Developmental Psychology Theories

Developmental Psychology Theories

The field of developmental psychology is an underappreciated branch of both psychology and sociology. It studies the progression of mental development throughout someone’s lifetime, from birth to death, in response to various internal and external stimuli. Developmental psychologists are responsible for determining how a person processes information, how they grow and change during their lifetime, and what makes people who they are today.

This article discusses some theories that developmental psychologists have come up with over the years about what might be driving these changes in personality as people grow older. Do my psychology homework assists students who experience challenges in tackling some of the concepts taught in psychology. We have a team of professionals who will ensure that you succeed in your career. We also offer master thesis ideas for people pursuing psychology at the postgraduate level.


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What is Developmental Psychology?

Developmental psychology is a field of study that examines aspects of personality, social behavior, and cognitive development throughout an individual’s lifecycle. It also studies the neurological structures and biological systems that subconsciously govern a person’s behavior. 

The field of developmental psychology is closely related to that of clinical psychology, which focuses on the study and treatment techniques for mental disorders. If a person has signs of psychological distress, such as depression, anxiety, or phobias, these psychologists can help diagnose and treat them.

History of Developmental Psychology

Beginning in the late nineteenth century, the scientific study of children took off in the early twentieth as forward-thinking psychologists looked to enhance their understanding of human behavior via observation of its growth. John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Charles Darwin were three early researchers who put out views of human behavior that are now said to as the “direct ancestors of the three major theoretical lineages” of developmental psychology. 

John Locke’s contribution mostly applied to child psychology depended on the type of environment that a child grows up in. Rousseau developed the nativistic model which stated that development is as a result of three innate processes, infans, puer, and adolescence. Darwin was behind the evolutionary theory. Their discoveries paved way for other scientists who later made improvements to the developed theories.

Child Developmental Psychology Theories

Why do some children develop more quickly than others? What are the challenges that children face while growing up? These are some of the questions that triggered the curiosity of the developmental psychologists and led to the establishment of well-known theories. Understanding some of these theories may be difficult for anyone pursuing psychology. Psychology homework helps students’ master smart ways to tackle their psychology assignments. Some of the popular developmental theories include:

1. Psychosexual Theory

The psychosexual theory was developed by Sigmund Freud. It lays its central element on the psychoanalytic sexual drive theory. Sigmund Freud believed that a person’s personality results from pleasure seeking energies that one develops as they grow up. Freud came up with five stages which include: oral, phallic, latent, and genital where the latter involves the first three stages. 

The oral stage refers to the period before children start to talk. The phallic stage refers to sexual development during puberty. The latent and genital stages are related to adulthood. During this period, one passes through an “ocean” of emotions, thoughts, and feelings that are intermingled in constant flux in one way or another.

2. Psychosocial Theory

The focus of the psychosocial theory is on how people see themselves, interact with others, and make connections with their social environment. The term, psychosocial, helps to highlight the fact that all of these social interactions occur inside of, or in relation to the mind. This theory was developed by Erik H. Erikson, who studied the development throughout life and “began his research when he was a student in Berlin in 1920s.

His observations led him to the conclusion that human beings develop through a series of stages that can be grouped into eight different stages.” The stages include; Trust vs. Mistrust, Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, Initiative vs. Guilt, Industry vs. Inferiority,  Identity vs. Confusion, Intimacy vs. Isolation, Generativity vs. Stagnation, and Integrity vs. Despair.

3. Behavioral Theories

According to the behaviorist learning theory, all behaviors are learned through conditioning, and conditioning takes place as a result of interactions with the environment. The behaviorist theory was developed by Edward Thorndike, who posited that learning takes place throughout the lifespan. There are two types of behaviorism which include: methodological and radical behaviorism. Methodological behaviorism was developed by John Watson who was named after him. 

This theory focuses on the direct relationship between stimulus and response. The radical behaviorist theory came from B.F. Skinner who believed that all behavior was learned through conditioning and that these stimuli are processed through reinforcements in the environment. Rewards and punishments are used to train behavior which may then become an operant response, which is a positive or negative reaction to stimuli presented in a particular situation e.g., learning to avoid hot stoves by turning away from them as a response to thermal pain stimuli.

