PSYC 2450 Lecture Notes - Developmental Psychology, Psychosexual Development, Cognitive Psychology
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CH 2 -Theories of Human Development
Nature of Scientific Theories
- scientific theory is nothing more than a set of concepts and propositions that describe, organize, and explain a set of
- theories are of critical importance to the developmental sciences, each of them provides us w/ lens through
which we can interpret any number of specific observations about developing individuals.
- characteristics of a good theory?
-should be concise, or parsimonious, yet be able to explain broad range of phenomena.
-theory w/ few principles that accounts for large number of empirical observations far more useful
than one which requires many more principles and assumptions to explain the same number of
- good theories are falsifiable : capable of making explicit predictions about future events so that the theory can
be supported or disconfirmed.
- they are heuristic- build on existing knowledge by continuing to generate testable hypotheses that, if confirmed
by future research, will lead to a much richer understanding of the phenomena of interest
- good theories survive because they continue to generate new knowledge, which may have practical implications
that truly benefit humanity
Questions and Controversies about Human Development
The Nature/Nurture Issue
- middle ground endorsed by many contemporary researchers who believe relative contributions of nature and nurture depend
on aspect of development in question
- stress that all complex human attributes ex intelligence, temperament, and personality are end products of a long and
involved interplay between biological predispositions and environmental forces
- think less about nature versus nurture , more about how two sets of influences combine or interact to produce
The Active/Passive Issue
- Are children curious active creatures who largely determine how agents of society treat them? Or are they passive souls on
whom society fixes its stamp?
- If we could show children are extremely malleable- at the mercy of those who raise them- perhaps individuals who
turned out to be less than productive would be justified in suing their overseers for poor parenting
- active/ passive theme goes beyond considering child's conscious choices and behaviours.
-developmentalists consider a child active in development whenever any aspect of child has an effect on the
environment the child is experiencing
-ex preteen girl goes through biological changes of puberty earlier than most of her classmates and friends
did not choose this event.
-fact she appears so much more mature than her peers is likely to have dramatic effects on ways others treat
her and the environment she experiences in general
- debates in Canada about who is financially responsible for acts of vandalism perpetrated by children echo
the theoretical active/passive debates.
- Some argued parents should pay restitution , assumption is parents have "control" and
responsible for their child's behaviour.
-Others argue : child acts independently and responsible for his or her own actions
The Continuity/Discontinuity Issue
- are the changes we experience occur very gradually or rather abrupt?
- continuity theorists who view human development as an additive process that occurs gradually and
continuously, w/o sudden changes.
- discontinuity theorists, Robbie Case describe road to maturity as a series of abrupt changes, each of which elevates
child to new and presumably more advanced level of functioning.
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- second aspect of the continuity I discontinuity issue centres on whether developmental changes are quantitative or qualitative in
-Quantitative changes : changes in degree or amount.
-ex children grow taller , run a little faster with each passing year; acquire more knowledge about the
world around them.
- Qualitative changes : changes in form or kind-changes that make individual fundamentally different in some
way than he or she was earlier.
- adolescent who is sexually mature may be fundamentally different from a classmate who has yet to
- Continuity theorists: think developmental changes basically quantitative in nature; discontinuity theorists tend to
portray development as sequence of qualitative changes.
-Discontinuity theorists claim we progress through developmental stages, each of which is distinct phase of life
characterized by particular set of abilities, emotions, motives, or behaviours that form a coherent pattern.
- Some Pacific and Eastern cultures, have words for infant qualities never used to describe adults, and adult terms such as
intelligent or angry are never used to characterize infants
- view personality development as discontinuous, infants regarded so fundamentally different from adults they
cannot be judged on the same personality dimensions
- North Americans and Northern Europeans inclined to assume personality development is continuous ; search for seeds of adult
personality in babies' temperament
The Holistic Nature of Development Theme
- extent to which development is a holistic process vs segmented, separate process
- different aspects of human development, such as cognition, personality, social development, biological
development, interrelated and influence each other as child matures.
