CH 2 -Theories of Human Development
Nature of Scientific Theories
- scientifitheory 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 outtobe 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 acindevelopment 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 ltohave 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.
- second aspect of the continuity I discontinuity issue centres on whether developmental changes are quantitative or
qualitative in nature.
-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
intelligeor 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.
- repressin atype 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.
- 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
- differed from Freud in two important respects.
-1stressed that children areactive,curious explorers who seek toadapt to their environments, rather than passive
slaves tobiological urges who are moulded by their parents.
- labelled an "ego" psychologist , believed each stage of life, people must cope with social realities(in
ego function) in order to adapt successfully and display normal pattern of development.
-2) places much less emphasis on sexual urges , far more emphasis on cultural influences than Freud
-Erikson's thinking shaped by his own varied experiences.
-Having observed many similarities and differences in development across diverse social groups,
hardly surprising Erikson emphasized socialand culturalaspects of development in his
- psychosocial theory Erikson's revision of Freud's theory, emphasizes sociocultural (rather than
sexual) determinants of development , posits series of eight psychosocial conflicts people
must resolve successfully to display healthy psychological adjustments
Eight Life Crises
- believed people face eight major crises or conflicts, labelled psychosocial stages, during their lives.
-Each conflict emerges at distinct time dictated by both biological maturation and social demands developing
people experience at particular points in life.
- Each crisis must be resolved successfully to prepare for a satisfactory resolution of next life crisis. describes.
-Notice : Erikson's developmental stages do not end at adolescence or young adulthood as Freud's do.
-believed problems of adolescents and young adults very different from those faced by parents raising
children or by elderly grappling with retirement, sense of uselessness, and end of their lives.
-Most contemporary developmentalists agree
Contributions and Criticisms of Erikson's Theory
- Many prefer Erikson's theory they do not believe people are dominated by sexual instincts.
-it stresses our rational, adaptive nature, much easier to accept
- emphasizes many of the social conflicts and personal dilemmas people may remember, currently experiencing,
or easily anticipate or observe in others they know.
- the other hand, Erikson's theory can criticized for being vague about causesof development.
-What kinds of experiences must people have in order to successfully resolve various conflicts?
- How does outcome of one psychosocial stage influence personality at later stage?
-not very explicit about these issues.
- theory is realldescriptiveoverview of human social and emotional development that does not adequately
explainhow or why this development takes place. Psychoanalytic Theory Today
- Karen Horney (1967) challenged Freud's ideas about sex differences in development
-now widely credited as founder of discipline psychology of women.
-Alfred Adler (1929/1964)among first to suggestsiblings(and sibling rivalries) important contributors to social
and personality development
-Harry Stack Sullivan(1953) wrote extensively about how close, same-sex friendships during middle childhood
set stage for intimate love relationships later in life
- all theorists place much more emphasis on sociainfluences on development , much less emphasis on the role of
- contemporary developmentalists largely rejected psychoanalytic perspective; propositions very difficult to either falsify
- example, wanted to test basic Freudian hypothesis that "healthy" personality is one which id, ego, and superego
roughly equal in strength. How could we do it?
- many psychoanalytic hypotheses : untestable by any method other than interview or clinical approach
- these techniques time consuming, expensive, among the least objective of all methods used to study
- other theories seem more compelling. One perspective favoured by many : learning approach
The Learning Viewpoint
behaviourism: school of thinking in psychology , holds conclusions about human development should be based on
controlled observations of overt behaviour rather than speculation about unconscious motives or unobservable
phenomena; philosophical underpinning for the early theories of learning
- habits : well-learned associations b/w stimuli and responses that represent stable aspects of one's personality
- Watson believed well-learned associations b/w external stimuli and observable responses (called habits) are building
blocks of human development.
-Like John Locke, viewed infant as tabula rasa (blank slate). -Children have no inborn tendencies; they depends entirely on their rearing environments and ways which their
parents and other significant people treat them
- to this perspective , children do not progress distinct stages dictated by biological maturation,
-development viewed as continuous process of behavioural change shaped by a person's unique
environment and may differ dramatically from person to person.
- set out to demonstrate infants fears and other emotional reactions are acquired rather than inborn.
- presented rat to a 9-month-old named Albert.
-Albert's initial reactions positive;
-two monthslater, Watson attempted to instill a fear response ; Every time Albert reached for white
rat, Watson would slip behind him and bang a steel rod with a hammer- produced fear response.
- belief: children shaped by environments, carried a stern message for parents: They were largely responsible for what
their children would become.
