Psychology of Exceptional Children

Subject: Mental Health
Type: Admission Essay
Pages: 2
Word count: 590
Topics: Childhood


Used to refer to children with a certain “out-of-normal” attribute, the phrase exceptional children is used to connote a difference in the physical and mental abilities of some children. These differences often mean that the children affected will, in order to fully reach their potentials, need to have individualized care in terms of school work and home life. The process of development of exceptional children can be explained through certain developmental theories as listed here-below.

Cognitive Development Theory

Jean Piaget, in advancing this theory noted that human beings interact with and understand d the world based on thought processes. In this manner, exceptional children can be said to interact with the world differently than other normal children as they have different thought processes.  Going by the steps of intellectual development developed by Piaget as Bjorklund & Causey (2017) outline, children with less than normal cognitive abilities are those that pass through the stages slower than their peers. Normal children pass through these stages with many of their peers while the more than normal children tend to pass through these stages rather too quickly.

Psychosocial Development Theory

Advanced by Erik Erikson, this theory holds that growth and development in humans results from social interactions and conflicts that arise from them, Horowitz (2014) points out. In the case of exceptional children, more so those that intellectually exceptional, it is clear that these social interactions provide them with the ability to process and synthesize information exceptionally well. Going by the position advanced by Erikson, exceptional children (those with intellectual exception) clearly deal with developmental crisis amicably and therefore such conflicts do not impact their functioning later on in life. On the other hand, those children that are emotionally disturbed tend to be the ones that did not adequately deal with (or were helped to deal with) developmental crisis and therefore their mental growth and development is impacted.

Behavioral Child Development Theory

Advanced by a number of scholars among them B. F Skinner and J. B Watson, this theory dwells on human behavior. Going by the position of Skinner as Horowitz (2014s) underlines, learning among humans occurs through association and reinforcement. For children with exceptional abilities, it is the processes of association and reinforcement that were not adequately dealt with. For children with abilities beyond those of their age mates, it is likely that their behaviors, actions and attempts were overly reinforced, while the opposite applies for children with fewer abilities than their peers. In this manner, as Skinner (2014) observes, it is the environment in which children grow that influences the behavior and ability they will have.

Attachment Theory

Advanced by John Bowlby, this theory is premised on the assumptions that early development with caregivers plays a critical role in the development of a child’s sensory, motor and cognitive abilities. By his supposition as Ein-Dor & Hirschberger (2016, p. 226) note, children are born with the need to form attachments (characterized by patterns of behavior and motivation); as such children with less than normal abilities are those who could not wean off the caregivers’ attachment in time like normal children did. On the other hand, more than normal children are those that weaned off from such attachment early than normal children did.


Exceptional children tend to portray remarkably different abilities from other children. These abilities results from factors that attend the child’s development process, and can be explained using development theories as outlined here-above with each theory linking the exceptional abilities of children to a given cause.


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  1. Bjorklund, D. F., & Causey, K. B. (2017). Children’s Thinking: Cognitive Development and Individual Differences. SAGE Publications
  2. Ein-Dor, T., & Hirschberger, G. (2016). Rethinking Attachment Theory: From a Theory of Relationships to a Theory of Individual and Group Survival. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25 (4), 223-227.
  3. Horowitz, F.D. (2014). Exploring Developmental Theories: Toward a Structural/Behavioral Model of Development. Psychology Press.
  4. Skinner, B. F. (2014). Contingencies of Reinforcement: A Theoretical Analysis (Vol. 3). B. F Skinner Foundation.
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