The field of human growth and development encompasses the entire span of a person’s life, from conception to death. It explores the intricate processes involved in human development through various descriptive and theoretical approaches, including stage and task models. The vast scope of this field makes it both captivating and demanding to study.
The following section delves into the different stages of human development, the various types of aging, commonly employed methods for classifying developmental theories, and specialized research designs utilized in the study of human development.
1.1. Stages of Human Development
Development involves the changes a human being undergoes between conception and death. Ordinarily, these changes are influenced by genetic and environmental conditions and are described within the physical, cognitive, moral, emotional, personality, and social development domains. Human development is often presented and analyzed according to developmental stages, which are socially, culturally, and historically constructed.
Human Developmental Stages.
conception to birth
birth to 2 years
about 30–60 years
about 60–75 years
about 75+ years
1.2. Types of Aging
Aging is a natural and multi-faceted process that encompasses biological, psychological, and social aspects. These three dimensions are interconnected and influence each other throughout the aging journey.
Biological aging involves the functioning and changes that occur in the body over time. It is shaped by metabolic processes, which can be categorized into anabolism and catabolism.
Anabolism refers to the body’s growth and development towards its peak potential, occurring from birth until a variable age in each individual.
Catabolism represents the gradual deterioration of the body from its peak state to the end of life.
Psychological aging relates to an individual’s subjective perception of their own age. It encompasses how one feels and experiences their own aging process. Two individuals of the same age may have different perceptions of their own age, with one feeling “old” while the other feels “young.”
Social aging refers to how an individual’s chronological age is perceived within the societal and cultural context. It is influenced by factors such as occupation and socioeconomic status. Cultural norms and values play a role in shaping attitudes towards aging. For instance, in Eastern cultures, older individuals are often respected and revered as they age, whereas Western cultures may show less respect towards older adults. Additionally, a person’s social standing and profession can impact how they are perceived as they grow older. A wealthy 75-year-old doctor may be viewed differently compared to a retired blue-collar worker of the same age.
These three dimensions of aging work together to shape the experiences and perspectives of individuals as they navigate through the aging process.
Types of Aging
How the body functions and changes over time
One’s perception of personal age
How one’s chronological age is viewed within the societal or cultural context
1.3. Categorizing Theories of Human Development
Theories of human development are categorized into learning, cognitive, psychoanalytic, humanistic, ethological, language, physical, and moral developmental theories. These categorizations help us understand the wide range of human development. Theories can also be categorized based on nature vs. nurture, discontinuous vs. continuous, and active vs. reactive perspectives.
Nature vs. nurture refers to the debate about the impact of genetics and environment on human development. It is widely accepted that both factors play a role in development. For example, intelligence is influenced by both genetic predisposition and environmental factors. Most developmental theories recognize the interaction between nature and nurture.
Discontinuous development and continuous development refer to the nature and degree of changes that occur over time. Continuous development emphasizes gradual, sequential changes, while discontinuous development portrays qualitative shifts to more advanced levels. Stage theories like Piaget’s and Erikson’s exemplify discontinuous development.
Active and reactive theories highlight the role individuals play in their own development. Active theories, such as Erikson’s psychosocial theory, emphasize individuals’ active involvement in regulating their behavior. Reactive theories, like Skinner’s operant conditioning, view individuals as passive responders to environmental stimuli.
Overall, these theories provide different perspectives on human development, addressing the complex nature of the process.
1.4. Special Designs in Human Development Research
Human development research uses various specialized methodologies, including case studies, naturalistic observation, surveys, correlations, cross-sectional studies, longitudinal studies, and time lag studies. These methods contribute to our understanding of human growth and change.
Pros and Cons of Human Development Research Designs.
Study In-depth analysis
No systematic comparison possible
Rich, meaningful data
Observer effects Causality can’t be determined
Data about many individuals
Large sample sizes needed.Sampling bias can limit generalizability
Describes strength and direction of relationship
Causality can’t be determined
Less expensive and less than longitudinal studies
Diffusion of individual changes
Display of developmental trends
More expensive in time and money
Allows intergenerational comparisons
A case study involves collecting detailed data on the developmental change experienced by a single individual or a group of individuals with similar developmental patterns. While case studies provide in-depth analysis, they lack the ability to systematically compare differences across individuals and their findings may not apply universally. Naturalistic studies are conducted in natural settings, using observation and interviews akin to qualitative research. While they yield rich data, they are prone to observer influence and cannot establish causal relationships.
Survey research involves interviewing or administering questionnaires to a large sample of participants to understand their thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Correlational research examines the relationship between variables without experimental manipulation, using a correlation coefficient to describe the strength and direction of the relationship.
Cross-sectional design studies examine different age groups simultaneously, allowing for quick data collection and analysis. However, changes observed among groups may be influenced by the cohort effect, as individuals born at the same time may have shared experiences and perspectives unique to their age.
Longitudinal design studies follow the same group of individuals over an extended period, providing insights into developmental trends. These studies are more expensive and face challenges such as participant attrition and mortality.
Time-lag studies, also known as cohort sequential studies, replicate previous studies on a modern-day cohort using the same parameters. This allows for intergenerational comparisons and insights into changes over time.
2. The Central Nervous System
The development and maturation of the central nervous system play a crucial role in human development, particularly in cognitive and physical processes. This section focuses on the central nervous system development and genetic disorders that are representative of this process.
2.1. Development of the Central Nervous System
The nervous system consists of two main parts: the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The CNS includes the brain and spinal cord, while the PNS consists of the nerves that connect the CNS to the rest of the body, such as the limbs.
During brain development, new neurons are added, and existing neurons become interconnected. Myelination, which is the insulation of neurons, also occurs to enhance the speed of neural transmissions. At birth, a baby’s brain is around 25% of its mature adult size and weight. However, rapid growth takes place during the early years, with the brain reaching approximately 60% of its adult weight by the end of the first year and 80% by the end of the second year. By the age of 16, the brain has reached its full adult size. As a person ages, the brain gradually shrinks, losing neurons. By the late 80s, the brain is typically about 20% lighter than it was at age 30. Blood flow to the brain and levels of certain neurotransmitters also decrease with age.
The brain can be divided into three main parts: the hindbrain or brain stem, the midbrain, and the forebrain or cerebral cortex. The hindbrain and midbrain are already well-developed at birth, while the forebrain, particularly the cerebral cortex, is relatively underdeveloped.
The Human Brain.
