Top Ten Developmental Theorists
To begin with we have the psychoanalytic school of psychology. This would include Sigmund Freud, Erik Erikson, and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. I will begin with Sigmund Freud who was the actual founder of psychoanalysis. Freud was born in1856, in Moravia. Because he was the founder of this school many theories that developed later were often compared to his original theory. In other words, he was under constant criticism and review. Freud's theories dealt with how the human mind works. He concluded that behavior is determined by powerful inner forces, most of which are buried in the unconscious mind. Thus, the unconscious plays a major role in shaping behavior. People repress these memories because they are unpleasant or unacceptable to society and this in turn can cause personality disturbances, physical illness, or self-destructive behavior. He also concluded that the unconscious is full of memories of events from early childhood and that many childhood memories dealt with sex. Freud also believed the mind was divided into three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego. He recognized that each person is born with various natural drives that he referred to as instincts, such as the need to satisfy sexual desires and the need to be aggressive. The id is the source of such instincts. For example, the desire for sexual pleasure comes from the id. The ego resolves conflicts between instincts and external reality. For example, it determines socially appropriate ways to obtain physical satisfaction or to express aggression. The superego is a person's conscience. A person's ideas of what is right and wrong, which can be learned from parents, teachers, and other people in authority, become part of the person's superego. He further theorized that all people have some type of conflict among the three parts but some have more conflict than others do. If the parts of the mind strongly oppose one another, psychological disturbances result. He also concluded that the sexual drive was the most powerful shaper of a person's psychology, and that sexuality was present even in infants. He presented what is now a well-known theory of the stages of psychosexual development. They include the oral, anal, and phallic stages. Later, he identified two additional stages called the latent and genital period. The phallic stages include the "Oedipus Complex" for boys and the "Electra Complex" for girls. The Oedipus Complex states there is a sexual attraction towards the mother and a sense of jealousy to the point of hatred of the father. The Electra Complex states that there is a sexual attraction towards the father and a hostile rivalry toward the mother. I find Freud's theory of the unconscious to be relevant and useful. I think the use of the term "Freudian Slip" most relevant in applying this theory. I know at times I have said things that I may have not been consciously thinking about yet when they came out I could identify with them. I can also agree that many unconscious memories are from childhood events. I find this highly useful for me because I am adopted and so unlike any members of my family. I believe my early childhood events helped to shape my future behavior but they were very painful and I repressed them. His stress on the importance of childhood helped to teach the value of giving children an emotionally nourishing environment so I can definitely find usefulness in that theory! I disagree with his theories about the sexual drive being the most powerful shaper of personality. I would side with Jung and Adler on this point. While it may play a role I do not believe it to be the primary motivator. I also think that based on my reading Freud viewed women as inferior to men and thus allowed his personal views to cloud his conclusions. This however was in keeping with the era in which he was born.
Erik Erikson was an American psychoanalyst who based his ideas on the theories of Freud. He was born in Germany in 1902. His birth name is actually Erik Homberger but he later changed it to Erikson. He is best known for his ideas on how individuals develop a sense of identity. What I found interesting about his developmental theory is that it seems to be tied to his own personal life. According to my research, his biological father was an unnamed Danish man who abandoned Erik's mother before he was born. His mother was a young Jewish woman who raised him alone for the first three years of his life. She then married Dr. Theodor Homberger, who was Erik's pediatrician. During his childhood, and his early adulthood, he was Erik Homberger, and his parents kept the details of his birth a secret. Of course he noticed he was different because he was a tall, blond, blue-eyed boy who was also Jewish! He had difficulties fitting in with either culture. So perhaps Erikson in the midst of his own identity crisis actually began his research for his developmental theory. As noted early, although Erikson based his theories on the works of Freud, he stressed the continual development of individuals throughout an eight-stage life cycle. This was different from Freud because he focused on the social and cultural influences of development whereas Freud focused on the psychological and biological influences. Erikson believed that we develop through a predetermined maturation of our personalities in eight different stages. How we progress through each stage is determined by our success or failure in all the previous stages. Each stage involves certain developmental tasks and they must occur in a certain time and a certain order or we ruin the final product. I find Erikson's eight-stage theory useful but I question that if we fail to follow the predetermined tasks that we are damaging the final outcome. While I understand the outcome of one stage is not permanent, I believe that we can fail to obtain certain traits and still be successful in developing a healthy personality. I think a better view is that the final development may be slowed or altered but not necessarily "worse" or unhealthy. Perhaps a person may become a stronger or different individual because they