Unit 4 Approaches in Growth and Development

4. 1 Developmental Approach

4.2 Behavioral Approach

4.3 Psycho-analytical Approach

4.4 Cognitive Approach

4.5 Sociological Approach











4. 1 Developmental Approach

Humans are constantly growing, shifting, developing and transforming. This process begins at conception. The development approach is described in terms of a series of crises through which the individual grows and evolves. Each of these crises is due to the conflict between the old self and the new abilities and attitudes that are constantly increasing and expanding. Resolution of conflicts results in the development of a sense of competence with respect to a specific capability. The resolution of conflicts is never perfected during one developmental phase but continues through succeeding stages. Families and cultures are important and integral to development. Societies pay a large role in the progress of an individual through life. From this approach, a series of developmental tasks need to be successfully developed for a child and/or an adult to progress normally in society.


Freud (psychoanalytic), Piaget (cognitive), Erikson (ego psychology), Margaret Mahler (object relations), Kolberg (moral), Jung (analystical psychology), Bowlby (biology), Maslow (Humanism), Carl Rodger (self-actualization), and Skinner (behaviorist/social learning theory) are some of the theorists that created their own developmental models to explain and explore human development. The developmental approach holds that old wounds, issues and current challenges originate from being unable to develop normally through a specific stage. These stages are different based on the theoretical framework that is held by the therapist.

A developmental approach to the curriculum for young children takes into account the principle that what children should learn, and how they can best learn, changes with their age and the experience that comes with age. Several principles of practice emerge from this basic developmental principle. For example, as children grow older, what they learn changes from horizontal to greater vertical relevance. Similarly, the younger the learner, the more is learned through interactive and active processes rather than through passive and receptive processes. In addition, the younger the learner, the greater the urgency of helping them acquire basic social competence, which is very difficult to acquire later on. These developmental principles of practice imply that a curriculum for young children should include the opportunity to work in small groups on extended investigations of real phenomena in the children's own environments.

4.2 Behavioral Approach

The behavioral approach emphasizes the scientific study of observable behavioral responses and their environmental determinants. In other words its the study of the connection between our minds and behavioral.

Contemporary behaviorists still emphasize the importance of observing behavior to understand an individual; however, not every behaviorist today accepts the earlier behaviorists rejection of thought processes, which are often called cognition.

Behaviorism is a learning theory that focuses on observable behaviors. It is broken into two areas of conditioning – classic and behavioral or operant. Most are familiar with operant conditioning, where one learns through reward what behavior is desired. B.F. Skinner spent lots of time exploring operant conditioning through research with animals, which proved that behavior is a learned response. Classic conditioning is a natural reflex or response to stimuli. When a child feels apprehension at the thought of taking a test, she’s exhibiting classic conditioning.

Skinner’s research determined the brain was not a part of conditioning, and learning was through environmental factors, differentiating his ideas from others such as John Watson, and coining his theories as radical behaviorism. All actions required a reaction, positive or negative, which modified behavior. With basic behaviorism theories, it is thought that the individual is passive and behavior is molded through positive and negative reinforcement. This means that a child’s behavior can be changed and modified through reinforcement, but which type of reinforcement is best? Positive or negative?

Emerging in contrast to psychodynamic psychology, behaviourism focuses on observable behaviour as a means to studying the human psyche. The primary tenet of behaviourism is that psychology should concern itself with the observable behaviour of people and animals, not with unobservable events that take place in their minds. The behaviourists criticized the mentalists for their inability to demonstrate empirical evidence to support their claims. The behaviourist school of thought maintains that behaviours can be described scientifically without recourse either to internal physiological events or to hypothetical constructs such as thoughts and beliefs, making behaviour a more productive area of focus for understanding human or animal psychology.

The main influences of behaviourist psychology were Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936), who investigated classical conditioning though often disagreeing with behaviourism or behaviourists; Edward Lee Thorndike (1874-1949), who introduced the concept of reinforcement and was the first to apply psychological principles to learning; John B. Watson (1878-1958), who rejected introspective methods and sought to restrict psychology to experimental methods; and B.F. Skinner (1904-1990), who conducted research on operant conditioning.


4.3 Psycho-analytical Approach

Stages of Psychoanalytic Theory:

i. Sigmund Freud’s Psychosexual Stages:

Freud believed our most basic drive is the sex drive. If you believe that biologically speaking the goal of our lives is to pass on our genes, then you might agree with Freud that the sex drive is central to everything else. He outlined five stages in child and adolescent development, which he called psychosexual stages.

At each of these stages, sexual energy is invested in a different part of the body, and gratification of the urges associated with those areas of the body is particularly pleasurable. He labelled these stages the oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital stages. He believed that the way in which gratification of urges is handled during each of these stages determines the nature of an adult’s personality and character.

Disturbances in any of the stages can result in psychological disturbance in adulthood. We will describe these stages and Freud’s ideas about the effects later in life if development daring these stages does not go well.

The oral stage lasts from birth to about 18 months of age. The zone of pleasure is the mouth. A baby for whom taking in food is not pleasurable might not survive. If you give a 6-month-old baby a toy, what is the first thing she is likely to do? Toy makers are aware that children are likely to put anything in their mouths and warn us against giving them toys with small parts that can cause choking.