Regulates heart and lungs
Connects left and right cerebellum
Reticular activating system
Regulates arousal and attention
Connects hindbrain and forebrainControls eye musclesRelays auditory and visual information
Cerebrum, left hemisphere
Controls right side of the bodyResponsible for language, writing, logical and systematic thought
Cerebrum, right hemisphere
Controls left side of the bodyResponsible for muscle abilities, imagination, emotional expression
Connects the two hemispheresAllows the two hemispheres to integrate cognitive, emotional, and bodily functions
Covers the two cerebral hemispheresResponsible for memory, concentration, problem-solving, muscle coordination
Cerebral cortex: Occipital lobe
Interprets sensory information through the eyes
Cerebral cortex: Parietal lobe
Controls spatial reasoning and sense of touch
Cerebral cortex: Temporal lobe
Responsible for hearing and storage of permanent memory
Cerebral cortex: Frontal lobe
Regulates sense of smell, body control, and movement
The hindbrain is responsible for life maintenance and survival functions and includes the following:
Medulla oblongata: Regulates the heart and breathing.
Cerebellum: Regulates balance.
Pons: Connects the left and right cerebellum.
Reticular activating system: Regulates arousal and attention.
The midbrain acts as a bridge between the hindbrain and forebrain, playing a role in controlling eye muscles and transmitting auditory and visual information to higher-level brain centers involved in complex thinking.
The forebrain is composed of the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for higher-order behaviors and conscious thought processes. It can be divided into the left and right hemispheres, connected by the corpus callosum, and includes the cerebral cortex:
Left hemisphere. Controls the right side of the body and is responsible for language and writing abilities, and logical and systematic thought.
Right hemisphere. Controls the left side of the body and is responsible for muscle abilities, imagination, and emotional expression.
Corpus callosum. A bundle of nerve cells that connects the two hemispheres and allows them to integrate cognitive, emotional, and bodily functions.
Cerebral cortex. Covers the two cerebral hemispheres; is responsible for memory, concentration, problem-solving abilities, and muscle coordination; and is divided into four lobes:
Occipital lobe. Helps brain interpret sensory information through the eyes.
Parietal lobe. Controls spatial reasoning and sense of touch.
Temporal lobe. Responsible for hearing and storage of permanent memory.
Frontal lobe. Regulates the sense of smell, body control, and movement.
Other components within the brain include the thalamus, which acts as a relay station for sensory information, transmitting nerve signals from sensory pathways to the cerebral cortex. Additionally, there is the limbic system, which plays a role in regulating emotions and motivation. The limbic system encompasses the hypothalamus, which serves as a control center for pleasure, pain, and various physiological functions like hunger, thirst, and sexual behavior through the release of hormones. It also includes the amygdala, which influences behaviors and activities such as sexual interest, feeding, and anger, and the hippocampus, which plays a role in memory and the recognition of new information or situations. Finally, hemispheric specialization or lateralization, referring to the dominance of either the right or left hemisphere of the brain, begins early in development and gradually unfolds throughout childhood for many individuals.
2.2. Genetic Disorders
Genetic screening and counseling have gained prominence, focusing on three classes of genetic disorders: autosomal diseases, X-linked diseases, and sex chromosomal disorders. Examples of each include:
Autosomal diseases: These involve non-sex chromosomes.
Phenylketonuria: A recessively transmitted disorder that impairs the breakdown of phenylalanine, leading to severe central nervous system damage if left untreated.
Sickle cell anemia: A recessively transmitted disorder causing abnormal shaping of red blood cells, resulting in pain, anemia, tissue damage, and decreased life expectancy.
Tay-Sachs disease: A recessively transmitted disorder leading to neural tissue degeneration, usually resulting in death by early childhood.
X-linked diseases: These are passed on by the X chromosome.
Hemophilia: A recessively transmitted disease characterized by blood clotting failure, resulting in severe bleeding and tissue damage.
Male pattern baldness: An example of an X-linked characteristic.
Sex chromosomal diseases: These involve genetic anomalies on the sex-determining chromosomes.
Turner syndrome (XO): Missing or partially missing second X chromosome, causing underdeveloped ovaries, short stature, and learning disorders.
Klinefelter’s syndrome (XXY): Extra X chromosome in males, leading to tall stature, incomplete sex characteristics, and verbal ability deficits. Treatment options for these disorders include specialized diets, blood transfusions, pain management, hormone therapy, and educational support services. Prenatal diagnosis is possible for some conditions, allowing for early interventions.
3. Learning Theories
Learning is a lasting change in behavior or thinking caused by experiences. Theories propose that individuals observe and react to their environment. Learning theories include stimulus-response theories (e.g., classical conditioning, operant conditioning) and social learning theories. Some theorists may not fit neatly into these categories, leading to an additional category.
Who’s Who in Learning Theories.
John B, Watson
Edward L. Thorndike
Social Learning Theory
John Dollard and Neal Miller
3.1. Classical Conditioning
Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist, conducted influential studies on dogs’ salivation response to food powder. He discovered that the dogs not only salivated in response to the food powder itself, but also when he entered the room or when the dogs entered his presence. Through well-controlled classical conditioning experiments, Pavlov demonstrated that pairing an unconditioned stimulus (US) like meat powder, which naturally triggers an unconditioned response (UR) such as salivation, with a neutral conditioned stimulus (CS) like a tone or bell, could eventually lead to the CS alone eliciting the conditioned response (CR) of salivation. This process is depicted in the figure below. Initially, the neutral stimulus does not evoke a response, but through repeated pairings with the food, it becomes associated with salivation.
Pavlov’s classically conditioned response.
Several factors play a role in establishing a classically conditioned response:
The timing of the unconditioned stimulus (US) and the conditioned stimulus (CS) is crucial. Simultaneous conditioning occurs when the US and CS are presented simultaneously. Delayed conditioning, where the CS starts before the US and overlaps with it, is the most effective procedure. Backward conditioning, with the US preceding the CS, rarely leads to a conditioned response.
After the US-CS pairing is established, repeated presentation of the CS without the US will weaken the learning, known as extinction. However, the connection between the CS and the conditioned response (CR) can spontaneously recover, rapidly restoring the previously strong learned response. This suggests that learning is never completely lost or forgotten but rather inhibited and ready to be revived. Periodic refresher events may be needed to reinforce the learned response.
Stimulus generalization occurs when the participant’s association between the CS and the CR extends to similar stimuli. For example, if a green light is the CS that elicits a response (CR) and a red light is introduced in a subsequent trial, the participant may generalize the response to the red light. Generalization occurs if the participant is reinforced for responding to the red light. However, if the response is not rewarded, and the participant stops responding to the red light, stimulus discrimination occurs. This means the participant can discriminate between a green light (leading to a response) and a red light (not leading to a response).