stray from the cycle. For example, in the "trust-mistrust" stage the infant's task is to balance trust with mistrust. In doing so the infant learns to trust but is also aware that everyone cannot be trusted thus safeguarding himself from extreme naiveté. Sometimes infants need to not trust because it is their only safeguard in an extremely hostile environment. Yet, later in life they relearn that trusting is okay. Erikson believed that if a stage is managed well we obtain a necessary strength, which will help us through the rest of the stages of our lives. On the other hand, if we fail to do this we may develop maladaptions and malignancies, which endangers all future development. I think this is too rigid an analysis. Again, I believe that as an infant I learned only to mistrust and this was necessary for my survival at the time. Later, when I determined that I was in a safe environment I began to trust. I do not believe I arrested or damaged my development until I learned to trust. I believe it was what was necessary for me to do in order to move to the next life stage. Finally, Erikson did believe that everyone has a mixture of the traits attained at each stage, but personality development is considered successful if the individual has more of the "good" traits than the "bad" traits. I can't agree that some of the traits Erikson labeled as bad hold true for every individual. Personality development cannot be that rigid. On a final note, Erikson used primarily males in his research. This means his data cannot necessarily be extrapolated to women. Our textbook identifies that women were studied later and indeed some differences were noted.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was born in Switzerland in 1926. She actually spent time in Germany and Poland aiding the survivors of concentration camps. She saw face to face the impact of loss on a human being and I believe this was just one of the things that may have had an effect on her choice to commit her life to the study of death and dying. She began her career by taking psychoanalytic training and this is why I have grouped her under the psychoanalytical school of psychology. Additional she encompasses the psychoanalytical theory of freethinking and expression. She developed the theory that there are five stages to death and dying and five stages of grief. They are as follows: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In the denial stage individuals refuse to even acknowledge that this is happening to them. Then they become angry and wonder why this is happening to them. As such, they often make life miserable for those around them. Next, they bargain for their life. People in this stage may make a truce with God perhaps by saying "if you just save me then I will go to church everyday" or just let me live long enough to see my first grandchild." Depression is the next stage and this is the stage where people actually begin to mourn their own death and the loss of those they will never see, as well as the things they will never accomplish. The last stage is acceptance. The person knows that death is inevitable and they begin to accept it. I agree wholeheartedly with Kubler-Ross' theory. I have lived it and I have read her book "To Live Until We Say Goodbye." My best friend gave me this book while I struggled with the impending death of my grandfather. It was the first and only time I had ever experienced death and I was ill prepared to deal with the multitude of feelings I was having. The book made a profound impact on me and I have since read many more of Dr. Ross' publications. I have been able to share the various stages of grief with family and friends and helped them to identify the stage they were in. Although there is some controversy regarding her stages I believe them to be both useful and accurate.
Next we have the school of cognitive psychology. Both Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg belong to this school. Jean Piaget was born in Neuchâtel (Switzerland) in1896.
This was 40 years after Freud was born so he actually started his training with an early interest in psychoanalysis. Piaget also studied under Jung and with Binet. It was during his work with Binet on the intelligence testing that he became interested in the types of mistakes children of various ages were likely to make. In 1921 Piaget began to study intensively the reasoning processes of children at various ages. He is well known for his studies on the thought processes of children. He believed children pass through four periods of mental development. During the sensorimotor period, they obtain a basic knowledge of objects through their senses. This period lasts until about age 2. During the preoperational period, from about 2 to 7, children develop such skills as language and drawing ability. In the period of concrete operations, from about 7 to 11, they begin to think logically. For example, they learn to organize their knowledge, classify objects, and do thought problems. The period of formal operations lasts from about 11 to 15. At this time, children begin to reason realistically about the future and to deal with abstractions. Abstractions are ideas about qualities and characteristics viewed apart from the objects that have them. He believed these stages were genetically determined stages and that they would always follow the same sequential order. Piaget also used the case-study method to observe his own three children while formulating his theory of the stages of cognitive development. I find Piaget's theory useful in that in can actually be observed and proven. Many parts of Freud's theories simply cannot be physically observed so I have more difficulty applying them to my own personal life. For example, I have seen the ideas of object permanence, and conservation in my own children. I do however, disagree that these things always follow the same sequential order. Again, I refer back to Erikson in that I do not believe the genetic program is so rigid that it does not allow for variances and while these variances may alter the program somewhat I do not believe the variance itself can completely obliterate the final outcome.
