CHAPTER 1 – CHILD DEVELOPMENT: THEMES, THEORIES AND METHODS.
Child development: a sub-area of the discipline of developmental psychology that seeks to answer
how the child is able to understand and create complex relation, learn new information and to
interact and feel responsibility toward other people
o 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
o The field attempts to uncover the process that underlie these changes to help explain how
and why they occur. (they are interested in what things change as they get older and how
To understand the changes and process, they devise theories, design and carry out empirical studies
to test these theories and suggest practical applications based on their research.
Darwin conducted research on infants’ sensory early sensory and perceptual capacities and
children’s emotions demonstrating that scientists could study infants and children.
Formal analysis of children’s learning capacities was continued by John B. Watson.
In Canada, James Mark Baldwin used his daughter as a subject and published papers on mental
illness although his first recognition is for establishing the first psychology laboratory in British
Institute of Child Study (formerly known as St. George’s School for Child study 1926) was headed by
dev. Psychologist William Emet Blatz who was known for his three year study of Dionne quintuplets;
a group of five sisters born in 1934, who were raised from 2 months to 8 years in a public display that
was general to the public.
o Some argue that the study failed to provide insight into child development but some say
that it helped promote the study of child development.
Themes of Development
Three key issues pertaining the psychological growth:
o The origins of human behaviour
o The pattern of developmental change overtime
o The individual and contextual factors that define and direct child development
Origins of behaviour: biological vs. environmental influences
Arnold Gessel – believed that the course of development is largely predetermined by biological
factors and in his research concentrated on maturation or the natural folding of development over
the course of the growth. (genetically determined process of growth that unfolds overtime)
John B. Watson – placed his 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. He claimed that by properly organizing the environment, he could produce a criminal
or a genius.
Modern developmentalists explore how biological and environmental factors or nature and nurture,
interact to produce developmental variations in different children.
Ex. Children with great genetic characteristics are more likely to exhibit behavioural problems than
are children who do not have these characteristics. When these children live in abusive
environments, they are likely to become maltreated; combo of biological, env. and beh. Factors
The active nature of human organism supports interaction between biological properties and the
env. over the course of development.
Children actively influence and modify the action of their parents and other people they interact with
The interaction between biology and env. is and active dynamic process that the child contributes to
Pattern of development change: continuity vs. discontinuity
Continuous development – process whereby each new event adds to or builds on earlier experiences
and abilities in a cumulative or quantitative way gradually without abrupt shifts in changes.
Discontinuous development – a series of discrete steps or stages in which behaviours get
reorganized into qualitatively new set of behaviours
A third view on development holds that development is fundamentally continuous but interspread
with transitions that may appear sudden, most accurately represents that progress of child
Robert Siegler’s ‘overlapping waves’ model suggests that children use a variety of strategies( that
take qualitative steps) in thinking and learning and that cognition involves constant competition
among different strategies rather than the use of a single strategy at a given age.
Each strategy ebbs and flows with increasing age and expertise gradually.
From a macroscopic view, development is continuous but at a microscopic level, we can observe
specific qualitative changes.
Forces that affect developmental change: individual characteristics vs. contextual and cultural influences
Do 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.
o Some adopt an interactionist viewpoint stressing the dual role of the individual and
contextual factors. Ex. Children with aggressive personality traits seek contexts where they
can express their personality therefore joining gangs and karate class. However, the same
children when put in settings that do not promote or allow aggressive behavior such as choir
or book club, may be less likely
Risk to healthy development and individual resilience
Individual characteristics are determined by how different children respond when they are
confronted with situational changes or risks to healthy development.
Risks could be biological or physiological cause children to suffer permanent developmental
disruptions while others show “sleeper effect” where they seem to cope well but exhibit problems
later in development. Others exhibit resilience and are able to deal with the challenge and others
when confronted with new risks later in life, they are able to adapt to the challenges better.
Researching across cultures
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.
Cultures differ within countries leading children to have different kinds of experiences that influence
THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES ON DEVELOPMENT
Theories describe psychological change or development over time. They serve two main functions:
o They help organize and integrate existing information into coherent and interesting
accounts of how children develop
o They generate testable hypotheses or predictions about children’s behavior
A good scientific theory allows one to make sense of a great number of observations, usually based
on the fewest number of premises and can then be used to formulate setting for the collection of
How complex systems such as societies and kin systems, work.
Freud and Piaget who were interested in psychological development adopted this approach
called structuralism - Freud was interested in emotions and personality whereas Piaget was
interested in thinking.
They shared the view that the organism goes through an organized or structured series of stages
or discontinuous changes, over the course of development.
The stages were proposed as universal – all members of the human species were thought to
experience these stages regardless of when and where a child develops
Freud’s and Piaget’s theories are markedly different from each other
SIGMUND FREUD - The psychodynamic theory which emphasizes how the experiences of early
childhood shape the development of adult personality
The developing personality consists of three interrelated parts:
o Id – the person’s instinctual drive; the first component of the personality to evolve, the
id operates on the basis of the pleasure principle.
o Ego – the rational controlling component of the personality (the id) which tries to satisfy
needs through appropriate, socially acceptable behaviors
o Superego – emerges when the child internalizes; accepts and absorbs, parental or
societal morals, values and roles and develops a conscience, or the ability to apply moral
values to her own acts.
Personality developments, changes in the organization and interaction of the id, ego and
superego – involves five stages.
o Oral (0-1) – focus on eating and taking things into the mouth; pleasurable activities.
o Anal (1-3) – emphasis on toilet training; first experience with discipline and authority.
The child learns to postpone personal gratification such as expelling feces.
o Phallic (3-6) – curiosity about sexual anatomy and sexual appears. Increase in sexual
urges arouses curiosity and alerts children to gender differences; period is critical to
formation of gender identity. It is critical to the formation of gender identity
o Latency (6-12) – sexual drives are temporarily submerges and children avoid
relationships with peers of the other gender. There is an emphasis on education and the
beginnings of other concerns.
o Genital (20-30) – sexual desires emerge and are directed towards peers.
Freud’s primary contribution; early experiences especially during the first six years of life
influence later development.
The way in which the child negotiates the oral, anal, and phallic stages has a profound impact on
emotional development and the adult personality.
Ex. If children have unsatisfied needs for oral stimulation, they are more like to smoke as adults
Freud introduced that the events in infancy and childhood have a formative impact on later
development remains central to the study in child development.
o And , emotional attachment in early life has a vital role in socio-emotional development
ERIK ERIKSON – psychosocial theories on human development; sees children developing through
series of stages largely through accomplishing tasks that involve them in interaction with their
There are 8 stages and each stage is characterized by the personal and social tasks that the
individual must accomplish as well as the risks the individual confronts if they fail to proceed
through the stages successfully.
The most critical stage in child development is the adolescence stage in which the child focuses
on identity development and seeks to establish a clear and stable sense of self.
Chapter 1 child development: themes, theories and methods. Child development: a sub-area of the discipline of developmental psychology that seeks to answer how the child is able to understand and create complex relation, learn new information and to interact and feel responsibility toward other people. To understand the changes and process, they devise theories, design and carry out empirical studies to test these theories and suggest practical applications based on their research. Darwin conducted research on infants" sensory early sensory and perceptual capacities and children"s emotions demonstrating that scientists could study infants and children. Formal analysis of children"s learning capacities was continued by john b. watson. In canada, james mark baldwin used his daughter as a subject and published papers on mental illness although his first recognition is for establishing the first psychology laboratory in british. Institute of child study (formerly known as st. george"s school for child study 1926) was headed by dev.