Developmental Theories

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A theory provides information that consists of assumptions that can be tested and proven for accuracy. Researchers use theories as a tool to guide them in their observations to generate new information. There are many famous researchers such as Sigmund Freud, Erik H. Erikson, Jean Piaget, and Lev Vygotsky, to name a few, whom studied developmental theories. Developmental theories differ on two basic issues which are whether children are active or passive in their development or whether development is continuous or occur in stages. Although there are five theoretical perspectives of child development, this paper will expound on three of the perspectives; contextual, cognitive, and psychoanalytic, from different viewpoints. Contextual perspective is defined as a “view of child development that sees the individual as inseparable from the social context” (Papalia, 2008). Our environment is an important part of our lives. The way we develop is influenced by many factors such as the way we are raised, the schools we attend, the neighborhood we live in, or economic status of our parents. According to Bronfenbrenner development occurs through processes of context in which he introduced systems. The systems are dependent on each other and continually interact. The microsystem consists of a child’s family, school, peers, church, and neighbor play area. Everything that is associated with living is an influence. There are five interlocking contextual systems: microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, chronosystem (Papalia, 2008). The microsystem includes the relationships and interactions a child has with her immediate surroundings. Structures in the microsystem include family, school, neighborhood, or childcare environments. Mesosystem represents the fact that what happens in one microsystem is likely to influence another microsystem. Often children can become moody by the stresses that are dealt with at home. So the family is affecting the performance and attitude in school. The exosystem refers to social settings that a person may not experience firsthand but that still influence development. A mother’s work environment is part of her child’s exosystem. The macrosystem is the culture in which we live. Chronosystem is the dimension of time as it relates to a child’s environment. The important thing to remember regarding the contextual perspective is that development is influenced by immediate and more distant environments, which influence each other. (Papalia, 2008) Children are a product of their environment. Children that are sheltered have very little social skills, and lack of knowledge to what seems to be common sense to others can easily be identified. On the other hand, the environment can give the opposite effect on a child who lives in a low-income area, where ways of the streets influence children. The environment is a definite factor on a child’s development. Cognitive theory is concerned with the development of a person's thought processes. It also looks at how these thought processes influence how we understand and interact with the world. A Swiss psychologist by the name of Jean Piaget studied children cognitive development and believe that children are born with a certain level of ability to adapt to the environment. Piaget focuses on the individual’s thought process and how they interrupt the world around them whereas a Russian psychologist, Lev Semenovich Vygotsky believes that the cognitive development is based more off of social and cultural interactions and how they shape the individuals thought process. Other developmental psychologists suggest that cognitive development is more of a process of becoming more efficient at processing information. Piaget's stage theory describes the cognitive development of children. Cognitive development involves changes in cognitive process and abilities. Piaget has four stages of cognitive development and associates them to a person's ability to...
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