Lawrence Kohlberg was born in New York in1927. He was a professor at Harvard University. He started as a developmental psychologist and later moved to the field of moral education. He is well known for his theory of moral development. His theory was dependent on the thinking of Jean Piaget. For that reason, they belonged to the same cognitive school of psychology. Both Piaget and Kohlberg emphasized that human beings develop philosophically and psychologically in a successive fashion. Kohlberg simply polished, expanded, and modified Piaget's basic theory of moral development. Kohlberg believed that there were six identifiable stages, which could be more generally classified into three levels. These levels are the preconventional level (stages 1 and 2), the conventional level (stages 3 and 4), and the postconventional level (stages 5 and 6). Individuals could only progress through these stages one stage at a time. They could not jump from one stage to the other. For example, they could not move from an orientation of selfishness to the law and order stage without passing through the good boy/girl stage. They could only come to an understanding of a moral rationale one stage above their own. Kohlberg, tested this by presenting individuals with moral dilemmas for discussion which would help them to see the probability of a higher stage of morality and then encourage their development in that direction. He also held that moral development could be promoted through formal education. An interesting note about Kohlberg is that he is rumored to have committed suicide. In 1973 he developed a tropical disease and was hospitalized only to be reported missing later. His body was recovered from a marsh but the exact date of his death remains a mystery. I find Kohlberg's theory of moral development helpful because it appears to be concrete. Kohlberg was actually able to demonstrate these stages through his studies and it appears to occur across all cultures. He also made the distinction that although this development occurs in a set pattern and one cannot jump stages there are many factors that can affect moral development. This directly addresses my previous concerns that human development cannot be so rigid as to not allow for variances. Kohlberg acknowledged that intelligence, gender, group norms, and motivational factors all have some impact on moral development.
After the cognitive school we have the behavioral school of psychology. Both Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner belong to this school. Ivan Pavlov was born in 1849 in Russia. He was a physiologist who focused on the observable behavior of people. Pavlov greatly influenced the behaviorists movement because he was able demonstrate data that was both observable and measurable. He is well known for his study of classical conditioning. In this study, Pavlov rang a bell each time he gave a dog some food. The dog's mouth would water when the animal smelled the food. After Pavlov repeated the procedure many times, the dog's saliva began to flow whenever the animal heard the bell, even if no food came into view. This experiment demonstrated that a reflex, such as the flow of saliva, could become associated with a stimulus other than the one that first produced it. In this case, it was the actual sound of a bell instead of the smell of food. The learning process by which a response becomes associated with a new stimulus is called conditioning. Pavlov believed that all acquired habits, and even higher mental activity, depend on chains of conditioned reflexes. This meant that human behavior could also be changed by conditioning. Pavlov's theory led to more research concerning behavior modification. Our textbook gives an example of a bright student who becomes nauseated when it is time to take a test. This happens because as a child this student had a teacher who gave extra work and denied recess privileges to those children who did poorly on test. This is a classic example of classical conditioning. I am able to identify many responses in my own life that I can associate with classical conditioning. The above example being one of them! I carry a brown paper bag to all my tests because I often hyperventilate during the test. I can directly relate this to my first testing experience, which was an entrance test to a private catholic school. The nun told me if I failed to do well I would disappoint my parents and end up in one of those wretched "public schools". I was so nervous I hyperventilated and I still have trouble during testing to this very day. I do not think that all behaviors can be controlled by classical conditioning nor do I believe that all acquired habits depend on chains of conditioned reflexes. There are many external influences that give rise to certain behaviors. The classical conditioning theory fails to take these influences into account.
