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Theories of Social Development


Title: Siegler Chapter 9: Theories of Social Development Author: John Wesley Taylor V Last modified by: Erica Jordan Created Date: 10/5/2011 3:22:15 PM – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Theories of Social Development

Theories of Social Development
  • How Children Develop (3rd ed.)
  • Siegler, DeLoache Eisenberg
  • Chapter 9

Guiding Questions
  • What do various theories say about the social
    development of children?
  • What do ethological and evolutionary theories say
    about the process by which children develop
  • How can the major theoretical perspectives of
    childrens social development be applied to
    everyday observations and interactions with

Theories of Social Development The Goal
  • Theories of social development attempt to account
    for important aspects of development
  • Emotion, personality, attachment, self, peer
    relationships, morality, and gender
  • Such theories must
  • Explain how childrens development is influenced
    by the people and individuals around them
  • Examine the ways that human beings affect each

Major Theoretical Perspectives of Childrens
Social Development
  • Psychoanalytic Theories
  • Learning Theories
  • Theories of Social Cognition
  • Ecological Theories of Development

Major Psychoanalytic Theories
  • Freuds Theory of Psychosexual Development
  • Freuds Theory of Personality Structure
  • Eriksons Life-Span Developmental Theory

Central Themes of the Psychoanalytic Perspective
  • Concept that early experiences shape later
    development emphasizes the continuity of
    individual differences
  • Also emphasize discontinuous aspects of
    development with stage theories outlining abrupt
    shifts in development
  • Emphasis on biological drives (especially Freud)
    but also interaction with the environment

Sigmund Freud
  • Neurologist interested in the origins of mental
  • Greatly impacted Western culture and on thinking
    about social and personality development
  • Concluded many emotional problems were rooted in
    childhood experiences

Freuds Theory of Psychosexual Development
  • Proposes a series of universal stages in which
    psychic energy becomes focused in different
    erogenous zones
  • Psychic energy the biologically based,
    instinctual drives that energize behavior,
    thoughts, and feelings
  • Erogenous zones areas of the body that become
    erotically sensitive in successive stages of

Freuds Personality Structure
  • Id
  • The biological drives with which the infant is
  • The earliest and most primitive personality
  • Unconscious and operates with the goal of seeking
  • Ego
  • Emerges in the first year
  • The rational, logical, problem-solving component
    of personality
  • Superego
  • Develops during the ages of 3 to 6
  • Based on the childs internalization (or adoption
    as his or her own) of the parents attributes,
    beliefs, and standards

Stages of Psychosexual Development
Stage Description
Oral (first year) The primary source of satisfaction and pleasure is oral activity. During this stage, the mother is established as the strongest love-object.
Anal (1-3 years) The primary source of pleasure comes from defecation.
Phallic (3-6 years) Characterized by the localization of pleasure in the genitalia.
Latency (6-12 years) Characterized by the channeling of sexual energy into socially acceptable activities.
Genital (12 years) Sexual maturation is complete and sexual intercourse becomes a major goal.
If fundamental needs are not met during any
stage, children may become fixated on these
needs, continually attempting to satisfy them.
Superego Development
  • For boys, the path to superego development is
    through the resolution of the Oedipus complex, a
    psychosocial conflict in which a boy experiences
    a form of sexual desire for his mother and wants
    an exclusive relationship with her
  • Freud argued that the sons desire for his mother
    and hostility toward his father is so threatening
    that the episode is repressed and infantile
    amnesia results.
  • The complex is resolved through the boys
    identification with his father.
  • Freud thought that girls experience a similar but
    less intense conflict, the Electra complex,
    involving erotic feelings toward the father,
    resulting in their developing a weaker conscience
    than boys do.

Erik Eriksons Life-Span Developmental Theory
  • Successor to Freuds theory, has also been
  • Erik Erikson accepted the basic constructs of
    Freuds theory, but enlarged the theory to
    include other factors such as culture and
    contemporary issues.
  • Eight age-related stages (five during childhood
    and adolescence)
  • Each stage is characterized by a specific crisis
    that the individual must resolve.
  • If the dominant issue of a stage is not
    successfully resolved before the next stage
    begins, the person will continue to struggle with

The Early Developmental Process According to
Stage Description
Trust vs. Mistrust (first year) Developing trust in other people is the crucial issue.
Autonomy vs. Shame and doubt (13½ years) The challenge is to achieve a strong sense of autonomy while adjusting to increased social demands.
Initiative vs. Guilt (46 years) Resolved when the child develops high standards and the initiative to meet them without being crushed by worry about not being able to measure up.
Industry vs. Inferiority (6puberty) The child must master cognitive and social skills, learn to work industriously, and play well with others.
Identity vs. Role Confusion (adolescenceearly adulthood) Adolescents must resolve the question of who they really are or live in confusion about what roles they should play as adults.
Current Perspectives
  • The most significant of Freuds contributions to
    developmental psychology were
  • His emphasis on the importance of early
    experience and emotional relationships
  • His recognition of the role of subjective
    experience and unconscious mental activity
  • Eriksons emphasis on the search for identity in
    adolescence has had lasting impact.

