Psychological Debates

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In this assignment I will identify, define and discuss the three main debates about behaviour in developmental psychology. I aim to discuss how the debates began and include examples of how these debates affect current psychology; I will also include my opinions on the debates stating which I feel most partial towards. Further to this I will analyse one debate in great detail.

Continuity vs. Discontinuity is the second of three debates I am going to discuss. This debate is based on the sequencing and durations of development over time, continuity is to develop at a slow methodical pace with out distinct breakthroughs; where as discontinuity is to develop through a series of steps, stages and schemas identified by achieving at least one trait, from a series, before it is possible to move onto the next stage. Many theorists have developed their own milestones/stages/schemas which are related to an area of development and based on age, for their favoured area of development; therefore the majority of theorists follow the discontinuous view in this debate. “Milestones of development take many forms: some are obvious ones such as ages when children first become able to walk and talk; others are less obvious in that they refer to more subtle developments, e.g. the age when children become capable of make-believe play” (Schaffer 2003 page 4). Tied to the continuity-discontinuity debate is the difference between quantitative and qualitative changes as the theorists who believe in continuity would side quantitative and discontinuity would side qualitative. Qualitative would be learning in mathematics how to add and then multiply; where as quantitative would be learning how to add and then learn to calculate percentages. “As it stands, the continuity-discontinuity debate is largely misconceived...we should...be thinking in terms of ways which development is simultaneously continuous and discontinuous with respect to different dimensions of analysis” (Slater and Bremner 2003 page 62)

Nomothetic vs. idiographic is the first of three debates I am going to discuss. Nomothetic, meaning ‘law’ originating from the Greek word ‘nomos’, this involves “Psychologists who are mainly concerned with studying what we share with others” (Simply Psychology). Idiographic, meaning ‘own’ originating from the Greek word ‘idios’, this involves“Psychologists interested in this aspect of experience want to discover what makes each of us unique” (Simply Psychology). The concept if nomothetic and idiographic was first introduced in 1894 by Wilhelm Windelband, a German Philosopher of social science, later in 1937 these terms were borrowed by Gordon Allport to be used for the studies of American psychology. The nomothetic-idiographic debate began between the 1940’s and 1950’s regarding the most valid points of both approaches. This is because sciences (including social sciences) involve research/testing from both general and abstract views and possibly finding that their research displays individual as well as common characteristics. This means when assessing children’s development a practitioner can take a nomothetic approach which involves comparing the child’s abilities to age/stage related milestones allowing a practitioner to encourage the next milestone; where as an idiographic approach would be looking at that child’s own unique developmental progress but this means a practitioner cannot identify a probable next step. I feel that nomothetic and idiographic approaches are valid when working with children as there are many children who will follow the same trends at the same ages that other children do, where as others will develop the same trends at their own unique pace and possibly in a different order. For example a baby should be able to sequentially crawl, bear walk and then walk alternating legs (in accordance to milestones set by Sheridan) but I have observed children who have been able to walk a short distance before they were able to...
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