4. Cognitive Theory

Cognitive theories look at how a person’s thinking patterns and behaviors affect their development. Jean Piaget believed that development is an ongoing process that begins at birth and continues throughout adulthood. He proposed four main stages in cognitive development: sensorimotor (birth to two years), preoperational (two to seven years), concrete operational (seven to eleven years), and formal operational (eleven years and beyond). 

Development is said to occur in a series of stages during the first two years after birth. At this early stage, one’s intellectual activities consist of the physical ability to move about, grab and handle objects. The next stage is preoperational which occurs from two to seven years and is characterized by the development of imagination, fantasy, and creativity. The concrete operational stage follows from seven to eleven years.

This stage includes understanding language, seeing things in terms of definition rather than color, number, mental math skills, and the use of reason and logic. Lastly, the formal operational stage occurs after eleven years. At this stage, one’s mental activities include; abstract reasoning and thinking, the ability to take on multiple perspectives, logic, and problem-solving skills.

5. Attachment Theory

John Bowlby’s attachment theory is based on the fact that a secure attachment can help a person develop normally during childhood. Bowlby developed his attachment theory based on three main observations:

He noticed that in many cultures, children are not allowed to be as emotionally close to their parents as in Western countries. He observed that children separated from their parents suffered from maladjustment and became very anxious when they were left alone even for short periods of time. He noticed that children who were in a secure attachment to their parents were able to adjust well when they were separated from their parents.

For a long time, Bowlby was criticized by his contemporaries such as Margaret Mahler because of his attachment theory. However, it was John Bowlby who made many improvements in the birth process and treatment of premature infants that resulted in a reduction in infant mortality.

6. Social Learning Theory

Albert Bandura believes that behavior is the result of one’s interaction with the environment. According to Albert Bandura, behavior that is rewarded tends to increase. He also believed that a person will do what they have seen others do. Albert Bandura was the first person to prove that human behavior can be learned through modeling after one sees someone else being rewarded or punished for doing certain things. 

He proved this by using videos of a model performing various acts. When a person sees someone else being rewarded for doing an act, the chances of them also performing that act increases. When a person sees someone else being punished for doing an act, the chances of them not performing that act or a similar act decreases. The stages of social learning theory can be divided into three stages: observational, vicarious, and modeling. 

The first stage, which is the observational stage occurs when a person is in a neutral state. In this stage, the perceiver acts independently without any fear of being punished or rewarded. In the second stage, which is the vicarious stage, a person is influenced by a model’s behavior and aspects that are seen in the model’s behavior begin to be imitated. The third stage, which is the modeling stage, is seen in the person’s own behavior because they see themselves or someone else being rewarded and punished for performing a certain act. 

Issues in Developmental Psychology

Various issues have arisen throughout the development of developmental psychology. The major questions that have arisen over the years include:

  • Which influences development more—genetics or environment?
  • Changes happen gradually and effortlessly, or do they happen in stages?
  • Are early experiences more crucial for development than later ones, or is it the opposite?

Here are the answers to the stated questions:

  • Various developmental psychologists tried to explain what influences development more in regards to genetics and environment. This debate was referred to as nature and Nurture, Plato and Descartes argued that some ideas were inborn. On the other hand philosophers such as Lockes that the environment played a big role in determining the development of a person.
  • The second issue was whether changes occur gradually or in stages. Various philosophers had different opinions about child development. Sigmund Freud who proposed the psychoanalytic theory believed that development occurs through a series of psychosexual stages. Erickson came up with the psychosocial theory which stated that development occurs gradually and effortlessly.
  • The last issue was whether early experiences were crucial to child development. Sigmund Freud argued that a child’s personality was completely developed by the age of 5. According to him a child who faced an abusive childhood will never be able to adjust. Other scientists opposed Freud’s theory and stated that although some people don’t have a seemingly perfect childhood they can still grow into well-adjusted citizens.

Although there is still much more to learn, developmental psychology has made great strides in the fields of medicine, education, and in understanding human growth and behavior.

Developmental psychology has not only helped us to understand how a child develops but also how an adult can help a child develop even further.