Chapter 1: Introduction
Development: The systematic continuities and changes in the individual that occur
between conception (when a sperm penetrates an ovum creating a new organism) and
Newborns have no prejudices or preconceptions; they speak no language; they obey no
man-made laws; and they sometimes behave as if they were living for the next feeding.
John Locke (1690/1913) could describe the neonate (newborn) as a tabula rasa (blank
slate) who is receptive to any and all kinds of experience.
Irvin Child has noted that, despite the enormous number of behavioural options available
to the child, he or she is “lead to develop actual behaviour which is confined within a
much narrower range—the range of what is customary and acceptable according to the
standards of his group.”
Children develop in a manner and direction prescribed by their cultures, subcultures, and
Socialization: the process by which individuals acquire the beliefs, values, and
behaviours considered desirable or appropriate by their culture or subculture.
The socialization of each succeeding generation serves society in three ways:
- It is a means of regulating behaviour
- Helps to promote the personal growth of an individual
- Perpetuates the social order
The Universal Parenting Machine—A Thought Experiment
Expose infants to a simulated acre of land but cut off culture and other people from them.
They have their basic needs and can only communicate with each other.
A socialized person is one who has acquired the beliefs, values, and behaviours that are
thought to be appropriate for members of his or her culture.
They become socialized because they are shaped by their culture.
Also, culture is shaped by people.
Social-Personality Development in Historical Perspective
Childhood in Premodern Times
Archaeological research has shown that as far back as 7000 B.C., children were killed as
religious sacrifices and sometimes embedded in the walls of buildings to “strengthen”
Until the 4 century A.D., Roman parents were legally entitled to kill their deformed,
illegitimate, or otherwise unwanted infants; and even after this active infanticide was
outlawed, unwanted babies were often left to die in the wilderness or sold as servants
upon reaching middle childhood.
Philippe Aries (1963) concluded that European societies had little or no concept of
childhood. During the 17 and 18 centuries, attitudes about children and child rearing change,
religious leaders of that era stressed that children were fragile creatures of God who
should be shielded from the wild.
Children as Subjects: The Baby Biographies
Baby Biographies: Investigators from a variety of academic backgrounds began to
observe the development of their own children and to publish these data in works.
Darwin believed that young, untrained infants shared many characteristics with their
nonhuman ancestors, and he advanced the (now discredited) law of recapitulation—the
notion that an individual who develops from a single cell at conception into a
marvellously complex, thinking human being as a young adult will retrace the entire
evolutionary history of the species, thereby illustrating the “descent of man.”
Were made at irregular intervals, and emphasized different behaviours, therefore, cannot
The persons making observations in these biographical studies were generally proud
parents who were likely to selectively record pleasant or positive incidents while
downplaying unpleasant or negative ones.
Emergence of a Psychology of Childhood
G. Stanley Hall (founder of developmental psychology) he was interested in the character
of children’s thinking, and he developed a familiar research tool “questionnaire” to
discover the contents of children’s minds.
He found that children’s understanding of worldly events increases rapidly over the
course of childhood and that the logic of young children is not very logical.
Sigmund Freud came up with the psychoanalytic theory.
Freud’s theory proved to be heuristic—meaning that it continued to generate new
research and to prompt other researchers to extend Freud’s thinking.
The Role of Theory in the Scientific Enterprise
Theory: a set of concepts and propositions that allow the theories to describe and explain
some aspect of experience.
A scientific theory is a public pronouncement that indicates what a scientist believes to be
true about his or her specific area of investigation.
Parsimonious: a criterion for evaluating the scientific merit of theories.
Falsifiable: capable of making explicit predictions about future events so that the theory
can be supported or disconfirmed.
Heuristic: they build on existing knowledge by continuing to generate testable
Hypotheses: a theoretical prediction about some aspect of experience.
Questions and Controversies about Human Development
Early Philosophical Perspectives on Human Nature Thomas Hobbe’s (1651/1904) doctrine of original sin—children are inherently selfish
egoists who must be controlled by society.
