The study of development

Essay by nikitalolCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2004

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The Study of Development

Developmental psychology is the branch of psychology that describes, explains, predicts, and sometimes aims to modify age-related behaviors from conception to death; this field emphasizes maturation, early experiences, and various stages in development. All fields of psychology are faced with theoretical issues. There are three theoretical issues in human development; nature versus nurture, continuity versus stages and stability versus change.

The first issue is nature versus nurture. This controversy goes back to the ancient Greeks. Early philosophers believed that at birth our minds are a 'blank state' and that one's environment determines the messages that will be written on the slate. Naturists believe that human behavior and development are governed by automatic, genetically predetermined signals in maturation. There is a favorable period after birth called a critical period when the organism's exposure to stimuli or experiences produce proper development. Nurturists argue that development occurs by learning through observation and experience.

For example, a child would learn behaviors by watching his or her parents or other close family members.

The second issue is continuity versus stages. Continuity proposes that development is continuous, with new abilities, skills and knowledge gradually added at a relatively uniform rate. It also suggests that adult thinking and intelligence differ from a child's. For example, adults have more verbal skills than children. Stage theorists suggest that development occurs at different rates that vary from little change to rapid, abrupt change. Stage theories include: Piaget's theory of cognitive development, Erikson's psychosocial theory of development, and Kohlberg's theory of moral development.

The third and final issue is stability versus change. Stability proposes that individuals maintain their personal characteristics from childhood to adulthood. They emphasize that one can tell what kind of character an individual will have by the characteristics they display...