Approaches and Theories
to Children’s Literature
Albert Bandura (b.1925)
Canadian psychologist
The Social Learning Theory of Bandura emphasis the importance of observing
and modeling the behaviors, attitudes and emotional reactions of others.
Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from
observing others one forms an idea of how new ideas are performed, and on
later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.
Social learning theory explains human behavior in terms of continuous
reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, and environmental
Individuals are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if it results in
outcomes they value.
Individuals are more likely to adopt modeled behavior if the model is similar to
the observer and has admired status.
Dr Nada Al-Ajmi
Bruno Bettelheim (1903-1990)
An Austrian child psychologist and a writer.
The author of The Uses of Enchantment (1976) in which he
analyzed fairytales in terms of Freudian psychology.
He discussed the emotional and symbolic importance of fairytales
for children.
He suggested that traditional fairytales, with the darkness of
abandonment, death, witches, and injuries, allowed children to
grapple with their fears.
He thought that by engaging with the stories, children would go
through emotional growth that would better prepare them for their
own lives.
Dr Nada Al-Ajmi
He believed that the tales had an organic quality
because of having evolved in societies and that they
allowed children to deal with their darkest fears in
symbolic terms.
Dr Nada Al-Ajmi
John Locke
Prior to the 17th and 18th centuries Britons did not
think of childhood as a separate stage of
development, they looked at children as simply, small
During the 17th and 18th centuries, adults began to
look at their children differently
New philosophies , such as John Locke’s theorized
childhood as distinctly separate from adulthood came
English began to perceive children as imprintable
individuals who could be taught morals and conduct.
Dr Nada Al-Ajmi
To support this new thinking, authors began to write
literature for children with the intention of teaching.
Children’s literature became instructional.
Three types of instructions were particularly
prominent: 1- Religious: children’s literature was
devoted to religious pursuit. 2- Class divisions: Ch. Lit.
assisted attempts to enforce class differences. 3Gender constructs: the female perception in literature
evolved towards more influential agent of social
Dr Nada Al-Ajmi
Locke sees that the goal of education is the welfare and
prosperity of the nation. He conceived the nation’s
welfare and prosperity in terms of personal happiness
and social usefulness of its citizens.
Man becomes moral through education – humans have
no innate ideas of God, no innate moral truths, no
natural inclination of virtue – Locke defined man as
both rational and moral.
Locke’s denial of innate ideas put a premium on
individual effort, on the labour necessary to gain
knowledge from experience.
Dr Nada Al-Ajmi
Lawrence Kohlberg
Kohlberg has focused on moral development and has
proposed a stage theory of moral thinking which goes
well beyond Piaget’s initial formulations.
Piaget divided his findings into two stage theories: 1Children’s younger than 10-11 years think about moral
dilemma's with regard to rules as fixed and absolute.
They believe that rules are handed down by adults or by
God and that one cannot change them. Thus younger
children base their moral judgments more on
Dr Nada Al-Ajmi
2- The older children understand that it is
permissible to change rules if everyone agrees.
Rules are not sacred and absolute, but are
devises which humans use to get along
cooperatively. Thus older children base their
judgments on intentions.
Dr Nada Al-Ajmi
Kohlberg uncovered six stages, only the first three of
which share many features with Piaget’s stages.
Kohlberg’s stages emerge from our own thinking about
moral problems. Social experiences do promote
development, but they do so by stimulating our mental
processes. As we get into discussions and debates with
others, we find our views questioned and challenged
and are therefore motivated to come up with new, more
comprehensive position.
Dr Nada Al-Ajmi
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
Austrian doctor who advanced in the fields of
psychiatry and psychology.
Freud’s theories have brought new approaches in child
rearing, education, and sociology, and have provided
new themes for many authors and artists
He believed that the unconscious plays a major role in
shaping behavior. He concluded that the unconscious is
full of memories of events from early childhood. He
noted that if these memories were specially painful,
people kept them out of conscious awareness. He used
the term defense mechanisms for the methods by
which individuals handled painful memories.
Dr Nada Al-Ajmi
Some of the defense mechanisms are as follows;
1- Denial; if a situation is too much to handle, the person
refuses to experience it. Therefore sometimes children
shut out from the realities that they cannot handle.
2-Denial in fantasy; here children, in their imaginations,
transform an evil father into a loving teddy bear, or a
helpless child into a powerful super hero.
3- Displacement; this is the redirection of an impulse
onto a substitute target. Eg. Someone who hates his
mother may repress that hatred, but direct it instead
towards women in general.
Dr Nada Al-Ajmi
4- Regression; is a movement back in
psychological time when one is faced with stress.
Eg. A child may suck his thumb or wet the bed
when he needs to spend time at the hospital.
* Freud saw all human behavior as motivated by
the drives or instincts, which in turn are
neurological representations of physical needs
Dr Nada Al-Ajmi
Carl Jung (1875 – 1961)
Swiss Psychiatrist
He emphasized the importance of balance and harmony.
He cautioned that modern people rely too heavily on science and
logic and would benefit from integrating spirituality and
appreciation of unconscious realms.
Jung’s work on himself and his patients convinced him that life
has a spiritual purpose beyond material goals. Our main task, he
believed, is to discover and fulfill our deep innate potential. He
perceived that this journey of transformation is at the mystical
heart of all religions. It is a journey to meet the self and at the
same time meet the Divine.
Dr Nada Al-Ajmi
Although Jung maintained friendship with Freud
at his earlier stages, he diverted to think, unlike
Freud, that the spiritual experience is essential to
our wellbeing.
Dr Nada Al-Ajmi

Approches and Theories to Children`s Literature