Child Development: Analysis and Synthesis by Joseph H. Di Leo: Book Report

This report is premised on the book dubbed Child Development, written by Joseph, H. Leo. The book has been published by the psychological press and is copyrighted 1996.

Introduction of the author

The book dubbed Child Development was written by Joseph Di Leo. The author was an internationally renowned pediatrician well-versed to write on the subject of child development. As a director at the New York Foundling Hospital’s Developmental Clinic, he studies many children (Saxon, 1994, par. 2). In addition, the author was able to carry out various tests on their maturity and physical development.


This particular book on the subject of child development is very interesting and informative. Most people would think that the book is like any other psychological books that talk about child development. However, after reading this book, I discovered that this was not true. The way the author speaks on child development depicts that he has studied and researched the subject very well (Saxon, 1994, par.2).

In the first chapter, the author depicts the world of childhood as seen by adults. In part two, the author writes on the world as seen through children’s eyes. In this part, the author looks into the way children speak to children and how we speak to them.

It is possible that the author wrote this book to extensively investigate the issue of child development. He did this to assist us to understand children better, especially the people working with children.

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Body of the Review

The book has been able to depict all the developmental stages and issues that occur during child development. Written in the fiscal year 1996, Leo attempts to explain and analyze the child development process in a language that is easy to explain and understand (Gottlieb 2002, 88). Child development can be both the emotional, psychological or biological transformations that take place in a person’s life from birth to the adolescent stage. This means that the person moves from a state of being dependent to a stage where they can control their own lives with no one’s assistance. Leo argues that because these developmental stages have the ability to influence the genetic occurrences and factors in the prenatal life, prenatal and genetic development may be included as an element of the study of the development of children. Leo argues that during the early stages of the child’s life, a parent is a critical part of it. Therefore, it is imperative that they provide support, encouragement and any other thing that would be significant in the development of their child.

In the first chapter, Leo argues on how development is a process that goes on for a long period of time. This can be applied in both psychological and biological aspects of any person’s life. Leo identifies that despite the fact that there are physical aspects there can also be patterns of growth. For instance, the author shows how the brain takes an early lead in development, leaving the maturation of the genitals to remain behind. The growth of such a baby would take place whenever a child becomes an adult (Di Leo, 1996, p. 6). Leo argues that the child requires both quantitative and qualitative changes. This will assist them to grow into maturity. This means that the child is not an adult who is miniature. The author further looks into the developmental stages of child development. Normally, child development occurs stage by stage and in the sequence that takes place orderly. Despite the fact that there are variations that are seen in people, these developments have no ability to change the inherent DNA. The DNA has only 46 chromosomes, and this distinguishes it from the other life forms. According to Leo, developmental change may take place as a consequence of various processes that are genetically controlled. These processes are known as maturation. Furthermore, the developmental transformations may occur as a result of learning and various environmental factors. In most cases, developmental changes take place as a result of the interaction between the two factors. The process may also occur as a consequence of the nature of people, and how fast individuals can learn from their surroundings. Most humans are formed with the capability of being able to learn from their environment. According to Leo, this is what child development entails.

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The book illustrates various stages of child development. For instance, the author shows us that from the birth to the first month, most babies develop some of their sensory capabilities. In addition, they can be able to smell, taste, hear, perceive pain and temperature and see. At the age of two years, the child’s movement is normally geared towards accompanying a range of emotional reactions. This is normally carried out while maintaining a movement that is auto-erotic and bouncy. This is reactivated in behaviors that are regressive or in other sexual activities. In the third year, Leo argues that the motor urge drive is strong. Furthermore, the feelings of gratification and skilled movements strengthen each other (Leo, 1996, p. 24). The cortex by this time attempts to establish control over the action system. The author argues that the intensification of activity may be perceived in new-born babies whenever their heads are held. During the first months, the child attends to either auditory stimuli or visuals that are non-startling. This reduces activity that can be seen during these periods. The child is normally filled with excitements that are joyous. This is as a result of responding to the social stimuli around them. This is depicted by various rhythmic activities of the baby’s arms and legs.