Freud developed the idea that someone can get “stuck” or fixated in one of the first three psychosexual stages of early childhood. That person will then exhibit characteristics of that stage later in life. For example, an individual who is fixated in the oral stage may want to continue to try to satisfy his oral urges by overeating or smoking.

Many of us have some remnants of this stage as we chew on our fingers or pencils; however, a fixation is really only a concern when it interferes with adaptive functioning in some critical way.

The anal stage lasts from 18 months to 3 years. At this age the pleasure center moves to the anus, and issues of toilet training become central. Although many of us squirm to think of the anus as a pleasure center, we have only to listen to the “poopy talk” of young children to see the hilarity it brings about. The task of the child at this age is to learn to control his bodily urges to conform to society’s expectations.

A person who is fixated at this stage may become over controlled as an adult. Everything must be in its proper place to an extreme degree. Conversely, someone might become “anal explosive,” creating “messes” wherever he goes.

The phallic stage lasts from 3 to 6 years of age. At this stage Freud believed that the paths followed by boys and girls diverge in ways that have been extremely controversial. We will first look at the path for boys. A boy’s pleasure becomes focused on the penis. Many parents must patiently explain to their little boy that he cannot keep his hand in his pants while out in company.

Later during this stage the boy develops what Freud called the Oedipus complex, named after the character from Greek mythology that unknowingly killed his own father and married his mother. The boy focuses all his affections on his mother and becomes angry at his father, who stands in the way of the child’s sole possession of her.

However, in the normal course of events, the boy becomes uncomfortable with this anger at his father. Rather than experiencing the anger, he projects the feeling onto his father and fears that his father is angry at him. In this stage when he is focused on his own penis, the retribution he imagines from his father is that he will cut off the boy’s penis.

Consequently, the boy develops what Freud called castration anxiety. In order to avoid this fate, the boy gives up his dream of marrying his mother and decides to become like or identify with his father. A man who does not resolve the Oedipus complex may become fixated in this stage.

He may find rivalry or competition with other men overwhelming, as he doubts his ability to measure up to others. He may also find it difficult to have intimate relations with women, as they remind him of forbidden impulses toward his mother.

For girls, the picture is much more complicated and controversial, even for therapists who practice psychoanalysis. In the phallic stage, Freud believed that girls come to believe that they once had a penis and that it was cut off, leaving them with penis envy. Girls go through a similar complex, called the Electra complex, in which they want to marry their fathers and do away with their mothers.

Freud believed that girls must learn to identify with their mothers, whom they see as damaged in the same way that they themselves are. The only way in which they will achieve a sense of wholeness is when they produce a penis by having a baby boy. Freud believed that girls must accept their passive, receptive nature and those who do not adequately resolve the Electra complex might try to overcome their feelings of inferiority by being too assertive and masculine.

The critique of Freud’s view of female development has been fierce, even from the early days of the development of psychoanalytic theory. Female psychoanalysts have argued that this explanation of female development has more to do with a little boy’s view of girls than the girl’s view of herself.

They also have argued that boys and men are just as jealous of women’s ability to give birth as girls are of a boy’s penis. Feminist Gloria Steinem satirized Freud’s treatment of women by proposing a version of psychoanalytic theory developed by a fictional “Phyllis Freud,” based on womb and breast envy rather than penis envy.

The latency stage occurs between 6 and 12 years of age. Latent means inactive, and Freud believed that during this time the sex drive goes underground. Children move from their fantasies in the phallic period of marrying their parent to a new realization that they must take the long road toward learning to become a grown-up.

The sex drive provides energy for the learning that must take place but is not expressed overtly. Children transfer their interest from parents to peers. At this age children who had cross-sex friendships often relinquish them as boys and girls learn the meaning of “cooties” and each sex professes disgust for the other.

This separation of the sexes begins to change at age 12, when young adolescents enter the genital stage. At this point, sexual energy is focused on the genital area, and true sexual interest occurs between peers.

ii. Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages:

Many of the people who initially studied and worked with Freud have gone on to change psychoanalytic theory in significant ways. Erik Homburger Erikson is one of the most influential. Erikson focused more on issues of the ego rather than the id. Ego means “I” or “self,” and Erikson’s major focus was on the development of identity.

He described a series of stages based on issues that arise during the process of psychosocial development. Erikson describes psychosocial stages because these issues are rooted in social experiences that are typical of each stage of development rather than in sexual urges. At each age he believed that there is a central conflict to be resolved and the way in which we resolve that conflict lays the groundwork for the next stages of our development.

For example, Erikson believed that infants have to establish trust in the world around them, while toddlers have to struggle with developing autonomy, or a level of independence from their parents.

The other important aspect of Erikson’s theory is that he believed that development does not stop in adolescence. He went beyond Freud’s stages to add three stages of adulthood. He was the first theorist to acknowledge that we continue to grow and develop throughout our lives.

