As the title would suggest on a cursory look, Thomas Keenan presents and insightful yet very interesting discussion of developmental psychology as it relates to children. The merit of the book is that it is mainly addressed to those just coming into contact with the complex subject of child development. The present paper tries to make a focused report of the issues discussed in Keenan’s book.
To begin with, it should be noted that Keenan’s book is very concise in its coverage spanning exactly 250 pages in length. This is not unexpected given the fact that the book is only introductory in nature. A longer book may not bring the salient, but normally complex, issues of
child development to the fore. Kenyan therefore accomplishes an important feat by managing to fit the issues within this comparatively small book.
Given its brevity, one would expect that the book has omitted some very important aspects of the relevant issues. The facts on the ground
however supports a rather contrary view. Not only has the book managed to condense the difficult issues within its store. It has also managed to obtain a level of simplicity that one would not expect in such quality work.
At the beginning, the book offers an introduction to the various principles that underlie child development. For instance, there is the mention as well as the discussion of issues touching on a whole variety of meanings that could be attached to the phrase development. In trying to come up with a more plausible conceptualisation, the book highlights some of the definitions that have been attempted in the past. This approach is characteristic of most academic writings.
An author must first review what others have written before. It is only after doing this the author may decide to endorse those writings or come up with a new definition. Alternatively, an author may decide to offer new insights into the definitions that have already been given. In fact it is
this approach that Keenan’s book has taken. Such an approach befits the title of an introductory book as the audience is merely introduced to what already is.
Introducing complexities in an introductory text may have the unlikely consequence of complicating issues for the beginner. Keenan’s book can therefore be said to score several points on this issue. The second chapter of the book is dedicated to a discussion of the principles of development psychology. Here, the book delves into some of the factors that have been shown over the years to influence the development of children. Of particular interest is the presentation on the role of the environment in shaping how a child develops.
The general position, which the book adopts, is that the environment indeed has a role in charting the way a child develops. The exact manner in which this comes about is however affected by a number of other factors. For instance, the way in which a child is brought up may serve to modify the effect of the environment on his or her development. This brings up the issue of the nature nurture debate where it is yet to be settled as to the exact manner in which these two factors relate in shaping a child’s development.
On the one said stands those who have given much weight to the role played by the environment. Others however contend that there is very little role, if any, that the environment plays any role in determining the course of a child’s development. The book is particularly helpful in helping the beginner comprehend this debate. Illustrations such as the United Kingdom’s (UK) adoption of Romanian children are presented to illustrate that the
environment actually has a role. At the time of their taking to the U.K, the respective children suffered from a number of developmental setbacks. For instance, they were noted to be comparatively underweight.
Their cognitive abilities were also noted ton be lower as looked against that of their comparators. These differences were possibly the consequences of the poor Romanian environment in which these adoptees were taken from. Keenan also discusses the now refuted theory by Watson that development trajectory is merely determined as a fact of nature.
This may presuppose that certain groups of people are naturally bound to be better than others as a direct result of nature rather than any other thing. This theory has since been discredited as advancing a view unsupported by modern research. Having set the stage in the first three chapters, the book moves on to discuss what it refers to as ‘the most important aspects of development psychology.’ It however notes that what its sets out to discuss should not be taken as a complete picture of what actually needs to be discussed.
In so doing, the author recognises that there are limitations in his discussion. An example of those aspects that the book considers to be very important relates to the biological aspects of development. In conclusion, one can therefore say that Keenan’s book is a real masterpiece in introducing beginners to the complex field of child development psychology.
Keenan, T. (2002).An Introduction to Child Development.London: SAGE.