Human Developmental Theories

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Why are some people so giving and cordial whereas others are callous and cruel? Psychologists use human developmental theories to analyze one’s past and pick out what events prompted their behavior and personality. Human development theories are “an organized set of ideas that explains development (12).” These theories are used to explain one’s development throughout their lifetime. Both authors of Human Developmenal A Life-Span View, Robert V. Kail and John C. Cavanaugh, included multiple theories in their works because it provides the reader to explore many different angles of human development.

According to psychodynamic theories, “development is largely determined by how well people resolve conflicts they face at different ages (12).” The choices that an individual makes as a child results in how they will develop throughout their lifetime. These theories derived from Sigmund Freud’s theory, which is that “personality emerges from conflicts that children experience between what they want to do and what society wants them to do (12).”

In Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory, our personalities develop through eight stages we complete from infancy all the way to adulthood. You can either successfully pass these stages or fail them, resulting in how your personality will be shaped. These eight stages include trust vs. mistrust, autonomy vs. shame, initiative vs. guilt, industry vs. inferiority, identity vs. identity confusion, intimacy vs. isolation, generativity vs. stagnation, and integrity vs. despair. Erikson’s theory is based off of the epigenetic principle, which is that each person’s personality comes from prearranged stages that are influenced by the surrounding environment.

An example of his theory would be a baby who depends on someone else. If their caregiver continues to fulfil their needs whenever they cry -like feed them, change their diapers and play with them- the baby will develop a sense of trust for the person caring for them. However, if their caregiver neglects their needs and does not provide for them, they will not pass the first stage which results in mistrust. Erikson’s theory is important because it accentuates the difficult course to adulthood and the many obstacles an individual will face in life.

Unlike the psychosocial theory, the learning theory stresses that people’s behavior is influenced by learning, watching others and experience. The learning theory includes behaviorism and social learning theory. Behaviorism started when John Watson (1878-1958) speculated that since infant’s minds are “blank slates,” learning is crucial to determining how people’s behaviors and personalities will be shaped. B.F. Skinner continued on with Watson’s speculation and concluded that operant conditioning played a role in developing behavior.

Operant conditioning expresses that the consequences of a behavior determines if an individual will reiterate that certain action again. Reinforcement is used to influence a behavior to be repeated. There are two different types of reinforcement, both positive and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is when a person is giving a reward for their behavior, like when a child receives a piece of candy from a teacher when they volunteer to answer a question. Negative reinforcement is a person is rewarded by taking something away from them.

For example, if students raise their hands in class, the teacher will not randomly pick on a student to answer a question. To prevent an action from reoccurring, punishments are used. For example, a punishment would be taking away a teenagers phone for not doing the dishes. Behaviorism is very beneficial because it allows for children’s behaviors to be shaped and helps them learn right from wrong.

Social learning theory (imitation/observational learning) does not include learning from reinforcement and punishments, instead people learn by watching other people. People mostly mock one’s behavior if it’s coming from someone who’s important, talented or popular. They also mock someone once they see the consequence of a certain behavior. Individuals unintentionally look to others for appropriate behaviors than deliberately copying those around them. An example of social learning theory is a baby throwing a toy because the saw another baby throw one. Social learning theory is important because a lot of children mock actions from those around them, both positive and negative.

Cognitive developmental theory is another perspective of human developmental theories. For cognitive development theories. Cognitive developmental theories focus on thinking, and how thinking is altered overtime. According to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, children move through four different stages of cognitive development as they attempt to make sense of the world.

They startout in the sensorimotor stage, where their knowledge is based on senses and motor skills, and they develop memory and imagination.. Next is the preoperational thought, where they learn how to use words and numbers however they are egocentric during this stage. Next is the concrete operational stage; in this stage, children are more understanding and logical, they also become less egocentric.

Piaget’s theory is very useful because it emphasizes how children think, which helps with the creation of new learning toys and teachers creation lessons for their classes.


Cite this paper

Human Developmental Theories. (2021, Jun 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/human-developmental-theories/

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