Debates in Developmental
Nature v Nurture
Continuity v Discontinuity
Nomothetic v Idiographic
Continuity v Discontinuity
Do children develop through a continuous
process of being around others and learning
from others?
Do children develop in discontinuous stages?
Eg one day they are a child, the next they are
a teenager.
• This side of the debate says that children
develop through discontinuous stages.
• Both Erikson and Piaget believe there are
sequences or stages that we all have to
go through.
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• Both Erikson and Piaget see development as
discontinuous because the stages are distinct
and therefore development is not a gradual
• Do you believe this? Can you see any
criticisms of this? Eg do you think that all
children develop through the stages that they
• Lev Vygotsky disagreed with Piaget & Erikson.
• He saw development in terms of a continuous
process and identified a concept called ‘The
Proximal Zone of Development’.
• This is when children learn from being with
either their parents or their peers with more
skills. Vygotsky said they could not perform
tasks on their own, but learned from others –
which theory does this remind you of?
Continuity - Scaffolding
Vygotsky also identified something
called ‘Scaffolding’.
This means a child
is supported. It is
taught information
and helped to
move to the next
level, which it
would not be able
to do on it’s own.
Continuity - Scaffolding Example
A child wants to make
lunch but does not have
the skills to do this.
A father shows his son how
to wash, chop and mix the
salad items and how to
make a dressing.
The child is learning skills such as chopping, pouring and
mixing. It is learning concepts such as quantities,
measurements and learning the names, shapes and colours
of new foods.
Continuity V Discontinuity
Explain how the
continuity and
discontinuity theories
would explain how a
child learns to swim.
Explain how they
would learn different
swimming strokes too!
Nomothetic V Idiographic
• Nomothetic – refers to general laws. A
nomothetic approach tries to find
similarities in the way we develop
• Idiographic – refers to the uniqueness of
each person. An idiographic approach
looks at how each individual person
develops, and the fact they might have
different needs
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