Major Learning Theories
  • Behaviorism
  • Operant conditioning
  • Social learning theory

Central Themes of the Learning Perspective
  • Greatly emphasize the role of the environment
    (external factors) on the developing child
  • More contemporary learning theorists emphasize
    the importance of cognitive factors and the
    active role children play in their own
  • Emphasize continuity in development, proposing
    that the same principles operate throughout life
    and that there are no stages
  • Focus on mechanisms of change (i.e., learning
    principles) and argue that individual differences
    arise because of different histories of
    reinforcement and observation

Watsons Behaviorism
  • John Watson is the founder of behaviorism
  • Believed that childrens development is
    determined by their social environment and that
    learning through conditioning was the primary
    mechanism of development
  • Demonstrated the power of classical conditioning
    with famous Little Albert experiment
  • Exclusive focus on conditioning is now widely
    considered overly simplistic
  • However, his approach to extinguishing fear has
    been widely used to rid people of phobias.
  • This approach, known as systematic
    desensitization, is a form of therapy based on
    classical conditioning in which initially
    debilitating responses to a given stimulus are
    gradually deconditioned.

Skinners Operant Conditioning
  • B. F. Skinner conducted research on the nature
    and function of reinforcement.
  • His discoveries include the importance of
    attention as a powerful reinforcer, and the
    difficulty of extinguishing behavior that has
    been intermittently reinforced (i.e., responded
    to inconsistently).
  • Skinners work on reinforcement also led to a
    form of therapy known as behavior modification,
    in which reinforcement contingencies are changed
    to encourage more adaptive behavior.

Social Learning Theory
  • Emphasizes observation and imitation, rather
    than reinforcement, as the primary mechanisms of
  • In a classic series of studies, Albert Bandura
    and his colleagues found that preschool children
    can acquire new behaviors through observing
  • Discovered that childrens tendency to reproduce
    what they learned depended on vicarious
    reinforcement (i.e., whether the person whose
    actions they observed was rewarded or punished)

Banduras Research
  • Preschool children initially watched a short film
    in which an adult model performed highly
    aggressive actions on an inflatable Bobo doll
    (weighted at the bottom so it pops up when
    knocked down).
  • One group of children observed the model rewarded
    with candy and soda for the aggressive behavior.
  • Another group saw the model punished.
  • The remaining children saw the model experience
    no consequences.

Banduras Research
  • Findings
  • Observing someone else receive a reward or
    punishment for the behavior affects the
    subsequent reproduction of the behavior.
  • Boys were initially more aggressive than girls,
    but the girls increased their level of imitation
    when offered rewards.

  • Over time, Bandura placed more emphasis on the
    cognitive aspects of observational learning.
  • Unlike most learning theorists, Bandura argued
    that child-environment influences operate in both
    directions, a concept referred to as reciprocal

Reciprocal Determinism
  • In recent years, Bandura has emphasized the
    importance of perceived self-efficacy.
  • An individuals beliefs about how effectively he
    or she can control his or her own behavior,
    thoughts, and emotions in order to achieve a
    desired goal

Current Perspectives
  • Learning theories are based on principles derived
    from empirical research.
  • They, in turn, have generated extensive research
    and valuable practical applications
  • The weaknesses of the learning approach are its
    limited attention to biological factors and (with
    the exception of Banduras theory) to the impact
    of cognition.
  • Relevant for research and childrens welfare in
    that therapeutic approaches to treat children are
    based on learning principles.

Major Theories of Social Cognition
  • Selmans Stage Theory of Role Taking
  • Dodges Information-Processing Theory of Social
    Problem Solving
  • Dwecks Theory of Self-Attributions and
    Achievement Motivation

Major Themes of the Social Cognitive Perspective
  • Focus on childrens ability to thinking and
    reasons about their own and other peoples
    thoughts, feelings, motives, and behaviors
  • Emphasis on self-socializationchildrens active
    shaping of their own development through their
    own activity preferences, friendship choices, and
    other behaviors
  • Active child and individual differences are major
  • Some social cognitive theories emphasize stages
    while others emphasize continuity

Selmans Stage Theory of Role Taking
  • Focuses on role taking the ability to adopt the
    perspective of another person, thereby better
    understanding that persons behavior, thoughts,
    and feelings
  • Preschoolers, for example, cannot take the
    perspective of another and hence have very
    limited social cognition.
  • Selman proposed that children go through four
    increasingly complex and abstract stages in their
    thinking about other people.

