Leading activity is a certain direction of activity performed by the child, determining the most important moments of the formation of the psyche and the development of its processes and characteristics. In the leading activity there is a transformation, restructuring of mental processes, methods of previously performed activities, personal development.
The leading activity in psychology is a category that is not necessarily the one that occupies most of the time in a child’s life, but it determines the development process of the basic required qualities and neoplasms in each period. The change of emphasis of activities occurs with age, but is not limited to strict limits, because focused on changing motivation, which changes during the activities.
Psychological age regarding this concept is considered in combination of the criteria of the social situation and the needs of the main neoplasms, the combination of these moments takes into account the leading activity. Not only the number of days a person has lived, but also the social situation reveals the child’s typical relationships with people, through which it is possible to trace the peculiarities of personal individual building of relationships with reality. The formation of new processes can be available to the child only through the performed activity, which establishes contact with them and elements of reality. In addition to this external property, the leading activity rearranges and forms new processes, which are basic for a certain age of the child.
The emergence of a new leading type does not cancel the implementation of an important activity at the previous stage; rather, it is similar to the process of transformation and development of previously performed activities to satisfy the new interest that has appeared.
Leading activity is a theory in psychology that has many followers as well as critics. Thus, it is emphasized that in spite of the fact that the activity carried out mediates the development processes, it is not clearly fixed and determined for age gaps. More than a temporary course of events, it is influenced by the level of development and orientation of social groups to which the child is included. Accordingly, the most pressing current social situation will become the leading activity. This theory is valid only within the framework of child psychology and does not extend to further existence. The concept is not advisable to use to illustrate and study the mechanisms and components of a holistic and adequate personality development, but only for one of its sides - the development of the cognitive component.
Periodization of the leading activity in child development
Periodization and differentiation of leading activity occurs on the basis of age periodization and change of psychological ages. Each such transformation occurs through the passage of a crisis transformation, where a person can get stuck or go through it quickly. The ways of overcoming are also different, for someone the change of activity occurs softly and organically, while for others it is similar to the local apocalypse. There are varieties of turning points: relationship crises (three and twelve years old), stemming from changes in social position and interaction, and worldview concept crises (one year, seven and fifteen years), confronting a person with a change in their semantic space.
Periods characterized by a specific type of leading activity are divided into:
- Infancy (2 months - 1 year): the leading type of activity is performed unconsciously, obeying the primary instincts, manifested in emotional communication with the environment.
- Early age (1–3 years) is distinguished by the predominance of the subject-instrument (manipulative) activity, which takes a social context, i.e. implies precisely the social way of mastering the subject. There are many experiments with the qualities of objects.
- Preschool age (3–7 years) - the main activity of the development of mental neoplasms is reduced to the study and interiorization of social role interpersonal interactions. It is carried out through subject-role-playing games, for understanding relationships, tasks, motives for various actions depending on the accepted social role and the subject used. Norms and rules are immediately adopted, culture and society, development of the ability to communicate with peers. So earlier, the formation of this social stratum determines the severity of changes in these parameters in the future.
- The younger school age (7 - 11 years) - the leading is the learning activity, and any is considered that allows to learn new knowledge.
- Adolescence (11 - 15 years) - there is a shift of priorities towards intimate and person-oriented communication, and if at the previous stage, communication performed a functional role for learning, now learning becomes a platform for communication.
- Youth (graduation) is characterized by educational and professional activities, where new tasks and value systems are set, and the necessary skills are honed.
The activity of any stage is multifaceted and it has a motivational and operational side. One of these components may prevail, since their development is not synchronized, and their tempo characteristics are due to the activities performed. It is noticed that there is an alternation of activity with a predominance of either a motivational or operational component. For example, if the motivational side and the emotional aspect of interaction are maximally involved in infancy, then at the next stage operational interaction with the world and its study begins to dominate. Then again there is a further change and alternation. Such alternations are always focused on advancing, creating such a gap conditions for development in the future. A high level of motivation leads the child to the conditions where he begins to feel a lack of operational skills, and then the next activity is included. At the stage of full development of operational moments of a certain period, there is a lack of motivation that does not allow you to stay at the level achieved and, accordingly, a new phase of development begins, with the prevailing motivational component. Conflict of achievement motivation and the level of opportunities present is an internal element of the launch of development.
It is important to understand that such a confrontation of the leading components does not mean the presence of only one of them; rather, their influence is inseparable, it simply changes the focus of attention from the operational side to the motivational side and back.
Leading activities at an early age
At an early age, after the motivational component is saturated with emotional communication, the subject-manipulative component is distinguished by the leading activity of the child. The main task is to learn how to interact with objects of interest, which can occur when an adult’s actions are repeated, and also when new, sometimes original, and not practical ways of using them are invented. Attempts to gain sand in a bucket are possible not with a spatula, but with a strainer, or to comb lipstick, etc. Development occurs better if the child masters as many actions as possible (usually by repeating it repeatedly) and also inventing a large number of ways to use the subject.
The more simple actions the child performs by repeating his parents, the more detailed he examines the subject, the better his personal presentation will be formed. The number of subjects should increase after one is fully studied, i.e. there is the principle of intensive and in-depth study of one subject, instead of a superficial acquaintance with many things. Often it comes down to repeating an action a huge number of times, without a final meaning (rolling a car, wiping all surfaces with a cloth, regardless of pollution, etc.). From the point of view of adults, these repetitions may be meaningless, but they stimulate the child’s thinking and the search for new solutions.
Interaction in various ways, rather than a theoretical acquaintance with the subject, allows the child to memorize it well, to make its own idea about it, to be able to pronounce its name and many other basic things. If a child simply shows a new object, calls his name and shows how to handle it, then memorizing the name is not at all, and the manipulations will be informative.
