Issues in Developmental Psychology
,About.com GuideThere are a number of important issues that have been debatedthroughout the history of developmental psychology. The major questionsinclude the following:
Is development due more to genetics or environment?
Does development occur slowly and smoothly, or do changes happen in stages?
Do early childhood experiences have the greatest impact on development, or are laterevents equally important?
Learn more about these basic questions and what many psychologiststoday believe about these issues.
Nature vs. Nurture
The debate over the relative contributions of inheritance and theenvironment is one of the oldest issues in both philosophy andpsychology. Philosophers such as Plato and Descartes supported the ideathat some ideas are inborn. On the other hand, thinkers such as JohnLocke argued for the concept of
- a belief that the mind is ablank slate at birth, with experience determining our knowledge.Today, most psychologists believe that it is an interaction between thesetwo forces that causes development. Some aspects of development aredistinctly biological, such as puberty. However, the onset of puberty canbe affected by environmental factors such as diet and nutrition.
Early Experience vs. Later Experience
A second important consideration in developmental psychology involvesthe relative importance of early experiences versus those that occur laterin life. Are we more affected by events that occur in early childhood, or dolater events play an equally important role?Psychoanalytic theorists tend to focus upon events that occur in earlychildhood. According to Freud, much of a child's personality is completely
established by the age of five. If this is indeed the case, those who haveexperienced deprived or abusive childhoods might never adjust or developnormally.In contrast to this view, researchers have found that the influence of childhood events does not necessarily have a dominating effect over