Modern Applications of Psychoanalytic Theory:

Although psychoanalytic theory has been controversial, ideas that come from psychoanalytic theory are still very influential, particularly in relation to the study of the development of mental and emotional disorders, a field known as developmental psychopathology.

Many psychotherapists continue to use therapy that is designed to uncover inner conflicts from earlier life experiences, especially early trauma, as the basis for current psychological symptoms. A number of modern theories and therapeutic approaches also have their roots in concepts taken from psychoanalytic theory.

If you take advanced courses in psychology, you are likely to learn more about some of these approaches. Evidence from other types of research that follow the scientific method has yielded mixed results. Some ideas have been supported by research, and others have not.

Erikson’s ideas about the effect of social experiences on the development of personality throughout the life span have remained an important influence in the field of child development. A number of his ideas have influenced contemporary child care practices and our understanding of how development occurs as a series of interrelated experiences.

For instance, we urge new parents to be sensitive and responsive to their infants as a way to establish a sense of trust, as Erikson described. We better understand the challenge of adolescence when we see it as a struggle to establish a coherent sense of individual identity.

These concepts have also been used to help in the treatment of children with emotional disturbances by providing a framework for understanding the central issues to be dealt with at different ages.

4.4 Cognitive Approach

Much of the recent psychological thinking and experimentation in education includes some facets of the cognitive theory. This is true in basic as well as more advanced training programs. Unlike behaviorism, the cognitive theory focuses on what is going on inside the student's mind. Learning is not just a change in behavior; it is a change in the way a student thinks, understands, or feels.

There are several branches of cognitive theory. Two of the major theories may broadly be classified as the information processing model and the social interaction model. The first says that the student's brain has internal structures which select and process incoming material, store and retrieve it, use it to produce behavior, and receive and process feedback on the results.

This involves a number of cognitive processes, including executive functions of recognizing expectancies, planning and monitoring performance, encoding and chunking information, and producing internal and external responses.

The social interaction theories gained prominence in the 1980s. They stress that learning and subsequent changes in behavior take place as a result of interaction between the student and the environment. Behavior is modeled either by people or symbolically. Cultural influences, peer pressure, group dynamics, and film and television are some of the significant factors. Thus, the social environment to which the student is exposed demonstrates or models behaviors, and the student cognitively processes the observed behaviors and consequences. The cognitive processes include attention, retention, motor responses, and motivation. Techniques for learning include direct modeling and verbal instruction. Behavior, personal factors, and environmental events all work together to produce learning.

Both models of the cognitive theory have common principles. For example, they both acknowledge the importance of reinforcing behavior and measuring changes. Positive reinforcement is important, particularly with cognitive concepts such as knowledge and understanding. The need to evaluate and measure behavior remains because it is the only way to get a clue about what the student understands. Evaluation is often limited to the kinds of knowledge or behavior that can be measured by a paper-and-pencil exam or a performance test. Although psychologists agree that there often are errors in evaluation, some means of measuring student knowledge, performance, and behavior is necessary.

4.5 Sociological Approach

Social development is a process that results in the transformation of social structures to improve the capacity of a society in order to fulfill its objectives. It refers to a paradigmatic change within the social and economic structure. Social development attempts to explain the qualitative changes in the structure and framework of society, that help the society to better realize its aims and objectives. When development takes place in progressive way featuring in greater levels of efficiency, quality, productivity, complexity, comprehension, creativity, mastery, enjoyment and accomplishment and brings qualitative changes in human existence, it can be termed as social development. The UN document claimed a social development aims at bringing about a more equitable distribution of income and wealth for promoting social justice, alleviating poverty, maximizing productivity, employment and expanding and improving facilities for education, health nutrition, housing and social welfare for the disadvantaged individuals, groups and communities. These become the very indicators of social development.

Social psychology is the scientific study of how people's thoughts, feelings, beliefs, intentions and goals are constructed within a social context by the actual or imagined interactions with others.

Sociology is the study of human social life. Sociology has many sub-sections of study, ranging from the analysis of conversations to the development of theories to try to understand how the entire world works. This chapter will introduce you to sociology and explain why it is important and how it can change your perspective of the world around you, and give a brief history of the discipline.

Sociology is a branch of the social sciences that uses systematic methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop and refine a body of knowledge about human social structure and activity. Sometimes the goal of sociology is to apply such knowledge to the pursuit of government policies designed to benefit the general social welfare. Its subject matter ranges from the micro level to the macro level. Microsociology involves the study of people in face-to-face interactions. Macrosociology involves the study of widespread social processes. Sociology is a broad discipline in terms of both methodology and subject matter. The traditional focuses of sociology have included social relations, social stratification, social interaction, culture, and deviance, and the approaches of sociology have included both qualitative and quantitative research techniques.

Much of what human activity falls under the category of social structure or social activity; because of this, sociology has gradually expanded its focus to such far-flung subjects as the study of economic activity, health disparities, and even the role of social activity in the creation of scientific knowledge. The range of social scientific methods has also been broadly expanded. For example, the “cultural turn” of the 1970s and 1980s brought more humanistic interpretive approaches to the study of culture in sociology. Conversely, the same decades saw the rise of new mathematically rigorous approaches, such as social network analysis.