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Chapter 1

Chapter 1 - Child Development.docx


Department
Psychology
Course Code
PSYB32H3
Professor
Mark Schmuckler
Chapter
1

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Child Development: Themes, Theories, and Methods
o Child development is a sub-area of discipline of developmental psychology, it seeks
to answer complex question in two major ways:
1. It identifies and describes changes in the child’s cognitive, emotional, motor,
and social capacities and behaviors from the moment of conception through
the period of adolescence.
2. The field attempts to uncover the processes that underlie these changes to
help explain how and why they occur.
o The origins of behavior takes place in two perspectives biological versus the
environmental influences
Arnold Gesell, psychologist, believed that the course of development was
largely predetermined by biological factors. In his research, Gesell
concentrated on maturation or the natural unfolding of development over
the course of growth
John B. Watson, behaviorist, placed emphasis strictly on the environment. He
assumed that biological factors placed no restrictions on the ways that the
environment can shape the course of a child’s development
Today, there are no theories that support either of these extreme positions.
Instead, modern developmentalists explore how biological and
environmental factors, or nature and nurture, interact to produce
developmental variations in different children.
The combination of the child’s biological characteristics, the way he or
she expresses these characteristics behaviorally, and the abusive
environment itself puts a particular child at risk. Example: children
with certain genetic characteristics are more likely to exhibit behavior
problems than are children who do not have these characteristics
Nature of the human organism supports interaction between biological
properties and the environment over the course of development
Socializing agents such as parents, peers, or teachers do no simply mold the
child; child actively influence and modify the actions of their parents and
other people whom they interact; thus environment and biology work in a
dynamic process in which the child also contributes to the process
o The pattern of developmental change occurs in two ways either in continuity or
discontinuity
Some psychologist believed development as a continuous process whereby
each new event builds on earlier experiences.
In this view, development is a smooth and gradual accumulation of
abilities.

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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
There are no abrupt changes
Some psychologists view development as a discontinuous process.
This view likens development to a series of discrete steps or stages in
which behaviors get reorganized into qualitative new set of behaviors
Abrupt, step-like changes, each qualitatively different from one that
precedes it.
Most contemporary child researchers see development as basically
continuous or quantitative, but sometimes interspersed with periods of
change that are discontinuous or more qualitative
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 single strategy at a given age. The child uses several
strategies of varying levels of sophistication. The use of each strategy
ebbs and flows with increasing age and expertise, and it is only
gradually that the most successful strategies predominate
o Forces that affect developmental change include individual characteristics and
contextual and cultural characteristics
Child development occurs in a variety of settings. Developmental
psychologists differ their emphasis on individual characteristics versus
situational or contextual influences.
Many resolve the controversy by adopting an interactionist viewpoint,
stressing the dual role of individual and contextual factors.
o One very important way in which individual characteristics have been studied is by
examining how different children respond when they are confronted with
situational challenges or risks to healthy development
Some risks are biological or psychological, and other risks are environmental
Individual children respond to such risks in different ways. Many seem to
suffer permanent developmental disruptions. Others show “sleeper” effects:
they seem to cope well initially, but exhibit problems later indevelopment.
Still others exhibit resilience and are able to deal with the challenge; these
children seem better able to adapt to challenges than children who have
experienced little to no risk at all
o Researchers who emphasize contextual influences on development have studied a
range of settings: including the home, the neighborhood, and the school.

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Examining child development across cultures provides information about
variation in the range of human potential and expression that may emerge in
different circumstances of growth
In Canada, another fundamental source of cultural variation arises from
differences in linguistics environments of Anglophone and francaphone
classrooms. In other countries there is a wide range of subcultural groups
representing very diverse racial and ethnic traditions.
o Theories serve two main functions that are critical to scientific understanding in
general, and to the study of developmental psychology in particular
1. Help organize and integrate existing information into coherent and
interesting accounts of how children develop
2. They generate testable hypotheses or predictions about children’s behavior
o Most developmental psychologists today might be considered theoretically eclectic,
in that they mix and match concepts from different theories to enable them to
explain different types of observations
o Group the main theories of child development in relation to five general approaches
in the field:
1. Structural-organismic all discontinuous development
Freud and Piaget theory psychodynamic and cognitive development
2. Learning all continuous development
Behaviourists B.F Skinner, John B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov cognitive social
learning, and information-processing approach
3. Dynamic systems continuous development
Dynamism
4. Contextual mostly continuous, excluding sociocultural which is
discontinuous
Sociocultural theory, Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory, the lifespan
perspective
5. Ethological and evolutionary views ethological view varies
Ethological theory and evolutional psychology
o Two of the earliest theoretical attempts to focus specifically on psychological
development: Freud’s psychodynamic theory and Piaget’s theory of cognitive
development
o Freud and Piaget developed their theories in the early twentieth century when
scholars from number of disciplines wanted to understand how complex systems,
such as societies and kin systems, work. Freud and Piaget, who were interested in
psychological development adopted the approach, called structuralism
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