Theories of Human Development

When referring to epigenetic theory, it is a relatively new theory that focuses on the genetic origins and how they are affected by the interactions with the environment. This theory is based on the fact that over time environmental forces will impact the expression of certain genes. The theory believes that each human has a genetic foundation that is unique. Environment is very important and may cause a person to follow one path or another from their genetic bases, depending upon conditions. On the other hand, the environmental theory removes the genetic factor. This theory believes that a child is a product of direct interaction with their environment. Proponents of the environmental theory believe that children learn best through repetition and memorization.

Psychoanalytical Theory (Freud)
This theory describes the developmental process as an unconscious act. Freud’s theories dealt with how the human mind works; while concluding that behavior is determined by powerful inner forces, most of which are buried in the unconscious mind. Thus, the unconscious plays a major role in shaping behavior. He also concluded that the unconscious is full of memories of events from early childhood. Freud believed that humans need for the basic necessities of life, food, shelter, and warmth. Fulfilling these instincts, through development, becomes the foundations for human sexuality.Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory has been one of the most influential theories of our time. It breaks the human personality down into three critical parts: Id, Ego and Superego.The Id is the most basic part and is present at birth. The Id functions with the pleasure principle and tends to be a little animalistic. It can be irrational and illogical. The Ego works to maintain or control the Id. It operates on the reality principal and tries to keep the Id straight. The Ego makes a person have rational and realistic thoughts while interacting with others. The Superego is the conscience. It contains the principles and ideals of society. The Superego operates on idealism. It’s goal is to inhibit the desires of the Id and convince the Ego to work towards more moral goals rather than realistic ones.

Behaviorist Theory (Watson)
Watson believed that psychology needed to focus on measurable variables in order for it to progress. He also felt that one’s environment was the factor behind development with no thought of the subconscious. The behaviorist theory teaches us that we learn based on how we interact with our environment. It also explains that the decisions we make in our environment have direct consequences, whether good or bad, and these consequences will affect our decision making capabilities. The environment in which one was placed was the “cause in behavior”. The behavoristic approach has had a strong influence on psychology. The basic ideas of behaviorism are: human behavior is a product of the stimulus response interaction and that behavior is modifiable. The behavorist believe behavior should be explained in terms of environmental stimuli. Behaviorists are not interested in unconscious motives for behavior. They see learning as progressing in a continuous manner, rather than in a sequence of stages, as in psychoanalytical theory. The process of learning by association, according to behaviorist theory, is called classical conditioning.

Operant Conditioning Theory
The second type of conditioning is operant conditioning, which is learning from the consequences of behavior. Skinner believed that the best way to understand a behavior is to look at the causes of the action and its consequences; which is operant conditioning. Skinner’s most well known contribution to behaviorism was his findings to do with behavior and the effect of reinforcement on responses and the role of operant conditioning in learning. The main assumption that Skinner’s theory is based on is that human behavior follows ‘laws’ and that the causes of human behavior is something in their environment. He came up with consequences that shows how behavior can be reinforced to make it more or less frequent, or even extinct. It is basically learning from the consequences of our behavior which are positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and punishment. The nature of the consequences determines the likelihood of the particular behavior’s reoccurrence. In other words, if our behavior results in something positive (positive reinforcement), the chance that the behavior will repeat itself increases. If our behavior results in something negative, the consequence decreases the chance of it happening again.

Social learning theory (Bandura)
Albert Bandura is considered the leading proponent of this theory. Social learning theory incorporates aspects of behavioural and cognitive learning. While rooted in many of the basic concepts of traditional learning theory, Bandura believed that direct reinforcement could not account for all types of learning. Behavioural learning believes that a person’s surroundings cause people to behave in certain ways. In addition, social learning theory outlines three requirements for people to learn and model behaviour include attention: retention (remembering things observed), reproduction (ability to duplicate the behaviour), and motivation (positive/negative influences) to want to adopt the behaviour. His theory added a social element, arguing that people can learn new information and behaviors by watching other people. Known as observational learning (or modeling), this type of learning can be used to explain a wide variety of behaviors.

Cognitive theory (Piaget)
Cognitive theory is a learning theory that attempts to explain human behavior by understanding the thought process focusing on the individual’s thoughts. It is believed that these thoughts determine an individual’s emotions and behaviors and therefore personality. The cognitive theorists believe that we could have no emotions, no behavior and would not function without our thoughts. The thoughts always come before any feeling and any action. The cognitive theorists believed that we can change our mood, decrease our anxiety and improve our relationships if we change our thoughts. The assumption is that humans are logical beings that make the choices that make the most sense to them. The processing of information or “Information processing” is a commonly used description of the mental process, comparing the human mind to that of a computer.Cognitive theory largely rejects behaviorism on the grounds that it reduces complex human behavior to simple cause and effect.

Humanism (Maslow)
Abraham Maslow believed that people have certain needs that have to be met in an order. These needs include basic needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, achievement needs, and finally, self actualization. One would not be able to progress fully to the next stage if its predecessor wasn’t completely fulfilled. In addition, from a learning theory point of view, humanism emphasizes that perceptions are centered in experience, as well as the freedom and responsibility to become what one is capable of being. The humanist theory believes in the power of the self-directed adult. Humanism believes learning occurs primarily through reflection on personal experiences. Humanism also believes in doing everything you do for yourself not just for a reward. According to humanists we have choices and responsibilities. This veiw argues that you are free to choose your own behavior, rather than reacting to environmental stimuli and reinforcers. Issues dealing with self-esteem, self-fulfillment, and needs are paramount. The major focus is to facilitate personal development.
Stages of moral development (Kohlberg)

Many of our inner standards take the form of judgments as to what is right and what is wrong. They mold the moral and ethical principles by which we live by and guide our conduct. While studying, Kohlberg observed that moral growth and development precedes through stages such as those of Piaget’s stages of cognitive development. He hypothesized that moral growth begins at the beginning of life and continues until the day one dies. He also believed that people progress through each stage of moral development consecutively without skipping or going back to the previous one. Moral reasoning, which is the basis for ethical behavior, possess six developmental stages that responds to the stage before it. These stages are: Obedience and punishment orientation, self- interest orientation, interpersonal accord and conformity, authority and social-order maintaining orientation, social contract orientation, and universal ethical principles.