Chapter 1: Child Development:
Theories and Themes
MODULES
1.1 A Word About This Book
1.2 Theories of Child Development
1.3 Themes in Child-Development
Research
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Module 1.1 A Word About This Book
Terminology
Newborn: birth to 1 month
Infant: 1 month to 1 year
Toddler: 1 to 2 years
Preschooler: 2 to 6 years
Adolescent: 12 to 18 years
Adult: 18 years and older
Cultural Groups
Native Americans
Hispanic Americans
Asian Americans
European Americans
African Americans
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Module 1.2 Theories of Child
Development
LEARNING OBJECTIVES
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
State the major tenets of the biological perspective.
Explain how psychodynamic theories account for
development.
Identify the focus of learning theories.
Describe how cognitive-development theories explain
changes in children’s thinking.
Name the main points of the contextual approach.
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Theory
An organized set of ideas designed to
explain and make predictions about
development.
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Theories of Child Development
John Locke 17th century philosopher believed
that the mind of an infant is a blank slate (tabula
rasa) and that all knowledge, abilities, behaviors
and motives are acquired by experience.
Jean-Jacques Rosseau believed that infant’s
were endowed with an innate sense of justice and
morality that unfolds naturally as children grow.
James Mark Baldwin believed that theory should
guide experimentation and that children
development occurs in stages, later developed by
Piaget.
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The Biological Perspective
Maturational theory
Ethological theory
-Critical periods
-Imprinting
-Attachment
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The Psychodynamic Perspective
Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis
Freud’s Psychosexual Theory
- Conflict of individual’s instinct and societal
norms for behaviour.
Three components of personality
- Id (primitive instincts and drives)
- Ego (practical, rational component)
- Superego (moral agent)
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Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory
Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Development
- Far less emphasis on sexual urges.
- More emphasis on social and cultural influences
on development.
- Development occurs in a sequence of stages
defined by a unique crisis or social challenge.
- Journey to adulthood is fraught with obstacles.
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The Eight Stages of
Psychosocial Development
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The Learning Perspective
John B. Watson
- Strong emphasis on environmental influences.

recall Locke’s tabula rasa
- “Little Albert” experiment
Ivan Pavlov
- Classical conditioning
- Pavlov’s dog
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Early Learning Theories
B. F. Skinner’s Operant Conditioning
- Focus on outcome of behaviour for predicting future
occurrences of that behaviour.
- Reinforcement ↑ probability of behaviour occurring again
Positive reinforcement (i.e. reward)
Negative reinforcement (i.e. taking away unpleasant things)
- Punishment ↓ probability of behaviour occurring again
Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory
- Imitation or observational (vicarious) learning.
- Emphasizes role of environment, behaviour and cognitions
(i.e. self-efficacy) as important in shaping development.
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The Cognitive-Developmental
Perspective
Jean Piaget
- Infants, children, adolescents naturally motivated to
make sense of the physical and social world.
- 4 distinct stages in cognitive development
- sensorimotor
- preoperational thought
- concrete operational thought
- formal operational thought
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The Contextual Perspective
Culture
- the knowledge,attitudes,beliefs, symbolic
representations and behaviors associated
with a group of people.
-
provides the context in which a child
develops.
-
Important influence from infancy to adolescence.
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Ecological Systems Theory
Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems
Theory

Detailed characterization of various environmental
influences on development.

Environment is a series of embedded systems

Microsystem

Mesosystem

Exosystem

Macrosystem
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Information-Processing Theory
Human mind similar to computer.
Emphasizes the “parts” of human development.
Development reflects changes in
- Mental Hardware (different memories and
where they are stored)
- Mental Software (organized sets of cognitive
processes, i.e. how to read)
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Evolutionary Theory
Evolution shapes which behavior and
characteristics contribute most to the survival of
infants and children.
- grandparent-grandchild relationships
Evolutionary developmental psychology
- Bjorklund and Pellegrini
- evolutionary theory as a metatheory of human
development.
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Developmental Psychopathology
Broad unified understanding of how
abnormal development can occur.
-dynamic process
- continual transformation across the
lifespan
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Module 1.3 Themes in ChildDevelopment Research
LEARNING OBJECTIVES
Demonstrate how well developmental
outcomes can be predicted from early life.
2. Understand how heredity and environment
influence development.
3. Specify what role children have in their own
development.
4. State how development in different domains is
connected.
1.
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Early Development Is Related to
Later Development
Early development is related to later
development but not perfectly.
-Predictability of development
-Continuous versus Non-Continuous
-Nature-Nurture Issue
-Active-Passive Child
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Conclusions
The Big Picture
- Classic developmental theories tend to be very broad but
have given way to more precise and narrower in scope
theories.
Development in Different Domains is Connected
-General themes connected in children’s development:
continuous:non-continuous; nature:nurture; active:passive.
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