John B. Watson
John B. Watson, known as the “father of American behaviorism,” advocated for observable and measurable aspects of psychology. He proposed that development involves learned associations between stimuli and responses. Watson conducted the infamous “Little Albert” experiment, where he conditioned a phobia in an 11-month-old infant and attempted to decondition it. By pairing a white rat (CS) with a loud noise (US), Watson created a phobic response in Little Albert. The experiment also demonstrated stimulus generalization, as Albert showed fear of other similar stimuli. Despite his claims, Watson never had the chance to carry out his proposed experiment of shaping infants into desired occupations through classical conditioning.
Joseph Wolpe and Techniques Based on Classical Conditioning
Joseph Wolpe applied classical conditioning procedures to psychotherapy, emphasizing the principle of reciprocal inhibition. This principle states that mutually exclusive experiences cannot occur simultaneously. For instance, one cannot feel both relaxed and anxious, or think negative and self-affirming thoughts simultaneously. Wolpe’s most notable contribution is the use of systematic desensitization to treat phobias. This technique involves gradually exposing the client to feared stimuli while maintaining a state of relaxation, effectively deconditioning the fear response through reciprocal inhibition.
Other techniques based on classical conditioning, but not necessarily developed by Wolpe, include these:
Counterconditioning: Pairing a strong pleasant stimulus with a weak aversive stimulus.
Aversive counterconditioning: Applying a noxious stimulus when a maladaptive response is made. For example, snapping a rubber band on the wrist in a thought-stopping procedure when clients experience unwanted thoughts.
Flooding: Continuous presentation of an anxiety-provoking stimulus until the client unlearns the response or becomes too fatigued to respond.
3.2. Operant Conditioning
Edward L. Thorndike
Edward L. Thorndike conducted early studies on animal (cat) learning, predating Pavlov. His notable contribution is the Law of Effect, which states that a response (R) followed by a satisfying reward in the presence of a stimulus (S) forms a strong connection and increases the likelihood of the response being repeated. Conversely, if a response is not followed by a rewarding consequence or is associated with unpleasant outcomes, the connection weakens.
B. F. Skinner
B.F. Skinner drew inspiration from Thorndike’s research and developed a theory closely related to Thorndike’s Law of Effect. Skinner’s theory, known as operant conditioning, focuses on how behaviors are strengthened or weakened based on their consequences. Unlike Pavlov’s theory, which mainly dealt with automatic reflexes, Skinner’s theory emphasized voluntary behaviors and their interaction with the environment. According to Skinner, learning occurs through the contingencies of reinforcement that surround the stimulus and response. Skinner’s work introduced several key concepts and learning principles, including:
Positive reinforcement: Adding a stimulus (e.g., reward) immediately after a response to increase the likelihood of that behavior recurring.
Negative reinforcement: Removing a stimulus (e.g., loud noise) following a response to increase the likelihood of that behavior recurring.
Punishment: The addition or removal of a stimulus that decreases the frequency of a specific behavior. Punishment is often referred to as an aversive technique and can include actions like spanking, assigning extra chores, or taking away privileges or allowances.
The differences between positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and punishment depend on the goal of increasing or decreasing a behavior and whether a stimulus is being applied (S+) or removed (S-), as shown in the figure below.
Reinforcers can be primary (e.g., food and rest) or secondary, which are associated with primary needs, like money or tokens.
Reinforcement schedules determine how often reinforcements are given. Continuous reinforcement is given after each response, while intermittent reinforcement is given intermittently. Intermittent reinforcement schedules include:
Fixed ratio (FR) schedules, where a reinforcer is given after a certain number of responses. It leads to quick response acquisition, but may sacrifice quality for quantity.
Variable ratio (VR) schedules, where reinforcements occur periodically on an average basis. They result in high response rates and resistance to extinction.
Fixed interval (FI) schedules, where reinforcements are given after a fixed time period. They lead to low response rates, as the reinforcement depends on time rather than frequency.
Variable interval (VI) schedules, where the time interval for reinforcement varies. It often leads to maximal response rates, as in the case of pop quizzes.
The differences between reinforcement and punishment strategies.
Behavior is shaped through successive approximations, gradually moving towards the desired behavior.
3.3. Social Learning
Social learning models go beyond simple stimulus-response connections and incorporate social and cognitive developmental factors. According to social learning theorists, we learn by observing and experiencing the social context, actively processing new information, deriving meaning from it, and applying it in future interactions, even without explicit reinforcement.
Albert Bandura developed social learning theory, which suggests that people learn by observing, imitating, and modeling behaviors. According to Bandura, individuals can learn new behaviors through passive observation (observational learning) or by actively imitating the behavior of others (modeling), even without receiving direct reinforcement. Effective modeling involves four key components:
Attention: Learners must pay attention and accurately perceive the modeled behavior.
Retention: Learners must process and remember the behavior through visual or verbal encoding.
Reproduction: Learners must accurately reproduce and practice the behavior.
Motivation: Internal or external reinforcement increases motivation and the likelihood of mastering the behavior.
Bandura also emphasized that modeling is more effective when observers and models share similar characteristics or have positive interpersonal qualities. Modeling can occur in real-time or through mental imagery. Bandura introduced the concept of self-efficacy, which refers to an individual’s belief in their ability to perform a specific behavior or accomplish a particular task.
The Dollard and Miller Approach
John Dollard and Neal Miller, influenced by various psychological and social science concepts, developed the theory of “drive” or incentive, suggesting that anxiety and psychological disturbances are learned through experiences. They proposed that individuals develop stable patterns of behavior, known as habits, which help them respond predictably to social and other stimuli. These habits serve to reduce both innate primary drives (e.g., thirst and hunger) and learned secondary drives (e.g., parental approval and peer acceptance). Dollard and Miller identified three primary types of conflicts:
Approach-approach conflicts arise when an individual is faced with two equally appealing positive choices, but can only choose one (e.g., a person who enjoys both chocolate licorice and granola bars).
Approach-avoidance conflicts occur when a person desires something appealing but fears negative consequences or evaluation for obtaining it (e.g., asking an attractive person on a date but fearing rejection).
Avoidance-avoidance conflicts arise when the person faces two undesirable options, and neither choice offers a favorable outcome (e.g., a person wanting to avoid conflict with their spouse but feeling upset and embarrassed by their spouse’s behavior in public).
4. Cognitive Development
Theories of cognitive development explain how individuals derive meaning from their experiences by employing cognitive processes at different developmental stages. Cognitive complexity plays a significant role in reasoning and behavior. Two prominent theories in this field are Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s cognitive developmental approaches. This section also covers memory, cognition, and several other essential concepts associated with cognitive development.
4.1. Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory
Jean Piaget revolutionized our understanding of cognitive development by rejecting the notion that it was solely determined by biology or the environment. He proposed a comprehensive model that emphasized the role of organization and adaptation in mental growth. Piaget described two complementary processes that drive cognitive changes:
Assimilation involves perceiving and interpreting new information within an existing framework, adding it to one’s current understanding. For instance, someone who lacks awareness of different dog breeds may label all dogs as simply “dogs.”
