A. Perspectives on development


Theoretical Perspectives on Child Development and Controversial Issues

What are the core concepts of the main theoretical perspectives on child development? What are the main controversies among them? --- Nature vs. nurture? Continuous vs. continuous? Active vs. passive? These perspectives directly influence how a teacher interacts with children.
A. The Psychoanalytic Perspective
1. Psychoanalytic theories view children (and adults) as being involved in conflict between inner forces that result in outward behavior. These theories propose that children progress through stages, which are distinct periods of development, and that experiences during early stages influence later stages.
2. Freud’s Theory of Psychosexual Development proposes that there are three parts to personality: The Id is present at birth at represents unconscious desires, the ego is conscious and balances the needs of the id with societal demands, and the superego is the moral guide. Further, Freud proposes that children develop through five stages, each having a different source of gratification: oral, anal, phallic, latent, and genital. If too little or too much gratification is experienced during each stage, a person may become fixated at that particular stage, resulting in various personality traits later in life.
 Although Freud’s theory was influential, it is criticized for being derived from Frued’s experiences with troubled patients and for lack of an empirical basis. Critics have suggested it placed too much emphasis on unconscious motives and sexual desires.
3. Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development proposes that successful resolution of life crises leads to a sense of self-identity. There are eight stages in this theory that span infancy to old age. This perspective is appealing because it emphasis choice (rather than unconscious drives) and has some empirical support.
B. The Learning Perspective: Behavioral and Social Cognitive Theories
1. John B. Watson argued that psychologists should only study observable behavior, not mental thoughts or desires which cannot be seen. This view is known as behaviorism.
2. Classical conditioning is a simple form of learning by association. An Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS) naturally elicits an Unconditioned Response (UCR). When a neutral stimulus is repeatedly associated with an UCS, it become the Conditioned Stimulus (US) and evokes a response similar to the UCR, the conditioned response (CR).
3. In operant conditioning, a behavior is associated with its effects. Reinforcers increase the frequency of a behavior and can be positive (something pleasant added) or negative (something unpleasant removed). Extinction occurs when a behavior is repeatedly met with no reinforcement. Punishments have the opposite effect and decrease the frequency of a behavior. However, it is important to note the many drawbacks associated with using punishment, such as not teaching children acceptable forms of behavior and creating hostility. 
4. A Closer Look: Operant Conditioning of Vocalizations in Infants: A study empirically demonstrated that infants will increase in their production of vocalizations when reinforced with sounds, smiles, and touches. This increase was extinguished when the researchers stopped responding to the babies.
5. Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory suggests that children actively acquire basic “know-how” through observational learning.
C. The Cognitive Perspective
1. Focus on how children perceive and mentally represent the world.
2. Jean Piaget’s Cognitive-Developmental Theory rests on the ideas that cognitive development depends largely on the maturation of the brain and that children are active “little scientists” who seek schemes to organize their knowledge. Piaget stated that cognitive development progresses through four distinct stages through assimilation, responding according to existing schemas, and accommodation, modifying a scheme to fit new information. The stages are sensorimotor (infancy), preoperational (preschool ages), concrete operational (school ages), and formal operational (adolescence)Although this theory is influential in many educational settings, Piaget may have underestimated children’s abilities by age, and cognitive growth may be more gradual than Piaget’s distinct stages.
3. Information-Processing Theory was influenced by the concepts of computer science and examines the processes in which information is encoded, stored, retrieved, and used to solve problems. This theory considers the size of children’s short-term memory and their ability to multi-task.
D. The Biological Perspective
1. Concerned primarily with physical development, including that of the body and the brain.
2. Ethology,a perspective influenced by Charles Darwin, Konrad Lorenz, and Niko Tinbergen, focuses on instinctive behavior patterns, which preprogram an organism to behave in a certain way. In humans, however, it is assumed that instinctive behaviors can be modified through learning.
E. The Ecological Perspective
1. The Ecological Systems Theory, influenced by Urie Bronfenbrenner, explains development through reciprocal interactions between children and the settings in which they live. The developing child is embedded in a series of systems: microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem.
2. Developing in a World of Diversity: Influence of the Macrosystem on the Development of Independence: !Kung children and Russian children are coddled more than American babies, but still become independent at earlier ages than their American peers.
F. The Sociocultural Perspective
1. This perspective views children as social beings who are influenced by the cultures in which they live.
2. Lev Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory emphasizes the zone of proximal development (ZPD) and the use of conversations, external and internal, to guide children’s learning. More advanced learners also scaffold the learning of children by providing as much help as a child needs to achieve a task independently.
3. The sociocultural perspective also stresses awareness of diversity among children, including factors such as ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disabilities. It is critical to understand influences of children’s family values and cultural expectations on development.
Controversies in Child Development
A. The Nature-Nurture Controversy (---the most important controversy we should know about)
1. Most researchers agree that both genes (heredity) and environmental influence have an impact on development.
There are few examples of traits that are influenced purely by nature or nurture. Nature seems to dictate predominantly physical characteristics, such as blood type and eye color. In contrast, nurture influences learned abilities such as the specific language that one speaks.   Babies are born with the ability to understand all the phonemes in the world’s languages, but by six months can only distinguish the phonemes in the languages being spoken around them. Most characteristics are influenced by a combination of nature and nurture. Point out to students that most psychological traits are influences by both of these forces, but physical characteristics may also be a result of nature and nurture. For instance, weight is influenced by a person’s genetic make-up and by the diets in their environment. 
B. The Continuity-Discontinuity Controversy
1. Stage theories view development as a discontinuous process. Those that view development as continuous see it as a gradually unfolding process.
C. The Active-Passive Controversy
1. An active child shapes his or her own environment, while a passive child is shaped by the environment. There is no agreement as to which influence is strongest.
Matrix Table of Theoretical Perspectives on Child Development
and Dimensions of Controversy 
Freud’s Theory of Psychosexual Development
Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development
Watson’s Behaviorism
Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory
Piaget’s Cognitive-Developmental Theory
Information-Processing Theory
Lorenz’s Ethology
Both (Primarily Nature but early experience is necessary.)
Discontinuous (due to early critical period)
Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory
Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory
Childhood and Adolescence: Voyages in Development. (3rd Edition) by Rathus, Spencer A. Publisher: Thomson & Wadsworth


Learn Something about Improving Students’ Social Emotional Learning

Although students in the CPCT program will be teachers of Chinese as a second language, it is always good to know about characteristics of their students. This is why the course of Students’ Social Emotional Development is designed into the program. In this program, there is another course, which is related to classroom management. Classroom management has its own theoretical frames. We can also look at classroom management through a social emotional learning lens.
Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an approach that teaches self-regulation, self-monitoring, and social skills in school settings. SEL has been shown to be an effective method of reducing negative social interactions and increasing academic achievement. The recommended article below relates the experiences of one intermediate school principal and her staff as they used SEL strategies to change the climate and culture of their highly diverse school population. Classroom management is discussed as the vehicle used by the teachers, while the principal aligned school procedures with the philosophy of SEL.
Click here for the article online.
Or, open the attached PDF file.