History, Theories, and Methods
The Development of the
Study of Development
Child Development Pioneers
• John Locke
– Believed children came into the world as a
“tabula rasa,” or blank slate
• Jean-Jacques Rousseau
– Believed children were inherently good, and when
allowed to express natural impulses, generous
morality would develop
Child Development Pioneers (cont’d)
• G. Stanley Hall
– Founded child development as an academic
discipline and focused scientific attention on the
period of adolescence
• Alfred Binet/Theodore Simon
– Developed first standardized intelligence test
intended to help public school children at risk of
falling behind their peers in academic
Adult Development Theorists
• William Perry/Gisella Labouvie-Vief
– Studied cognitive complexity from adolescence to
late adulthood
• K.W. Schaie
– Studied trends in various mental abilities
throughout middle and late adulthood
Theories of Development
Developmental Theories
• Learning theory
– Stressed the importance of the physical and
social environments (nurture) (John B. Watson)
• Maturation view
– Stressed the importance of biological maturation
as the main force in development (nature) (Arnold
• Psychoanalytic perspective
– Stressed the importance of conflicts between
opposing inner forces (Freud)
Freud’s Theory of Psychosexual
• Focused on emotional and social development
• Focused on the origins of psychological traits
– dependence, obsessive neatness, and vanity
• Three parts of the personality
- Id
• Present at birth; unconscious
• Represents biological drives
• Demands instant gratification
- Ego
• Conscious sense of self
• Seeks gratification but avoids social disapproval
- Superego
• Conscious
• Monitors the intentions and behavior of ego by allowing guilt
and shame
Five Stages of Psychosexual Development
Stage 1 – Oral stage
Focus on oral activities such as
sucking and biting during first year of
Stage 2 – Anal stage
Focus on control and elimination of
bodily waste products
Toilet training stage of life
Stage 3 – Phallic stage
Focus on parent/child conflict
over child’s personal sexual exploration
Stage 4 – Latency stage
Focus on schoolwork
Sexual feelings remain unconscious
Children play with same sex playmates
Stage 5 – Genital stage
Begins with biological changes in
adolescence resulting in desire for
Contributions of Freudian Theory
• Stimulated various research areas
• Influenced how childcare workers approach infants,
toddlers, and preschoolers
• Influenced teachers’ sensitivity to students’
emotional needs
• Influenced the stage models of other theorists such
as Erikson
Limitations of Freudian Theory
• Theory developed from his interactions with adult
patients (mostly women)
• May have inadvertently guided patients’ reports to
confirm his views
• Overemphasized basic instincts and unconscious
Erikson’s Psychosocial Development
• Focused on development of
– emotional life
– psychological traits
– self-identity
• Looked at importance of social relationships, but
emphasis was on the ego (sense of self)
• Viewed physical maturation as a major contributor to
• Viewed that early experiences affect future
developments and/or accomplishments
• Successful resolution of early life crises bolster
sense of identity
Eight Stages of Psychosocial
• Stage 1 – Trust vs. mistrust
(age 1)
• Stage 2 – Autonomy vs. shame/doubt
(ages 1-3)
• Stage 3 – Initiative vs. guilt
(ages 3-5)
• Stage 4 – Industry vs. inferiority
(ages 6-12)
• Stage 5 – Identity vs. confusion
(ages 12-18)
• Stage 6 – Intimacy vs. isolation
(young adulthood)
• Stage 7 – Generativity vs. self-absorption
(middle adulthood)
• Stage 8 – Integrity vs. despair
(late adulthood)
Contributions of Erikson’s Theory
• Emphasized importance of human consciousness
and choice
• Portrayed human development as prosocial and
• Some empirical support that positive outcomes of
early life crises help put us on path to positive
Behavioral Theory
• Classical conditioning
– Developed by Pavlov
– Learning in which a neutral stimulus elicits the response
usually brought forth by a second stimulus through repeated
pairings with the second stimulus
• ex. tension in children’s bladder paired with the bell
• Operant conditioning
– Developed by Skinner
– Learning in which an organism learns to engage in behavior
that is reinforced
• ex. child learns to adjust behavior to conform to social codes and rules
to earn reinforcers such as attention and approval
Fig. 1-1, p. 6
• Positive reinforcers
– Increase the frequency of behaviors when they are applied
• ex. food and approval
• Negative reinforcers
– Increase the frequency of behaviors when undesirable
states are removed
• ex. fear of failure is removed when one studies for a test
• Extinction
– Results from repeated performance of operant behavior
without reinforcement
• ex. child’s temper tantrum stops when parent leaves the room
Fig. 1-2, p. 7
Fig. 1-3, p. 7
• Punishment: aversive events that suppress
or decrease the frequency of the behavior
they follow
• Punishment CONS
– Does not suggest alternative acceptable behavior
– Suppresses undesirable behavior only when its
delivery is guaranteed
– Can create feelings of anger and hostility
Social-Cognitive Theory
• Developed by Bandura
– Learning occurs
• by observing other people
• by reading
• by viewing characters in the media
• Observational learning occurs by the
modeling of a behavior to another person
Cognitive-Developmental Theory
• Developed by Piaget
– Intrigued by children’s wrong answers
– Children seen as active participants
• Scheme
– Action pattern or mental structure involved in acquiring or
organizing knowledge
• Adaptation
– Interaction between the organism and the environment
• Assimilation
– The incorporation of new events or knowledge into existing
• Accommodation
– The modification of existing schemes to permit the
incorporation of new events or knowledge
• Equilibration
– Achieving a balance between assimilation and
Four Stages of Cognitive Development
• Stage 1 – Sensorimotor
(birth to 2 years)
– focus on sensory exploration; object permanence mastered
• Stage 2 – Preoperational
(2-7 years)
– focus on language and symbolic expression through play; children are
• Stage 3 – Concrete operational
(7-12 years)
– focus on mastering concepts such as reversibility
• Stage 4 – Formal operational
– ability to reason abstractly
(12 years and older)
Information-Processing Theory
