1. Developmental psychology is not a unified discipline but rather is ‘a set of competing theories’. To what extent do you think this statement is justified? Discuss with reference to the theories
Collins accounts the span of developmental psychology in three separate periods, the emergent period (1890-1919) in which interest was first shown in the area of child development with Darwin’s baby diaries (1876), and some early empirical studies. The second period stated by Collins is the middle period (1920-1946) this period saw the introduction of theory into the area of development, for example from behaviourist and psychoanalysis as well as a large increase in the amount of research being done. The last period is the modern period which Collins states we are still in. this period started in 1947 and has seen the largest developments in the subject of child development with large steps being taken in theories methodologies and analytic procedures. (Collins, as cited in Smith, Hart 2002)
As in many areas of psychology the theories surrounding developmental psychology are divided into a few, distinct schools of thought. These theory divides include Freud’s psychoanalytical theories, the nativist viewpoint, the Associatonist Assumption and the constructivist viewpoint. All are interested in how the child develops throughout their lives, however each takes a distinct viewpoint on how that change comes about.
Freud was the founder of psychoanalytical theories and although some people disagree with his viewpoints, it is safe to say he has had a huge effect on the way we see psychology today. He claimed that unconscious forces that come from within a person, determine a child’s development. He suggested that there are four main states that determine how a child develops into adult life, he called these stages the psychosexual stages. Theses stages include the oral stage, the Anal stage, the Phallic Stage and the Latency stage. He claimed that if a child’s development was halted or disturbed in any of these stages then it could cause problems in later life. For example if a child did not properly develop through the first oral stage then the could become orally fixated in later life which could cause them to be more likely to take up smoking or suck their thumb to a late age. Freud claimed that three main structures called the id, the ego and the super ego develop subconsciously through these psychosexual stages. He claimed it is these three structures that are responsible for our needs, desires and controlling them. The id is said to be present in newborns and is responsible for impulses such as desires and emotions, the ego then develops to act as a mediator for the mind, so we just don’t follow these impulses from the id. The superego develops last and is responsible for our sense of duty and responsibility, almost like a conscious. This theory is quite problematic because these are unconscious processes that cannot be proven or disproven. By Freud’s analysis anyone who would deny these stages is simply in denial (Slater, Bremner. 2003). .
The Nativist or ethological viewpoint states that humans are pre disposed by their genetic makeup to develop in a certain way, or develop a certain set of attributes, whether it be intelligence, language or attachment. This predisposition to certain behaviours stems from evolutionary work with genes. This theory states that humans are restrained in their development by their genetic makeup (Slater A, Muir, D, 1999). This viewpoint was influenced by Darwin’s Origin of species, in which his observation of slight changes in behaviour and form led to his groundbreaking origin of species theory. It was with this viewpoint in mind that he observed his own child’s development in his ‘baby diaries’ and attempted to detail his son’s early development. (Slater. Muir. 1999). Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby were also interested in the evolutionary development in children, and they carried out...
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