Theories of Human Development
in Middle Childhood through Adolescence

School of Family and Consumer Sciences 400.404/504    Instructor: D. Witt

Characteristics of Development:
        The scientific study of qualitative and quantitative changes that occur in people over time.

Qualitative—Change in kind or structure (i.e., intelligence, beliefs)
Quantitative—Cumulative and measurable changes that occur (i.e., height, weight)
  • We know that Resiliency (the capacity to respond and change as positive or negative life experiences) and Self Direction (the ability to shape one's own faculties) are factors in development.
  • Development is Bidirectional and Symbiotic - we are shaped by, and personally shape, our environment.
  • Development builds on itself, as when infants receive stimulation, which enhances their awareness and later leads to curiosity and discovery.
  • Developmental Stress occurs when the environment is not predictable, manageable, or controllable by the individual.
  • The Nature Argument is that characteristics inherited from parents at the moment of conception determines our developmental outcomes.
  • The Nurture Argument is that complex forces of the environment (the physical and social world that children encounter) shapes our developmental outcomes.
Models and Theories
Each of the theories/models for development will be discussed in class during the semester.
  • Environmental Model (The Mechanistic Model) is comprised of theorists such as B.F. Skinner's Behavioral model 1940s -1960s, Robert Havighurst's idea of the Developmental Task 1950s, and Albert  Bandura's Social Learning Theory1960s thru 1980s.
  • Organismic Model is comprised of theorists such as G. Stanley Hall's Evolutionary Development Theory1920s and Jean Piaget's Cognitive Development Theory 1960s to the present
  • Organismic vs. Environmental (Mechanistic) Approaches:
    • Organismic.  Change is stimulated from within the organism. Children are viewed as active, purposeful beings who make sense of their world and determine their own learning (Active beings).
    • Mechanistic.  Children’s development is compared to the workings of a machine. Change is stimulated by the environment, which shape the behavior of the child (Passive beings).
  • Contextual World View - (dialectic) Actor acts and reacts with the environment. Both actor and environment are changed as action occurs.
  • Continuous vs. Discontinuous
    • Continuous.  A process that consists of gradually adding on more of the same types of skills that were there to begin with.
    • Discontinuous.  Process in which new ways of understanding and responding to the world emerge at particular time periods.
  • Psychoanalytic Model comprised of Freud's psychoanalytic theory 1890s- present
  • Psychosocial Model comprised of Erikson's psychosocial stage theory 1950s - present.
Theories are of little use if they cannot be "operationalized" into hypotheses tested science, and the scientific method.  Theories then must be formed into hypothetical statements and put to the test to be verified or not on the basis of actual observation of evidence. Research findings, if they are based on theory, will assist the theory in being accepted by social science.

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
Have you ever wondered how a social scientist uses the scientific method to describe, explain, and predict human behavior and attitudes? According to Professor Babbie, the author of one of the most widely used research methodology texts, she should begin with Theory.

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 social science).

  • Her theory is beginning to take shape as she puts her notes together:

  • Her research study will begin with a Review of Literature from which she will Derive Hypotheses
  • She then has to operationalize each of the concepts in all three hypotheses. This refers to a specification of the steps, procedures, or operations necessary to accurately and precisely measure each concept - perhaps with a questionnaire, or through observations taken in experimental situations.
    • Concepts are abstract
    • Measures are concrete.
    • Concepts reside in the minds of people, like ghosts and laws of science.
    • Measures reside on rulers, on paper, in tools.
  • Observations are then made and analyzed, and she is then able to generalize her findings back to the original theory that gave her her hypotheses.

The Theories we used come in three basic categories: Psychoanalytic, Cognitive, and Social Learning Theories.

Psychoanalytic 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.
Major Contributions:
    • all behavior is motivated through unconscious
    • dreams are manifestations of unconscious
    • sexuality is the major motivator
    • early childhood experiences, particularly weaning, toilet training, expressions of sexuality, and aggression are significant in personality development.
    • Defense mechanisms
    Major Concepts:

    The mind consists of three layers (id-ego-superego)

    1. Id is the seat of instinct and drive satisfaction/gratification. The motivation for primary-process thinking (pleasure principle).
    2. Ego is the rational mind (reality testing occurs here, with superego's help - secondary-process thinking here).
    3. Superego mediates between Id and Ego (Conscience, guilt, fears are here). Keeps us in line.
Human development occurs in psycho-sexual stages each stage being the physical/anatomical (erogenous zones) region where gratification (pleasure) is most likely to enter:
    • Oral - child's gratification from stimulation of the mouth, lips, tongue, and gums. Birth to 18 months. Fixation on mother (source of gratification later to be bothersome).
    • Anal - gratification from the stimulation resulting from waste elimination. Exercise of these muscles allows satiation of sexual energy and reduces body tension. 2 to 4 years.
    • Phallic - 4 to 6 years - instinctual energy finds its release in the genital area. Acute awareness of sexual anatomy and the differences between girls and boys. Oedipal complex appears here.
    • Latency - 6 to 12 years - psychic conflicts that were not resolved during the phallic stage are locked away in the ID/ child focuses on exploring the environment, mastering social skills.
    • Genital - 12 to senility - sexual interest is reawakened during and past puberty.
        Defense Mechanisms: -human beings use defense mechanisms to protect the ego from the painful anxiety arousing wishes of the id. Here are four of the most useful:
    • Repression - pushes unacceptable Id impulses back into the unconscious.
    • Sublimation - converts distasteful actions into socially acceptable ones.
    • Regression - reverts to earlier stages of development when life gets difficult to understand.
    • Reaction formation - an unacceptable impulse is transformed into its opposite.
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:
      1. trust vs. mistrust in infancy
      2. autonomy vs. shame and doubt in early childhood
      3. initiative vs. guilt during school age
      4. industry vs. inferiority in late childhood
      5. identity vs. role confusion beginning during adolescence - our concern for class
      6. intimacy vs. isolation in young adulthood
      7. generativity vs. stagnation in middle age
      8. ego integrity vs. despair at the end of life
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".
    Piaget is the main theorist in cognitive theory. His theory explains development of the mind simultaneously with the development of the body and physical maturity.
    It is an organismic theory.

    sensorimotor stage
    0-2 years - the infant begins to understand its mobility potential. Coordination of sensory impressions and perceptions with motor activity. Includes imitation of language as muscle control.
    preoperational stage
    2-7 years - the child confuses her own perspective with that of others and shows irreversibility of thought.
    concrete operational stage
    7-11 years - child's thoughts become more relativistic and can simultaneously focus on two aspects of a problem - but they must perceive the objects in order to think about them (encounter them fully).
    formal operational stage
    11-15 years and throughout life. adolescents begin to think in abstract, logical ways that are more systematic and hypothetical.

    The processes responsible for cognitive changes are:
    equilibration - is the psychic state of the mind when at rest - no new concepts - nothing unusual being perceived. When new images or meanings are perceived, the mind is knocked out balance and attempts to reinstate equilibration through -- adaptation:

    • assimilation (incorporating new ideas into existing ways of thinking.
    • accommodation (adjusting existing thought processes to new information).
Behavioral and Social Learning Theories focus on the influence of environment on behavior, stating that behavior is learned through trial and error (pleasure principle again).

Cognitive processes through which behavior is decided are unimportant - emphasizing only the stimulus necessary for behavior to be emitted.

    Skinner - Operant conditioning-Stimulus/Response psych. All predictors of behavior are in the environment - positive reinforcement negative reinforcement extinguishable behaviors behavior modification

    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.

--next time Puberty Health and Biological Processes