Accommodation occurs when new information requires a restructuring or change in mental organization, allowing for the incorporation of new categories or perspectives. As a result, refined distinctions can be made. For example, recognizing different dog breeds enables individuals to distinguish golden retrievers, Great Danes, beagles, poodles, and more. Schemas, which are mental structures, can evolve as new insights and information are integrated.
Piaget proposed that learning occurs when individuals experience disequilibrium, a state of conflict or challenge to their existing understanding. Motivated to restore equilibrium, people engage in a process called equilibration, which involves adapting their thoughts through a combination of assimilation and accommodation.
Piaget’s stages of cognitive development can be summarized as follows:
Sensorimotor stage (birth to about 2 years): Infants learn through their senses and motor skills, progressing from reflexes to intentional interaction. They develop cause-and-effect understanding, problem-solving skills, and object permanence.
Preoperational stage (2 to 7 years): Children develop symbolic representations, engage in egocentric thinking, and exhibit centration and animism. They have difficulty understanding the perspectives of others and struggle with reversibility.
Concrete operational stage (7 to 11 years): Children can use symbols for logical mental operations, classify and seriate objects, conserve quantities, and understand concepts like reversibility and reduced egocentrism. Abstract reasoning is still a challenge.
Formal operational stage (11+ years): Individuals can think abstractly, engage in hypothetical-deductive reasoning, and systematically analyze multiple explanations. Not everyone reaches this stage.
These stages represent the progression of cognitive abilities and understanding as individuals grow and develop.
Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development.
Birth to about two years
Use senses and motor abilities to learn about environment
Proceed from reflexes to intentional interaction
Learn cause-and-effect, trial-and error, and object permanence
Two to seven years
Develop symbolic representations
7 to 11 years
Can use symbols for logic
Able to classify, seriate, and conserve
Can understand reversibility
Understand relational terms
Still unable to reason abstractly
Abstract and relativistic thinking
Can systematically prove/disprove multiple alternative explanations
Not everyone reaches this stage
4.2. Lev Vygotsky’s Cognitive Developmental Theory
Vygotsky’s cognitive developmental theory:
Vygotsky integrated language, social, and cultural influences into his constructionist theory.
He believed that cognitive progress is facilitated by language development in a social context.
The zone of proximal development represents the gap between independent learning and potential learning with assistance.
Scaffolding refers to the support provided to help children reach their potential, which can be gradually removed as they become capable of independent and automatic task performance.
Regarding language development:
Vygotsky identified stages of language development linked to cognitive advancement.
In the early years, children use social speech to control the actions of others.
Around age three, children’s speech becomes egocentric, serving as self-guidance and explanation.
Vygotsky attributed this egocentric speech to the absence of private speech capacity.
Around seven years of age, children develop private speech (inner speech) for guiding behavior and engaging in higher mental processes.
4.3. Cognition and Memory
Mature cognition relies on memory, which can be categorized as follows:
Sensory memory (trace memory) holds environmental stimuli briefly, such as sounds, sights, and sensations, for a few seconds.
Short-term memory temporarily stores information for seconds to minutes, allowing focused and received information to be retained. The capacity of short-term memory is typically limited to around 7 plus or minus 2 pieces of information.
Long-term memory allows for the storage of a significant amount of information for a relatively permanent duration, depending on the effectiveness of the initial learning process.
The transfer from short-term to long-term memory is enhanced through effective encoding (compacting information in a meaningful way) and rehearsal (practicing the information for memorization). Information can be stored in echoic storage (auditory) or iconic storage (visual).
There are three commonly proposed theories to explain forgetting. Retrieval theory suggests that information is retained in long-term storage but can be difficult to retrieve without sufficient cues. The tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon exemplifies this theory, where the answer eventually emerges with the right cue. Decay of memory theory suggests that memories gradually fade over time and can eventually disappear. Interference theory proposes that memories can be inhibited by other learning experiences. Retroactive inhibition occurs when new information interferes with the recall of previously learned information, while proactive inhibition occurs when old information interferes with the recall of newly learned information. Experimental studies have shown the effects of interference in memory recall.
How can memory be improved? Several strategies have been suggested:
Chunking involves grouping information into chunks to increase storage and retrieval capacity. For example, instead of trying to remember the sequence of nine digits individually (7, 9, 2, 4, 1, 6, 3, 8, 5), you can group them into three chunks (792, 416, 385) for easier recall.
The method of loci uses guided visual imagery, where you imagine objects or concepts in a familiar environment and sequence. When you need to recall the information, you mentally revisit the image and retrieve the details.
Acronyms can be helpful for remembering information. For instance, the acronym RIASEC is formed from the first letters of the six dimensions of Holland’s hexagonal model (realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional), making it easier to recall all six dimensions.
Eidetic memory, also known as photographic memory, relies on vivid visual images to recall visual information with clarity and detail.
Optimal memory and performance are achieved when arousal levels are moderate, as both low and high levels can hinder performance (Yerkes-Dodson law). Additionally, thorough learning enhances retention, and spaced learning (e.g., studying for shorter periods over multiple sessions) is more effective than massed learning (e.g., studying for a long period in one session)
4.4. Other Important Concepts in Cognitive Development
Cognitive dissonance, coined by Leon Festinger, describes the discomfort when an individual encounters a conflict between their existing knowledge and new information. Typically, people either adjust their beliefs to accommodate the new information or reject it in favor of their pre-existing beliefs. Confirmatory bias is a related term, referring to the tendency to seek information that supports one’s existing beliefs, effectively hearing what one wants to hear.
Attribution theory, proposed by Fritz Heider, explains the reasons behind events by attributing outcomes to various factors. Heider outlined three dimensions:
Stability dimension attributes outcomes to stable causes that remain consistent over time, often leading to feelings of hopelessness. Conversely, attributing outcomes to unstable causes, which are not consistent over time, tends to foster persistence and hope.
Locus dimension attributes outcomes to either internal or external factors. Internal attributions assign responsibility to the individual, while external attributions assign it to external forces or events.
Control dimension attributes outcomes to controllable or uncontrollable facets. Controllable attributions suggest that individuals have some control over the outcome or event, whereas uncontrollable attributions imply the absence of personal control.
The imaginary audience is an adolescent’s belief that everyone is watching and critically judging them, as proposed by David Elkind. For example, even when a teenager is alone and trips and falls in a hallway, they believe that others have witnessed and negatively evaluated the incident. Elkind suggests that adolescence is a time when substantial egocentrism reemerges.
The personal fable is an adolescent’s belief in their absolute uniqueness. They may engage in reckless and dangerous acts because they believe that negative consequences only happen to others. For example, a teenage girl may engage in unprotected sex, convinced that pregnancy and disease only affect others, not her.