After the first six months, the author argues that the babies develop their reaction to new occurrences and people who are strangers. In case the stranger does not depict a mother figure character that is reassuring, the baby’s diminution activity occurs. In times where a maternal object is present, the child will replace their hesitation with turning around to see the person carrying them (Di Leo, 1996, p. 10). In case the objectified person is absent, then Leo argues that the child will freeze. Whenever the child is presented with an object that is attractive, their hands normally go out but will stop in a mid way This is because of the conflicting drives on the inside that make him become frozen or blocked. The child may remain in this place for a very long period and may only move his eyes. Normally, the child may rove his eyes to alert to the dangers that may arise from circumstances that may be very unfamiliar.


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The author argues that the child develops his intellectual or cognitive abilities, too. The young child is formed with the ability to learn, recall, solve challenges and be able to symbolize information. The child has the capacity to be able to carry out various tasks like recognizing small objects and differentiating between inanimate and animate beings. In the childhood period, the speed required in the processing of information and learning increases (Di Leo, 1996, p. 35). In addition, the child’s memory becomes longer, and the abstraction ability can be reached by teenagers. The cognitive development in childhood has both genetic and biological mechanisms. The author argues that environmental factors like nutrition and food can be instrumental in the developments of the child’s brain. Furthermore, things like love, daily experiences and any physical activities can develop the child’s brain. Leo argues that despite the fact that most people assume that the brain carries out normal functions researchers have not been able to measure various brain changes and illustrate how the changes result in cognitive change. In the ages where cognitive abilities have been able to develop, there are various individual differences that can be depicted.

The author looks into the social and emotional development of a child. Most newborn babies lack the experience of living in panic or having to choose their preference for certain people’s contacts. During the first few months, the author argues that the child has the ability to experience anger, happiness and sadness. It is said that a baby’s first smile normally comes at the age of six to ten weeks. Leo calls this smile a social smile as it normally comes as a result of various social interactions. During the 8th to 12th months, these children experience a very great change that makes them become fearful in cases where there are perceived threats (Di Leo, 1996, p. 28). Most children during this stage may also prefer hanging around people with familiar faces. When they are around strange faces, these children show distress and anxiety. In the preschool period, most children start learning and comprehending various social rules and this goes on till the adult stage of development. In this development, cultural issues may arise in explaining population differences. For instance, in most communities, boys were never allowed to shed tears. Consequently, this results to different customs and behavior.

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The author has been able to talk about language, too. In language development, there are various stages. This may comprise of all types of communication like facial expressions, yelling, gestures and crying. The author argues that writing and speech are the most highly developed symbolic type of social media. This can be employed for the transmission of culture from one point to another. The author argues that speech is one of the forms of immediate interpersonal exchange that is efficient (Di Leo, 1996, p. 43). The development of language and speech relies mostly on the capability of the person to comprehend and hear. The author defines this as the most primitive form of interaction that may occur between the baby and the provider. In most cases, language is dictated by the surroundings. The author argues that language follows an orderly progression, too. However, because of the interpersonal relationships that the child may choose to have, the process may prove to be complicated. The language spoken by the child is in most cases that which has been heard and comprehended. Language develops into three stages: mainly inner, receptive and expressive language. This process normally depends on the age of the child. However, Leo argues that the sequence never changes. The child has the ability to think and behave in a meaningful way. This is in most cases before the child is able to get words that symbolize behavior and objects (Di Leo, 1996, p. 45). The development of a language that can be expressed ensures that there is a reciprocal interaction that exists between symbols and thoughts. The author argues that a child that is not mentally retarded, not environmentally disturbed and does not have a brain damage may start smiling by six weeks.


This book is very beneficial in the study of child development. It gives more insight on child development as the author has carefully researched the subject matter. When I received the book, I approached it the way most students do when they have a book report to write. However, as I began to read the book, I realized that the book was important as I clearly understood child development. The book was exactly what one could expect from an internationally renowned pediatrician. It was intelligently written and very informative indeed.


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