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Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychologists are concerned with human development and the factors that
shape behavior and personality from birth to old age. They are concerned with many aspects
of development as well as many different stages.
Two basic questions are related to (I) the role of biological factors (interaction between
nature and environment in determining the course of development) & (2) the continuity of

development: is it continuous process of change or a series of qualitatively distinct stages.
Another important question is whether there is a critical period during which experience must
occur for psychological development to proceed.

Genetic determinants express themselves through the process ofm aturation: innately
determined sequence of growth or bodily changes that are relatively independent of the
environment. For example, motor development goes through the same sequence, e.g..
creeping, crawling, and walking. But even these can be modified by inadequate environment.

Many aspects of human development share certain characteristics, whether they involve
Physical Development; the maturation of various bodily structures, Motor Development;the

progressive attainment of various motor skills; Cognitive Development; the growth of intellectual functions: or Social Development, Changes in the ways the child deals with others.

2) Many theorists agree that the changes that constitute development are produced by the
interaction of genetic endowment and environmental factors.
3)An important concept on which many psychologists agree is the concept of Critical or
Sensitive Period. By this, it is meant that what is important at one stage in life may not be

so at some later point. That is, sensitive period means that there are certain periods in
development during which certain important events will have an impact that they would
not have with the same strength at earlier or later times.

Some aspects of the orderly progression of development are determined bymaturation,
which genetically programmed and is independent of specific environmental conditions. An

example is walking. This and other early sensory and motor achievements seem to be
relatively unaffected by specific practice. On the other hand, more general kinds of
experience, such as sensory deprivation and sensory enrichment, seem to exert important


The study of cognitive development is concerned with how the quality of thought process
improves with experience and maturity. The central theorist on this is Jean Piaget. In his
theory, cognition develops as the child applies assimilation and accommodation to existing
schemes, and the do so by passing through the same sequence of developmental stages.


The first stage in this theory is the Sensory Motor Stage, which lasts from birth until about two years of age. Infants are subjective and unaware of any existence other than their own. The infant fails to distinguish between the self and no self, (out of sight out

of mind). The infant can\u2019t conceive of an object\u2019s existence once it is no longer
immediately perceptible.
Towards the end of this stage the infant develops Objects Permanence, Sensory-Motor
Schemas and acquires Mental Representations. This is achieved through the

acquisition of new mental imagery that allows them to imagine the existence of objects not directly perceptible. The selves are distinguished from reality, which becomes separate from their own action.

a) The second stage is thepre-operational stage, which lasts till about six or seven.

Children are capable of representational thoughts but lack mental operation that order
and organize these thoughts. They cannot, for example distinguish or recognize that
another person might view reality differently if situated at a different point. (left & Right)
b) Characteristic deficits at this stage includes inability to conserve number and quantity,
(Lack of Conservation Ability), andEgoc entrism, an inability to take another person\u2019s
perspective. Until the age of six the child also fails the task of Class Inclusion because

of deficient logic at this stage.

a) At approximately seven years of age, the child enters the Concrete operational stage,
marked by the onset of logical thinking. This enables the child to solve correctly all
the cognitive tasks that he or she fails at earlier stage. They are no longeregocentri c.
They are able to recognize that their view of reality is one of many other views.
However, the child can now solve problems similar to that of class inclusion and
conservation, but they cannot think abstractly.

a) At approximately eleven or twelve, the Formal operational stage starts, where
abstract thinking is possible. Children can now consider hypothetical possibilities

and became capable of scientific thinking.
However, cognitive development affects the child\u2019s understanding of the physical environment
and social world as well. One aspect of the social world is moral reasoning and judgement.
Piaget has also proposed a theory on moral development, but this has been further elaborated
and expanded by L. Kohlberg.


Based on the stage theory of cognitive development, Lawrence Kohlberg has developed a stage theory of moral development and moral reasoning. This theory describes three progressive levels of moral development, each level includes two stages:

Stage (I): Moral reasoning is governed by punishment orientation-obey rule to avoid
Stage (11): Reward orientation- conforms to obtain rewards.
Stage (III ) : Good boy/good girl orientation- conforms to avoid disapproval.
Stage(IV): Authority orientation: rigid codes, rules, and duties define this stage.
Stage (V): This stage is defined by social contract. Generally, actions are guided by
principles commonly agreed on as important to the public good and welfare. Respect
of the self comes from respects of others.
Stage (VI): This stage is oriented to ethical principles and is based on abstract
thinking. Actions guided by self-chosen ethical principles, which usually stress justice,
dignity, and equality.

Theories of psychosocial development are represented by the work of Bowlby, (1973) in his
theory of attachment, and the work of Erikson, (1976) in his theory of psychosocial


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