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PSYC21H3 (41)
Chapter 1

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David Haley

Chapter 1 Introduction: Theories of Social Development - What is the study of social development? It is many things. It is a description of childrens social behavior and how it changes as children get older. It is a description of childrens ideas about themselves and other people, their relationships with peers and adults, their emotional expressions and displays, and their ability to function in social groups. It traces continuities and discontinuities in childrens social behavior, relationships, and ideas over time. It is also an explanation of the processes that lead to changes in social behavior and to individual differences among children - For some scholars, unraveling the mysteries of social development is a goal in itself. It allows them to satisfy their curiosity about why some children become juvenile delinquents and others become model teens. Other scholars have more practical concerns. They gather information about social development to help people make better decisions about childrens lives. Social Development: A Brief History - The study of childrens development is a relatively recent enterprise - In the medieval period, people viewed children as miniature adults and did not even recognize childhood as a distinctive period deserving special attention (Aries, 1962). Children were not valued in the same way or treated with the same care as they are today. Many children died in infancy and early childhood and, if they survived, they were forced to labor in mines and fields - The scientific study of childrens development began with the pioneering work of the evolutionary biologist, Charles Darwin. In his work on the development of emotions in his own and other peoples children, Darwin (1872) paved the way for the modern study of emotionsa key element of social development - G. Stanley Hall (1904) used questionnaires to document childrens activities, feelings, and attitudes - John B. Watson (1913) argued that conditioning and learning were the processes by which social and emotional behavior are acquired and modified. His early studies of how infants acquire fear responses through conditioning demonstrated that emotional responses are learnable and that social behavior can be studied scientifically - Sigmund Freud (1905, 1910) offered a more biologically oriented view, claiming that social development was the product of how adults handled childrens basic drives, such as the infants drive to suck. - Arnold Gesell (1928) offered a different view of social development. He argued that social skills, like motor skills, simply unfold over the course of infancy and childhood - Thus, the field began with competing views about social development Critical Questions about Social Development - As scientists studied childrens social development, they confronted and debated a number of critical questions - HOW DO BIOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCES AFFECT SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT? In the early history of developmental psychology, scholars took opposing positions on what was known as the nature-nurture issue. Some emphasized the role of nature, that is, heredity and maturation; others emphasized the role of nurture, that is, learning and experience Today no one supports either of these extreme positions. Modern scholars realize that both biological and environmental factors influence social developmentalthough they may disagree about the relative importance of each Today, the question is not which factor, biology or environment, determines development but rather how the expression of an inherited biological characteristic is shaped, modified, and directed by a particular set of environmental circumstances - WHAT ROLE DO CHILDREN PLAY IN THEIR OWN DEVELOPMENT? Early scholars tended to believe that children were simply passive organisms who were shaped by external forces. Today, most scholars have moved away from this simple view. Contemporary developmental psychologists believe that children are active agents who, to some extent, shape, control, and direct the course of their own development. Children participate in reciprocal interchanges with these people, interchanges that are best described as transactional, Ongoing interchanges between social partners such as a parent and child across time that result in modifications of the social behavior of each. - What Is The Appropriate Unit For Studying Social Development? Psychologists study of social development has typically focused on the individual child as the unit of analysis. In recent decades, however, psychologists have increasingly recognized that other units also warrant attention. As an outgrowth of the recognition that children have reciprocal interactions with other people, the focus has shifted to social dyads. In addition, researchers study the social groups that children form or join outside the family - Is Development Continuous Or Discontinuous? Some see development as a continuous process with each change building on earlier experiences in an orderly way. They see development as smooth and gradual, without any abrupt shifts along the path. Others view development as a series of discrete steps and see the organization of behavior as qualitatively different at each new stage or plateau (discontinuous). Recently, some developmental psychologists have suggested that our judgment of continuity or discontinuity depends on the power of the lens we use when we look at changes across ages. If we look from a distance or over a fairly long period of time, marked differences are evident, suggesting that there are distinct developmental stages in social behavior and social relationships. If we look more closely, however, we find that such changes do not happen suddenly. Thus, over time, change proceeds in a less linear and a less steplike fashion than continuous or stage theories suggest. Today, most social development scholars recognize the value of both continuous and discontinuous views; they see development as basically continuous but interspersed with transitional periods in which changes are relatively abrupt. - IS SOCIAL BEHAVIOR THE RESULT OF THE SITUATION OR THE CHILD? Developmental psychologists differ in the importance they assign to person factors versus situation factors. Many resolve the dilemma by stressing the dual contributions of both personality and situational factors. They point out that children seek out situations in which they can display their personalities. Aggressive children, for example, are more likely to join a gang or enroll in a karate class than to opt for the church choir or a stamp collectors club - IS SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT UNIVERSAL ACROSS CULTURES? Psychologists themselves differ as to how much importance they ascribe to culture. Some argue that culture-free laws of development apply to all children in all cultures. Other psychologists argue that the cultural settings in which children grow up play a major role in their development. Yet other psychologists suggest that some aspects of social development are universal and other aspects are attributable to culture. For example, although all children develop social understanding, the rates at which social milestones are reached vary across cultures. - How Does Social Development Vary Across Historical Eras? Rates of divorce and remarriage have increased, childbearing has been delayed, family sizes have decreased, the likelihood of mothers working outside the home has increased, childrens exposure to peers in child care has increased. Both distinct historical events and more gradual shifts in living arrangements and societal values leave their mark on childrens social and emotional development. - Is Social Development Related To Other Developmental Domains? Social development is best understood by studying it in the context of other domains of development becauseadvances in other developmental areas facilitate changes in social development. It is also important to recognize the reciprocal nature of this cross-domain influence: Shifts in competence in the social domain affect childrens progress in other domains as well as the reverse - How Important Are Mothers For A Child`s Social Development? Although no one today would deny that mothers are important and maybe even the most important people for childrens early social development, psychologists now appreciate that other people are important too. Fathers, siblings, grandparents, and other relatives are all recognized as influencing childrens social development - Is There A Single Pathway To Social Development? Today most theorists recognize that there are varied routes of development. No single pathway to social success or failure exists. This divergence of developmental paths, in which two individuals start out similarly and end up at very different points, is called multifinality. Other children, by contrast, may begin at different places but end up with similar developmental outcomes. This example illustrates equifinality. - What Influences How We Judge Childrens Social Behavior? This issue is of interest because how we judge or label someones behavior affects how we respond to it. For example, labeling a behavior as aggressive is more likely to lead to a negative response than labeling it as assertive. Three sets
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