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Development Theories

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There are three main theories of development that I shall discuss in this assignment, ‘Cognitive’, the main theorist being, ‘Piaget’, (1896 – 1980), The, ‘Psychosocial Theory’, ‘Erikson’, (1902 – 1994), and, The ‘Psychosexual’, of, ‘Freud’, (1856 – 1939).

Cognitive Psychology draws the comparison between the human mind and a computer, suggesting that we like the computer process the information we acquire from around us and then react accordingly. Hearnshaw, (1987), claims that Cognitive Psychology is both one of the oldest and also one of the newest parts of Psychology, cited in ‘T.

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Malim’, (1994). Information is collected through our senses i.e. vision, touch, smell etc and then processed through our brain. Cognitive Psychologists largely seek explanations of Cognitive development, memory, attention, artificial intelligence, perception and social cognition. The methods used are usually Laboratory experiments under controlled circumstances i.e. memory tests, and, Case studies.

Piaget, (J), (1896-1980), carried out case studies on his own children to study the stages of cognitive development. Piaget concluded that the child was an organism which adapts to the environment, he also studied with the opinion that all children went through the same set stages of development and that there were no individual differences.

The Sensorimotor stage, (0-2): – Early in the sensorimotor stage the child is entirely egocentric, everything is an extension to the self, they can’t distinguish themselves from their environment. The child has no concept of past or future all it is aware of is the here and now. The child relies entirely on it’s senses i.e. sight, hearing, touch. It is believed by Cognitive Psychologists that ….. ‘To begin with, a baby will rely on in-built behaviours for sucking, crawling and watching’ as cited in Moonie, N, (1995). A child does not understand that an object does not cease to exist when it is out of sight. However, in contradiction, Bower & Wishart, (1972), used infrared cameras to see what the child does when an object disappears. The child is shown a bottle in the light, when the child reaches to grasp the bottle the lights are turned out. Bower & Wishart recorded that the child continued to reach for the bottle for up to 1.5minutes after the lights are turned out. Another point made by Piaget is that not only does the child look for an object, which is hidden, but also the child will not look for it even if part of it is showing. The object must be fully visible for the child to look for it. Between the ages 6-7 months the child will recognise a partly visible object and by 8 months the child will look for an object that is totally hidden, (all ages are approximate, although Piaget believed children went through the same stages, he concluded that they don’t necessarily do so at the exactly the same age). This realization that an object still exists even when out of view is called, ‘Object Permanence’.

The Pre-operational Stage, (2-7 years): – Later in the sensorimeter stage the child will begin to develop the use of language and thought, this is one of the main continuing developments in the pre-operational stage. This stage derives the title of pre-operational because the child has yet to develop its logical thinking and the ability to understand how things operate. Piaget went on to divide the pre-operational stage into two parts, the first being, ‘Pre-Conceptual’, from the ages 2-4 the child has no concept of varying differences at this stage everything is either all the same colour, size etc. For example a child a child is given 5 large red bricks and 5 small red bricks, the child is then asked to sort the large red bricks from the small red bricks, the child cannot distinguish between the large and the small therefore the child would just put all the red bricks together. Piaget called this, ‘Syncretic Thinking’, putting objects together because of similarities i.e. colour even if the objects are of a different shape or size, four balls of different colours would not be conceived as different colours by a child they would just be seen as four balls as this is their similarity.

At the age of 4-7 the child reaches the, ‘Intuitive’, stage, at this stage the child has some concept of differences i.e. the child can distinguish between the size and colour of different coloured bricks. However the child is still what Piaget called, ‘Egocentric’, unable to see things from another’s point of view.

‘One amusing example (Phillips, 1996) is of a four year old boy who is asked ‘Do you have a brother?’ to which he replies ‘Yes’. Then he is asked ‘What’s his name?’ to which he replies ‘Jim’. Finally in response to the question ‘Does Jim have a brother?’ he say’s ‘No’.

The Concrete Operational Stage (7-11): – A this stage the child can operate objects and understand them providing they can se them and/or are holding them. The child can count, spell, read etc. Although the child still needs some objects i.e. fingers, toys to count there is still a need for visual assistance. The child is developing a less egocentric perspective.

The formal Operation Stage (11-15): – At this stage the child or adolescent can now think hypothetically, (think about situations, experiences that they may not have experienced). The adolescent can think about different outcomes to situations. The formal adolescent can now count without the aid of objects and can read and write quite efficiently.

