Comparing and Applying Theories of Development

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Comparing and Applying Theories of Development

Psychology is a very vast field of scientific study of the human mind and behaviors. Just like all science, psychology uses the scientific method approach and use theories to promote their objective thoughts. There are numerous theories associated with psychology within various perspectives of sub-fields. A particular sub-field is Developmental Psychology and three of those theories include Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory, Erik Erickson’s Psychosocial Development Theory, and Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory. Let’s take a look at all three and compare some of their similarities, as well as a few differences and then we can look at how these and other theories are used to analyze and evaluate the development of a child.

Sigmund Freud was a pioneer of his field. His Psychoanalytic theory was the first theory of modern psychology. Although some of Freud’s ideas have been discarded, most of them still influence the world of psychology today. According to Freud, human development is shaped by unconscious forces that motivate human behavior (Paplia & Olds, et al, 2006). Our awareness of the world around us is stored in our conscious mind; and our unconscious mind stores painful repressed memories, urges, feelings, or thoughts which is difficult to access.

Freud believed that personalities consist of three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id dwells in the unconscious part of our mind and is responsible for our pleasure principle. The superego also dwells mostly in the unconscious mind and is accountable for our knowledge of right and wrong. Accountable for our reality pleasure is our ego, which is located in our conscious mind and is what we use to mediate our deepest selfish desires with the outside world. “According to Freud, an individual’s behavior is a result of all three interacting with one another, working together as a team under the leadership of the ego.” (Roeckelein, 1998) For instance, when a teenager desires to skip school so they he can party with his friends, his superego tells him that he will get in trouble if he does, so his ego decides to go against skipping school, but makes plans to party with his friends that weekend so that his id is still satisfied. Freud also believed that children go through three different stages of personality development in the first 5-6 years of age called psychosexual stages. In each stage a child’s fulfillment shifts from oral to anal to genitals. If gratification is not achieved in any of these stages, the person will develop a fixation and ends up being stuck in that stage of development like in the case of smokers, whom according to Freud, have an oral fixation.

Freud developed the idea that people create defense mechanisms such as displacement (a way in which one diverts their feelings of anger from the person whom caused the emotion to another person or object), compensation (overcoming feelings of inadequacy in one area by excelling at another), or rationalization (looking for suitable explanations to justify our behavior). They use these mechanisms in order to cope with stressful and painful experiences. (Witt & Mossler, 2010)

Erik Erickson was an apprentice of Sigmund Freud. He developed the Psychosocial Theory of development. He also believed that the unconscious mind influenced behavior; however, he opposed the sexual aspect of development. According to his theory there are nine stages of human development. Trust vs. mistrust which occurs between birth and about 1 year old. The child must learn to trust his or her parents, but must be balanced with a sensible amount of mistrust so as not to become naïve. The virtue learned is hope. Autonomy vs. shame and doubt is the second stage which occurs between the ages of 1-3 years old. Next is initiative vs. guilt which is usually occurs in 3-5 year olds. Children in middle childhood go through the industry vs....
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