Study of Human Development Essay

Theories of Human Development

Theories are credible general beliefs presented to clarify an incident or experience - Study of Human Development Essay introduction. In the world of psychology theories are essential in the preparation, execution and appraisal of an intervention (Breinbauer & Maddaleno, 2005). In this paper major theories about human development will be evaluated and how can it be applied to an intervention.

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Major Theories

Freud’s Psychosexual Stages of Development

Freud believed that various parts of our body provide gratification at a certain age. These parts are called erotogenic zones. The table below shows the summary of these stages (Staub).

Freud’s Psychosexual Stages of Development

In the oral stage the mouth will be the center of gratification, sucking and biting are the preferred behavior. As the infant develop control over its bodily functions the center for gratification moves to the anus, thus anal stage. The ability to hold and emit excrements voluntarily is a source for enjoyment. The next stage then moved to the genitals as the center for gratification. Freud believes that masturbation is common in this stage. (Boeree, 2006). However, the phallic stage is characterized by the Oedipus and Electra Conflict.

The Oedipus conflict is what boys experience while the Electra conflict is the counterpart for girls. The conflict arises when a boy become aware that his father is his rival in the affections of his mother. However the boy will recognize as well the superiority of the father and would fear for his genitals, this is called the castration anxiety. At the end of the phallic stage the boy will start to associate to his father instead of fearing him. The father will be a role model and the boy will try to be like him (Staub). Girls on the other hand see the mother as the enemy for the father’s affections. And instead of having castration anxiety girls experience penis envy (Staub). Girls envy the authority that comes with it since they notice the difference between a boy and a girl status in society (Boeree, 2006). Because of the penis envy girls do not associate with their mother that much and as Freud believe, woman are more corrupt than man (Staub).

In the latency stage sexual wishes are withdrawn and become inactive. Focus is on other endeavors like learning. The last stage will be the genital stag where the sexual wishes surface again and focus of gratification are the genitals. This time around the sexual wish is about sexual interaction (Staub).

According to Freud, fulfilling the desires in each of these stages are essential to avert getting stuck in the stage. If this happens, one could experience awful mannerisms or vices. For instance, one who is stuck in the oral stage could develop excessive chewing of gums or end of pencils or smoking. Supporters of the theory also deem that the person may develop sexual illnesses like fetishes if they are stuck in the genital stage (Kodat, 2002).

Some problems with this theory are that it is lacking methodical evidence (Kodat, 2002);  therefore it is neither provable nor disputable. It also overstress on sexual urges and how it influence the mental and emotional growth of a person (Quigley, 1998). Even though Freud’s theory faced a lot of criticism, his psychoanalytic theory still remains as his most significant contribution to psychotherapy. Psychoanalysis is still being used today in conjuncture with other therapy techniques. Psychoanalysis techniques involved free association wherein the patient is given a tranquil environment where he or she can speak out his mind. Another technique is dream analysis wherein the therapist analyzes symbolic meanings of things in dreams. The characteristic of a Freudian analysis of dreams is the penchant for sexual connotation (Boeree, 2006).

Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory

Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was a biologist, specifically a malacologist – one who studies mollusks – who shifted to study of child development. He suggests that children have the ability to comprehend their surroundings but only to a certain degree, higher comprehension will have to wait until they reach a certain age (Atherton, 2005). Through his observation he developed 4 stages of child development that every child will go through.

The first stage is the sensorimotor stage which is from birth to about 2 years or age. At this stage a child is initially limited by their inborn reflexes but as they grow they will develop more refined skills based on those reflexes (Sandwell, 1995). The child will use these skills to interact with surroundings and will be able to distinguish himself or herself from other things (Atherton, 2005). During one to four months a child uses the primary circular reactions – repetition of stimulating actions towards oneself – for instance thumb sucking. After which by the time they reach four to twelve months of age they will shift to the secondary circular reactions – this time the actions are towards the surroundings – like shaking of a rattle to make sound. Object permanence – the capability to know that an object still exist even if it is out of sight – is also observable at this stage the child will also have the tendency to search for the missing object (Boeree, 2006).

When the child is twelve to twenty-four months tertiary circular reactions will set in. The child stills engage on activities that are stimulating but with diverseness. This behavior can be seen when a child test different ways to throw objects that they do not like. The last phase of this stage will be during the time the child reached one year and a half. Mental representation – the skill to store an idea in the memory after encountering it – for instance after seeing a baby being carried the child may want the same and would refuse walking. Children at this phase have the ability to solve some predicament on their own. Like using a stool to reach the sink (Boeree, 2006).

Second stage in Piaget’s stages of development will be the preoperational stage. This stage will start by the time the child is two years of age and would last until around seven years old. At this stage children have the skill to use language. They have a self-centered outlook and cannot take in the perspective of others. They will also group objects based on one attribute (Atherton, 2005).

Third stage will be the concrete operations stage which starts by the age of seven until the child is eleven years old. In contrast with preoperational child, a child in this stage can take in the perspective of others (Sandwell, 1995). At this stage children acquire the skill of conservation – the skill to understand that even if the look is different the amount of the object is intact (Boeree, 2006). Like in figure 1, putting water in a tall slim glass then in a short stout glass. A concrete operations child can determine that the amount of water is the same even if the level of the water is different.

Figure 1

This time children now can group objects based of various attributes and also arrange objects in sequence according to a single attribute like shape (Atherton, 2005).

The last stage will be the formal operations stage which happens around eleven years of age until adulthood. At this stage the children can reason rationally and theoretically. This is the supreme stage of development according to Piaget (Sandwell, 1995). Not all of us reach this stage in some society theoretical reasoning is not even esteemed, it is simply not general (Boeree, 2006).

One criticism of this model for development is that it is too strict and there are studies that show children can have skills like in concrete operation at a younger age (Atherton, 2005). But most are targeting his research process. His research sample includes his own children and children of well-to-do families. Since the sample is limited to higher classes thus his findings are complicated to be applied to the general public (Van Wagner, 2008).

We can see the application of Piaget’s theory on Developmental Counseling and Therapy [DCT]. It is a therapy where the interventions are coordinated with the patient’s developmental level and emotional/cognitive manner. DCT was developed by Allen Ivy, Sandra Rigazio-DiGilio and colleagues. This approach will need more research to test it helpfulness but it presented practical procedures setting up interventions and it can be applied to various personality and malady. It also has four stages of cognitive development like with Piaget: (Seligman, 2004)

First Stage: Sensorimotor

Rely on the senses and do not examine own thoughts or feelings
Therapy involves drawing out thoughts and feelings
Second Stage: Concrete-Operational

Can give details and plan
Have difficulty with compassion, generality, and change
Effective therapy approach will be concentrating on facts and chronological images
Third Stage: Formal Operational

Patient will be analytical and can view numerous viewpoint
Have difficulty changing notion
Therapy should concentrate on present role, relationships and feelings
Fourth Stage: Dialectic/Systematic Operational

Focus too much on thoughts but can question own notions
Counselors could help patients in this stage with evaluating their notions and option


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