Basic knowledge of time in children

Internal cross-reference: Overview of developmental psychology
Internal cross-reference: Internet media research project Concept of time in children
Internal cross-reference: Child’s concept of time and removal from long-term care
Internal cross-reference: time as a variable, time diagrams, time series analyzes.

    Preliminary note: The basic knowledge referenced here is the status around 1982, but I have critically checked it with more recent work (see list of references, please). Due to social changes (computer, internet, electronization), it is advisable to check time-bound developmental time limit values ​​every 10 years. For this reason, I have launched the ongoing Internet media research project Time Concept in Children in a first test version with this issue.

I follow the elaborations and summaries Child and time von Schorch (original pages like original footnotes in curly <. >Parentheses):

General information on the development of the concept of time in children
"(b) Of the work related to the development of time consciousness associated with traditional developmental psychology, H. Roth’s (Child and History) study (1st ed. 1955) is probably the most important in the German-speaking world. Your direct influence on teaching practice is up to today has been preserved, which is evident both in the curriculum tasks and material arrangement and in the assumption of the close connection between time and history (cf. 3.3.).
According to Roth, time consciousness develops in several stages, of which the higher prerequisites for the emerging historical consciousness. Reflecting on time is seen as a late product of human maturity that goes through long stages of development:
The phase of the naive experience of time is characterized by the fact that the child does not abstract the moment of time from what it experiences in time. The toddler lives completely devoted to the present, but is already full of expectations of what is to come. It expresses this expectation verbally ("soon", "wait" – "not today", "tomorrow"). Overall, however, time terms are used later and then even more uncertainly than spatial terms. So the four-year-old child is z. B. is aware that it is "larger" than the three-year-old, but does not recognize that it is "older". Time determinations such as "tomorrow", "afternoon", "Tuesday", "week", "two o’clock", "year" are incorporated into children’s vocabulary as they mature, in a more or less regular (developmental) order. They are used in concrete situations long before they are used as abstract terms. They are used on the right occasion, but inaccurately (Roth 1968, 50 after Gesell 1952).
The phase of time knowledge begins with the school age. Increasing temporal <44 Development of time concepts dependent on development of spatial concepts
"(c) The development of the child’s consciousness of time is also described by maturity or phase theory based on the time vocabulary used by the child. It is unanimously pointed out that temporal order terms are only used after the development of quite differentiated spatial concepts."
"For Piaget, time and space form an inseparable whole. "Space is a snapshot of time, and time is space in motion." Physically and psychologically, time is the "coordination of movements". Time only appears with speed."

Day, week, month, year
"According to Hansen (1965, 287-288), the child best understands »day« in terms of chronological order, because the course of the day is clearly structured by the sequence of experiences from getting up to going to bed. Even "week" (especially from the beginning of school) and "year" are still somewhat content-filled terms. Children can do little with »Month« because the monthly schedule offers nothing remarkable for the experience. The correct use of temporal determinations depends on the content-related importance in the life of the child, less on the verbal instruction:
»The clarification of the time experience has to take place on ever new, important time courses for the children, for which the common life and all actions and events offer unlimited opportunities. With the "by taking" the clock and calendar are not done «(Hansen 1965, 288; see also Hansen 1959, 253)."

Development of the use of temporal order terms according to phase theory (in modification after Panl 1966, 1967, 1971): Time ordering scheme

age Schedule scheme clock Agenda scheme calendar
7th year of life Day Day
8.Lebensjahr hour week
9.Lebensjahr minute month
10.Lebensjahr second year

Noon, evening, early, day and night, the day before yesterday and the day after tomorrow
"According to the results of Paul (1966), the child in the 4th year of life correctly uses the terms “noon”, “evening” and “early” one after the other, in the 5th it connects them to the day-night circle, in the 6th it is confused "Yesterday" and "Tomorrow" no longer, in the 7th it extends the order of the days by "the day before yesterday" and "The day after tomorrow" and already highlights individual holidays and festivities of the week and year. From the 7th to the 10th year of life, it then carries out the »analytical differentiation« of the time unit »day« in hours, minutes and seconds, parallel to its »synthetic integration« into »week«, »month« and »year«, with it the shortest and longest unit of time.

The work of Aebli has shown that the development of the concept of time can be promoted through teaching and learning. These newer ones – according to Piaget, Roth and others. – Insights also led primary school to address this development support problem more systematically, as can be seen in the following curriculum overviews:

Schorch 1982, p. 103:

Schorch summarizes the status at that time with Kirchhoff (1980):

"Altogether, Kirchhoff (1980) can determine:
»In the view that the Piagetian results of the 1950s, as well as the psychological statements by Roth and Küppers, are out of date, almost all recent authors agree. , , For the time being, the problem of the age-appropriate nature of history teaching must be described as open; however, most of the evidence currently available speaks against the long-established pessimism on this issue because, as has been rightly emphasized, that "To be able to deal with" with time is not only a result of biological maturation, but also human socialization « ."

