PSYB20 – Chapter 1
Child development: attempts to account for changes in children’s abilities and behaviours as they
develop by uncovering the processes that underlie these changes.
Scientists also study children to develop practical information that can help those who care for
children such as parents, teachers, health professionals, and legislators.
Themes of Development
Maturation: a genetically determined process of growth that unfolds naturally over a period of time.
Although in the past, development was held by many to be the result of maturation, most
modern developmentalists recognize the importance of both biological and environmental
influences. Many psychologists are concerned with discovering the ways in which biological and
environmental factors interact to produce developmental differences.
Most contemporary developmentalists believe that children actively shape, control, and direct
the course of their own development. A number of theorists view development as a continuous
process, whereby change takes place smoothly and gradually over time, but others see
development as a series of qualitatively different steps or stages. The more closely and more
frequently we examine the child’s development, the more gradual or continuous the process
Some developmentalists continue to debate the question of whether individual or contextual
influences are more important in determining development. Most developmentalists agree,
however, that cultural contexts must be considered in any account of development.
Theoretical Perspectives on Development
Theories serve two functions. First, they help organize and integrate existing knowledge into a
coherent account of how children develop. Second, they foster research by providing testable
predictions about behaviour. Different theories take different positions on the issues or themes
of development, and they also account for different aspects of development. In this sense they
can be seen as complementary rather than as competing with each other.
Structural-organismic perspectives: focus on the organized components of the developing
organism and how these change in a qualitative way over the course of human development.
Freud’s psychodynamic theory: in which the child is motivated by a set of basic biological drives that
direct behaviour. The concepts of id, ego, and superego are integral to Freud’s notion of the
development of personality, and Freud considered early experiences to be determining influences for
later development. According to Freudian theory, later adult personality is a direct result of whether the
child’s drives were deprived or satisfied at each earlier stage. Erikson’s psychosocial theory: is organized around a series of fundamental personal and social tasks
that the individual must accomplish at each stage. Erikson expanded Freud’s theory to include social and
cultural factors as influences of the child’s development as well as to extend the theory into a lifespan
Piagetian theory: focuses on intellectual development. In