The Psychology of Human Development

The Psychology of Human Development

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Change is inevitable. As humans, we continue to grow from conception to death throughout our lives. Human development is a process of change and growth that shapes human physical, mental, and psychosocial development throughout life. Each of these includes all aspects of development, from our physical, and cognitive abilities to our emotional and social abilities, growth, and changes in health and well-being. Cognitive development includes learning, attention, memory, language, thinking, reasoning, and creativity. Psychosocial development includes emotions, personality, and social relationships. Developmental psychology examines the behavioral, emotional, physical, and cognitive changes that occur as people age. The American Psychological Association (2020) defines developmental psychology as the physical, cognitive, and behavioral changes that occur from conception to adulthood.

Natural growth factors
  • Biological factors affecting development include brain development, nutrition, and health.
  • Environment in human development: Environment plays an important role in human development. Factors include family, school, community, and culture. Other environmental factors that affect development include socioeconomic status, access to education and health care, and exposure to violence and trauma.
  • Culture shapes our values, beliefs, and behaviors. It also affects our expectations of ourselves and others. Culture does affect our development in many ways which includes attitudes toward education, work, and family.
Theories of Human Development
1) Bowlby attachment techniques:

The seminal work of psychologist John Bowlby (1958) reflected his interest in the social development of children. Bowlby (1969) reasoned that the need for attachment formation was innate, universal for survival, and necessary for children’s development. This genetic relationship helps ensure that children are cared for by a parent or guardian (Bowlby, 1969, 1973, 1980). Bowlby’s original work, which he links, was carried on by one of his students, Mary Ainsworth. He proposed several mechanisms of attachment between child and caregiver (Ainsworth & Bell, 1970).

This theory clearly demonstrates the importance of attachment strategies for a child’s future development. Consistent and stable care provides a secure attachment strategy (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978). In contrast, unstable and insecure caregiving results in more negative attachment styles: ambivalent, avoidant, or disorganized (Ainsworth & Bell, 1970; Main & Solomon, 1970; 1986). Bowlby’s theory does not consider the influence of peer groups or how they can shape children’s personalities and development (Harris, 1998).

2) Piaget’s stage theory

    Jean Piaget was a French psychologist with a keen interest in child development. He was interested in children’s thinking, how they acquire, build and use their knowledge (Piaget, 1951). Piaget’s (1951) four-stage theory of cognitive development sequences a child’s cognitive development. According to this theory, all children go through one of these four stages of development (Simatwa, 2010). The stage of sensorimotor lasts from birth to two years. Behaviors are triggered by emotional stimuli and are limited to simple physiological responses. When an object is removed from a child’s consciousness, it is believed that it does not exist (Piaget, 1936). The preoperative phase lasts two to six years.

    The child learns language but is unable to concentrate or understand plausible arguments (Wadsworth, 1971). The concrete mobilization phase lasts from age 7 to 11. Children begin to reason about concrete events logically. At this stage, abstract thinking or thinking is still strong (Wadsworth, 1971). By the age of 12, abstract thinking and skills arise in the formal stage of performance (Piaget, 1936). Piaget did not consider other factors that might affect a child’s growth or development during these stages. Natural development and interaction with the environment can determine the speed of children’s cognitive development (Papalia & Feldman, 2011). Individual differences can also determine a child’s development (Berger, 2014).

    3) Freud’s theory of psychosexual development

      Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud developed influential developmental theories, which included stages of psychosexual development (Fisher & Greenberg, 1996). Freud concluded that childhood experiences and unconscious desires influenced behavior effect that his female patients feel physical symptoms and suffering and not physical objects (by Breuer and Freud). , 1957) was published. According to Freud’s psychosexual theory, child development occurs in stages, each focusing on different areas of the body that are interesting. At every stage, the child faces conflict, which plays an important role in development (Silverman, 2017). Freud’s theories of psychosexual development include oral, anal, penile, private, and genital. His theory suggests that desire can focus on these different areas of motivation at any particular time (Silverman, 2017).

      Freud concluded that the successful completion of each phase promotes successful growth. He also suggested that failure to achieve at specific time points could lead to stability and developmental difficulties, such as defective nails (jaw fixation) or cosmetic fixation (anal fixation; Silverman, 1999; 2006) 2017). Freud believed that the child goes through these stages and that personality is formed in early childhood. Criticisms of Freud’s theory of psychosexual development include the failure to assume that personality can change and develop throughout life. Freud believed that early experiences play an important role in shaping development (Silverman, 2017).

      4) Theory – Continuity vs. Discontinuity

      The theory of continuity is the idea of human psychological development that is continually progressing without any distinct steps along the way. The continuity model states that development is like a skill, and humans develop it the same way as we learn other skills — that is, by practicing and continually improving.

      The theory of discontinuity emphasizes the idea that change occurs gradually and that individuals progress through these changes at rates. Erikson’s eight stages of development which span, from infancy to adulthood, encompass attributes, potential disorders, and significant relationships as integral parts of each developmental stage. His model serves as an example of a discontinuity theory, among theories proposed by developmental psychologists regarding the different phases of human development.

      Progress in Human Development

      Human development is a continuous lifelong process. Physical, cognitive, emotional, and social changes occur at different stages of development.

      • Infancy: It is the period from birth to 2 years of age. They also begin to form important social relationships with their caregivers.
      • Middle Childhood: Middle childhood is the period between the ages of 6 and 12. During this time, children starts to develop physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially and starts to make friends with peers and learn about different cultures.
      • Adolescence: The duration of this period lies between the ages of 12 and 18. During this period, adolescents undergo rapid physical and mental development. They also begin to develop their own sense of identity and belonging.
      • Early Adulthood: Early adulthood is the period from age 18 to age 35. During this time, adults generally complete their education, establish their careers and start families
      • Midlife: This period ranges from age 35 to age 65. During this time, adults starts to experience changes in their careers and relationships.
      • Late adulthood: Late adulthood is the period between age 65 and death. During this time, adults experience physical and mental distress. They may face retirement, the loss of loved ones, and health problems.
      Improving human development
      • Proving a safe and caring environment for children and youth.
      • Ensuring quality education and necessary healthcare for children.
      • Support families and caregivers.
      • Building communities that support all individuals.

      In conclusion, human development is influenced by a range of environmental and cultural factors. Gaining an understanding of development can enable us to build a supportive world for every individual.

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