Theories of Human Development
in Middle Childhood through Adolescence
School of Family and Consumer Sciences 400.404/504 Instructor: D. Witt
Characteristics of Development:
Qualitative—Change in kind or structure (i.e., intelligence, beliefs)
Quantitative—Cumulative and measurable changes that occur (i.e., height, weight)
Models and Theories
Each of the theories/models for development will be discussed in class during the semester.
The Goals of Science are, and have always been, to define/describe, explain, and predict phenomena and their relationships to other phenomena. By accomplishing these goals, theory becomes the motivator of science, which is the method for further refining theory. Theories guide research by pointing out expected results.
Science allows us to create an environment within which our little models of reality will work. We try to be precise and exact, faith-fully employing scientific methodology that has worked in the past. What passes for knowledge in any given time period is bases on a mixture of conventional wisdom and "scientific" fact.
For example, a mainline text for courtship and marriage courses in the 1950's supported conservative advice to young women on the subject of "physical contact in dating success":
"In dating, the question of how far to go in physical contact is a matter of considerable importance to women. Playing the passive role in dating as they do by custom, having dates represents a kind of competitive achievement for women. Being able to hold the interest of the male is a constant problem.. Sex plays a part in this.
The author, Waller believed
that girls in competitive courtship situations,
particularly where males are in the minority, have to
compromise on sexual morality in order to keep the male
from breaking up the relationship. One hundred and
forty-one young men and 258 young women at the University
of Minnesota were asked: "Did you give in on important
moral or theoretical issues for fear of losing him or
her?" Eighty-one percent of the women denied
having done so. The author goes on: "Girls who
indulge in close forms of physical intimacy rationalize
that only if they do so can they have dates. The girls
holding the opposite view, however, seem to be correct.
Studies of attitudes on college campuses over a period
of more than ten years show that most college students
do not believe moral compromise necessary for
popularity. One may be sure that many students are
speaking from experience." (Landis, 1955: 129-130).
Just when we think we are on the verge of tying a whole group of ideas together into a neat little package, someone invents a contraceptive so reliable that the entire behavioral case for chastity dissolves.
Obviously, the expectation of marrying a virgin, or being a virgin upon one's marriage appears to be a thing of the past for a great majority of Americans. While parents, teachers, and social scientists may not like it, the evidence stares us in the face daily.
While Kinsey reported that about 1/3 of 21-25 year-old women had premarital intercourse in 1953, the 1980s heralded, not only the AIDS virus, but also an 80% rate of premarital intercourse among women of that age group - a rate that continues to rise.
In addition, the age for first premarital intercourse for women as also dropping - about half the females in the 15-19 year-old category had premarital intercourse, 1/3 of the young women in the 12-17 year-old category.
It would appear that, in theory and in practice, premarital sex has become an acceptable and established pattern in our society, especially when sex takes place in intimate relationships such as serious dating, engagement, and cohabitation. And one of the big reasons for this dramatic increase in sexual activity, and the change in ATTITUDE about sex for young women was the placement of reliable contraceptives in the hands of the women who would use them.
Methods of Doing Research
Beginning with an interest in some aspect of the real
world, say in the alleged difference between males and
females in their attitudes and behaviors regarding
sexuality. Her informal theory might hold that women are
not as intentionally sexy as men (at least among those of
us born before the end of the Big One). She must state our
theory precisely. After spending some hours in the
library, searching the database for titles about her
subject, she emerges with all the scholarship on the
subject since the beginning of time (that's about 1950 for
The Theories we used come in three basic categories: Psychoanalytic,
Cognitive, and Social Learning Theories.
Freud - really a theory of psycho-sexual development - Adolescence is much less important than is early childhood in this theory.
It is a structural theory, with fixed sequences of stages and approximate ages. Each stage is distinct from the others, and development is discontinuous.
The mind consists of three layers (id-ego-superego)
Neofreudian theorists deemphasize the importance of sexual instincts in determining adolescent personality. The focus is on rational thought, developmental tasks, and social relationships. Freud's world view emphasizes biological heritage (mechanistic) and rigid stages (mechanistic). One such theorist was Erikson.
Erikson's focus on adolescence as a time for the development of identity and psychosocial development.
He invented an eight stage life-cycle perspective on human development, guided by the epigenetic principle - anything that grows has a plan, out of which the parts arise, each having a special time of ascendancy, until all of the parts have developed to form a functioning whole.
In order the stages are:
Erikson's world view emphasizes sociocultural views (contextual).
Strengths are his focus on past events which lead to development of personality, and the role of unconscious conflict which carry forward into social relations. Weaknesses - lack of testability of concepts and lack of empirical data. Also overemphasis on the unconscious mind and the role of the past.
Cognitive Theories are diametrically opposed to both behavioral and psychoanalytic ideas.Mental processes are the key ingredients of development here, with the emphasis on the development of rational thought processes in stage-like fashion.There is a chronological development of ability for thought and the interplay of heredity and environment in the "evolution of intelligence".
It is an organismic theory.
The processes responsible for cognitive changes are:
Cognitive processes through which behavior is decided are unimportant - emphasizing only the stimulus necessary for behavior to be emitted.
Bandura - Cognitive Social Learning Theory - Bandura's big idea was "Reciprocal Determinism ". - The concerted efforts between actors which shape their attitudes and desires: Imitation, modeling, and vicarious learning. The world view here is mechanistic with a little organismic thrown in.
Strengths: use of observational methods, limiting observations on behaviors only, use of physical science methods.