Abstract The growing up process or the human developmental process has been an interesting topic of research in the field of Psychology. Great psychologists and sociologists have already provided up of the different theories and hypotheses about growing up. However, the application of these theories may not that easy for us to understand. Therefore this paper shall describe, compare, and contrast the developmental theories according to the psychodynamic, cognitive, learning, and humanistic perspectives.
An Analysis on the Interaction of the Different aspects on Human Development on the Overall Development of a Child Development or the growing-up process is the most crucial part of a person’s life. It is the time when changes in the cognitive, emotional, and biological aspects occur. Hence, this is the stage when a person needs utmost attention and guidance. This area has been a topic of interest for researchers for several years which led to the birth of Developmental Psychology as a separate field of study. Developmental psychology aims to grasp and provide a better understanding of the idea and significance of growing up in reaching a person’s full potential.
To explain the process of human development, various theories were proposed by several psychologists. Hence, this paper aims to describe, compare, and contrast the developmental theories according to the psychodynamic, cognitive, learning, and humanistic perspectives. Psychodynamic Perspective Freud’s Psychosexual Theory There are various theories in studying the development in human life cycle. The first one is the Psychodynamic perspective. In this theory, the names Sigmund Freud and Erik Erikson hover among the others.
Freud’s theory attempts to explain human development through what he calls the psychosexual stages. According to his theory, sexuality starts at a very early stage in a person’s life. Each stage is identified according to the specific pleasure source a child has on that stage. In case that a pleasure urge is not gratified, it may eventually lead to various fixations later in a person’s life (Institute of Human Thermodynamics [IoHT], 2005). Freud enumerates the different psychosexual stages as follows: Table 1 – The Psychosexual Stages Stage Pleasure source Conflict/Fixation Oral (birth-18months)
Mouth Oral Fixation- excessive eating, drinking, smoking, and biting of nails Anal (2-4 years) Anus Anal fixation o Anal retentiveness- too much orderliness/ cleanliness o Anal repulsiveness- messy Phallic (4-5 years) Genitals Oedipus (boys) or Electra (girls) complex, Castration Anxiety, Penis Envy Latency (6-puberty) Repressed sexual urges Genital (puberty onward) Physical sexual changes reawaken repressed needs. Social rules Freud also emphasized the effects of the Id, Ego, and Superego in the developmental process of a child. The id is the pleasure seeking part of individuals.
This is the source of biological needs and drives. On the other hand, the superego is oftentimes in conflict with the id because it consists of the moral part of individuals, and it is more popularly described as the voice of the conscience. Finally, the ego operates under reality, and it is further described by Freud as the conscious mind which contains one’s thoughts, judgments, and memories (IoHT, 2005). In summary, the three main concepts of Freud’s psychosexual theory are: (1) pleasure and fixation; (2) sexuality at an early age; and (3) id, ego, and superego.
Pleasure and fixation deals about the pleasure sources of an individual per stage and the fixation that may come if that certain pleasure will not be gratified. Sexuality at an early age on the other hand talks about the sexual pleasures an individual experiences during the early periods of life, which Freud explain to be the major source of all our frustrations as we grow old. Lastly he also talks the id, ago and superego which, for Freud, are the central controllers of our behavior. Freud’s psychosexual theory is similar to other developmental theories in several ways. First, it summarizes the developmental process into stages.
Second, like other theories, this theory also talks about a child’s needs and the importance of gratification. Finally, it associates consciousness as a factor in each stage. However, the psychosexual theory appears to be different from other psychosexual theory in various ways. One of its unique features is that it deals with sexuality in the early years of a child’s development. Another distinct characteristic of this theory is that it does not involve other emotional and external factors. Lastly, it does not include other areas of growth aside from the sexual development.
Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory Erikson’s theory deals with personality development. In this theory, Erikson summarized the Psychosocial Development of a person into eight different stages. The 1) trust vs. mistrust, 2) autonomy vs. shame, 3) initiative vs. guilt, 4) industry vs. inferiority, 5) identity vs. role confusion, 6) intimacy vs. isolation, 7) generativity vs. stagnation and 8) integrity vs. despair. In each stage, a person deals with a crisis based on physiological development and the demands from the parents, guardians, or the society (Clifton & Davis, 1995).
In summary, the three main concepts of Erikson’s personality development theory are: (1) a person’s search for an identity, which answers the question of why an individual goes through the different psychosocial development stages; (2) psychosocial crisis, which talks about the social and personal difficulties and problems that a person experiences whenever he or she was not able to overcome a psychosocial stage successfully; and (3) the ego psychology in agreement with Freud’s ego concept, which explains that the ego primarily controls the way a person acts and socializes.
Erikson’s psychosocial theory appears to be similar to other developmental theories in numerous ways. First, like other theories, it summarizes the developmental process into stages. Second, it talks about a child’s needs and the importance of gratification as well. Last, the psychosocial theory associates the effects of the social environment with a child’s development. However, some features of the psychosocial theory make it distinct from the other developmental theories. One of these features is that it believes that the ego is of utmost importance.
Another characteristic of this theory that sets it apart from the others is that it believes that both social and sexual factors play an important role in personality development. Finally, it also deals with mental health. Cognitive Developmental Theory The most renowned proponent of the Cognitive Development Theory is Jean Piaget. In this theory, he points out that cognitive development is a process where a child’s knowledge and awareness of his/her surroundings is a function of experience and time.
Piaget claims that children have this so-called “reflexes” at birth which control their behavior (Huitt & Hummer, 2003). These reflexes are then replaced with constructed schemes. He described the processes as Assimilation and Accommodation. Assimilation pertains to the process of using or transforming the environment so that it can be placed in a pre-existing cognitive structure (Huitt & Hummer, 2003).
On the other hand, accommodation is the process of changing cognitive structures in order to accept something from the environment. Piaget further simplified his theory by enumerating what he called the stages of cognitive development: 1) Sensorimotor stage (infancy); 2) Pre-operational stage (toddler and early childhood); 3) Concrete Operational stage (elementary and early adolescence); and 4) formal operational stage (adolescence and adulthood) (Preisser, 1997).
In summary, the three main concepts of Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental theory are: (1) reflexes and schemas are the main factors of a person’s behavior; (2) assimilation and accommodation, where assimilation is the process of using or transforming the environment so that it can be placed in preexisting cognitive structures, while accomodation is the process of changing cognitive structures in order to accept something from the environment (Huitt & Hummer, 2003); and (3) constructivist learning, which explains that the learning is mostly dependent on the learner and the teacher.
It is the learner who interacts with his or her environment and thus gains an understanding of its features and characteristics (Thanasoulas, 2003). Some traits of Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory are similar to other developmental theories include the following: (1) it summarizes the developmental process into stages; (2) it talks about a child’s needs and the importance of gratification; and (3) it emphasizes the role of the parents/guardians in a child’s development. However, certain characteristics of this theory make it unique and different from other developmental theories.
These characteristics are as follows: (1) it focuses on mental development only; (2) it looks at the cognitive development not just as a series of several stages but also as a process as a whole; and (3) it does not look at the other factors, such as the social and emotional aspect of a child’s development. Learning Perspective: Social Learning Theory Among other theorists, Albert Bandura is considered as the leading proponent of this theory. According to J. E. Ormrod (1999), Social Learning Theory keeps its focus on the learning that occurs within a social context.
This is means that people tend to learn through observation and modeling. This theory also proposes that learning is still possible to occur even without a change in behavior. This is because according to social psychologists, a person can learn through observation alone, and this may not manifest in one’s actions. The theory also states that learning becomes possible through cognition; that is, prediction of future rewards or punishments has a great effect on how a person behaves (Ormrod, 1999).