Freud, (1856-1939), believed that personality which he called, ‘Psychic Apparatus’, was divided into three parts, the ‘ID’, the ‘EGO’, and, the ‘SUPEREGO’. Freud also concluded that these parts were part of an energy system not part of the brain or the physical self. In brief the ID is a ‘Psychic Energy’, which is ruled by the, ‘Pleasure Principle’. For example instinct tells the id we are hungry, the id does not want us to feel unsatisfied therefore we react by seeking food, fulfilling our need and subsequently experiencing pleasure. Although our id is present at birth and continues to exist to death relatively un-changed when we are infants we still need to understand that although we cry when we are hungry it is up to another to interpret our crying and feed us until we develop the abilities to feed ourselves. The id does however carry a reflex reaction i.e. blinking when there is something in our eye, scratching when we itch, rubbing ourselves if we have a bump etc. The entire point of the id is to maintain satisfaction.

The Ego is the part of the id, which is ruled by the, ‘Reality Principle’, it develops through social influences and is the part of the id that is logical and rational. The Ego can control our Psychic energy by postponing needs, for example if we were in a traffic jam and we were hungry the majority of people would not just get out the car and seek food, our ego would tell us that we should wait until we get to the next service station. Infants do not have this ability straight away a child will cry until another feeds them. The ego also considers the feelings of others i.e. the ego would not consider it appropriate to brake wind in a room full of people! The difference between the id and the ego is, the id is only concerned about what it wants whereas the ego is concerned about when and how to get it.

The Superego, this is the conscience and moral part of the id. The conscience tells the ego when we do something wrong i.e. we feel guilty for doing something. On the other hand when we do something right or good we feel good our self-esteem is increased. For example a young person wants to smoke a cigarette but they are in their parents home and their parents are not only in but they would be angry if they caught them, the id wants a cigarette, the ego tells the id to go outside and the superego tells both that wherever the cigarette is smoked it is wrong so the ego feels guilty.

One aspect of Freud’s theory of development is that infants and young children are capable of sexual pleasure and do have sexual experiences, ‘Infantile Sexuality’. It is important to note that the use of the term sexuality is not used to describe sexual gratification i.e. sexual intercourse; Freud uses the term

To describe the need by babies and older children for physical pleasure, i.e. some children like to have their back tickled, or, their hair played with. ‘Infantile Sexuality’, is a term used to describe any form of sexual pleasure received from another and not necessarily a member of the opposite gender. Freud believed that if the child did not receive adequate pleasure i.e. by parents then this would result in their id becoming frustrated therefore in later life the adult would be affected.

Freud strongly believed that if the child does not receive enough pleasure in the correct adequate way throughout their stages of Psychosexual development then this would be the root of all future problems.

‘Development for Freud is a complex interaction between a biologically programmed timetable of change and the environment or social context in which it happens (Stevens, 1995) and if we want to understand the adult, we need to retrace their childhood; hence ‘the child is father to the man’.

Gross, (R), ‘The Science of Mind and Behaviour’, (1996)

Psychosexual stages of development: –

Oral Stage (0-1 year), This stage can be divided into two, the ‘Receptive/ Incorporative Substage’, at this stage, the early few months, the child is almost entirely dependent and passive. At this stage the child gets great pleasure from sucking, swallowing and putting things in their mouth. The mother’s breast is very important to the child as it gives most pleasure. The child will suck anything even if there is no food. After a few months the child moves into the. ‘Biting/Aggressive Substage’, at this point the child starts chewing and biting things it is also at this stage that the child starts to express love and hate for the same object i.e. the mother.

Anal stage (1-3 years), the pleasure at this stage is focused on the anal cavity, and again this stage can be divided into two substages, ‘Expulsion’, the child has the desire to pass faeces where it wants to and when it wants to and it is at this point that they learn that pleasure is gained through praise from parents when they have done something good i.e. potty training, staying dry through the night. However in the later stages, ‘Retention’, the parents can now be seen as authority figures as it is a this stage that the child gains pleasure from anal retention and few parents see this is as a point of praise.