Intelligence is a construct that describes one’s problem-solving ability and capacity to learn new information. It encompasses crystallized intelligence, which includes learned verbal and mathematical capabilities, and fluid intelligence, involving nonverbal problem solving and pattern recognition. Intelligence is not fixed at birth but develops through social and environmental interactions.
Creativity involves both divergent thinking (generating many possibilities) and convergent thinking (selecting the best solution and focusing on the final product). Creative thinkers generate a greater number of ideas from different categories and provide elaborate details.
Gender differences in cognitive development are minimal between females and males. While specific cognitive abilities may show some differences, the extent to which genetics or the environment influences these differences remains uncertain. Notably, the variation within each gender group is greater than the differences between genders themselves. Between the ages of 10 and 12 years, females tend to outperform males in verbal ability, while males tend to outperform females in math. However, these average differences are small yet statistically significant.
Significant declines in cognitive abilities typically occur around the age of 70. Older adults may experience difficulties in learning new information, retrieving old information, and performing on timed tests and tasks requiring memorization.
5. Language Development
In this section, we explore the fascinating world of language development in humans, including key concepts, theories, and milestones that mark our journey towards proficient communication and problem-solving. Additionally, we delve into common communication disorders that individuals may experience.
5.1. Theories of Language Development
In this section, we explore three categories of language development theories: learning theory approaches, the nativist approach, and the interactionist approach.
Learning theory approaches, such as social learning theory, suggest that children acquire language skills by observing and imitating others. While imitation plays a role, it doesn’t account for the development of novel speech and language. The stimulus-response approach explains language development as a reinforcement of speech sounds, leading to increasingly accurate approximations of adult speech.
The nativist approach, proposed by Noam Chomsky, suggests that humans are genetically predisposed to create and understand language. Chomsky hypothesized the existence of a language acquisition device in the human brain, enabling the production of speech sounds, grammar, and the generation of new sentences. Humans have the capacity to learn any language through exposure, with language comprehension surpassing production. Chomsky’s theory is supported by the observation that children, regardless of culture, go through similar developmental stages and typically master spoken language basics by the age of five to six.
The interactionist approach combines learning and nativist perspectives, attributing language development to social and cultural influences. It recognizes the interplay between innate language abilities and the environment in shaping language acquisition.
5.2. Important Concepts in Language Development
Psycholinguistics is the field of study that examines language development and processing.
Speech involves the physical production and sequencing of sounds in oral language.
Language encompasses the grammatical rules and semantics that allow individuals to understand and communicate with each other effectively.
Semantics focuses on the study of word meanings and how words convey concepts.
Syntax pertains to the proper use of grammar in forming sentences and phrases.
Pragmatics explores how language is used in social contexts, including turn-taking, nonverbal cues, and gestures.
Phonology investigates the sound patterns and phonemes, which are the basic sound units in a language. English has approximately 40 phonemes.
Morphology governs the rules of word formation, and morphemes are the smallest meaningful units in language. For example, “at” has one morpheme, while “boys” has two morphemes: “boy” and “s”.
Dialects represent variations in language based on factors such as occupation, age, geographic region, and social class.
Three brain areas play significant roles in language development:
Broca’s area is associated with speech production. Damage to this area can lead to motor aphasia, resulting in slow and effortful speech.
Wernicke’s area is involved in speech comprehension. Damage to this area can cause sensory aphasia, leading to difficulties in understanding language.
The arcuate fasciculus is a bundle of nerve fibers that connects Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, facilitating the coordination between speech production and comprehension.
5.3. Milestones in Early Language Development
Some important language milestones include the following:
Smiles when talked to
Responds to voice by turning head
Babbling, which closely resembles speech
Repeats syllables (e.g., ma-ma)
Shows understanding of some words
Can produce about 50 one-word utterances (holophrases)
Uses some two-word phrases
A vocabulary of several hundred words; speaks in short sentences
A vocabulary of about 1,000 words
Basic rules of language consistently demonstrated
5.4. Communication Disorders
Normal language development encompasses both receptive and expressive language skills, which are closely linked to learning and information processing. Estimates indicate that around 2% to 5% of children encounter challenges in either receptive or expressive language. The DSM-5 outlines three Communication Disorders:
Language Disorder is diagnosed when an individual experiences persistent difficulties in acquiring or using spoken or written language skills. Diagnosis requires evidence from multiple sources, including standardized tests and naturalistic observations.
Symptoms of Language Disorder include struggles in producing or understanding age-appropriate sentences and a limited vocabulary. Speech Disorder, the most commonly diagnosed communication disorder, involves difficulties in producing speech sounds that align with developmental expectations (e.g., misarticulations and sound substitutions).
Social Communication Disorder pertains to pragmatic language impairments, wherein individuals face difficulties in understanding and using verbal and nonverbal social cues. This condition can impact social relationships and overall comprehension.
Adult onset communication disorders typically stem from factors such as stroke, dementia, or brain trauma, often leading to aphasia (difficulty naming objects) and anomia (word-finding difficulties).
6. Personality Development
This section explores various theories that contribute to our understanding of personality, offering valuable perspectives into an individual’s inner world. The theories discussed include Freud’s psychosexual theory, Erikson’s psychosocial theory, Loevinger’s ego development theory, Maslow’s humanistic theory, and the ethological theories of Lorenz, Bowlby, Ainsworth, and Harlow. Additionally, key aspects of personality development are examined, such as identity development, sex role and gender development, social development, and adjustment to aging and mortality.
6.1. Psychosexual Theory of Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud proposed that personality develops through the interplay between personal needs (drives) and the environment, with past experiences influencing present behavior. The libido represents the innate life force driving instincts, such as sex, aggression, survival, and pleasure. Personality development involves channeling these instincts into socially acceptable and rational behavior. Freud outlined a tripartite structure of personality:
The id, present from birth, houses the basic instincts (libido) and operates on the pleasure principle. It seeks immediate gratification of needs, often through unrealistic or irrational means.
The ego, which emerges during the first year of life, operates on the reality principle. Its role is to find socially acceptable and reality-based resolutions to the conflicts between the id’s urges and the demands of the superego. Failure to navigate these conflicts may lead to the use of defense mechanisms to reduce anxiety.
The superego, which develops around age five, operates on the morality principle. It embodies the moral values and standards internalized through social interactions and societal rules. The superego acts as a counterbalance to the id, replacing impulsive urges with morally guided responses.
When the ego is unable to reconcile the conflicting urges of the id and the moralized response of the superego, it leads to anxiety and potential pathology. To control this anxiety, various defense mechanisms are employed, including:
Repression: Pushing undesirable thoughts and feelings out of conscious awareness.
