Last Updated 27 Jul 2020

Developmental Theories

Category Developments
Essay type Research
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Theoretically, developmental process of an individual can be psychologically predicted through the use of these theoretical frameworks. Dulcan and Wiener (2006) emphasize that the developmental characteristics of a person are strongly influenced by the emergence and form of particular patterns of functioning obtained from both internal and external influences (p. 3). The idea of developmental theories suggests a complex process of development dependent on discrete elements (e. g. social environment, moral knowledge, sexual stimulation, etc. ) encountered throughout the child’s development.

According to Colarusso (1992), the child’s developmental phases can be dynamically oriented and can vary depending on the maturational process being experienced by the child (p. 1). Pressley and McCormick (2007) support the idea by adding that “children are fundamentally different depending on their stage, which generally correlates with age, and movement from one stage to another stage is rather abrupt” (p. 5). In order to test these developmental theories, we have utilized these frameworks in analyzing the developmental processes of three children based (a) behavioral learning, (b) social-cognitive learning and (c) cognitive learning.

Discussion From the recorded observations on the first child examined, the following data reveal that the 3-year old male child (a) tries to imitate adult-like behaviors (e. g. scolding his siblings after seeing their mother scold them, acting responsible, etc. ), (b) more understanding when it comes to possessive terms (e. g. mine, him, hers, etc. ), (c) manifests cooperative behavior during play sessions, (d) mingles with other children of his age even in the absence of parents, and (e) expresses emotions more openly to parents or caretakers. . . . . .

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After observing these behaviors, we have utilized the social-cognitive theoretical approach since the child has manifested actions and activities related to social interactions. Social-cognitive approach has been chosen to explain the psychosocial and cognitive related behaviors of the child towards himself and the outside social influences, such as playmates, parents and caretakers. According to Alexander and Winne (2006), social cognitive theory supports the idea that the child’s behavior is reciprocally influenced by interactions, environmental variables and personal components (e.g. cognition, expressions, etc) (p. 356).

Evident in the child’s behavior, he manifests a strong, adult-like behavior to impersonate adult personality seen from his parents – more particularly the paternal image. After learning these behavioral patterns, the child applies these to his social activities (e. g. the child scolds his siblings during play time, etc. ). Moreover, the child already understands the basics of social principles, such as possession, playmates and emotional reciprocality.

According to Balter and Tamis-LeMonda (2006), the child is prompted by modeling, enactive experience and observational learning schemes, which is usually manifested through representational processes or symbolic conceptions (p. 295). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Next, the theoretical approach on behavioral learning has been applied in an observational study on a 5-year old female. As explained by Sadock and Kaplan (2007), behavioral learning suggests that a child develops by learning behaviors present within her social environment (p.1307).

The rationale for applying behavioral learning approach is its concept of utilizing behavior to obtain the necessary skills helping the child to better adjust in his or her environment. The child manifests the following behavior during playtime: (a) she wants to be like her friends – this include acquiring material possessions similar to her friends, (b) she easily gets influenced by majority of her friends’ decisions, and (c) she tends to imitate skills performed by her friends.

Following behavioral learning theory, Salkind (2004) explains that the child usually prioritizes the skills and activities to learn depending on how these can be used in increasing the efficacy of adaptation towards the outside influences (p. 20). Based from John Locke’s theory of blank slate, a child is initially considered naive and unlearned; however, by learning the behaviors that are prominent and frequent in her environment, the child learns how to adapt accordingly (Sadock and Kaplan, 2007 p. 1307).

Behavioral learning involves the fundamental developmental concept of the survivability by means of adapting to different behaviors frequently seen in the environment. Evidently, due to the frequent exposure of the child to her playmates, she tends to imitate or learn the frequent activities or skills performed by her playmates to better suit her adaptation toward her social circle. According to Salkind (2004), the theory considers the child as a malleable being influenced by different behaviors and changes resulted by various events and experiences (p. 20).

In application, the girl tries to adapt to the behaviors and skills learned by her playmates to better enhance her adaptation and sense of belongingness with her social circle. Indeed, behavioral learning is part of the crucial developmental phases of the child since learned behaviors are used to better adapt in the outside environment, while at the same time, help in building the developmental characteristics of the child (Sadock and Kaplan, 2007 p. 1307).

In the last child examined, the theoretical approach of cognitive learning has been applied to analyze the actions and behavioral responses of a 4-year old male child. According to J. Piaget’s cognitive theory, the child is currently in his pre-operational cognitive development based on his age. According to Sadock and Kaplan (2007), the child in this stage usually manifests egocentricity and magical thinking, and still cannot separate the logic of reality from fantasy (p. 133). These characteristics have been manifested by the child during his isolated play session.

In his play environment, different action figures, personal television always set to cartoons and toy guns have been noted. According to the child’s mother, he prefers to play with his older sibling (1 year older than the child). They frequently imitate the action cartoons they watched in the television and use their toys to reenact the scenes of the cartoons. Upon observing the child, he verbalizes his realistic belief on magical creatures, robots and different figures normally seen in cartoons.

As explained by Slee (2002), the child’s cognitive level is dominated by perception rather than realistic concepts (p. 66). In this stage, the child is still on the process of learning how to separate reality from fantasy. Continuing the observation, the child notably performed his tantrums right after his mother gave his brother a new toy. The child exclaimed a series of egocentric statements (e. g. “that one’s mine”, “its mine”, “mine mine mine!!! ”, etc. ).

As explained by Lerner (), children at their pre-operational stage are most of the time egocentric, but compared from the previous cognitive phase, these children can now express their egocentric concerns through words (p. 378). In applying the cognitive theory in the child’s development, we can better understand the mental capacities and limitations of the child. . . . . . . . Conclusion In conclusion, developmental theories of behavioral learning, social-cognitive learning and cognitive learning are evidently applicable in analyzing and understanding the different behaviors manifested during the child’s developmental process.

Social-cognitive theory has been used to understand the social behaviors and early relations that the child establishes within her external environment. On the other hand, behavioral theory explains the process of learning the different prevalent behaviors perceived as needed for better adaptation and survival. Lastly, cognitive theory points out the child’s magical thinking and egocentric behavior as part of the pre-operational stage of development. . . .


Alexander, P. A., & Winne, P. H. (2006). Handbook of Educational Psychology. London, New York: Routledge. . . . . . . .

Balter, L., & Tamis-LeMonda, C. (2006). Child Psychology: A Handbook of Contemporary Issues. London, New York: CRC Press. . . . . . . .

Colarusso, C. A. (1992). Child and Adult Development: A Psychoanalytic Introduction for Clinicians. London, New York: Springer. . . . . . . .

Dulcan, M. K., & Wiener, J. M. (2006). Essentials of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. New York, U.S.A: American Psychiatric Pub.

Lerner, R. M. (2002). Concepts and Theories of Human Development. London, New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Pressley, M., & McCormick, C. (2007). Child and Adolescent Development for Educators. New York, U.S.A: Guilford Press.

Sadock, B. J., Kaplan, H. I., & Sadock, V. A. (2007). Kaplan & Sadock's Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences/Clinical Psychiatry. New York, U.S.A: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Salkind, N. J. (2004). An Introduction to Theories of Human Development. New York, U.S.A: SAGE Press.

Slee, P. T. (2002). Child, Adolescent and Family Development: The Australasian Experience. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press.


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