- should begin totrain children at birth , cut back on coddling if they hoped to instil good habits.
Skinner's Operant Learning Theory (Radical Behaviourism)
- Skinner (1953) proposed form of learning believed basis for most habits.
-argued: both animals and humans repeat acts that lead to favourable outcomes, suppress those that lead to
-rat that presses bar , receives tasty food pellet apt to perform response again.
-language of Skinner's theory, freely emitted bar-pressing response = operant,
-food pellet that strengthens response (making it more probable in future) =reinforcer.
- Applied to children, young girl may form long-term habit of showing compassion toward
distressed playmates if parents consistently reinforce her kindly behaviour w/ praise
- teenage boy may become more studious if efforts rewarded by higher grades.
-Punishers,= consequences that suppress response and decrease likelihood it will recur.
-If rat that had been reinforced for bar pressing suddenly given painful shock each time it
pressed the bar, "bar pressing" habit would begin to disappear.
-Applied to children, teenage girl grounded every time she stays out beyond curfew apt to
begin coming home on time.
- believed : habits develop as result of operant learning experiences.
-One boy's aggressive behaviour may increase over time as playmates "give in" to (reinforce) forceful tactics.
-Another may become relatively nonaggressive as playmates actively suppress (punish) aggressiveness by
-two boys may develop in entirely different directions based on their different histories of reinforcement and
-According to Skinner, no "aggressive stage" in child development nor "aggressive instinct" in people.
-claimed majority of habits children acquire- very responses that comprise unique "personalities"-are
freely emitted operants shaped by their consequences
- operant learning theory claims : development depends on external stimuli (reinforcers and punishers) rather
than internal forces such as instincts, drives, or biological maturation
- developmentalists agree: behaviour can take many forms that habits can emerge and disappear over lifetime, depending
on whether they have positive or negative consequences
-many believe Skinner placed far too much emphasis on operant behaviours shaped by external stimuli
(reinforcers and punishers), ignoring important cognitive contributors to social learning.
- reinforcer - any desirable consequence of an act that increases the probability that the act will recur
- punisher -any consequence of an act that suppresses that act and/or decreases the probability that it will recur
- operant learning- form of learning , voluntary acts (or operants) become either more or less probable, depending on
consequences they produce
Bandura's Cognitive Social Learning Theory
- agrees w/ Skinner operant conditioning is important type of learning, particularly for animals.
-Bandura argues :people are cognitivebeings- active information processors- unlike animals, likely to think about
relationships b/w behaviour and its consequences.
- often more affected by what they believewill happen than by what they actually experience.
-education costly and time consuming , may impose many stressful demands.
-tolerate cost and toil because may anticipategreater rewards after you graduate. -behaviour not shaped by immediate consequences; if so , few would ever make it through trials and
tribulations of college or university.
-Instead, persist as because one has thought aboutlong-term benefits of obtaining an education
and have decided that benefits outweigh short-term costs you must endure.
-emphasizes observational learning as a central developmental process
-observational learning is simply learning results from observing behaviour of other people (called
-could not occur unless cognitive processes were at work.
-must attendcarefully toa model's behaviour; actively digest, or encode, what we observe; then
store information in memory (as an image or a verbal label) to imitate what we have
observed at later time
-Observational learning permits young children to quickly acquire thousands of new responses
in variety of settings where "models" are pursuing their own interests and not trying to teach
-claims children continually learning both desirable and undesirable behaviours
by observation and because of this, child development proceeds very rapidly
along many different paths.
Social Learning as Reciprocal Determinism
-environmental determinism notion that children are passive creatures who are moulded by their environments.
-reciprocal determinism- notion : flow of influence b/w children and their environments is two-way street; environment
may affect child, but child's behaviour also influences environment.
-Early versions of learning theory largely tributes to Watson's doctrine of environmental determinism:
-Bandura disagrees, stressing children and adolescents are active, thinking beings who contribute to their own
-Bandura (1986) proposed concept of reciprocal determinism to describe his
view that human development reflects an interaction among an active person (P), the person's behaviour (B), and the
-Unlike Watson and Skinner, who maintained environment (E) shaped child's personality and
-Bandura and others (Richard Bell, 1979) propose links among people, behaviours, and environments
- child can influence environment by virtue of his own conduct.
-cognitive learning theorists argue: child development described as continuous reciprocal interaction b/w children and
-situation or "environment" a child experiences surely affects them , but behaviour thougtoaffect environment as
-implication : children are actively involved in shaping environments that influence their growth and development.