Regression: Returning to a previous, more comfortable and childlike stage of development.
Displacement: Redirecting feelings from the original source to a less threatening target.
Projection: Attributing one’s own thoughts, feelings, or motives onto others.
Rationalization: Providing logical-sounding reasons to justify one’s behavior, concealing the true underlying motivations.
Compensation: Substituting a successful experience for a previous failure.
Denial: Refusing to accept or acknowledge the existence of something.
Reaction formation: Expressing the opposite of one’s true feelings or motives to prevent their expression.
Freud formulated a psychosexual theory of personality development, which suggests that individuals must navigate through various conflicts arising from the libidinal energy focused on different parts of the body as they mature. Failure to resolve these conflicts, due to excessive or inadequate gratification in any stage, can result in fixation. Freud’s stages of psychosexual development are as follows:
Oral stage: Birth to approximately one year old. Pleasure is derived from the mouth through activities such as sucking or mouthing. Fixation in this stage can lead to oral-related personality traits (e.g., dependence, passivity, gullibility) and habits (e.g., smoking, thumb-sucking, overeating).
Anal stage: Ages one to three years. Pleasure is centered around the anus and buttocks area. Gratification is obtained through the control and elimination of feces and urine. Parental handling of toilet training can influence future personality development. Fixation can manifest as either retentiveness (e.g., stinginess, obsessive thinking, cleanliness) or expulsiveness (e.g., messiness, destructiveness).
Phallic stage: Ages three to five years. Genitals become the primary source of pleasure. Exploration and manipulation of the genitals, as well as emerging Oedipus and Electra complexes, are common. These complexes involve desires to eliminate the same-sex parent and take a central position in the opposite-sex parent’s life, resolved through identification. Fixation in this stage may involve sexual exploitation of others. The superego develops and becomes integrated into the personality structure.
Latency stage: Ages six to eleven years. Sexual desires become dormant as the focus shifts to the mastery of social skills, self-awareness, and ego development. Children learn to manage anxiety through the use of defense mechanisms.
Genital stage: Adolescence. Puberty triggers the reemergence of sexual impulses. Individuals experience an increased interest in sex and the capacity for genuine love. While there may be potential reemergence of the Oedipus and Electra complexes, successful development leads to sublimation of parental love, identification with non-parental love objects, sexual maturation, and the pursuit of romantic relationships, marriage, and parenthood.
These stages reflect Freud’s belief that early experiences and conflicts play a significant role in shaping an individual’s personality and behavior.
Stages of Psychosexual Theory of Personality Development.
No fixation, but children learn to use defense mechanisms during this stage
Reemergence of sexual impulses
Potential reemergence of Oedipus and Electra complexes
6.2. Psychosocial Theory of Erik Erikson
Erik Erikson proposed a theory of psychosocial development that emphasized the influence of social interactions on ego development throughout one’s lifespan. Unlike Freud, Erikson believed in the ongoing development of personality and the potential for resolving developmental challenges. According to Erikson, individuals encounter a series of psychosocial crises throughout their lives, and successfully navigating these crises can lead to positive growth. He also believed that personality can be reconstructed at any stage of life.
Trust vs. Mistrust: Birth to one or two years. Infants develop trust when their caretakers create a nurturing and predictable environment. Mistrust arises from a lack of comfort, unpredictability, or uncaring treatment.
Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt: Ages one or two to three years. Toddlers assert their independence and develop autonomy through positive interactions with caretakers. Overly controlling behavior can lead to feelings of shame and doubt.
Initiative vs. Guilt: Ages three to five years. Children show ambition and responsibility. Parents can foster these qualities by supporting their goals and plans without being overly controlling. Guilt and inhibition may arise if children are unable to navigate this balance.
Industry vs. Inferiority: Ages 6 to 11 years. Children strive for competence in academic and social tasks. Success leads to a sense of industry, while failure or lack of cooperation can result in feelings of inferiority.
Identity vs. Role Confusion: Adolescence. Adolescents seek to establish their personal identity and future direction. Peer group interactions become significant, and individuals choose goals and values. Confusion and questioning arise when goals are not chosen.
Intimacy vs. Isolation: Young adulthood. The focus is on developing intimate relationships and friendships, moving away from self-absorption and isolation. Trust and independence are traded for love and intimacy.
Generativity vs. Stagnation: Middle adulthood. The emphasis is on family relationships, raising children, and contributing to future generations. Work productivity and personal growth are important. Feelings of meaninglessness can arise if accomplishments are lacking.
Integrity vs. Despair: Old age. Individuals reflect on their lives and come to terms with their mortality. Reflection with a sense of pride, achievement, and integrity leads to a positive outlook, while regret and despair can occur when looking back on life.
Erikson’s theory has been criticized as being ethnocentric and gender biased because of its focus on independence rather than community.
6.3. Ego Development Theory of Jane Loevinger
Jane Loevinger proposed a stage theory of ego development that describes the progression and fixation of human personality.
Presocial Stage: Infants differentiate themselves from the external world.
Symbiotic Stage: Developing a sense of self separate from others.
Self-Protective Stage: Exercising self-control and adhering to rule-governed behavior.
Conformist Stage: Compliance with group rules; seeking acceptance from family.
Self-Awareness and Self-Conscious Stage: Striving for stability and maturity.
Conscientious Stage: Internalizing moral rules and principles.
Individualistic Stage: Pursuing individuality; grappling with inner conflicts.
Autonomous Stage: Striving for self-fulfillment; effectively managing inner conflicts.
Integrated Stage: Achieving a consolidated and cohesive identity.
6.4. Humanistic Theory of Abraham Maslow
Humanistic theories adopt a holistic perspective, considering the entirety of an individual to be greater than the sum of its parts, and emphasize the inherent goodness in human beings. According to humanists, individuals make choices about themselves based on their self-perceptions and their perception of the surrounding circumstances. Abraham Maslow developed the hierarchy of needs to illustrate that humans have an innate drive for self-actualization, which can only be realized once lower-level needs are satisfied. The needs, arranged from lower to higher order, are as follows:
Physiological needs (e.g., food, water, and rest)
Safety needs (e.g., shelter, warmth, physical and emotional security)
Belongingness needs (e.g., loving relationships, a sense of belonging)
Esteem needs (e.g., self-respect, self-confidence, feelings of achievement)
Self-actualization needs (e.g., a sense of purpose)
Typically, self-actualization needs are not fulfilled until middle adulthood, often occurring after the age of 60, if they are met at all. These needs can only be pursued once the lower-order needs have been adequately satisfied. Self-actualized individuals possess certain characteristics, including self-acceptance, spontaneity, autonomy, creativity, resistance to social conformity, a problem-centered focus, and a continued sense of wonder and appreciation for life.
