Child development: a field of study that seeks to account for the gradual evolution of the child's cognitive,
social, and other capacities first by describing changesin the child's observed behaviours and then by
uncovering the processesand strategies that underlie these changes.
Arnold Gesell believed that the course of development was largely predetermined by biological
factors. He concentrated on maturation (a genetically determined process of growth that unfolds
naturally over a period of time).
Others like John B. Watsonplaced emphasis strictly on the environment.
Origins of behaviour (biological vs. environmental).
Continuity: development is a smooth and gradual accumulation of abilities.
Discontinuity: development is like a series of discrete steps or stages in which behaviours get
reorganized into a qualitatively new set of behaviours.
Pattern of developmental change (continuity vs. discontinuity).
Many resolve the controversy by adopting an interactionistviewpoint, stressing the dual role of
individual and contextual factors.
Forces that affect developmental change (individual characteristics vs. contextual and culture
They help organize and integrate existing information into coherent and interesting accounts of how
They generate testable hypotheses or predictions about children's behaviour.
Theories serve two main functions:
Id: instinctual drives; the first component of the personality to evolve, the id operates
on the basis of the pleasure principle.
Ego: the rational, controlling component of the personality, which tries to satisfy needs
through appropriate, socially acceptable behaviours.
Superego: the personality component that is the repository of the child's internalization
of parental or societal values, morals, and roles.
Freud's five stages: oral, anal, phallic, latency, genital.
Psychodynamictheory: development proceeds in discrete stages, is determined largely by
biologically based drives shaped by encounters with the environment and through the
interaction of three components of personality -the id, ego, and superego.
Most influential stage is adolescence, where the child focuses on identity development
and seeks to establish a clear and stable sense of self.
Psychosocial theory: Erikson's theory of development that sees children developing through a
series of stages largely through accomplishing tasks that involve them in interaction with their
The principle of organizationreflects the view that human intellectual development is a
biologically organized process.
The principle of adaptationto describe the process by which intellectual change occurs
as the human mind becomes increasingly adapted to the world.
Piagetian theory: a theory of cognitive development that sees the child as actively seeking new
information and incorporating it into his knowledge base through the processes of assimilation
Structural-organismicperspective:theoretical approaches that describe psychological structures and
processes that undergo qualitative or stage-like changes over the course of development.
Classical conditioning: a type of learning in which individuals learn to respond to
unfamiliar stimuli in the same way they are accustomed to respond to familiar stimuli if
the two stimuli are repeatedly presented together.
Behaviourism: a school of psychology that holds that theories of behaviour must be based on
direct observations of actual behaviour and not on speculations about such unobservable
There are five general approaches in the field: 1) structural-organismic, 2) learning, 3) dynamic systems, 4)
contextual, and 5) ethological and evolutionary views.
Chapter 1. Themes, Theories, and Methods