Selmans Stages of Development
Stage Stage Description
1 6-8 years Children come to appreciate that another person can have a different perspective from their own, but they attribute this to the other persons not having the same information they do
2 8-10 years Children become able to think about the other persons point of view
3 10-12 years Children can systematically compare their own and the others points of view
4 12 years Adolescents can compare another persons perspective to that of a generalized other
Dodges Information-Processing Theory of Social
Problem Solving
  • Emphasizes the crucial role of cognitive
    processes in social behavior
  • Childrens use of aggression as a problem-solving
  • Found that highly aggressive children seem to
    have a hostile attributional biasan expectation
    that others are hostile to them, which becomes a
    self-fulfilling prophecy

Dwecks Theory of Self-Attributions and
Achievement Motivation
  • Emphasizes the role of self-attributions in
    academic achievement
  • Children with a entity/helpless orientation
    attribute success and failure to enduring aspects
    of the self and tend to give up in the face of
  • Such helpless children tend to base their sense
    of self-worth on the degree of approval they
    receive from other people
  • To be assured of praise, they avoid situations in
    which they are likely to not be successful
  • Children with an incremental/mastery orientation
    attribute success and failure to the amount of
    effort expended and persist in the face of

Dwecks Theory of Self-Attributions and
Achievement Motivation
  • Older childrens cognitions about themselves are
    more complex
  • Some children have an entity theory of
    intelligence and tend to think that a persons
    level of intelligence is fixed and unchangeable.
  • When they experience failure, they conclude that
    they are not very smart and that there is nothing
    they can do about the situation.
  • Other children hold an incremental theory of
    intelligence and believe that intelligence can
    increase as a function of experience.
  • These children tend to try harder after failure.

  • Praising children for working hard supports an
    incremental model and a mastery-oriented
    motivational pattern.
  • In contrast, offering praise and criticism
    focused on enduring traits can lead to an entity
    model and a helpless orientation.

Current Perspectives
  • Social cognitive theories have made important
    theoretical contributions and have been supported
    by research.
  • However, they provide an incomplete account
    because they do not address biological factors in

Major Ecological Theories of Development
  • Ethological and Evolutionary Theories
  • The Bioecological Model

Ecological Perspectives
Ethological and Evolutionary Theories
  • Ethological and evolutionary theories are
    concerned with aspects of human development that
    are presumed to be based on our evolutionary
  • These theories primarily focus on
    species-specific behavior.

  • Studies the evolutionary bases of behavior,
    attempting to understand behavior in terms of its
    adaptive or survival value
  • Ethologists argue that a variety of innate
    behavior patterns in animals, including
    imprinting, were shaped by evolution.
  • Imprinting is a form of learning in which the
    young of some species of newborn birds and
    mammals become attached to and follow adult
    members of the species.
  • Although human newborns do not imprint, they work
    to maintain visual contact with adult humans.

The Ethological Perspective
  • Research also examined gender differences in play
  • Ethologists argue that gender differences are
    affected by evolved predispositions, with females
    having an innate preference for objects that
    afford opportunities for nurturance males, for
    objects that invite movement.
  • Support for the argument comes from research
    showing that nonhuman primates exhibit similar
    patterns of gender preferences as human children.

Evolutionary Psychology
  • A relatively new approach that applies the
    Darwinian concepts of natural selection and
    adaptation to human behavior.
  • A major premise of evolutionary psychology is
    that organisms, including humans, are motivated
    to behave in ways that preserve their genes in
    the gene pool of the species.
  • Evolutionary psychologists argue that the large
    size of our brains necessitates a prolonged
    period of immaturity.
  • A consequence is humans neural plasticity in
    learning from experience.
  • They also see play as an evolved platform for
  • Prolonged immaturity requires a great deal of
    nurturance from parents.

Evolutionary Psychology
  • Parental-investment theory stresses the
    evolutionary basis of many aspects of parental
    behavior, including the extensive investment
    parents make in their offspring.
  • Parents genes are perpetuated only if their
    offspring survive and reproduce.
  • A dark side of the evolutionary picture is the
    fact that the rate of murders committed by
    stepfathers against children residing with them
    is hundreds of times higher than the rate for
    fathers and their biological children.

Evolutionary Psychology
  • Further, an implication of the evolutionary view
    of development is that radical departures from
    the species-typical environment (for example, in
    neonatal intensive care) could have negative
    consequences on development.

The Bioecological Model
  • Urie Brofenbrenner presents the childs
    environment as composed of a series of nested
    structures, with every level having an impact on
  • The microsystem is the immediate, bi-directional
    environment that a person experiences.
  • The mesosystem encompasses the connections among
    various microsystems.
  • The exosystem consists of environmental settings
    that the person does not experience directly but
    that can affect the person indirectly.
  • The macrosystem is the larger cultural context
    within which the other systems are embedded.
  • The chronosystem consists of historical changes
    that influence the other systems.

Current Perspectives
  • Ecological theories are important because they
    place individual development in a much broader
    context than do other theories of social
  • Evolutionary psychology has been criticized
    because many of its tenets cannot be tested and
    because it overlooks the human capacity to
    transform our environments and ourselves.
  • The bioecological model has made important
    contributions to thinking about development, but
    can be criticized for its general omission of
    specific biological factors.