6.5. The Five Factor Model
The five-factor model, also known as the “Big Five,” is a well-established and comprehensive model of personality that has had a significant impact on the field. It defines personality based on five broad dimensions: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. These dimensions can be remembered using the acronym OCEAN.
Openness: Individuals high in openness have vivid imaginations, a strong emotional awareness, intellectual curiosity, and a desire for new experiences and ideas. On the other hand, individuals low in openness tend to be more conventional and closed-minded.
Conscientiousness: Those with high levels of conscientiousness are responsible, goal-oriented, and self-disciplined. They plan carefully, strive for success, and are good at self-regulating their behavior. Individuals low in conscientiousness are more spontaneous and tend to take more risks.
Extraversion: High levels of extraversion are characterized by sociability, outgoingness, and energy. Extraverts thrive in social situations and enjoy being around others. In contrast, introverts prefer solitude, are more reserved, and engage in quieter activities.
Agreeableness: People high in agreeableness are friendly, cooperative, empathetic, and trusting. They value harmonious relationships and prioritize the needs of others. Disagreeable individuals are less concerned about others’ feelings and focus more on their own desires and needs.
Neuroticism: High levels of neuroticism are associated with emotional instability, anxiety, and depression. Individuals with high neuroticism often struggle with stress management and experience negative moods. Those low in neuroticism are generally more emotionally stable and better at regulating their emotions.
It is important to note that most individuals fall somewhere in the middle of each dimension, displaying moderate levels rather than extreme ends. The NEO Personality Inventory–Revised (NEO-PI-3) is a commonly used assessment tool to measure these factors, allowing clinicians to gain insights into their clients’ personalities and tailor interventions to enhance their well-being.
6.6. Ethological Theories of Konrad Lorenz, John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth, and Harry Harlow
Ethological theories focus on the influence of instincts and innate capacities on human development, emphasizing the role of biology. These theories employ naturalistic observation to understand how evolutionary factors shape learning experiences.
Konrad Lorenz conducted renowned experiments on imprinting, which refers to the process where a duckling or gosling forms an attachment to the first moving object it encounters shortly after hatching. This object can be its mother, a human, or even an inanimate object set in motion by an experimenter. Imprinting is a non-reversible process and exemplifies Lorenz’s concept of the critical period or sensitive period.
John Bowlby proposed that infants have an inherent capacity for attachment, allowing them to form a natural bond with a caregiver, which provides a sense of security to explore the world. If this attachment is disrupted or absent during early development, it can impact trust and intimacy in later stages of life. Bowlby identified three observable stages in infants experiencing prolonged separations:
Protest: The infant vehemently resists separation and expresses distress through crying and protesting.
Despair: The infant becomes resigned and hopeless, exhibiting signs of withdrawal and passivity.
Detachment: The infant begins to accept attention from others and displays less distress. Interestingly, upon reunion with the caregiver, the infant may appear disinterested, as if seeking retribution for the perceived abandonment.
Mary Ainsworth identified four patterns of attachment in her research:
Secure attachment: Children with secure attachment have healthy and secure relationships. They feel comfortable exploring their environment and express distress when separated from their caregiver. However, they are easily comforted upon reunion.
Avoidant attachment: Children with avoidant attachment exhibit withdrawn behaviors. They show little interest in their caregiver, ignore separations, and display indifference during reunions.
Ambivalent attachment: Children with ambivalent attachment display clingy behaviors. They are reluctant to explore their surroundings and protest separations strongly. They often show mixed emotions during reunions, expressing both anger and a desire for closeness.
Disorganized attachment: Children with disorganized attachment exhibit confused and inconsistent behaviors. They may show little emotional response during separations and reunions, displaying signs of confusion and disorientation.
These attachment patterns provide insight into the quality of the child’s relationship with their caregiver and have implications for their emotional and social development.
Another notable figure in the field is Harry Harlow, who conducted influential experiments involving infant rhesus monkeys. In these experiments, the monkeys were placed in cages with surrogate mothers, one made of wire with a bottle for providing food (representing oral gratification and sustenance) and another made of terrycloth for comfort and warmth. The infant monkeys would approach the wire monkey for food, but they showed a strong preference for the terrycloth monkey, spending the majority of their time with it and seeking comfort from it when scared.
Ethological theory provides insights into two common developmental phenomena observed in human infants:
Stranger anxiety typically emerges around six months of age when infants start to display fear and distress in the presence of unfamiliar individuals, including non-caretakers such as grandparents whom the infant may have seen weeks earlier. This phenomenon is likely influenced by the improved visual acuity, development of object permanence, and increased cognitive awareness during this stage of infancy.
Separation anxiety usually occurs in infants between their first and second birthdays and involves intense distress when separated from their primary caregiver. The infant may experience a temporary period of anxiety until the caregiver reappears, but they typically adjust and recover quickly. It’s important to note that this normal developmental phenomenon is distinct from the clinical disorder known as Separation Anxiety Disorder.
6.7. Identity Development
Erikson’s adolescence stage is about identity formation, where individuals develop a sense of self separate from others. They explore different roles and evaluate which ones align with their identity. Identity can be categorized as normative (in line with societal expectations), deviant (contrary to societal norms), achieved (earned through personal effort), or ascribed (given by others).
Marcia introduced the concept of identity status to further develop Erikson’s psychosocial crisis theory and identified four types of identity:
Identity Achievement: Making commitments to goals and taking action to achieve them.
Identity Moratorium: Continuously seeking and analyzing information without committing to goals or a course of action.
Identity Foreclosure: Adopting goals and pursuing them without questioning, influenced by others such as parents and friends.
Identity Diffusion: Procrastinating or feeling confused to the extent of being unable or unwilling to engage in analyzing identity-related information and setting goals.
6.8 Sex Role and Gender Role Development
Sexual identity refers to biological features determined by genetics, while gender identity is the psychological awareness of being male or female, influenced by cultural factors. Gender identity typically develops around age three, with children showing preferences for gender-specific toys even earlier. Gender roles are socially defined behaviors associated with a particular sex, while androgyny represents gender-neutral concepts. Gender role conflict arises when existing gender expectations clash with changing gender roles.
Four predominant theories of gender role development exist. Social learning theory suggests that children learn gender roles through observation and reinforcement from same-sex caregivers and models. Cognitive-developmental models propose that children become more aware of their gender identities as cognitive abilities develop. Biological theories emphasize the role of hormones in influencing gender-related behaviors. Psychoanalytic theory highlights the influence of Oedipus and Electra complexes and parental role modeling on gender role identification. Parents, teachers, and peers also contribute to gender role differentiation through their actions and interactions.
Media sources, including TV, radio, internet, music, books, and magazines, can reinforce gender stereotypes, although their specific impact is challenging to measure or estimate.
