Main Theories of Child Development

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Behaviorism is a theory of human and animal development. Behaviorists state that the environment is the primary determinant of child’s development whereas heredity is not involved in this process. The level of development however, depends on the quantity of responses a child or an animal acquires. To prove this, Pavlov conducted a study in which he used classical conditioning as a mechanism to condition a dog to salivate to the sound of the bell. Thorndike by using instrumental conditioning in his study with kitten in a maze, discovered that the time to escape for kitten took less with each trial. By reinforcing a pigeon for each time it peaked closer and closer to a ping-pong ball, Skinner demonstrated how shaping a behavior is yet another important technique. However, two major laws of behaviorism (law of exercise and law of effect) were challenged by Kohlers’s study in which he demonstrated that even apes can learn without trial and error. Nativism on the other hand, advocates completely opposite view than behaviorism. According to nativism, children’s development is predisposed by heredity and the environment does not play a roll in it. Gasell stated that a child will develop on his/her own and teaching will not in any way interfere with this natural process. Freud from his observations stated that children’s development is a process of psychosexual development which he described in six stages from birth through adolescence. Sandra Scarr proved the theory of nativism with empirical data. In her study she showed that identical twins, whether lived together of apart, had a very high correlation of similarities in the IQ test. Genetically unrelated children on the other hand, showed no correlation in similarities on the same IQ test. Luria however, challenges these findings and disproves that cognitive abilities depend only on heredity. Luria’s study involved fraternal and identical twins, and was assessed by two tasks which involved visual...
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