by Emily Barner
this is a developmental psychology assignment
|In American society we believe that children can not be held responsible for many of their actions because of there lack of developmental limitations. Children do not have the same thought processes as adults and there for can not make the same assumptions or conclusions. Children under the age of seven act impulsively in reaction to their situation and environment. The thought process that best explain this is Piaget’s preoperational thinking theory.
Preoperational theory basically states that children between the ages of two and six do not have logical operational thought. This means that hey do not have the capability to reason when making decisions. If a child can not reason then they can not make informed decisions based on what is best fro everyone involved. Many children act impulsively to gain or keep something in their possession. Children are egocentric and focus only on themselves with out the consideration of others. The child in the article that committed the act of violence was not considering how his actions would affect the victim, the others students, their families, himself or his family because it was beyond the realm of his development.
Another aspect of why children can not be fully held accountable for their actions is social learning. Children lean and model behaviors that they do not fully understand the consequences of. Vygotsky term guided principle states that children learn from others who influence their experiences. The child in the article would not have known what a gun was or how to use one if he had not first been exposed to it. The gun the child used belonged to a parent who should have not exposed the child to the weapon unless they were going to teach him about firearm safety and how sever injuries can be when a person is shot.
Lastly a child’s emotional and behavior development need to be taken into consideration. The article indicated that motives of the child shooter are unknown but from his actions and age there are a few things that you can assume to have a better understanding his actions. When children have difficulty expressing their emotions two things can happen they can internalize them and become withdrawn and develop a low self esteem or they can externalize their emotions and become impulsively aggressive. In the case of the little boy in the article I feel he was externalizing his anger in a way that had been modeled for him. It is clear that the act was done out of anger and the intent was to cause harm. This is a sign on antisocial behavior however an extreme example. Antisocial behavior may also be an expression of antipathy towards another person. These types of behaviors and emotions in a child so young are cause for concern. If they are already having problems at this stage in their life they may continue to as they get older and the demands of life increase.
Due to these elements of a child’s developmental limitations it seems unfair to hold tem accountable for what seem to be adult actions. Under the law to be held accountable you must know and understand the severity of your crime and the consequences of those actions. A child may only understand what they are doing but not that it is wrong, can cause harms to others or that they can and should be punished. If children are not taught right from wrong at young age and are exposed to dangerous behaviors but see that other are being rewarded for it they can not reason that in different circumstances that particular behavior is criminal.