• Based on computer model of information processing
• Cognitive process of
– encoding information (input)
– storing the information into long-term memory
– retrieving the information (or placing it in shortterm memory)
– manipulating the information to solve problems
• Most applicable to the teaching of methodological
• ex: teaching the scientific method
The Biological Perspective
Directly relates to physical development:
gains in height and weight
development of the brain
developments connected with hormones,
reproduction, and heredity
Two primary theories
Evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary Psychology
• Studies the ways in which adaptation and
natural selection are connected with mental
processes and behavior
– Behavior patterns that help an organism to
survive and reproduce are likely to be transmitted
to the next generation
– Fixed action patterns
• A stereotyped pattern of behavior evoked by a
“releasing stimulus,” an instinct
The Ecological Perspective
• Ecology
– The branch of biology that deals with the
relationships between living organisms and their
• Bronfenbrenner
– Looked at two-way interactions between the child
and the parents, not just maturational forces
(nature) or childrearing practices (nurture)
Bronfenbrenner’s Systems Approach
• Microsystem
– interactions of the child with other people in the immediate
setting such as the home, school, or peer group
• Mesosystem
– interactions of various settings with the microsystem such as a
parent-teacher conference or a school field trip to the zoo
• Exosystem
– institutions that indirectly affect the development of the child
such as the school board or the parent’s place of employment
• Macrosystem
– interaction of the child with the beliefs, expectations, and
lifestyle of his/her cultural setting
• Chronosystem
– the influence that changes over time have on development
Fig. 1-4, p. 11
The Sociocultural Perspective
• Developed by Vygotsky
• Teaches that people are social beings who are affected
by the cultures in which they live
• Focuses on the transmission of information and
cognitive skills from generation to generation
• Views that learning consists of social engagement from
a more skilled individual to a lesser skilled individual
– ex: an older sibling teaching a younger sibling to ride a bike
Sociocultural Terms
• Zone of proximal development (ZPD)
– range of tasks that a child can carry out with the help of a more
skilled apprentice
• Scaffolding
– problem-solving methods such as cues provided to the child to
increase independent functioning
• Diversity
– one’s ethnicity, race, gender, age, etc.
Controversies in Development
The Nature/Nurture Controversy
• Which is more influential in development – nature
(heredity) or nurture (environmental influences)?
• Natural causes
– Genetics
– Nervous system functioning
– Maturation
• Environmental causes
– Nutrition
– Cultural and familial backgrounds
– Educational opportunities
The Continuity/Discontinuity Controversy
• Continuous perspective views development as
– a process where the effects of learning mount gradually with
no major sudden qualitative changes
• Discontinuous perspective views development as
– a number of rapid qualitative changes that usher in new
STAGES of development
– biological changes provide the potential for psychological
• Freud and Piaget were discontinuous theorists
The Active-Passive Controversy
• Active perspective
– maintains children are actively engaged in their
• ex: child viewed as willful and unruly
• Passive perspective
– maintains that children are passive and the
environment acts on them to influence
• ex: child viewed as blank tablets
How Do We Study Development?
Developmental Research Methodologies
• Naturalistic observation
– research conducted in natural setting
– in “the field”
• Case study
– carefully drawn account of an individual’s
Correlational Studies
• Correlation
– attempt to determine whether one behavior or trait
being studied is correlated with another; never
indicates cause and effect
• Correlation coefficient
– number ranging from -1.00 to +1.00 that expresses
the direction and strength of the relationship between
two variables
• positive correlation
• negative correlation
Fig. 1-5, p. 16
The Experiment
• Preferred method for investigating questions of
cause and effect
• One group receives the treatment and the other
group does not
• Experiments test a hypothesis
• Experiments have independent and dependent
– independent variable is manipulated
– dependent variables are the measured results
Experiments (cont’d)
• Experimental group
– receives the treatment
• Control group
– does not receive the treatment
• Random assignment
– subjects assigned to a group randomly
• Ethical/practical considerations
– researchers look at the assignment of participants; sometimes
correlational evidence must be settled for rather than
• Animal subjects
– used to generalize findings to humans when it is not ethical or
practical to use humans in the experiment
Longitudinal Research
• In longitudinal research
– same people are observed repeatedly over time,
and changes in development are recorded
• Typical time of study spans months or a few
• Longitudinal researchers must enlist future
researchers to continue the study
Cross-Sectional Research
• Cross-sectional research observes and
compares subjects of different ages
– a larger number of participants is needed for this
type of study
• Cohort effect
– Group of people born at the same time will
experience cultural and other events unique to
age group
Cross-Sequential Research
• Combines longitudinal and cross-sectional
methods to overcome research drawbacks
• Breaks up the full span of the ideal
longitudinal study into convenient segments
• Minimizes the number of years needed to
complete a study
• Uses time-lag comparisons
Fig. 1-6, p. 19
Ethical Considerations
• Do not use methods that may cause physical or
psychological harm
• Inform participants of the purposes of the research and
its methods
• Participation must involve voluntary consent
• Participants may withdraw from study at any time, for
any reason
• Participants are offered information about the results of
the study
• Identities of participants remains confidential
• Research plans are to be presented to a committee of
colleagues and gain approval before proceeding

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