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Chapter 1

FRHD 2270 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Tabula Rasa, Psychodynamics, American Psychological Association

Family Relations and Human Development
Course Code
FRHD 2270
Robyn Pitman

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Chapter 1
The Science of Development
Historical Views of Children and Childhood
Plato and Aristotle believed that schools and parents had a responsibility for teaching children self-
control that would make them effective citizens, and worried too much discipline would stifle children’s
initiative and individuality
Plato believed experience could not be a source of knowledge because humans are to fallible argued
humans are born with innate knowledge of many concrete objects (such as animals and people), as well
as knowledge of abstractions (such as courage, love, goodness)
o Children’s sensory experiences simply trigger knowledge that they have had since birth, no
learning necessary
Aristotle denied the existence of innate knowledge, believing instead knowledge is rooted in perceptual
experience. Children acquired knowledge piece by piece, based on the information provided by their
senses. Likened the child’s mind like a blank slate
During the age of enlightenment, these same contrasted ideas arose again between Locke and Rousseau
Locke asserted that the human infant is a tabula rasa-a blank slate, and claimed that experience molds
the infant, child, adolescent into a unique individual
o Believed parents should instruct, reward, and discipline young children, gradually relaxing their
authority as the children grow.
Rousseau believed that newborns are endowed with an innate sense of justice and morality that unfolds
naturally as they grow.
o Argued parents should be responsive, and encouraged them to be perceptive to their children’s
Origins of a New Science
The push towards child development as a science came as part of the role children played during the
transformation during the industrial revolution. For much of history, from the age of 5-7 children
entered into the labour field helping mend crops and such. When the revolution set, children followed
their families into the factory work and often were killed on the job. Reformers got pissed and decided
to fight against this and enact a legislation limiting children in the workplace and created mandatory
schooling- thus the beginning of the idea of childhood.
Darwin’s theory of evolution also impacted the origin of the science of development, his theory argued
that individuals within a species differ; some individuals are better adapted to a particular environment,
making them more likely to live and pass on their genes.
o These descriptions of evolutionary changes prompted many scientists to begin making baby
diaries- detailed, systematic observation of children. This paved way for objective, analytic
G Stanley Hall took the lead on this new science and generated theories of development based on
evolutionary theory and conducted studies to determine age trends in beliefs and feelings about a range
of topics.
o He also founded the first English-language scientific journal in which scientists could publish
findings on child-development research
o He also founded a child study institute and became president of the American Psychological
Applied Development Science: uses developmental research to promote healthy development, particularly for
vulnerable children and families
Foundational Theories of Child Development
Theory- is an organized set of ideas that is designed to explain and make predictions about development
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The earliest developmental theories were useful in generating research, and findings from this research
led child development scientists to new, improved, or different theories.
Some theories share assumptions and ideas about children and development, grouped together they
create five major theoretical perspectives in child development: the biological, psychodynamic, learning,
cognitive-developmental, and contextual perspectives.
The Biological Perspective
According to the biological perspective, intellectual and personality development, as well as physical
and motor development, are rooted in biology.
Maturation theory- child development reflects a specific and prearranged scheme or plan with the body,
experience matters little
This theory was one of the first biological theories proposed by Arnold Gessel, who proposed parents
let their children develop naturally
Believed that without interference, behaviors such as speech, play, and reasoning would emerge
spontaneously according to a predetermined time table
This theory was eventually discarded because it had little to say about the impact of environment in
Ethological theory-views development from an evolutionary perspective, where many behaviors are adaptive
and have survival value
Ex. clinging, grasping, crying are adaptive because they elicit care from adults
Ethological theorists believe individuals inherit these adaptive behaviors, but we are programed in such
a way that learning can only occur at certain stages
Critical period- in development is a time when a specific type of learning can take place; before or after this
period the same learning is difficult or even impossible.
Imprinting-creating an emotional bond with the mother. Even though the underlying mechanism is biological,
experience is essential for triggering the programed, adaptive behavior
The Psychodynamic Perspective
The psychodynamic perspective is the oldest scientific perspective on development, originating with the
work of Sigmund Freud
Freud was convinced that the early experiences in life establish patterns that endure a lifetime
Psychodynamic theory- holds that development is largely determined by how well people resolve certain
conflicts at different ages
The role of conflict is evident in Freud descriptions of the three primary components of an individual’s
personality: id, ego, and superego
Id- is a reservoir of primitive instincts and drives. Present at birth, the Id presses for immediate gratification of
bodily needs and wants. Ex. a crying baby
Ego-is the practical, rational component of personality. The ego begins to emerge in the first year of life when
the infants learn they can’t always have what they want. The ego tries to resolve conflicts that occur when the
instinctive desires if the id encounter the obstacles of the real world, often trying to channels the id’s impulsive
desires into more socially acceptable channels.
Superego- is the “moral agent” in the child’s personality. It emerges during the preschool years as the child
begins to internalize adult standards of right and wrong.
Freud believed development was structured in psychosexual stages, and we all go through five stages of
development, each focused on a different part of development.
Despite his shortcoming’s, Freud’s insights have had a lasting impact on child-development research
and theory
o His conclusion that early experiences can have enduring effects on children’s development
o The idea that children often experience conflict between what they want to do and what they
should do
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