adopted in different parts of the world including the United States, its premises did not and still do not matter in many parts of the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe. To add to this, Russia and Eastern Europe have according to Sanghavi (2010) continued to rely on institutional care to meet the needs of orphans yet this was abandoned by the United States and Western Europe.
The premises proposed by Sanghavi (2010) about group care are echoed by Barth (2002) who claims research has established that children who are placed in institutional care are more likely to misbehave and cause problems compared to those who are placed in foster-care. Barth (2002) states that research by professionals in the field have found little to recommend about in institutional care even though he notes that in some instances it is necessary for the provision of basic needs for orphaned children. These sentiments are also shared by Berrick, et al. (1997) and Collins (2008).
Differences in Adoption at Birth and Later Adoption
There are fundamental differences and developmental deficits that are less prevalent among children who are adopted at birth compared to those who are adopted later on. As stated by the two theorists, development begins from birth and progresses later on at different stages and levels. This means that the earlier a child is adopted, the better. A good scenario is presented by Shanghai (2010) in which a boy who was adopted when he was 7 years old was brought back to a Russian orphanage due to unruly behavior as stated earlier on. His behavior was the result of prolonged stay at the orphanage and the kind of upbringing he had been subjected to there. If the child had been adopted at birth, he would have received love and care and would exhibit appropriate behavior emanating from the development of healthy relationships from birth and personalized guidance.
Children who are adopted at birth start receiving personalized care and love and therefore get better attachments than those who are left in orphanages for prolonged periods. They also receive better guidance and are more likely to strike balances in cognitive and psychosocial development. When a child is left in an orphanage for a long time, he understands impersonal relationships and detachment as part of his life and may not adjust or may take long to do so.
Collins (2008) highlights a research on Russian orphanages that showcases disregard to social and emotional development. Collins (2008) states that an observation of children aged birth to 3 months and from 3 to 10 months showed little interaction and discouragement of/non-responsiveness to social interaction. The observations were carried out between 9:30 am and 12:30 pm and results show that caregivers would initiate social interaction only 10% of the time and that they responded to the children`s initiations of social interaction only 1% of the time they were with them. The results by Collins (2008) also show that children are responded to when they cry for at least 11 minutes. Caregivers during this time did not talk to the children and that for the three hour period, they spent about 12 minutes with the children during which half the time was meant for feeding. These interactions clearly show deficits in linguistic, social and emotional aspects.
Collins (2008) refers to the attachment theory and the overall environment to which children are exposed in his discussions and states that they are highly useful in ensuring that children develop the desired socio-emotional statuses. Collins (2008) claims children`s developments in the mental and social realms are highly determined by the warmth and levels of care they receive during their early years of their lives.
Children who are adopted later than those adopted at birth specifically showcase several delays. The first one is language development. Children who live in orphanages do not get the chance to learn language as those who live in homes do. For instance, children at home get the chances to receive personal guidance from parents and they are encouraged to learn language. Collins (2008) claims that children who live with their mothers often receive language input which matches their developmental stages. Such attention is not accorded to children at orphanages because they are many and their personal language and developmental needs may not be fully put into consideration during their upbringing. Collins (2008) clearly states that delayed development among children in orphanages is quite common and is attributed to lack of mothering. This means that if a child is adopted at an earlier age, he will start receiving motherly care early and therefore most likely language acquisition and development will be smoother and faster. If a child is taken to the United States from Russia when he is born he will learn English with ease than one who is adopted when is he perhaps more than 5 years old.
Collins (2008) also states that children who stay in orphanages for longer periods of time are subjected to delayed emotional and mental development. Piaget clearly outlines stages of cognitive development while Erickson came up with psychosocial stages of development. Collins (2008) implies that development in different realms is largely dependent on the environment in which children grow plus their interactions and experiences. Orphanages may not subject children to optimal environments, interactions and experiences for proper development. Children who do not develop socially and emotionally as desired also wind up with delays in cognitive development according to Collins (2008).
Children who stay at orphanages for long according to Collins (2008) fail to develop proper social skills and therefore they are more likely to be violent, rude and to exhibit other forms of misbehavior. When children stay at orphanages they either form no attachments to other people or form short term attachments which make it difficult for them to care about others. Collins (2008) claims that the circumstances at orphanages make children dysfunctional in almost all aspects. A child who is adopted at birth will most likely be subjected to appropriate social environment, will develop suitable socialization skills with peers and will be able to love other people around him.
Adoption of Russian and Eastern European Orphans in the United States
Sanghavi (2010) states that as of 2010, Russia had 800,000 orphans yet only 15,000 are adopted every year. Half of those adopted are taken by families outside Russia and a considerable number go to the United States. The children who are adopted may however suffer from developmental challenges because the same may not progress as suggested in the cognitive and psychosocial stages of development outlined by Piaget and Erickson.
Collins (2008) states that 21% of orphans in Russia are adopted in the United States. Hough (1999) outlines risk factors that predispose children to slow development when they are adopted from Russia and Eastern Europe and are taken to the United States. Hough (1999) outlines linguistic development as one of the most adverse delays registered among children who are taken to USA from Russia and Eastern Europe. Hough (1999) states that when children spend early childhoods in Russia and Eastern Europe, they acquire languages different from English even though the same may not be developed as desired for their particular developmental stages. This means that they are subjected to developmental delays in orphanages and the situation gets worse for them when they are placed in completely new environments and are required to start learning another language (English) altogether.
Besides experiencing language difficulties as part of culture shock, children are also subjected to a lifestyle that they are not used to and therefore by the time they adjust and begin to develop in the right course, they have recorded considerable delays in the social and emotional realms of development. Sanghavi (2010) states that children from the two nations who are adopted in the United States pose challenges to the families that adopt them because to them family love and care is a strange thing. Developmental delays in emotional and social realms are therefore prevalent and children take time to adjust.
Delays in linguistic, social and emotional dimensions also have direct impacts on cognitive development as stated by Collins (2008). For instance, Piaget`s stages of cognitive development suggest logical thinking as a progressive concept and this relies heavily on schema formation and language acquisition. Children with the aforementioned delays are highly likely to exhibit delays in cognitive development.
The above discussions lead to several recommendations for Russian and Eastern Europe. First they may need to shift from institutionalized care to foster care as the case is in US. Even though the latter still has its challenges, Collins (2008) and other earlier mentioned scholars agree that it is a better system compared to institutionalized care. Another recommendation would be better training for caretakers at Russian and Easters European orphanage caretakers. They may not understand the importance of attachment and personalized attention to children in child development. This would increase social interaction, facilitate attachment and in turn cognitive and psychosocial development as outlined by the theories.
From the above discussion, it is clear that Piaget`s and Erickson`s theories facilitate understanding of children`s developments not just in normal home environments but also in orphanages. Piaget`s theory has four cognitive developmental stages while Erickson`s theory has eight psychosocial developmental stages. A review of the two theories and an application of their sentiments to children`s developments in US, Russian and Eastern Europe orphanages reveals that orphans in US are better placed to develop as stipulated compared to those orphans in Russian and Eastern Europe orphanages. The former nation relies more on foster care while the two latter nations rely heavily on institutional care for their orphans. Children in foster care are better placed to develop as needed and are less likely to experience delays even though they still face challenges in foster care such as frequent placements as stated by Collins (2008). Orphans in Eastern Europe and Russia are placed in institutions that do not give them the much needed personalized care. The children do not receive the love that they need to develop as expected. These findings have led to the conclusion that children who are adopted from Russia at birth and are taken to the US are less likely to experience delays and to exhibit developmental problems such as violent behavior and disrespect.
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