Child Psychology Child Development Term Paper

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Child Psychology

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Child development is a constantly changing psycho/social discipline with almost countless theories associated with it. The fundamental nature of children and how they develop to become either successful adults or unsuccessful adults to varying degrees is the essential question of the future and therefore the study of Child development is a mass of information encompassing theories of all kinds regarding physical, cognitive, personality, moral, social-emotional, identity, and spiritual development of individuals at all points encompassing what we know as childhood. Additionally, this mass of ideas constitutes a collection of many structured theories about all kinds of development. This work will attempt to give an overview of the history of old and emerging child development theories in all their changing perspectives. This work will discuss important issues of child development with regard to health, nutrition, parenting/caretaking, education, resilience, gender, culture/ethnic identities in a comparison and contrast format discussing current research and controversies in addition to historical developments in the field. It is also clear that many theorists fall into several categories, some dependant upon the nomenclature that was utilized by the particular theorist to develop his or her theories and also the areas of interest he or she utilizes to seek answers to different developmental concerns. For this reason some theories and theorists will be mentioned in several of the basic developmental groupings of this work, and their theories will be compared to others, both new and old throughout the work.

History of Child Development Theory:

Term Paper on Child Psychology Child Development Is a Constantly Assignment

Any history of Child Development theory must begin by addressing the concepts associated with the first and probably most profound of theoretical conflicts in the field. The intrinsic conflict between those who theorize that child development is to a very large degree predetermined by the genetics of the individual, or the nature theorists and those who theorize that each new being is a tabula rasa or blank slate and that all the development that occurs is the exclusive responsibility of the environment and the learning achieved within it or the nurture theorists. This debate goes back far into the annals of psychology and to some degree predates the field itself and can be found in philosophy. (Lerner, 1997, p. 42) (Eliot, 1999, pp.1-6) at the inception of the field of child development there was a relatively clear sense that both are to some degree responsible for development, yet theorists still tend to lean in one direction or another seeking biological explanations if they are leaning toward nature and environmental explanations if they are leaning toward the other end of the spectrum. "Where does the truth lie? Perhaps all positions have elements of truth in them, but the arguments about where the sources of behavior lie are by no means resolved.... It may be seen that the basic issue in developmental psychology is the nature-nurture controversy. Indeed, this controversy has been and remains very much an issue." (Lerner, 1997, p. 81) Additionally it is also important to understand that the area of development being investigated also tends to sway the theorist as there are clear biological and/or environmental areas in specialization.

For example... some psychologists interested in the study of perceptual processes (the Gestalt school) claim that nativistic factors are most important in determining a person's perception, while others (e.g., Hebb 1949) take an empiricist point-of-view. In the area of personality, some (e.g., Sheldon 1940, 1942) stress what they claim to be innate sources of a person's temperamental-behavioral functioning, while others (e.g., McCandless 1967, 1970) maintain that acquired, socially learned responses are the source of such functions. In looking at certain types of animal behavior, some writers (e.g., Lorenz 1965) postulate preformed, innate mechanisms to account for observed patterns, while others (e.g., Gottlieb 1970, 1983; Kuo 1967; Lehrman 1953; Schneirla 1957) take a probabilistic-epigenetic approach. Some researchers interested in verbal development stress the primacy of maturation (Gesell and Thompson 1941), while others viewing the same sort of behaviors offer interpretations that stress learning (Gagne 1968). Finally, some psychologists interested in intelligence suggest hypotheses that stress the primacy of heredity factors (e.g., Jensen 1969, 1974, 1980), while others apparently opt to emphasize the role of the environment (Kagan 1969) and/or gene-environment interaction (Lewontin 1976). (Lerner, 1997, pp. 81-82)

Having discussed the most enduring of all comparative foundational theories it is now acceptable to demonstrate a sort of time line associated with the evolution of the field, from its human (rather than child) based theories that begin with the basis of psychology in general. To some degree the inception of child development theory began with the psychoanalytic theory as the theories of Freud and Jung began a drive for people to have a more complete understanding of the nature of the human mind as it applies to human development. Freud was especially interested in how childhood experiences created lasting problems for adults, and Jung agreed to some degree but also demonstrated that the greatest way to understand the adult human mind, and especially in psychosis was to analyze their subconscious thoughts for Jung through dream symbolism for Freud through dream symbolism and hypnosis. Though both theorists did not agree on all points and the emphasis of psychoanalytic theory on sexualization as the most basic and important aspect of human development even in infancy made the theories controversial, the theories still form the foundation of a desire by a whole field, of those who followed to better understand how the mind works and especially how it affects behavior.

Thus behavior also has a function. The function of behavior became the focus of much social scientific concern. This concern was reflected not only in the ideas of those interested in the phylogeny of behavior....the idea was promoted that the behavioral changes characterizing ontogeny could be understood on the basis of adaptation. Thus the adaptive role of behavior became a concern providing a basis for all of American psychology (White 1968) and plays a major part in the ideas of theorists as diverse as Hall (1904), Freud (1949), Piaget (1950), Erikson (1959), and Skinner (1938, 1950).

(Lerner, 1997, p. 15)

Additionally, to some degree Freud began the process of acknowledgement that human development could be viewed as a series of stages, in a scientific fashion. This became the basis for the development of many stage theories after. Lastly, before leaving this line of thinking it is also important to note that Freud's work also gave exclusive importance to the idea that there is something profoundly important about the period between birth and the end of adolescence or beginning of adulthood, the recognized ages of child development and that during this time the individual's psychological and physical growth during this period could have significant influence on their ability to become a successful or unsuccessful adult.

Stage Theory:

Freud as the first stage theorist proposed that children developed through a series of five 'psychosexual stages, defined as oral, anal, phallic, latency and genital, each determining the development of the next stage or leaving the individual still working out, subconsciously some aspect of one or more stage that was underdeveloped at the crucial time in their life. Any development past the last stage, according the Freud was simply an internal return to whatever stage the individual did not complete as a child. (Mitchell & Black, 1995, p. 13) Erik Erikson, another stage theorist, in contrast sought to develop a theory of encompassing stages that included all the years of one's life, demonstrating that development does not and should not end at adulthood but continues through the lifespan. Nonetheless Erikson is also thought of as one of the first child psychologists and his stages are weighed more heavily toward the ages of childhood as he acknowledged that the younger one is the more developmental stages he or she must go through to achieve healthy development. (Erikson, 1975, p. 258) Erkson's stages of childhood, in brief include: Trust vs. Mistrust (birth to 18 months) where a child seeks to have his or her needs met by caregivers and learns to trust that such needs ill be met, Autonomy vs. Shame & doubt (18 months to 3 years) where a child learns the boundaries of his or her environment by exploring them, Initiative vs. Guilt (3 to 6 years) where a child learns independent initiative and potentially deals with the guilt of autonomy, Industry vs. Inferiority (7 to 12 years) where a child develops educational skills, Identity vs. Role Confusion (12 to 18 years) where an individual attempts to define his or her role in society as well as in relationships with others. Erikson goes on to describe additional stages that have to do with adult development, yet these additional stages would be considered higher order developments or those that are more associated with adult happiness and adjustment to different social circumstances, while the childhood stages encompass both psychological and physical aspects of human development. (Erikson, 1963)

The next stage theory to be discussed is considered a cognitive theory. The express difference between cognitive theories… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Child Psychology Child Development.  (2007, November 17).  Retrieved October 30, 2020, from

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"Child Psychology Child Development."  17 November 2007.  Web.  30 October 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Child Psychology Child Development."  November 17, 2007.  Accessed October 30, 2020.