PSY 210 – Chapter One Notes
- Child development is a sub area of the discipline of developmental psychology.
- Child development identifies and describes changes in the child cognitive, emotional,
motor, and social capacities and behaviours from the moment of conception through the
period of adolescence.
- The field attempts to uncover the processes that underlie these changes to help explain
how and why they occur.
- One of the earliest and most significant events in Canadian developmental psychology
was the appointment of James Mark Baldwin to University of Toronto in 1889.
- Baldwin used his own daughter as a subject, he examined and published papers on topics
such as handedness, suggestion and will in infancy, and imitation.
- William Emet Blatz primarily known for his three year study of the Dionne quintuplets, a
group of five sisters born in 1934, who were raised for 2 months to 8 years of age in a
special compound that was “on display” to the general public.
Themes of Development
- Vital aspects of development are biological, cognitive, linguistic, emotional, and social.
- Origins of Behaviour: Biological vs. Environmental Influences
Arnold Gesell believed that the course of development was largely predetermined
by biological factors.
In his research Gesell focused on maturation, or the natural unfolding of
development over the course of growth.
John B. Watson placed his emphasis strictly on environment.
Watson assumed that biological factors placed no restrictions on the ways that the
environment can shape the course of a child’s development.
He claimed in properly organizing an environment he could either create a genius
or a criminal.
Today there are no theories that support either of these extreme positions, in fact
the focus is primarily on how environmental and biological factors interact to
produce developmental variations in different children.
The interaction between biology and environment is an active, dynamic process in
which the child also contributes to the process.
- Pattern of Developmental Change: Continuity vs. Discontinuity
Some psychologist view development as a continuous process, whereby each new
event builds on earlier experiences.
In this view development is smooth and gradual accumulations of abilities,
developmental changes add to, or build on earlier abilities in a cumulative or
quantitative way without any abrupt shifts from one change to the next.
Discontinuous development proposes abrupt, step-like changes, each qualitatively
different from the one that precedes it.
Most contemporary development theories believe in a third view, which proposes
that development is fundamentally continuous but interspersed with transitions
that may appear sudden. Robert Siegler’s “overlapping waves” model suggests that children use a variety
of strategies in thinking, and learning and that cognition involves constant
competition among different strategies rather than the use of a single strategy at a
- Forces That Affect Developmental Change: Individual characteristics vs. Contextual and
This theory focuses on if children behave similarly across a broad range of
situations, or do the contexts in which children live affect how children behave
and even how development occurs.
Example: children with aggressive personality traits may often seek out contexts
in which they can display these characteristics, thus they are more likely to join a
gang or enroll in a karate class than to opt for the church choir or a chess club.
But these same children in a less aggressive setting such as a choir, may be less
likely to behave aggressively and perhaps even be friendly and cooperative.
- Risks can come in many forms to children; they could be biological or psychological.
- Example: a serious illness, or living with a psychotic parent.
- Other risks are environmental, such as family income or the child’s experience at school.
- “Sleeper Effect” is when a child seems to cope well initially, but exhibits problems later
on in development.
- Some children exhibit resilience and are able to deal with the challenge, and this in turn
helps them with confronting new risks later on in life and they are able to better adapt to
challenges than children who have experienced little or no risk.
Theoretical Perspectives on Development
- Theories help organize and integrate existing information into coherent and interesting
accounts of how children develop.
- They generate testable hypotheses or predictions about children’s behaviour.
- There are five general approaches to child development 1) structural-organismic,
2)learning, 3)dynamic systems, 4)contextual, 5)ethological and evolutionary views.
- Structural and Organismic Perspectives
Freud and Piaget adopted this approach of structuralism.
Freud was interested in emotions and personality, whereas Piaget was interested
They shared the view that the organism goes through a organized or structured
series of stages, or discontinuous changes, over the course of development.
Freud introduced psychodynamic theory which emphasized how the experiences
of early childhood shape the development of adult personality.
He believed the development personality consists of three interrelated parts: id,
ego, and superego.
To Freud personality development involved five stages:
1) Oral: focus on eating and taking things into the mouth (ages 0-1)
2) Anal: emphasis on toilet training; first experience with authority and
discipline (ages 1-3)
3) Phallic: Increase in sexual urges arouses curiosity and alerts children to
gender differences; period is critical to formation of gender identity (ages 3-6) 4) Latency: Sexual urges repressed; emphasis on education and the beginnings of
concern for others (ages 6-12)
5) Genital: Altruistic love joins selfish loves; need for reproduction of species
underlies adoption of adult responsibilities (ages 20-30)
Freud believed in which the child negotiates the oral, anal, and phallic stages has
a profound impact on emotional development and the adult personality.
Erik Erikson devised theories of development in his psychosocial theory
Erikson believed development is seen as proceeding through a series of eight
stages that unfold across the lifespan.
To Erikson development had 8 stages:
1) Infancy: task was to develop basic trust in oneself and others, risk was
mistrust of others and lack of self-confidence (ages 0-1)
2) Early Childhood: task was to learn self-control and establish autonomy, risk
was shame and doubt about one’s own capabilities (ages 1 -3)
3) Play Age: task was to develop initiative in mastering environment, risk was
feelings of guilt over aggressiveness and daring (ages 3-6)
4) School Age: task was to develop industry, risk was feelings of inferiority over
real or imagined failure to master tasks (ages 6-12)
5) Adolescence: task was to achieve a sense of identity, risk was role confusion
over who and what individual wants to be (ages 12-20)
6) Young Adulthood: task was to ach