6.9. Social Development
Childhood peer group experiences play a vital role in the development of autonomy and competence, as children learn social interaction skills. To gain acceptance within a peer group, adherence to rituals and routines is necessary. Even at a young age, dominance hierarchies become apparent among group members. Prosocial behavior, characterized by sensitivity to others’ needs, gradually emerges during childhood. Play serves as a valuable tool for learning and exploration. Infants engage in both exploratory and destructive play, which are considered normal behaviors. Aggression can take the form of instrumental aggression, aimed at acquiring possessions, or hostile aggression, directed towards others. On average, boys tend to exhibit higher levels of aggression, often influenced by aggressive parental behavior. Sociodramatic play, imitating adult play, facilitates more mature social interactions among children. Parten identified four categories of social play: nonsocial activity, parallel play, associative play, and cooperative play.
Nonsocial activity. Throughout the preschool years, children play by themselves, wander around, and observe others but do not play with another child in the same activity.
Parallel play. Children play near each other, sometimes doing the same activity, but not with each other—that is, two children may be coloring pictures as they sit next to each other but not in a cooperative fashion.
Associative play. While engaged in separate activities, children talk and comment on each other’s activities.
Cooperative play. Children play with each other to attain a common goal.
6.10. Adjustment to Aging and Death
Successful aging encompasses multiple factors, including life satisfaction, social roles, financial stability, autonomy, physical health, mental well-being, and alignment of lifestyle with personality. Theories of aging offer different perspectives on the aging process:
Disengagement theory (detachment theory) posits that withdrawal from social interactions is a natural occurrence in later life, driven by a desire for self-reflection, self-focus, and reduced emotional ties with others.
Activity theory proposes that older individuals prefer to maintain social engagement and activity levels to counter self-preoccupation and cultivate close social connections.
Atchley proposed four stages of retirement:
Preretirement. Making plans.
Immediately after retirement. A “honeymoon” phase when one enjoys newfound autonomy.
Period of disenchantment. Novelty of retirement wears off and individuals may realize their plans were unrealistic.
Reorientation. Putting together a satisfactory and realistic lifestyle.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proposed that individuals facing a loss, such as impending death, the loss of a loved one, or an unexpected life change, commonly go through a grieving process, which includes the following stages:
Shock and denial: Initially, there is a sense of disbelief or denial regarding the event.
Anger: Feelings of rage and anger arise as a response to the loss.
Bargaining and guilt: One may feel a sense of guilt and engage in bargaining, attempting to change or reverse the situation.
Despair: Feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, and depression become prominent, motivating a desire to move forward.
Acceptance: Eventually, acceptance is reached, allowing for adjustment and adaptation to the new life circumstances.
When providing counseling to clients in such situations, it is important for counselors to consider factors that can influence the intensity of grief, including the nature of the relationship, the manner in which the loss occurred, and the age and gender of the individual experiencing grief. They should also be mindful of potential obstacles to the grieving process, such as sudden loss, unresolved circumstances, and limited support. Additionally, counselors should be aware of the possibility of complicated grief. The field of study that focuses on grief is known as thanatology.
7. Moral Development
Moral development pertains to the progressive capacity of an individual to discern between right and wrong and to behave in alignment with these distinctions. While Kohlberg’s theory of moral development has had significant influence, it has faced criticism for its male-centric perspective. Gilligan’s moral development theory, on the other hand, emphasizes the stages through which women progress. Additionally, several lesser-known approaches are mentioned briefly, including Piaget’s cognitive approach, Freud’s psychoanalytic approach, the behavioral approach, and the social learning approach.
7.1. Lawrence Kohlberg
Kohlberg’s cognitive developmental theory proposes that cognitive achievements contribute to moral development. The theory consists of three levels and six stages, but not everyone reaches the highest levels. Kohlberg acknowledged the discrepancy between moral reasoning and behavior. He used the Defining Issues Test to study moral dilemmas and participants’ responses aligned with his stages.
Level I: Preconventional Level – Individuals focus on self-interest and follow rules to avoid punishment or gain rewards.
Stage 1: Obedience and Punishment – Follow rules to avoid punishment and gain rewards. Egocentric thinking dominates.
Stage 2: Instrumental Hedonism – Focus on personal needs and pleasure. Consider others’ perspectives as long as personal needs are met.
Level II: Conventional Level – Individuals conform to rules to gain social approval and maintain relationships.
Stage 3: “Good Boy, Good Girl” – Seek approval from others. Develop empathy and value maintaining positive relationships.
Stage 4: Law and Order – Uphold societal rules and maintain social order. Conform to avoid censure by authority.
Level III: Postconventional Level – Individuals form their own moral codes based on universal ethical principles.
Stage 5: Social and Moral Contract – Consider individual rights and societal agreements. Willingness to change rules for the greater good.
Stage 6: Universal Ethical Principles – Follow personal conscience based on universal ethical principles. Respect for individuals and avoidance of guilt.
Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development.
Obedience and Punishment
Mentality that the weak must please, or avoid displeasing the strong
Morality focuses on pleasure and self-service
“Good Boy, Good Girl”
Focus is on pleasing everyone
Law and Order
Conformity to avoid censure by authority
Social/MoralContract and System of Laws
Rights are decided democratically, and subject to change.
Universal Ethical Principles
Moral behavior is determined based on universal ethical principles. Individuals are accorded respect as an end, not as a means.
7.2. Carol Gilligan
Gilligan criticized Kohlberg’s biased theory of moral development and proposed her own three-stage theory focused on an ethic of caring. Women face a struggle between self and other orientations, balancing care and avoiding harm. The stages are:
Orientation to Individual Survival.
Goodness as Self-Sacrifice.
Morality of Nonviolence.
7.3. Other Approaches to Understanding Moral Development
Piaget proposed a stage theory of moral development based on cognitive awareness:
Premoral stage: Limited awareness of rules in early childhood.
Moral realism stage: Develop an understanding of rules as concrete objects and the importance of obeying them, but may not grasp the underlying reasons. Perceive greater guilt for more damaging actions.
Moral relativism stage: Around age seven, comprehend the reasons behind rules and the possibility of changing them. Recognize that morality is subjective, based on intentions rather than consequences.
Freud viewed morality as a result of unconscious motives, with the superego mediating between the id and ego. The behavioral approach emphasizes environmental influences and the consequences of actions. Conflicting messages can arise when rewards or punishments are inconsistent with societal values.
Social learning theory (Albert Bandura) suggests that children acquire moral behavior through observation and vicarious learning. By observing others in similar situations, children learn what is considered socially acceptable or moral. For instance, if a child sees a parent engaging in dishonest acts like tax evasion or accepting incorrect change, they may learn that stealing can be acceptable.