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Developmental Psychology

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There are three main theories of development that I shall discuss in this assignment, 'Cognitive', the main theorist being, 'Piaget', (1896 - 1980), The, 'Psychosocial Theory', 'Erikson', (1902 - 1994), and, The 'Psychosexual', of, 'Freud', (1856 - 1939).

Cognitive Psychology draws the comparison between the human mind and a computer, suggesting that we like the computer process the information we acquire from around us and then react accordingly. Hearnshaw, (1987), claims that Cognitive Psychology is both one of the oldest and also one of the newest parts of Psychology, cited in 'T. Malim', (1994). Information is collected through our senses i.e. vision, touch, smell etc and then processed through our brain. Cognitive Psychologists largely seek explanations of Cognitive development, memory, attention, artificial intelligence, perception and social cognition. The methods used are usually Laboratory experiments under controlled circumstances i.e. memory tests, and, Case studies.

Piaget, (J), (1896-1980), carried out case studies on his own children to study the stages of cognitive development. Piaget concluded that the child was an organism which adapts to the environment, he also studied with the opinion that all children went through the same set stages of development and that there were no individual differences.

Piagets' Stages of Development: -

The Sensorimotor stage, (0-2): - Early in the sensorimotor stage the child is entirely egocentric, everything is an extension to the self, they can't distinguish themselves from their environment. The child has no concept of past or future all it is aware of is the here and now. The child relies entirely on it's senses i.e. sight, hearing, touch. It is believed by Cognitive Psychologists that ..... 'To begin with, a baby will rely on in-built behaviours for sucking, crawling and watching' as cited in Moonie, N, (1995). A child does not understand that an object does not cease to exist when it is out of sight. However, in contradiction, Bower & Wishart, (1972), used infrared cameras to see what the child does when an object disappears. The child is shown a bottle in the light, when the child reaches to grasp the bottle the lights are turned out. Bower & Wishart recorded that the child continued to reach for the bottle for up to 1.5minutes after the lights are turned out. Another point made by Piaget is that not only does the child look for an object, which is hidden, but also the child will not look for it even if part of it is showing. The object must be fully visible for the child to look for it. Between the ages 6-7 months the child will recognise a partly visible object and by 8 months the child will look for an object that is totally hidden, (all ages are approximate, although Piaget believed children went through the same stages, he concluded that they don't necessarily do so at the exactly the same age). This realization that an object still exists even when out of view is called, 'Object Permanence'.

The Pre-operational Stage, (2-7 years): - Later in the sensorimeter stage the child will begin to develop the use of language and thought, this is one of the main continuing developments in the pre-operational stage. This stage derives the title of pre-operational because the child has yet to develop its logical thinking and the ability to understand how things operate. Piaget went on to divide the pre-operational stage into two parts, the first being, 'Pre-Conceptual', from the ages 2-4 the child has no concept of varying differences at this stage everything is either all the same colour, size etc. For example a child a child is given 5 large red bricks and 5 small red bricks, the child is then asked to sort the large red bricks from the small red bricks, the child cannot distinguish between the large and the small therefore the child would just put all the red bricks together. Piaget called this, 'Syncretic Thinking', putting objects together because of similarities i.e. colour even if the objects are of a different shape or size, four balls of different colours would not be conceived as different colours by a child they would just be seen as four balls as this is their similarity.

At the age of 4-7 the child reaches the, 'Intuitive', stage, at this stage the child has some concept of differences i.e. the child can distinguish between the size and colour of different coloured bricks. However the child is still what Piaget called, 'Egocentric', unable to see things from another's point of view.

'One amusing example (Phillips, 1996) is of a four year old boy who is asked 'Do you have a brother?' to which he replies 'Yes'. Then he is asked 'What's his name?' to which he replies 'Jim'. Finally in response to the question 'Does Jim have a brother?' he say's 'No'.

The Concrete Operational Stage (7-11): - A this stage the child can operate objects and understand them providing they can se them and/or are holding them. The child can count, spell, read etc. Although the child still needs some objects i.e. fingers, toys to count there is still a need for visual assistance. The child is developing a less egocentric perspective.

The formal Operation Stage (11-15): - At this stage the child or adolescent can now think hypothetically, (think about situations, experiences that they may not have experienced). The adolescent can think about different outcomes to situations. The formal adolescent can now count without the aid of objects and can read and write quite efficiently.

Psychosexual Stages of Development

Freud, (1856-1939), believed that personality which he called, 'Psychic Apparatus', was divided into three parts, the 'ID', the 'EGO', and, the 'SUPEREGO'. Freud also concluded that these parts were part of an energy system not part of the brain or the physical self. In brief the ID is a 'Psychic Energy', which is ruled by the, 'Pleasure Principle'. For example instinct tells the id we are hungry, the id does not want us to feel unsatisfied therefore we react by seeking food, fulfilling our need and subsequently experiencing pleasure. Although our id is present at birth and continues to exist to death relatively un-changed when we are infants we still need to understand that although we cry when we are hungry it is up to another to interpret our crying and feed us until we develop the abilities to feed ourselves. The id does however carry a reflex reaction i.e. blinking when there is something in our eye, scratching when we itch, rubbing ourselves if we have a bump



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