In summary, the three main concepts of Bandura’s Social Learning theory are: (1) learning through observation and modeling, where people learn easily through observation and imitating another individual’s behavior; (2) cognition as a major factor of learning, which refers to an individual’s knowledge absorption, analysis, and processing; and (3) self-efficacy, which refers to how people feel, think, motivate themselves, and behave. Such beliefs produce these diverse effects through four major processes (Bandura, 1994).
Bandura’s Social Learning appears to be similar to other theories as it: (1) focuses on mental and learning process; (2) emphasize the role of parents/guardians in a child’s development; and (3) mentions about the significance of reinforcements in learning. However, this theory also differs from other theory because it: (1) emphasizes on modeling as a form of learning; (2) deals with self-efficacy; and (3) centers on the stages of the learning process rather than on the development process as a whole.
Humanistic Perspective: Self Actualization and Hierarchy of Needs This theory is proposed by Carl Rogers. He explained through this theory that just like animals, plants, and other organisms, human beings have that natural urge to thrive and survive (Boeree, 2007). This theory also emphasizes the importance of positive regard and positive self-regard in the process of growing up which, he says, may eventually lead a person to accomplish his or her full potential and worth—the full functionality of a person.
In summary, the three main concepts of Rogers’ Personality theory are: (1) self actualization which is concerned with the awareness or realization of one’s identity which helps to draw his/her utmost capabilities and potentials; (2) positive self-regard, which, just like self esteem and self confidence, helps build up an individual’s trust in his/herself that s/he can do anything that s/he endeavors; and (3) fully functioning person—a person who achieved self actualization and consistently has positive self-regard. Rogers’ Personality theory has characteristics that are similar to other developmental theories.
These similarities include the following: (1) it sees people only as good, healthy, well, or ill; (2) it perceives mental health as a normal progression in life; and (3) it is person-centered (Boeree, 2007; Pescitelli, 1996). However, this theory has features that make it different from other developmental theories. These features include: (1) it is relatively simple; (2) it looks at cognitive development, not as a series of several stages but also as a process as a whole; and (3) it does not take into consideration other factors such as the social and emotional aspect of a child’s development.
Importance of Understanding the Developmental Theories in Helping Children Reach Their Potential All new born children need and deserve the attention, love, and support from their parents. However, the support and the care do not actually stop at that period of life; rather, it has only just begun. The most important period when a child needs proper care and guidance is during his/her early years. It is during this time when various factors, both internal (e. g. , thought processes) and external (e. g. , family), shape the personality of the child and what s/he can become (Day, 2008).
It is also during this stage that children find their identity—who they want to be in the society and how they want to be treated as a person. In this development process, the cognitive, physical, and emotional aspects of a child are interrelated in a way that each one affects the child’s overall development in various ways. The cognitive aspect of a child’s development is directly connected to the other two since it is the mental processes which govern the rest of an individual’s activities and behavior.
The physical aspect on the other hand is important to be developed properly since the physical capacities and limitations of an individual depend to that. Lastly, the emotional aspect also poses significance in a child’s development since this will determine how strong and how weak shall this person be in dealing with personal and social emotional issues in the future. Thus, the parents cannot just focus on one aspect of development; rather, these three aspects must be taken into consideration and must be given proper attention.
In addition to this, a growing child is more vulnerable and more fragile compared to adults. For this reason, children must receive proper guidance in order for them to become good and useful members of the society. Through the theories discussed in this paper, it can be concluded that a child’s development is never as simple as gaining height and weight. It is not as plain as learning to write and read better through the days spent in school.
In the process, the parents and the child’s environment actually mold him/her into a person who can reach his/her greatest potentials. If parents neglect or fail in this obligation, issues and problems may arise regarding a child’s attitude, behavior, and capabilities later on when s/he grows as an adult. Hence, just like a butterfly’s metamorphosis, parents want their children to grow with the most beautiful and strongest wings possible; that is, through understanding these developmental theories.
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