The Psychosocial Development of Children 2-5 Years Old

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Perhaps Benjamin Franklin summarised the importance of progressive growth when he pointed out, "Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning." Similarly, the human growth and development have to be gradual, especially in childhood where age differences of just a few months can have highly significant differences in different children's behaviour and cognition. Different studies have been developed to help categorise the stages of growth and development in childhood, progressively up to adulthood. The growth and development phase between 0 - 2 years old is quite distinct from that between 2 – 5 years old and the phase between 5- 12 years old. These phases in growth constitute different psychosocial processes within the child which are also influenced by factors such as the growing environment, nutrition and hereditary factors. This paper intensively examines the psychosocial development process that occurs between the age of 2-5 years old. This discussion also includes a guide on what caretakers can do to help in this development stage and the importance of this information to nursing and midwifery practitioners in general.

The Psychosocial Process

The psychosocial process involves the psychological, physical, spiritual and mental growth in childhood which is influenced by the quality of social interactions and which also affect how the child behaves during the different growth and development stage. Several theories have been developed to explain the learning process in children such as the behavioural theory by Skinner. The behaviourist theory key concept is that children learn by observing the behaviours of other people in a social environment. Furthermore, the degree of positive or negative reinforcement influences the chances of a child learning different skills such as new language, or toilet training (Hedges and Cullen, 2012). The innatist theory develops a different narrative on how children learn and develop, with the concept that humans have access to innately preserved knowledge which guides children in learning and reinforcing new abilities such as the growth of new vocabulary or skills. Similar to the behaviourist theory, the innatist theory reinforces the importance of the socio-cultural environment in the growth and development in each development phase. In learning and understanding the psychosocial development process that occurs in different development phases, the caretaker can assess the development of children, including the social, mental, physical development to tell whether they are developing within the expected scope (Hedges and Cullen, 2012). It can also minimise the pressure in expecting too much mental or social development in children falling under or transiting between development phases.

Psychosocial Development Milestones

According to the psychosocial development, theories develop systems which help determine the psychosocial development milestones in different age groups the age of 2-5 years also known as the early childhood phase of development. In this phase, there are different patterns in thinking and behaviour that are expected to develop For one, the children at this level develop the ability to manage their emotions and develop key social interactions such as forming friendship bonds by the age of five (Carr, 2015). Furthermore, self-care skills such as toilet learning are earned during this phase and can be guided by the caregiver such as the nurse, nanny or the parent. In language development, the children are expected to have earned about 50 words which should progress to the point they can hold conversations by the age of five. However many children tend to reach different milestones irregularly, sometimes earlier or later than the norm (Enskär et al., 2015). This can be influenced by factors such as the social environment, hereditary factors, health and nutrition, and the cognitive development process (Enskär et al., 2015). Therefore, it would be fairly normal for Victoria's child, Julie is yet to fully master toilet training as she can still catch up with the others. Furthermore, presenting Julie with an opportunity to interact with caretakers and other children can help her learn new vocabulary faster due to the social interactions that ensue.

The Development Process

Parents might feel the pressure to enable the children to develop some physical skills such as toilet training as this allows the child to be more independent. However, the psychosocial development in each phase of development is gradual and occurs in different paces for different children. The caretakers must be very patient in the process as it requires a team effort, both from the caretaker/parent and the child. In the early childhood phase of growth, the child gradually learns to differentiate different sensations and be able to control their urges, but progressively (Hockenberry and Wilson, 2018). The child also develops the physical ability to go to the toilet or 'potty' (a small movable toilet for children), undress, and learn to wait long enough to finish. The guardian can help the child learn this by first earning to observe the signs such as going to sit in the 'potty' or tug their diapers. The parent/caretaker should not rush the process and should show positive attitude such as encouragement which acts as positive reinforcement. Some toilet training such as urinating while asleep might take longer to develop but by 5-6 years of age, the child can be fully toilet trained. However, some cases of night-time toilet training may take longer - past the early childhood stage, and likely to take longer for boys than girls, but finally also be managed (Potts and Mandleco, 2012).

Influence of Relationships

Different relationships have a vast influence on the psychosocial development in early childhood including the parents, peers, and the nature of socialisation. For one. Britto et al., (2017) note that the nature by which the parents raise the children, and the relationships they have with them can influence key psychosocial aspects such as self-esteem, behaviour and cognitive development. Furthermore, interacting with peers/other children in early childhood can help reinforce their emotional competencies and fosters positive experiences in psychosocial development. Social interactions with other people such as childcare practitioners and relatives can also help children improve their socialisation and language skills while issues such as illnesses can influence their emotional awareness such as empathy which boosts growth in different aspects of wellbeing (Narvaez et al., 2013). This highlights the importance of being patient and avoid rushing the training/development process as the process is gradual and occurs at different paces for different children (Hedges and Cullen, 2012).


To conclude, this paper points out that growth and development is a holistic process that includes physical, psychological and cognitive development. The human growth and development are also categorised in phases at in which children grow in different rates and learn different skills. One such stage is the age range of 2-5 years where some of the psychosocial developments that occur include the ability to manage their feelings, heightened moto developments such as toilet training and by the end of this phase, the child learns over a thousand words and can be able to hold conversations. Furthermore, factors such as mode of socialisation, cognitive growth, illness or hereditary factors can speed up or slow down the development process, but caregivers much show patient and positive reinforcement to enable the children to develop more effectively. In learning the psychosocial development phases, nurse and midwives can be able to advise parents/caregivers sound advice on how to handle different situations and also be able to take of paediatric patients more effectively.


Britto, P. R., Lye, S. J., Proulx, K., Yousafzai, A. K., Matthews, S. G., Vaivada, T., ... & MacMillan, H. (2017). Nurturing care: promoting early childhood development. The Lancet, 389(10064), 91-102.

Carr, A. (2015). The handbook of child and adolescent clinical psychology: A contextual approach. Routledge.

Enskär, K., Björk, M., Knutsson, S., Granlund, M., Darcy, L., & Huus, K. (2015). A Swedish perspective on nursing and psychosocial research in paediatric oncology: A literature review. European Journal of Oncology Nursing, 19(3), 310-317.

Hedges, H., & Cullen, J. (2012). Participatory learning theories: A framework for early childhood pedagogy. Early Child Development and Care, 182(7), 921-940.

Hockenberry, M. J., & Wilson, D. (2018). Wong's nursing care of infants and children-E-book. Elsevier Health Sciences.

Narvaez, D., Gleason, T., Wang, L., Brooks, J., Lefever, J. B., Cheng, Y., & Centers for the Prevention of Child Neglect. (2013). The evolved development niche: Longitudinal effects of caregiving practices on early childhood psychosocial development. Early childhood research quarterly, 28(4), 759-773.

Potts, N. L., & Mandleco, B. L. (2012). Pediatric nursing: Caring for children and their families. Cengage Learning.

Shonkoff, J. P., Garner, A. S., Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, & Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care. (2012). Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress. Pediatrics, 129(1), e232-e246.

October 13, 2023

Education Psychology

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