Online Guide to Developmental Psychology Theories

Developmental psychology refers to the study of methodical psychological changes which take place in various stages of human life. It starts from the infant stage, expanding to childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and later ages. Developmental psychology is mainly about the building up of knowledge through various stages of life. It explains how some children born with certain mental structures learn by themselves while others learn through experience. Many developmental psychology theories have been developed to explain the behavior of human in various stages of life. Here’s a look at some of the principal theories.

Attachment Theory

The theory was developed by John Bowlby, focusing on close relationships. In this theory, it’s explained how infants tend to develop a strong bond with their caregivers. When they don’t receive the required level of care and love, the children would develop symptoms of depression or aggression in their later ages.

Learning Theory

Social learning theory is about the observational method of learning. It was derived from the works of Cornell Montgomery. Children or infants imitate the behavior of their guardians, superiors or role models. Julian Rotter developed the Social Learning and Clinical Psychology in 1954. It studied the effects of motivation on people to engage in a specific behavior. Albert Bandura further added the aspects of behavioral learning and cognitive learning to it.

Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development

Erikson’s stages of psychological development are designed to explain the stages of development of the human brain from infancy to late adulthood. The stages are:

  • Hope (Trust vs. Mistrust): Hope is the first stage in which the infant is dependent on parents or caregivers for fulfilling the needs. It’s applied to infants of 0-1 years.
  • Will (Autonomy vs. Shame): Applicable to toddlers, it explains how the child explores the surroundings.
  • Purpose (Initiative vs. Guilt): It’s a preschool stage in which the child learns to master the world and basic skills.
  • Competence (Industry vs. Inferiority): It’s the childhood stage from 6 to 11 years. At this stage, children want to learn and compete.
  • Fidelity (Identity vs. Role confusion): It’s the stage of Adolescence. In this stage, one may develop role confusion. The person settles on an occupational identity and develops a sexual identity.
  • Love (Intimacy vs. Isolation): Young adults from 20 to 34 years undergo this stage. In this stage, a person is eager to make friends.
  • Care (Generatively vs. Stagnation): In middle adulthood, a person does social work and tries to give back to the society.
  • Wisdom (Ego Integrity vs. Despair): This is the stage that explains how a person becomes a senior citizen and contemplates memories of the past.

Psychosexual Development & Jerome Kagan

Psychosexual development was developed by Sigmund Freud. Its emphasis is on the sexual drive theory. Psychosexual development states that from the time of birth, humans have sexual appetite which unfolds in various stages of life. Jerome Kagan was leading psychologist who explained how certain behavioral pattern in infancy is predictive of adolescence behavior.

Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development

Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development refer to moral reasoning which is needed for ethical behavior. There are six stages of moral development which are categorized in pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional stages. The stages are authority and social-order maintaining orientation, self-interest orientation, interpersonal accord and conformity, social contract orientation, obedience and punishment orientation, and universal ethical principles.

Theory of Cognitive Development and Social Constructivism

Developed by Piaget, the theory explains about the nature of knowledge and how human beings gradually accept it, construct it, and later use it. The theory of social constructivism was developed by Vygotsky. It explains how people get into social settings on a philosophical level, sharing culture to be part of a culture.

Structural Cognitive Modifiability

The structural cognitive modifiability theory was developed by Feuerstein. It explains about human adaptive nature in which humans adapt to the needs of society. The capacity to change depends on the interaction of humans with the environment through cognitive function and mental learning.

Modular Theory of Social Development

The modular theory of social development was developed by Judith Rich Harris. It explains why two individuals are very different. The theory also sheds light on the effects of birth and birth order.

Ecological Psychology

Eleanor Gibson’s ecological psychology stresses the effects of environment on human behavior. Ecological psychology proposes that it’s necessary to understand the environment of a person to understand a certain behavior.

Adult Development

Developed by Robert Kegan, the theory of adult development is about self evolution, in which, there are six equilibrium stages. It includes the incorporative stage (reflexes), the impulsive stage (impulses and perceptions), the imperial stage (needs and interests), the interpersonal stage (relationships), the institutional stage (identity and ideology), and the inter-individual stage (self system).

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