Manipulative activity is realized in domestic affairs. Allowing the kid to help in such activities as washing floors, watering flowers, cooking dinner, cutting cookies, etc., parents at the same time acquaint him with all household items, allow in an interesting way to learn how to interact with them. In addition, engaging in domestic activities as a habitual way of life will help alleviate the crisis of the three-year period, when the question of one's place in the world and social importance becomes acute.
The use of special games also helps to develop these functions, but their use should be an auxiliary tool. The development of a child in special, artificial conditions immerses him in the fictional world, and learning to interact with reality does not occur. Such children can perfectly navigate the movement of chips, but be completely helpless before tying shoelaces. So, leaving domestic affairs to the active phase of the child’s day and involving him in the process, parents give him more care than the desire to redo all the cleaning during the children's sleep.
An important rule is to accept mistakes and allow the child to admit them and learn from them. Suppose that when washing dishes the plate falls, because it is soapy and slippery, let it be the sixth broken plate, but on the seventh it will understand and everything will work out. If the parents do not understand the process, then one can meet the impatience and the removal of the child from the chosen activity. This is how the development of skills stops, the need for development is frustrated, the child’s self-esteem decreases, and motivation disappears.
Leading activity at primary school age
Entry into this age is characterized by a change in lifestyle and the development of a fundamentally new activity - learning. Having a child in school lays new theoretical knowledge and forms a social status, develops interaction with people, which determines the child’s own place in this hierarchy of interaction. In addition to fundamental changes in conditions and lifestyle, the difficulties for the child are in the physiological changes and weakening of the nervous system. In a growing organism, developmental disharmony occurs, when at this stage rapid physical growth prevails and most of the body's resources are spent on it. The problematics of the nervous system can be manifested by increased excitability, motor activity, anxiety and fatigue. There is an increase in vocabulary, perhaps inventing your own language.
In the teaching, not only the theoretical knowledge and experience of previous generations is learned, but also the systems of control, evaluation and discipline. Through educational activity, interaction with society takes place, the basic personal qualities of the child, semantic orientations, value preferences are formed.
The acquired knowledge now represents the theoretical experience gained by generations, and not the direct substantive study of the subject. The child can not change the use of the subject, the course of biological reactions, history, physical processes, but when interacting with knowledge about it, it changes itself. No other activity, except for training, does not put the object of change of the person himself. This is the development of internal qualities and processes. At this stage, the cognitive task is still determined by the teacher, the direction of attention occurs. In the next stages, the child learns to independently search for meanings and highlight the necessities.
Educational activity is manifested as self-change and the ability to notice these changes. Here begins to develop reflection, the objectivity of the assessment of their skills and needs, the compliance of existing knowledge with the task. Formed the ability to adjust their behavior with respect to social norms, and not just their own needs.
There is learning in building interpersonal relationships with representatives of various categories. Thus, interactions and friendships with peers are formed not by personal qualities of interest, but by external circumstances. School friend is the one who sits on a nearby desk or stands next to physical education. In addition to equal communication, a style of interaction with adults is being formed, which at the moment is also impersonal. The child learns to obey the hierarchy, and the relationship with the teacher is evaluated through the prism of performance.
Leading activity in adolescence
Educational activity in adolescence changes its direction and becomes more professional, with its future orientation, and not the unpromising assimilation of absolutely all knowledge. It is at this age that a change in attitude towards subjects occurs, and those that are directly related to the chosen future profession begin to be more actively studied. It is possible to attend additional courses, transfer to specialized educational institutions (specialized lyceums, colleges, technical schools).
The appearance of this specification does not yet speak of self-determination, but indicates its readiness for it, i.e. A number of areas are selected where a person is ready to try himself or the general direction of development, which will be concretized by further elections (institute, department, scientific work, specialization). But taking the first steps towards self-determination allows the formation of high indicators of theoretical thinking, social outlook, abilities for self-awareness, self-development, and reflection.
Professional self-determination cannot be defined as an instant decision. This is a process spread over time, which began several years before adolescence and will end several years after. But if at the previous stages there is familiarization with many areas of activity, which allows you to make a choice of the industry, and in the future there is a narrow specialization in the chosen direction, then it is the adolescent period that is a transitional moment and time of choice.
The older a person becomes, the more the need to make a choice puts pressure on him, all unrealistic ideas move backwards. So, the majority of those who want to become astronauts and models, assess their inclinations, skills and capabilities and make a choice based on real prerequisites, rather than an image taken from a magazine. In addition to external factors that stimulate early self-determination, this is facilitated by the internal processes of the individual, which are reduced to the motivational need to take the position of an adult in society. The need for self-realization comes to the fore and is becoming more urgent than ever. All the accumulated experience and personal development obtained at this stage has already taken place the application of forces and can be aimed at the realization of a dream and gaining independence.
Acceptance of responsibility and readiness to be responsible for one’s own life, to make choices and to contribute to the development of society matures in the youthful period of development. On how conscious professional self-justification will be, the further life course of the individual and possible success depend. In many ways, the problem of professional choice becomes a problem of life and space, the implementation of not only professional but also personal. Such a burden of responsibility and the seriousness of the decision makes a person face a new development crisis, which affects almost all manifestations and can have a long and pathological course. Breakdowns and negative consequences are especially likely if the tasks of the previous stages were not fully understood.
There is also a further periodization of the ages and peculiarities of the psyche, which is also accompanied by personality crises. The time intervals at the same time become longer, due to the absence of the need for knowledge of the world, as well as a slowdown in physiological and psychological processes.