Parents and Peers in Children’s Lives


In this course, we will study the psychological growth of the child from birth through adolescence, focusing especially on the social lives of children. We will begin by reading about some of the major theories that have shaped our thinking concerning children, including psychoanalytic (Freud and Erikson), behaviorist (Skinner), and cognitive-developmental (Piaget). We will apply those theories to the “real world” of children’s lives, examining the key issues of parent-child relations and children’s friendships. Our study of parent-child relations will include the question of what makes a “good” parent (known as “parenting styles”), as well as the effects of divorce, single parenting, and step parenting on the subsequent development of children. Our investigation of children’s friendships will include the exploration of its key functions for children’s psychological well-being, the difficulties for children without friends, and the power of the peer group to shape a child’s sense of self. Conference work may include direct experience with children, including fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or other venues.