- Some take more segmented approach, scientists limiting themselves to one area of development , attempting
to study that development in isolation from influences from other areas
- Others adopt a more holistic perspective, believing all areas of development interdependent , one cannot truly
understand developmental change in one area w/o least passing knowledge of what is happening in other areas
of the child's life
The Psychoanalytic Viewpoint
Freud's Psychosexual Theory
- psychosexual theory Freud's theory that states maturation of sex instinct underlies stages of personality
development, manner in which parents manage children's instinctual impulses determines traits children display
- relied heavily on such methods as hypnosis free association dream analysis: gave some indication of unconscious motives
patients had repressed
- unconscious motives- Freud's term for feelings, experiences, and conflicts that influence a person's thinking
and behaviour, but lie outside person's awareness.
- repression a type of motivated forgetting in which anxiety-provoking thoughts and conflicts are forced out of
-instinct an inborn biological force that motivates a particular response or class of responses.
- analyzing motives and events that caused repression, concluded human development is confliction process:
-biological creatures, we have basic sexual and aggressive instincts that must be served
- society dictates t many of these drives are undesirable , must be restrained
-* ways which parents manage these sexual and aggressive urges in first few years of child's life play major r
role in shaping children's conduct and character.
Three Components of Personality
- id, ego, and superego- develop and gradually become integrated in series of five developmental psychosexual stages.
- id : present at birth., its sole function : satisfy inborn biological instincts, will try to do so immediately
-young infants simply fuss and cry until their needs are met, not known for their patience.
- ego: reflects child's emerging abilities to perceive, learn, remember, and reason.
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- function : find realistic means of gratifying instincts,
- As egos mature, children become better at controlling irrational ids , finding realistic ways to gratify
- superego: seat of the conscience
- develops b/w 3 and6 as children internalize (take on as their own) moral values and standards of their
- Once superego emerges, do not need an adult to tell them they have been good or bad.
-now aware of their own transgressions ,will feel guilty or ashamed of their unethical conduct
- insists that ego find socially acceptable outlets for id's undesirable impulses
- id communicates basic needs, ego restrains impulsive id to find realistic methods of satisfying these
needs, superego decides whether ego's problem-solving strategies are morally acceptable
Stages of Psychological Development
- Freud : sex was most important instinct , discovered his patients' mental disturbances often revolved around childhood sexual
conflicts they had repressed
-believed as the sex instinct matured, its focus shifted from one part of body to another, each shift brought on a
new stage of psychosexual development
- believed parents permitting either too much or too little gratification of sexual needs would cause child to become
obsessed w/ whatever activity was strongly encouraged or discouraged.
- child might fixate on that activity (display arrested development) and retain some aspect of it
- important implication for developmental psychology : Freud's claim early childhood experiences and conflicts heavily influence
our adult interests, activities, and personalities
Contributions and Criticisms of Freud's Theory
- Few developmentalists today are strong proponents of Freud's theory.
-not much evidence any of early oral, anal, and genital conflicts Freud stressed reliably predict adult personality
- Freud's theory based on recollections of relatively small number of emotionally disturbed adults whose
experiences may not apply to most people.
- should not reject all of Freud's ideas simply because some are outlandish.
- greatest contribution was his concept of unconscious motivation.
- psychology emerged in mid-19th century, investigators focused on isolated aspects of conscious experience, ex
sensory processes and perceptual illusions.
- Freud proclaimed vast majority of psychic experience lay below level of conscious awareness
- deserves credit for focusing attention on influence of early experience on later development.
- most developmentalists agree: some early experiences do have lasting effects.
- Freud instigated study of emotional side of human development- loves, fears, anxieties, and other powerful emotions
that play important roles
- aspects of life overlooked by developmentalists who tend to concentrate on observable behaviours or
on rational thought processes
Erikson's Theory of Psychosocial Development
Comparing Erikson with Freud
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