Phallic stage (3-5/6 years), at this stage the child becomes aware of their genitals, although boys find them a source of pleasure girls do not until they reach puberty. Boys have to learn to control their desire for their mother, for fear of castration by their father. This conclusion is drawn firstly because it is at this stage that boys begin masturbating and the father will not condone this giving the child a fear of castration. Secondly it is at this stage the boys first love is his mother who belongs to his father. Therefore the child learns to hide his desire for his mother in turn avoiding castration. The girls fall in love with their fathers but because of envy, the father has a penis and she does not this is known as, ‘Penis Envy’. Believing that the mother has castrated her the girl will feel inadequate subsequently wanting a baby instead and therefore directed her love to her father. Whereas boys fear the father who they deem to be the more powerful because he has what the child wants and the threat of castration Freud believed that although the girl believed herself to have already been castrated she is in fear of losing her mothers love also.

Latency Period (5/6 years), at this stage the child is controlled by the ids desire for sexual relationships. Therefore the child tends to play with children of the same sex so as to avoid these desires. Through education the child is taught that they are to young to indulge in sexual activities.

Erikson, (1902-194), concluded that a humans development is determined genetically and that in order to move through each stage of development than they must be biologically, socially and psychologically ready. Erikson believed that the child’s genes resembled a timetable and it is this genetic timetable that determines the child’s stages of development.

‘Erikson extended this principle to social and psychological growth; it is human nature to pass through a predetermined sequence of psychosocial stages which are genetically determined’. Gross, (R), The Science of Mind and Behaviour. (1996)

Erikson concluded that every personality has a certain amount of trust and mistrust that is essential to development through the stages. Erikson did however suggest that although the time to develop trust is in infancy he did suggest that under develop trust could be further develop in later life however it would be harder to do.

Basic Trust Versus Mistrust (0-1): – This stage is essential to the child’s development of trust toward not just it’s parents particularly the mother, but how it trusts the rest of the world. If a child is well loved i.e. affection, cuddles etc. then it will develop an adequate of trust for the world, however should the child receive inadequate care then it will grow to mistrust. Trust enables the child to experience situations without fear whereas mistrust causes the child to fear, behaving with suspicion possibly even withdrawal.

Autonomy Versus Shame and Doubt (1-3): – A this stage the child becomes mobile, curious and generally more independent. The ability to be able to see itself as it’s own person separate from it’s parents is known as, ‘Autonomy’. It is at this point that all the parents should still ensure the child’s well being they should still maintain a caring attitude and safe environment. At this stage if the child is put down or lead to believe it is a failure on a continual basis then the child may develop a feeling of shame and doubt in it’s abilities and it’s environment. Allowing the child to do things for itself and learning by its mistakes gives the child confidence and an increased self-esteem. Doing things for the child all the time and telling the child they are wrong will have the reverse effect. It is at this stage that if a child is not praised and allowed to do things for itself that insecurity appears i.e. in the form of attention seeking.

Initiative Versus Guilt (3-5/6): -The child is discovering and developing new abilities and because of this the child’s desire for knowledge is also increasing. The child should be encouraged to ask questions and adequate answers should be given. Play is also a crucial part in the child’s mental and physical development. If the parent try’s to stop this question asking or play the child will develop a feeling of guilt about it’s desire to learn.

Industry Versus Inferiority (7-12): – At this stage other adults other than parents begin to have significance in the child’s development. The child becomes interested in the way things work, and are carried out. Relationships with other children should also be encouraged, as children need to compare themselves with others in order to develop their own identity. Failing to offer the child the right resources, amenities, guidance and encouragement will result in the child feeling inferior.

‘In the social jungle of human existence, there is no feeling of being alive without a sense of ego identity’, Erik Erikson, (1963), Moonie, N, (1995).

Self-concept is an individual’s perception of their personality. Along with the self-concept is Self-awareness; this is how an individual imagines how others see them. The Self-concept can be divided into three interlocking components, Self-image, Self-esteem and the Ideal-self.

Self Image: – This refers to the way we describe ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally, be it good or bad.

Kuhn & McPortland (1954) Gross p.519 Suggest that the self image maybe broken into three categories,

‘Social Roles’, the aspects of our self-image that are objective i.e., student, employee, partner. Others can confirm these aspects they are definite aspects

‘Personality Traits’: – these aspects of our self-image that we perceive of ourselves may be confirmed or contradicted by another’s opinion or judgement of us.