Contributions and Criticisms of Learning Theories
-major contribution : wealth of information it has provided about developing children and adolescents.
-Learning theories are very precise and testable
-conducting controlled experiments to determine how children react to various environmental influences, theorists
begun to understand how and why children form emotional attachments, adopt gender roles, make friends, learn to
abide by moral rules, change in countless other ways
-emphasis on immediate causes of overt behaviours produced important clinical insights and practical applications.
-problem behaviours quickly eliminated by behavioural modification techniques which the therapist identifies
the reinforcers that sustain unacceptable habits , eliminates them while modelling or reinforcing alternative
-many view learning approach as grossly oversimplified account of human development.
-Consider their perspective about individual differences: Presumably, people follow unique developmental paths
because no two people grow up in precisely same environment
-critics quick to point : each person is born w/ unique genetic endowment that provides an equally
plausible explanation for his or her individuality
-group of critics, can agree w/ behaviourists = development depends very much on contexts which it occurs.
-ecological systems theorists argue : environment that influences development is really a series of social systems
(ex families, communities, and cultures) that interact w/ each other and w/ the individual in complex ways impossible to simulate in a lab.
-only by studying children and adolescents in natural settings likeltounderstand how environments
truly influence development.
- cognitively oriented learning theories that stress child's active role in developmental process, some critics
maintain learning theorists devote too little attention to cognitive influences on development.
-cognitive-developmental viewpoint believe : child's mental abilities change in ways behaviourists completely
-argue : child's impressions of and reactions to environment depend largely on level of cognitive development.
The Cognitive-Developmental Viewpoint
- Jean Piaget
-testing mental ability, estimate made of person's intelligence based on number and kinds of questions answered
-Piaget more interested in children's incorrect answers than correct ones.
-first noticed children of about same age produced same kinds of wrong answers
-began to realize young children not simply less intelligent than older children; rather thought processes
Piaget's View of Intelligence and Intellectual Growth
-Piaget (1950) defined intelligence : basic life process that helps an organism adapt to its environment.
-By adapting, Piaget means the organism is able to cope w/ demands of its immediate situation
-As children mature, they acquire complex "cognitive structures" that aid in adapting to environments.
-cognitive structure- Piaget called a scheme- an organized pattern of thought or action used to cope w/ or explain some
aspect of experience
-earliest schemes, formed in infancy, are motor habits : rocking, grasping, and lifting, which prove to be
-Later in childhood, cognitive schemes take form of "actions of the head" ( eg mental addition
or subtraction) allow children to manipulate information , think logically about issues and problems
they encounter in everyday life.
-At any age, children rely on current cognitive schemes to understand world around them.
-because cognitive schemes take different forms atdifferent ages, younger and older children
often interpret and respond to same objects and events in very different ways.
-How do children grow intellectually?
-Piaget claimed : infants have no inborn knowledge/ ideas about reality, nor simply given information or taught
how to think by adults.
-they actively construct new understandings of world based on own experiences.
-watch what goes on around them; experiment w/ objects they encounter; make connections or
associations b/w events; and puzzled when current understandings (or schemes) fail to explain
what they experienced.
-assimilation Piaget's term for process by which children interpret new experiences by incorporating them into
-Eventually, child will encounter moving objects that don't fit into such schema
-contradictions ( Piaget termed disequilibriums) b/w child's understanding and facts.
-becomes clear to child that scheme needs revision .
-prompted by disconfirming experiences to accommodate- alter existing schemes so they
provide better explanation of distinction b/w animate and inanimate objects
- (perhaps concluding only things that move under their own power are alive).
-believed :we continually rely on complementary processes of assimilation and accommodation to adapt to our
-Initially, we attempt to understand new experiences / solve problems using current cognitive schemes
-often find existing schemes inadequate for tasks, which prompts us to revise them (through accommodation) so
they provide better "fit" w/ reality
- also may create new schemes to adapt to disequilibriums experienced in environments.
-Biological maturation plays role: As brain and nervous system mature, children become capable of
increasingly complex cognitive schemes that help them construct better understandings of what they have experienced
- children pass from one stage of cognitive development to next higher stage.
Four Stages of Cognitive Development
-Piaget proposed four major stages of cognitive development:
-the sensorimotor stage (birth to age 2),
-preoperational stage (ages 2 to 7),
-concrete-operational stage (ages 7 to11 / 12),
-formal-operational stage (ages 11 to 12 and beyond).
-Piaget called them : invariant developmental sequence- all children progress through stages in exactly order in which they