Ch. 1: introduction
Social Development: A brief History
-the study of children’s development is a relatively recent enterprise. In the medieval period ppl viewed
children as miniature adults and did not even recognize childhood as a distinctive period deserving
-essentially took a while for people to recognize children’s value and vulnerability
-scientific study of children’s development began with the pioneering work of evolutionary biologist,
Charles Darwin. Followed by Stanley Hall
Did you know
-newborns can recognize their own mothers by smell
-even 2 year olds experience jealousy
-aggressive behaviour in an 8yr old can predict criminal behaviour at age 30
-infants in orphanages have lower levels of the “love” hormone
-child abuse can lead to changes in children’s brain functioning
-having a close friend can make up for being rejected by classmates
-adolescent girls who have grown up without a father have a 1 in 3 chance of becoming a teen mother
Critical questions about Social development
1. How do biological and environmental influences affect social development?
-in early history of dev. Psych, scholars took opposing sides on what was known as the nature-
-the nature side argued that biology is destiny and the course of development is largely
predetermined by genetic factors, which guide the natural maturation (a biologically determined
process of growth that unfolds over a period of time)or unfolding of increasingly complex social skills
-the nurture side assumed that genetic factors put no restriction on the ways that
environemental events shape the course of children’s development and claimed that by properly
organizing the environment they could train any infant to become and athlete, architect, or an attorney
-today no one supports either of these extreme positions. Modern Scholars realize that both
biological and environmental factors influence social development (although they may disagree about
the relative importance of each)
-today the question is not which factor, biology or environment, determines development but
rather how expression of an inherited biological characteristic is shaped, modified, and directed by a
particular set of environmental circumstances
2. What role do Children play in their own development?
-early scholars tended to believe that children were simply passive organisms who were shaped
by external forces.
-Today most scholars have moved away from the simple view
-over the course of development, children participate in reciprocal interchanges with these
other people, interchanges that are best described as transactional (ongoing interchanges between
social partners such as a parent and child across time that result in modifications of the social behaviour
3. What is the appropriate unit for studying social development? -psychologists’ study of social development has typically focused on the individual child as the
unit of analysis.
-focus has shifted to social dyads (a pair of social partners, such as friends, parent and child, or
-researchers now study the nature of social interactions and exchanges between these
-also social triads and larger groups
4. Is development continuous or discontinuous?
-a fourth question that developmental psychologists have asked is how to characterize the
nature of developmental change.
-some see development as a continuous process with each change building on earlier
experiences in an orderly way. They see development as smooth and gradual witout any abrupt shifts
along the path
-others view development as a series of discrete steps and sees the organization of behvaior
qualitatively different at each new stage or plateau
-today, most social development scholars recognize the value of both continuous and
discontinuous views; they see development as basically continuous but interspersed with transitional
periods in which changes are relatively abrupt
5. Is social behaviour the result of the situation or the child?
-do children behave differently in different situations?
-today, dual contributions of person and situation
6. Is social development universal across cultures?
-children grow up with different experiences.
-some aspects are universal, others are not universal and are attributable to culture.
7. How does social development vary across historical eras?
-overall cultural shifts and specific historical events both leave their mark on children’s social
and emotional development. Abrupt and gradual changes.
8. Is social development related to other developmental domains?
-social development influences and is influenced by emotional, cognitive, language, perceptual,
and motor development
9. How important are mothers for children’s social development?
-although mothers are clearly important in children’s social development, other people
including fathers, siblings, grandparents, peers, teachers, and religious leaders are also important
10. Is there a single pathway for social development?
-children may start out at a similar place but end up at very different points (Multifinality)
-children may follow different paths but end up at the same point (equifinality)
11. What influences how we label children’s social behaviour? Three sets of factors – characteristics of
the child, the adult, and the contact – influence social judgements and, in turn, how social behaviors are
labeled. 12. Do Developmental psychologists own social development?
-scholars in a variety of fields including paediatrics, psychiatry, anthropology, economics, law,
and history have made valuable contributions to the field of social development
Theoretical Perspectives on Social Development
-theories help organize and integrate knowledge into a coherent account of how children develop and
foster research by providing testable predictions about behaviour. Historically grand theories reflected
attempts to account for all aspects of development. Modern theories tend to be more narrowly focused
attempts to explain specific aspects of social development
-psychodynamic theory: Freuds theory tht development is determined by innate biologically based
drives shaped by encounters with the environment in early childhood
-in Freud’s psychodynamic theory, basic biological drives motivate the child. Early experiences are
essential for determining later behaviour
-Id: instinctual drives that operate on the basis of the pleasure principle
-ego: the rational component of the personality, which tries to satisfy needs through
appropriate, socially acceptable behaviors.
-superego: the personality component that is the repository of the child’s internalization of
parental or societal values, morals, and roles.
-Erikson expanded Freud’s theory to include social and cultural influences on development. His
psychosocial theory is organized around a series of fundamental personal and social tasks that
individuals must accomplish at each stage
-psychosocial theory: Erikson’s theory that each stage of development depends on
accomplishing a psychological task in interaction with the social environment
-generativity: a concern for the people besides oneself, especially a desire to n