Jean Jacques Rousseau’s (1762/1955) doctrine of innate purity—the notion that children
are born with an intuitive sense of right and wrong that is often misdirected by society.
Proponents of original sin argued that parents must actively restrain their egoistic
offspring, whereas the innate purists viewed children as “noble savages” who should be
given the freedom to follow their inherently positive inclinations.
John Locke (1690/1913) tabula rasa—“blank slate,” the mind of an infant is written by
Nature versus Nurture
Nature versus nurture issue: are human beings a product of their heredity and other
biological predispositions, or are they shaped by the environment in which they are
raised? Debate within developmental psychology over the relative importance of
biological predispositions (nature) and environmental influences (nurture) as
determinants of human development.
Activity versus Passivity
Activity/passivity issue: debate among developmental theorists about whether children
are active contributors to their own development or, rather, passive recipients of
Developmentalists consider a child active in development whenever any child
characteristic influences the environment he or she experiences.
Continuity versus Discontinuity
Continuity/discontinuity issue: debate among theorists about whether developmental
changes are best characterized as gradual and quantitative or, rather, abrupt and
Quantitative changes are changes in degree—grow taller, runs faster.
Qualitative changes are changes in kind—changes that make the individual
fundamentally different in some way than he or she was before.
Developmental stages: a distinct phase within a larger sequence of development; a
period characterized by a particular set of abilities, motives, behaviours, or emotions that
occur together and form a coherent pattern.
Continuity implies a sense of connectiveness between earlier and later developments.
The issue of whether developmental change is gradual or abrupt, the issue of whether it is
quantitative or qualitative, and the issue of whether it is or is not reliably connected to
Is Development Universal or Particularistic?
Universal: normative developments that all individuals display.
Particularistic: developmental outcomes that vary from person to person. A universal theory ignores all the factors that conspire to make each of us unique.
Investigators must carefully observe their subjects, study the information they have
collected, and then use it to draw conclusions about the ways people develop.
The Scientific Method
Scientific method: an attitude or value about the pursuit of knowledge that dictates that
investigators must be objective and must allow their data to decide the merits of their
Protection comes from the practice of evaluating the merits of various theoretical
pronouncements against objective observations, rather than simply relying on the
academic, political, or social credibility of the theorist.
Gathering Data: Basic Fact-Finding Strategies
Reliability: yields consistent information over time and across observers.
Interrater Reliability: measure would have to produce comparable estimates of children’s
aggression from independent observers.
Temporal Stability: yield similar scores for individual children from one testing to
another shortly thereafter.
Validity: measures what it is supposed to measure.
Three common procedures that developmentalists use to gather information and test
hypotheses are interviews, questionnaires (including psychological tests), and clinical
Interview and Questionnaires
Researchers who opt for the interview or the questionnaire technique will ask the child
(or the child’s parents or teachers) a series of questions pertaining to such aspects of
development as the child’s feelings, beliefs, and characteristic patterns of behaviour.
Structured interview (structured questionnaire): asked the same questions in the same
order so that the responses of different participants can be compared.
Interview technique: describe a story using male adjectives or female adjectives and kid
had to guess whether person was male or female.
5-year-olds were quite knowledgeable about gender stereotypes.
Diary study: participants (usually adolescents or young adults) respond, in a diary or a
notebook, to one or more standardized questions, either at a specified time or whenever
they are instructed to respond by a prompt from an electronic pager.
Diary studies have proved invaluable for investigating a host of issues. Shortcomings:
- Neither approach can be used with very young children who cannot read or
comprehend speech very well.
- Investigators must hope that the answers they receive are honest and accurate and are
not merely attempts by respondents to present themselves in a favourable manner.
- Investigators must ensure participants of different ages interpret question in the same
- Researchers who interview both developing children and their parents may have
trouble determining which set of reports is the more accurate should the c