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Chapter 1

Chapter 1.docx

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Mark Schmuckler

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Child Psychology 3rd Canadian Edition
Chapter 1 Child Development: Themes, Theories and Methods
- Child development: seeks to account for the gradual evolution of the child’s cognitive, social,
emotional and motor capacities first by describing changes in the child’s observed behaviours and
then by uncovering the processes and strategies that underlie these changes; what things change
as children get older and how these changes come about
- Almost a century ago, the field emerged when scholars became interested in the topic Darwin
researched infants’ sensory and perceptual capacities and children’s emotions
- James Baldwin (appointed to U of T, 1889) work on mental development, used own daughter as
a subject to examine handedness, suggestion, imitation and will in infancy
- 1926, St. George School for Child Study in Toronto opened, headed by William Blatz, today
called Institute for Child Study
- Blatz known for study on Dionne quintuplets (sisters raised in special, public display compound)
- Better information about child development can help society protect and advance the well-being
of children, can help shape social policy on behalf of children
Themes of Development
- Origins of Behaviour: Biological versus Environmental Influences
o Most theories agree that biological and environmental factors both influence human
development, but disagree on the balance between the influences
o Early years some held strictly biological or environmental views
o Gesell (1928) course of development was largely predetermined by biological factors,
focused on maturation (genetically determined process of growth that unfolds naturally
over a period of time)
o Watson (1928) assumed biological factors placed no restrictions on the ways that the
environment can shape the course of a child’s development, could produce a genius or a
criminal by properly organizing the environment
o Modern developmentalists explore how nature and nurture interact together to produce
developmental variations in different children
o Children actively influence and modify the actions of their parents and others with whom
they interact; 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 versus Discontinuity
o Some view development as a continuous process where each new event builds on earlier
experiences/abilities without abrupt shifts from one to the next; development is a smooth
and gradual accumulation of abilities (quantitative)
o Discontinuous development is seen as a series of discrete steps or stages in which
behaviours get reorganized into a qualitatively new set of behaviours different from the
preceding (qualitative)
o Most contemporary child researchers see development as continuous, interspersed with
periods of change that are discontinuous
o Disruption to behavioural continuity may not be problematic to development example:
children who were raised in deprived institutional settings early in life experienced
positive change after being adopted into healthy families
- Forces that Affect Developmental Change: Individual Characteristics versus Contextual and
Cultural Influences
o Interactionist viewpoint stressing the connection between the individual and contextual
influences (i.e. children with aggressive personality traits are more likely to join a gang or
a karate class; seek contexts where they can display those traits, however in contexts that

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do not promote aggressive behaviour, they are less likely to behave aggressively, maybe
even friendly)
o Risks to Healthy Development and Individual Resilience
Examine child responses to situational challenges or risks to healthy development
to study individual characteristics
Individual children respond to risks (biological i.e. illness, psychological, etc.)
differently may have permanent disruptions, “sleeper effects” (cope well at first
but have development problems later), or be able to deal with challenge
o Researching Across Cultures
Culture a child experiences growing up influences their development; i.e. some
cultures encourage early walking, others carry infants for long periods of time
which means later walking
Gain information on variation in the range of human potential and expression that
may emerge in different circumstances of growth when studying development
across cultures
Theoretical Perspectives on Development
- Theories help organize and integrate existing information into coherent accounts of how children
develop and generate testable hypotheses about children’s behaviour
- Most development psychologists mix and match concepts from different theories to better explain
different types of observations
- Main theories of child development follow (one of) 5 general approaches
- Structural-Organismic Perspectives
o Approach that describes psychological structures and processes that undergo stage-like
changes throughout development
o To understand how complex systems work, scholars tried to describe formal structure, or
organization of the system (structuralism)
o Both Freud and Piaget used this perspective in their theories; both viewed the organism
as going through an organized or structured series of stages throughout their
development; both saw their proposed stages as universal
o Psychodynamic Theory (Freud)
Freud interested in emotion and personality
The developing personality consists of 3 interrelated parts:
Id instinctual drives, child is largely controlled by id, gradually
becomes more controlled by ego
Ego rational, reality bound aspect, tries to gratify needs through
socially appropriate behaviour
Superego emerges with further development when child accepts and
absorbs parental or societal morals, values, roles, and develops a
conscience (ability to apply morals to acts)
Psychodynamic Theory emphasizes how early childhood experiences shape
adult personality development
For Freud, personality development (changes in the organization and interaction
of 3 components) 5 stages
Oral stage (0-1 year) infant is preoccupied with pleasurable activities
involving the mouth (eating, sucking)
Anal stage (2-3 year) child learns to postpone personal gratification
(i.e. relieving bowels) as goes through toilet training
Phallic stage (3-6 year) critical stage in gender identity development,
child becomes curious about sexual anatomy and sexuality appears
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