The American psychologist B. F. Skinner was born in Pennsylvania in the year 1904. He was a strict behaviorist and focused on the role of the environment in the acquiring of various behaviors. He also believed in a planned society. Skinner maintained that learning occurred as a result of the organism responding to, or operating on, its environment, and created the term operant conditioning to describe this event. Operant conditioning is a type of learning in which the consequences of a behavior alter the strength of that behavior. He did extensive research with animals, such as rats and pigeons, and invented the famous Skinner box, in which a rat learns to press a lever in order to obtain food. He even designed a baby box, which was a controlled environmental chamber for infants and placed his daughter there for the first two years of her life! In one experiment, a hungry rat was placed in a special box containing a lever attached to some concealed food. At first, the rat ran around restlessly. Eventually, it happened to press the lever and the food dropped into the box. The food reinforced the response of pressing the lever. After repeating the process many times, the rat learned to press the lever for food. He was extremely influential in his studies that showed how rewards and punishments could influence behavior. He believed that rewards, or positive reinforcements, cause behavior to be repeated. Positive reinforcements might include praise, food, or simply a person's satisfaction with his or her own skill. Punishments discourage the behavior they follow. But punishment also encourages people to avoid situations in which they might be punished. Skinner concluded that positive reinforcement is more effective in teaching new and better behaviors. His work led to the development of teaching methods, which are based on positive reinforcement. An example of this is behavior modification. In behavior modification a teacher may reward a child with smiles, extra playtime, or hugs for doing their schoolwork and behaving properly. Or a parent may punish a child for failing to clean their room as told. Employers may reward appropriate behavior with bonuses, vacations, or awards. These are all examples of rewards pr punishments that may influence behavior. I find most of Skinner's theory useful. In particular the behavior modification. This is a tried and true method of discipline in my household. However, I have learned that in order for this to be effective the reward or punishment must come immediately after the behavior and it must be consistent. I don't think operant conditioning or behavior modification works in all situations. If this were the case then why do people continue certain behaviors even though they experience a negative consequence? I know I would eat too much candy and get sick and be miserable but it would not stop me from going back two days later and eating the candy until I was sick again. Would Skinner argue that my consequence was not severe enough to motivate a change in behavior or that my consequence did not immediately follow the behavior so I was not able to associate the two? I don't know but I think I would argue that behavior modification or operant conditioning does not hold true in all cases. Certainly, I disagree that one could plan a society on this premise. I believe that things exist in our society for a reason, whether they are good or bad they exist for a purpose. To attempt to control this through the operant conditioning method is unrealistic.
Now we look at the humanistic school of psychology. Abraham Maslow belongs to this school. Maslow was born in 1908 in New York City. Most people consider him to be the founder of humanistic psychology. He developed this movement as a rebellion against behaviorism and psychoanalysis, both of which were very popular views of this era. Humanistic psychologists believe individuals are controlled by their own values and choices and not by the environment, as behaviorists think, or by unconscious drives, as psychoanalysts believe. Maslow stressed the importance of studying well-adjusted people in society instead of only disturbed ones. He identified several levels of human needs, the most basic of which must be satisfied before the next levels can be fulfilled. The are divided into the fundamental needs, the psychological needs, and the self-actualization needs. The most basic fundamental needs are bodily drives, such as hunger and thirst, and safety needs, such as the need to feel secure and out of danger. The succeeding levels includes psychological needs such as the need of acceptance, love, to gain approval and recognition. The highest need is for the fulfillment of one's unique potential. This is the self-actualization level. I agree that one must meet the basic fundamental needs before they are free to pursue their psychological needs. I would also agree that one must meet certain psychological needs before they can progress to self-actualization. However, I struggle with Maslow's description of what qualities a self-actualized person possesses. The definition of self-actualization is the need to full one's unique potential. I do not agree with some of the characteristics that Maslow used to identify those he felt had reached the level of self-actualization. For example, Maslow believed that self-actualizers have a considerable fund of creativeness. I do not agree that this is a necessary trait. Furthermore, he listed Martin Luther King, as one of the people he felt was good example of a self-actualizer. Based on my personal research of Martin Luther King I do not see him as self actualized at all. My grandfather and grandmother both worked with Martin Luther King and admired him greatly but the stories they have shared do not fit the image of self-actualization either. In other words, I do not think one can give specific characteristics to this level. I think one has to be willing and able to take a personal inventory and ask the question, have I fulfilled my own unique potential?