‘Physical self’; – this refers to the physical aspects of our self-image i.e., tall, short, thin

‘Self-Esteem’: – ‘A personal judgement of worthiness, that is expressed in the attitudes the individual holds towards himself’. Coopersmith (1967) Gross p.520

The level of our self-esteem is dependable on how we feel about ourselves, do we like the way we are, do we like the way we act, look etc. Our self-esteem can be greatly affected by outside influences i.e. a young person who is constantly told they are stupid by their parents is likely to have a low self-esteem believing they are stupid and maybe even inadequate.

‘Ideal Self’: – this refers to the type of person we want others to perceive us as. Our self-image and in turn self-esteem may be affected by this because if we are shy and want others to see us as out-going and confident, then because we aren’t then we aren’t entirely happy with ourselves. Almost all the young people I have been working with like to convey an out-going personality, however when I got to know some of them they are actually quite shy. Other young people can also come across as being quite aggressive in their behaviour and again after talking to them for a while it appears some of them are doing this to hide the fact that they are afraid that they will be seen as, ‘Wimps’, this is especially obvious in the boys.

‘Symbolic Interactionism’, this is a theory initially instigated by, James, (1890), it emphasises the importance of interaction with the environment, reacting towards things as if they are symbols with meanings. The theory implies that language is important and the ability to perceive another’s point of view is essential in the development of an individual’s self-concept. James, went on to draw a distinction between the self-as-subject, (I), and self-as-object, (ME). The, (I) being the inner main self-perception although we have a multifaceted self i.e. depending on who we are interacting with will influence the self we are projecting. James also concluded that with every relationship we have we construct a different personality. Cooley, (1902), influenced by James, also concluded that we do have multiple selves formed by interactions with others. It is the reactions of others that tell us about ourselves; this is known as, ‘The Looking –Glass Self’. As we grow up we form a concept of ourselves by the reactions, judgements, opinions etc. of parents, teachers, friends, Again each individual we interact with may have a different reactions, opinions etc. how we see ourselves will depend on who’s views, opinions we take on board. An example of this can be seen in the changes in the behaviour, opinions and appearance of young people when they interact with different individuals, i.e. when they are on their own they can be quite pleasant and cooperative however, if they are in a group a number of them can be loud, out-going and even aggressive possibly so they are not seen as being, ‘Square’, or, ‘Boring’. The funny thing here is that when others talk about them they often complain about their behaviour when they are in a group.

Argyle, (1969,1983), believed that there are four major influences on the development of self-concept: –

The reaction of others: – the young people are always very conscious of others reactions, especially their peers, about new hairstyles, clothes etc.

Comparison with others: – an example of this can be seen at exam time when the young people are intrigued about the results of others it is especially obvious among brothers and sisters.

Social Roles: – An excellent example of this is, three young women, two of which are sisters who rarely see eye to eye, were having a argument, one of the girls who is not one of the sisters went to hit one of the sisters, the other sister immediately jumped in and said, ‘You dare hit her and I’ll hit you………’ when I asked her afterwards why she stuck up for her even though they are always fighting she said, ‘She’s my sister of course I’m going to stick up for her’.

Identification: – Have you ever noticed the skate boys, and their baseball caps, sweatshirts, baggy trousers and trainers? Or the trendy girls with their glittery makeup, matching hairstyles, and similar clothes? There appears to be a need to have something in common the need to identify with each other.

Adolescence brings about many changes physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. Puberty brings with it quite dramatic changes in the body and changes in sexual feelings and desires. Many of the young people I have worked with are between the ages of 11 and 18 all at different stages of development. One of the most obvious observations I have made, in particular with the young women is their desire to impress not just other young women but the young men also. Every time I have been in a group there is always one young person with a new pair of trainers, album or mobile phone!! Although Argyle suggested there is a need for Identification, ‘According to Coleman, (1995), the development of identity requires not only feeling separate from others, but also knowing how one appears to the rest of the world. Dramatic bodily changes seriously affect these aspects of identity and represent a considerable challenge in adaptation for even the most well adjusted young person. Consequently, the timing of the adolescent growth spurt may have an important effect on the adolescent’s self-concept, especially self-esteem’. Sighted in, ‘Psychology The Science of Mind and Behaviour’, Gross, (R), (1996).


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Development Theories. (2018, Jun 23). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/development-theories/

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