Theories of Development



Theories of Development
Lacey Thomas
Arkansas Tech University

Theories of development provide a framework for thinking about human growth, development, and learning. According to Santrock, theory means “an interrelated, coherent set of ideas that helps to explain phenomena and facilitate predictions.” (Santrock, 2013, p.21) Having an understanding of child development is important for implementing developmentally appropriate practices. As educators, understanding the theories of Sigmund Freud, Erik Erikson, Jean Piaget, and Lev Vygotsky will inform our practices while making appropriate education decisions. Freud is a theorist who falls under the umbrella of psychoanalytic theories. His theory focuses on how personality develops in children through a series of stages. Freud’s theory emphasized sexual instincts and motivations in children as young as infancy. Thus being born the “Freudian Stages” that are also known as the five stages of psychosexual development. (Santrock, 2013, p. 22) The first stage, the oral stage, is believed to be a time frame from birth to age one and a half. According to Freud, infant’s pleasures within this stage are centered on the mouth. This is a time within a child’s life that they are completely reliant on a caretaker to feed them, hence encouraging the child to develop a sense of trust. The next stage is the anal stage, ranging from ages one and half to three years. This stage maintains that the child’s pleasure is focused on their anus. This is a time in a child’s life when they are focusing on potty training. According to Freud, this stage of development is dependent upon the strategies and ways parents approach potty training. At age’s three to six, children fall into the phallic stage. This stage focuses on a child’s pleasure centered on the genitals. This is a time when children realize the difference between girls and boys and often experiment by touching their genitals. The latency stage is a time when a child stifles sexual interest to instead focus on developing social and intellectual skills at school. According the Freudian stages, this stage happens typically between the ages of six years and puberty. Once a child hits puberty, Freud believes that they enter into the genital stage for the rest of their lives. He considers that this is a time of sexual reawakening and that individuals pursue sexual pleasures with someone outside of their family. This is a time when the interest of others comes into play. Freud’s theory is well known and also controversial within psychology today. Erik Erikson is another psychoanalytic developmental theorist whose idea on psychosocial stages is one of the best known theories of personality. Much like Freud, Erikson believes that personality develops in a series of stages. However, Erikson noted that the primary motivation for human behavior is social and over one’s lifespan. He stated that human beings had a desire to affiliate with other people, that they needed interaction. Thus, Erickson developed the eight stages of development that put emphasis on the importance of both early and later experiences. Each stage in Erickson’s theory is concerned with becoming able in an area of life. The first stage, trust versus mistrust, happens between birth and one year of age. This stage suggests that children develop trust through their dependence upon others. He believed that this development of trust “sets the stage for a lifelong positive expectation of the world.” (Santrock, 2013, p. 22) Second is the autonomy versus shame and doubt stage which occurs between the ages of one year to three years. This stage maintains that tots begin to discover that their behavior is their own. Within this stage, babies begin to realize their will and sense of independence. These children tend to gain more control of clothing selections, toy preferences, and food choices. However, according to...

References: Santrock, J. W. (2013). The life-span perspective. In Life-span development (14th ed.). New York, New York: McGraw-Hill.
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