2.2.2. Time estimation and time experience

(a) A growing understanding of time vocabulary and the availability of verbal concepts of time include the emerging consciousness of duration as an important development factor in time consciousness. The idea of ​​the length of time arises, if the Time periods of different occupations are related to each other (cognitive comparison processes). This requires certain experiences, since the respective duration of the action can only be assessed one after the other. Children can bring in such experiences when assessing the length of time, if it is a matter of time comparisons (longer than. Shorter than.) Of known, self-performed or observable actions etc., the beginning and end of which are clearly recognizable. A combination of time experience and time knowledge is required if a time period is to be estimated using units of the clock and calendar time. This ability can only be expected in older children.

(b) Goldstone / Goldfarb (1966) describe studies that deal with the effects of various activities on time estimation as well as "psychophysical studies", which primarily examine the accuracy of the estimation of units of time. In particular, work relating to primary school age is hardly mentioned. From the available results It is becoming apparent that the concept of "duration" also causes difficulties for older children. The correct assessment of the duration of a second succeeds around the age of 8, and 10-year-olds often fail to estimate the duration of the school holidays. Occasionally it is found that boys estimate more accurately than girls and that higher levels of intelligence go hand in hand with greater underestimation of time spans. In general, an increase in precise estimates with age and increasing knowledge of time can be seen.

(c) In a study by Fraisse (see Nickel 1975, 177-179), significant progress in performance was recorded for estimating periods of time in school children. Children aged 6, 8 and 10 years and adults estimated time intervals of 1/2 to 20 seconds after the duration experienced in this experiment. It was found that the longer intervals were significantly underestimated, especially by the younger children. From the age of 8, there were hardly any significant age-specific differences; however, the estimates for that varied
Interval of 20 seconds significantly individual. In the short periods (1/2 and 1 sec), there were only slight differences between the age groups. According to Fraisse, this indicates that when estimating longer periods of time, intellectual factors (formation of a corresponding reference system) also play a role in addition to experience. In this area, significant developmental progress is being made in school children."

Schorch, 19082, p. 59 comes to the following summary with regard to the relevant factors for the development of the concept of time in children:

"In summary, based on available empirical findings, it can be assumed that the following factors have a significant impact on the development (expansion) of the time perspective in childhood:

  • age
  • mental age
  • gender
  • Degree of mental maturity (and health)
  • Degree of reality awareness
  • Social status and parenting style of parents
  • Current life situation of the child.

Striking (but explainable due to special methodological difficulties) is this Deficit in work that deals with the influence of measures to promote school time perspective."

Bibliography Psychology of Time and Concept of Time in Children

General biology, psychology and psychopathology of the time

  • Bünning, E. (1958). The physiological clock. Berlin: Springer.
  • Drieschel, Hans (1972). Biological rhythms. Berlin: Academy.
  • Dutke, S. (1997). Remember the duration. For the temporal reconstruction of actions and events. Lengerich: Pabst Science Publishers.
  • Fraisse, P .: Time perception and time estimation. In: Handbuch der Psychologie (Volume 1). Göttingen 1966, pp. 656-688.
  • Fraisse, P. (German 1985). Psychology of time. Conditioning, perception, control, time estimation, concept of time. Munich: Reinhardt.
  • Kasten, Helmut (2001). How the time flies. Our awareness of time in everyday life and résumé. Darmstadt: WBG.
  • Lauth, Reinhard (1981). The constitution of time in consciousness. Hamburg: Mine.
  • Ploeger, A. (1966). Experience time in an extreme situation. Investigations on the miners of Lengede, Journal of Psychotherapy and Medical Psychology, 1966, 16, 13-20
  • Pöppel, E. (1987). Time perception. Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, 1215-1216.
  • Rensing, Ludger (1973). Biological rhythms and regulation. Jena: G. Fischer.
  • Winfree, A. T .; u. a. (German 1988). Biological clocks. Time structures of the living. He >_
    Time Estimates in Forensic Psychology: (Bibliography here)
    Szewczyk et al. (1989, p. 62). Arntzen (1983 p. 61, 1993 p. 60).
    Neither Undeutsch (1967) nor Köhnken (1990) record time problems in their subject registers.


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Christina Cherry
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