Imitation - Child Development

Child Development

Developmental psychologist Jean Piaget noted that children in a developmental phase he called the sensorimotor stage (a period which lasts up to the first two years of a child) begin to imitate observed actions. This is an important stage in the development of a child because the child is beginning to think symbolically, associating behaviors with actions, thus setting the child up for the development of further symbolic thinking. Imitation also plays a crucial role in the development of cognitive and social communication behaviors, such as language, play, and joint attention. Imitation serves as both a learning and a social function because new skills and knowledge are acquired, and communication skills are improved by interacting in social and emotional exchanges. It is shown, however, that "children with autism exhibit significant deficits in imitation that are associated with impairments in other social communication skills." To help children with autism, reciprocal imitation training (RIT) is used. It is a naturalistic imitation intervention that helps teach the social benefits of imitation during play by increasing child responsiveness and by increasing imitative language.

Reinforcement learning, both positive and negative, and punishment (psychology), are used by people that children imitate to either promote or discontinue behavior. If a child imitates a certain type of behavior or action and the consequences are rewarding, the child is very likely to continue performing the same behavior or action. The behavior "has been reinforced (i.e. strengthened)." However, if the imitation is not accepted and approved by others, then the behavior will be weakened.

Naturally, children are surrounded by many different types of people that influence their actions and behaviors, including parents, family members, teachers, peers, and even characters on television programs. These different types of individuals that are observed are called models. According to Saul McLeod, "these models provide examples of masculine and feminine behavior to observe and imitate." Children imitate the behavior they have observed from others, regardless of the gender of the person and whether or not the behavior is gender appropriate. However, it has been proven that children will reproduce the behavior that "its society deems appropriate for its sex."

Read more about this topic:  Imitation

Famous quotes containing the words child and/or development:

    Perhaps it is foolish to think a child could fall in love. But I am the child that was, and nobody knows how I felt except only me.
    Philip Dunne (1908–1992)

    For the child whose impulsiveness is indulged, who retains his primitive-discharge mechanisms, is not only an ill-behaved child but a child whose intellectual development is slowed down. No matter how well he is endowed intellectually, if direct action and immediate gratification are the guiding principles of his behavior, there will be less incentive to develop the higher mental processes, to reason, to employ the imagination creatively. . . .
    Selma H. Fraiberg (20th century)