How do the major theories of child development (known as the ‘grand theories’) explore the importance of social experiences?
Social experiences play a vital role in the development of children. Theories of child development have been created to help us to understand how children’s minds develop, taking into account the differences between cultures around the world. Some of these theories explore the possibility that children gain knowledge, develop new concepts and bridge new ideas through interaction with experience and cognitive schemata. Some theories explore the theory that development also plays a role in social experience.
There are many theories of development, but some are more influential and have inspired a lot of research. There are four main contrasting theories of child development that not only help us to understand child development as a whole, but also assist us in the understanding of the role of social experiences in child development.
These four theories of development are often referred to as the ‘grand theories’ as they cover all aspects of child development, not just specific parts. The four grande theories are behaviourist theory, the social learning model, constructivist theory, and social constructivist theory. This essay will discuss and outling the four main theories of development, compare and contrast some of the concepts of the main theories, then discuss whether or not the theory is able to explain the role of social experiences in child development.
Behaviourism used to be the most dominant theory in psychology throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. The evidence provided by the behaviourist experimental technique has been was very important to the discipline of psychology, and many of the theories have stood up to the test of time. Behaviourist psychologists such as were Ivan Pavlov, John Watson and B.F. Skinner. They used techniques such as conditioning (classical conditioning and operand conditioning) to explore the theories of child development. The behaviourist view on child development is that children learn by conditioning, which means that children’s behaviour is affected by a series of rewards and punishments. This learning theory suggests that children are not active in the process of learning; it is as though they are allowing themselves to be shaped by agents in the environment around them, such as teachers and parental models.
One criticism of the behaviourist approach is it’s inability to explain the role of social experiences in child development. This is because behaviourism is primarily focused on experimental and scientific methods, and it is limited in the respect that it does not take into account aspects of human nature which can not be measured by the experimental method alone. Emotions and feelings require can not be fully understood by observation alone; it requires a certain degree of introspection.
The behaviourist model has explained some very important aspects of cognative development and learning, but more recent theories have shown that the shaping of a child’s mind is far more complex than conditioning alone.
In the 1960’s, the social learning model was created and it was proposed that children learn through simply observing other people around them. Role models are an important part of the social learning model. Research has shown that children will often imitate aggression that they have witnessed through watching other people (Liebert et al., 1977). This is in contrast with the behaviourist learning theory that children learn through reward and punishment.
In 1965, Bandura conducted a study where he explored the hypothesis that children can experience social learning without conditioning. He argued that while children learn by observing and mimicking others, they are also extracting concepts and ideas from what they are observing, and making sense of situations on their own. This is in contrast to the behaviourist view that children...
References: Bandura, A. (1989) ‘Social cognitive theory’, in Vasta, R. (ed.) Annals of Child Development, pp. 1–60, Greenwich, CT and London, JAI Press.
Crain, W. C. (2000) Theories of Development: concepts and applications,Upper Saddle Place, NJ, Prentice Hall.
Liebert, R. M., Poulos, R. W. and Marmor, G. S. (1977, 2nd edn) Developmental Psychology, Upper Saddle Place, NJ, Prentice Hall.
Newson, J. and Newson, E. (1976) ‘On the social origins of symbolic functioning’, in Varma, V. P. and Williams, P. (eds) Piaget, Psychology and Education,London, Hodder and Stoughton.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1934/1986) Thought and Language, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.
Vygotsky, L. (1978) Mind in Society: the development of higher psychological processes, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1981) ‘The development of higher forms of attention in childhood’, in Wertsch, J. V. (ed.), The Concept of Activity in Soviet Psychology, Armonk, NY, Sharpe.
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