Finally, we look at the individual schools of psychology. I have included Carl Jung and Alfred Adler in this category. Both Jung and Adler originally used Freud's psychoanalytical theories but they eventually broke off from Freud and developed their own schools. I will begin with Carl Jung who is considered to be the founder of the field of analytical psychology. Jung was born in Switzerland in 1875. As indicated earlier Jung was originally an admirer of Freud but later he began to challenge many of Freud's theories. In particular, his work on the subject of the unconscious disagreed with the Freudian emphasis on sexual trauma as the basis for all neurosis. Jung, like Freud, believed that the unconscious part of the mind contains personal drives and experiences of which an individual is not aware. Jung also believed that the collective unconscious contains wisdom that guides all humanity. Jung is probably most well known for his description of psychological types. It begins with the distinction between introversion and extroversion. Introverts are people who depend mainly on themselves to satisfy their needs. Extroverts seek the company of other individuals for personal fulfillment. Jung believed that individuals should balance the two character types in themselves. Jung also thought that the members of every race share a deeper level of unconsciousness, which he called the collective unconscious. According to Jung, the collective unconscious includes thought patterns called archetypes, which have developed through the centuries. An archetype is an unlearned tendency to experience things in a certain way. Examples of archetypes are our mother, father, or heroes. Jung thought archetypes enable people to react to situations in ways similar to their ancestors. It is the supply of our experiences, a kind of knowledge we are all born with, but we can never be directly conscious of it. It influences all of our experiences and behaviors, most especially the emotional ones, but we only know about it indirectly, by looking at those influences. I knew very little about Jung until I began researching him for this assignment. I agree with Jung's theory of the collective unconscious although I could counter argue that it is difficult to prove. Jung also has a very colorful history in dealing with supernatural phenomena and that leads me to be somewhat critical of his work. He leaves very little room for unforeseen events or circumstances that do not fit into his theory. This has been my concern on previous theories as well. It is almost over explained! Most useful to me is the description of psychological types. His theory has now been developed into a standard test for personality traits. This is helpful for employers looking to match prospective employees with the correct job fit. According to Jung the introvert is actually the most mature but it is the extrovert who is much more valued in our society!
Alfred Adler was born in Austria in 1870. Although one of Sigmund Freud's earlier associates, he rejected the Freudian emphasis upon sex as the root of neurosis just as Jung did. He developed his own school of individual psychology. Today, it is often referred to as Adlerian psychology. Adler developed important theories concerning the motivation of human behavior. According to Adler, the major force of all human activity is a striving from a feeling of inferiority toward perfection. Adler taught that everyone experiences feelings of inferiority. He believed that each person strives to overcome such feelings according to a unique set of goals. Every individual, he said, also has a unique way of attempting to achieve the goals. Adler used the term "style of life" for the person's goals and methods of pursuing them. He claimed that the style of life becomes established by the age of 4 or 5. He also believed that an individual's self-image and opinion of the world reflect the person's style of life. He also stressed the importance of social forces in determining behavior. He believed that each person is born with a trait called social interest. This ability enables the individual to relate to other people and to place the good of society above selfish interests. Unlike Freud, Adler believed the conscious and unconscious worked in combination with one another. Adler declared that each individual has an incomparable way of life, some are negative and some are positive. He studied various types of people and he came to the conclusion that there are four main types of people and three out of four are negative. The ruling type tries to control others. The getting type tends to be very passive and goes along with others ideas. The avoiding types try to isolate themselves to avoid defeat and they are usually very cold. The socially useful type, values having control over their lives and strives to do good things for the sake of society. Adler went on to establish his own child guidance clinics where he was able to put his theory into practice. He even trained teachers and worked with parents of disturbed children. I find all of Adler's theory useful. I must add the caveat that I do not think one theory fits every individual but Adler holds this basic principle also. I believe that social forces play a strong role in determining behavior. Most useful to me is the idea that people are striving to overcome inferiority. I think this is evident early on in life. My daughter is 5 and she can already verbalize things that she sees in herself that are inferior. I think this is a powerful theory. Additionally, I can relate to Alder's summation that there are four main types of people. When reviewing the characteristics of each I can name people in my life who fit into each of these categories. I can even categorize myself! Adler's theories seem simplistic and more on a lay person's level. Perhaps that is why I identify with him most.
In conclusion, I have written about some of the greatest developmental theorists of all time. While each of these men and women hold distinct and separate views, they all share one common goal and that goal is to increase our understanding of human growth and development.