CHAPTER 1 – Introduction: Theories of Social Development
Social Development: A Brief History
- relatively recent enterprise
- medieval period children viewed as miniature adults, didn’t recognize as distinctive period for
special attention, not valued the same way they are today, protecting them not introduced till 1800s
- scientific study of children development began w/ Charles Darwin modern study of emotions
- Stanley questionnaires document activities, feelings, and attitudes
- John B. Watson social and emotional behaviour acquired through conditioning and learning
(emotional responses learnable, social behavior can be studied scientifically)
- Sigmund Freud product of how adults handled children’s basic drives
- Arnold Gesell social skills unfold over course of infancy and childhood
Critical Questions about Social Development
1. how do biological and environmental influences affect social development?
now scholars don’t focus on either one, but the interaction between the two
now a question of how inherited biological characteristics are shaped by set of environmental
2. what role do children play in their own development?
early scholars believed they were passive, now believe they are active to some extent
children – curious seekers of info and try to understand world around them
participate in reciprocal interchanges – transactional: ongoing interchanges between social
partners across time that result in modifications of social behaviour of each
constantly undergoing change because of mutual influence process
3. what is the appropriate unit for studying social development?
typically focused on child – recent decades increasingly recognize other units
focus shifted to social dyads: pair of social partners (friends, parent and child, or marital partners)
larger units: social triads, social groups formed outside the family
4. is development continuous or discontinuous?
figure 1.1, p.6: continuous=smooth and gradual, discontinuous=discrete steps, qualitatively
different at each new stage
(c) judgment of continuity or discontinuity depends on power of lens used to look at changes across
5. is social behaviour the result of the situation or the child?
dual contributions of both personality and situational factors- seek out situations to display their
“niche-pick” situations that are compatible w/ genetic predispositions
selection of experiences may strengthen predispositions
6. is social development universal across cultures?
recognizing universal aspects and importance of cultural contexts
7. how does social development vary across historical eras?
historical changes play part in shaping development, also by specific events
gradual shifts in living arrangements and societal values leave mark on social and emotional
8. is social development related to other developmental domains?
Best understood by studying in concept of other domains such as cognition, language, emotion, and
motor development Darwin suggested emotion play central role regulating social interactions
Study cognitive development
Language essential means of communication
Motor development = maintaining physical proximity w/ others, pointing and gesturing
9. how important are mothers for children’s social development
are important – other ppl are too, embedded in social matrix
10.is there a single pathway of social development?
multifinality: divergence of developmental paths in which two individuals start out similarly but
end at very different points
equifinality: convergence of developmental paths in which children follow very different paths to
reach same developmental end point
respond to life circumstances in different ways
11.what influences how we judge children’s social behaviour?
three sets of factors: characteristics of child, adult, and context
negative labeling – affects behaviour, detrimental self-labeling and expose to risks that push toward
12.do developmental psychologists “own” social development?
no – combine diverse disciplinary perspectives=figure out complexities of children’s social
Theoretical Perspectives on Social Development
- serve two main functions:
1) help organize and integrate existing info into coherent and interesting accounts of children’s
2) lead to testable hypotheses and predictions about children’s behaviour
- his psychodynamic theory: development is determined by innate biologically based drives shaped by
encounters w/ the environment in early childhood
- developing personality has three interrelated parts
1) id: instinctual drives that operate on basis of pleasure principle
2) ego: rational component of personality, tries to satisfy needs through appropriate, social acceptable
3) superego: repository of child’s internalization of parental or societal values, morals, and roles
- table 1.2, p.14: discontinuous process, five discrete stages
during phallic stage – Oedipus complex: boys become attracted to their mother and jealous of their
electra complex: girls blame their mother for lack of penis and focus sexual feelings on father
way children negotiate these stages has effect on later behaviour and personality
- accepted many of Freud’s general principles, gave more emphasis to effects of social environment
- psychosocial theory: each stage of development depends on accomplishing a psychological task in
interactions w/ the social environment – table 1.2, p.14 (extended through adulthood)
Traditional Learning Theory Perspective
CLASSICAL AND OPERANT CONDITIONING - classical conditioning: type of learning in which new stimulus is repeatedly presented w/ a familiar
stimulus until an individual learns to respond to new stimulus in same way as familiar stimulus
- operant conditioning: type of learning that depends on consequence of behaviour (positive and
- drive reduction theory: version of learning theory suggesting that association of stimulus and response
in classical and operant conditioning results in learning only if it is accompanied by reduction of basic
primary drives such as hunger and thirst
LEARNING THEORY APPROACHES: AN EVALUATION
- classical conditioning seems to account for development of strong emotions in response to specific
objects – can be used to reduce strong emotions through systematic desensitization: classical
conditioning therapy used to overcome phobias and fears through expo