Essay (2000 Word)
An essay which outlines and critiques major developmental theories underpinning the development and learning of young children.
Title of the Essay: Major Developmental Theories Underpinning the Learning and Development of Children
The emphasis in the study is put on delineating and analysing the critical development theories of children learning and development critically for gaining a greater understanding of them. According to Slater, Hocking & Loose (2003), human development is varied, vibrant and highly complicated. Therefore, no single theory can justice to the intricacy; instead, every approach focuses only on a specific range of human development. Psychologists and theorists have put forward several methods concentrate on the way of developing children. Some of the theories are called imposing assumptions and try to demonstrate almost all the sides of growth and change path of people starting from childhood. Five significant theories of child development and learning are criticised here.
Freud’s Psychosexual Child Development Theory comes under the category of psychoanalytic theories of child development. Freud focuses on the significance of childhood experience and events and considers mental problems instead of usual functioning too. According to him, child development can be regarded as a range of psychosexual phases including oral, anal, phallic, hidden and genital. Every phase attempts to content a libidinal aspiration and can influence adult personality later. If a child fails to complete a phase thoroughly, that child may develop an obsession, which would then encourage adult behaviour and personality. In every stage, the desire pursuing serves of the id influence for pleasure considering a specific erogenous area. For instance, in the oral phase, children get pleasure by chewing or sucking. Struggles related to these stages have to be appropriately fixed for emerging a healthy and robust adult personality (Eileen & Marotz, 2012). However, Bartlett (1939) argued that the theory is not developed considering experimental evidence. Freud has presented very few experiments, and not all of them are pivotal. Apart from that, he added that the endeavour to found general theories on medical material solely is unacceptable to several great scientists. Moreover, Freud has ignored the historical, psychological development facts.
Slater, Hocking & Loose (2003) supported the argument against Freud’s theory and stated that the claim made in the opinion that most of the things that motivate a child are decided unconsciously and it cannot be assessed, which seems like assumptions and not facts. It is not possible to analyse the views given by Freud. However, for illustrating this, the idea of reaction formation can be taken into consideration. For example, if a child is trained to use toilet harshly, as per Freud, he/she becomes anally, absorbent means tidy and neat. However, the child recognises this in himself/herself; he/she may respond against it that will make him her extremely untidy. It means it is not possible to foresee the development of the child in spite the truth that the first six years of a child after his/her birth are critical for deciding his/her future personality.
Gordon & Browne (2008) also criticised the view presented in the Freud's theory and commented that Freud personally engrossed on human sexuality and hence, he prioritised explaining child development with a normative theory of sexual and psychological evolution. The phallic stage is thus, contentious, as it is based on medical observation of the Oedipus complex. The critics consider that childhood seduction illusions and memories were not actual memories but were hypotheses that Freud developed and pushed on his patients.
Erikson’s Psychosocial Child Development Theory is another psychoanalytic theory influenced by the work of Freud. However, Erikson focuses on the significance of social experiences in developing a child’s psychology. Like Freud, Erikson’s theory also has a series of phases children go through. However, unlike Freud, the method of Erikson includes development for whole life from birth to death. As per the theory of Freud, construction is mostly done by six years of age. However, Erikson believes that children develop continuously and grow until old age. At every stage, they experience a crisis that they need to master for developing psychological virtue. For instance, the main struggle at the adolescent age involves creating a sense of individual identity. Failure or success in managing the conflicts at every phase can influence the overall functioning. At the teenage period, if a child fails to emerge an identity, it leads to role confusion. During the initial stage of life, it is essential for children obtaining continuous care for learning trusting others. Development lingers as children become mature, and they learn new things at each stage of life that help them throughout their lifespan (MacNaughton, 2008). As criticised by Vialle, Lysaght & Verenikina (2008), the theory mainly explains the development of males of Europe and America. Therefore, doubt is there regarding the method of whether the stages of the approach should be considered as consecutive and take place only the age variety he proposes. It is questionable to believe that children seek identity in adolescent stage or if one phase request to take place before other phases can be ended. However, Erickson postulates that every step of the process happens throughout life in one type or another. He stresses on the stages just because at that time; the conflicts became most protuberant.
On the other hand, Bee & Boyd (2013) supported the theoretical approach of Erikson after carrying out studies. He stated that children who develop the most comprehensible self-identity in an adolescent could make close relationships in early childhood. However, some critics believe that Erikson's theory is more applicable to boys compared to their counterparts. The method gives more attention to childhood and infancy to adulthood in spite of claiming it as a lifespan theory. Despite these criticisms, the contribution of Erikson in developmental analysis histories is undeniable.
Behaviourism theory is based on the ideas that the behaviour of a person are generated with the help of conditioning. This conditioning is generally occurred by interacting with the environment. According to the behaviourists, responses of a person to the external stimuli mainly shape their action (Murtonen, Gruber & Lehtinen, 2017). Therefore, according to the theory, a child learns knowledge by responding to the external stimuli. According to the behaviourism, the behaviour of children is the reflexes that are produced by certain stimuli which can be generated either by the punishments or the reinforcements (Berk, 2012). Heredity also plays a vital role in determining the behaviour of a child. This fact clerkly establishes the fact that the behaviour of a child is almost similar to the parents.
The main critics of the behaviourism theory are it based on reductionist’s philosophy, where it shows that the entire behaviour of a person is altered with the help of practical training. According to Flynn, Jalali & Moreau (2015), behaviourism learning theory does not consider the emotional as well as cognitive influences. Moreover, in behaviourisms, humans are perceived as organic machines. As argued by Flynn, Jalali & Moreau (2015), behaviourism theory has established the fact that children who are living in a similar environment mainly show identical types of behaviours by looking, speaking and acting in the same manner. However, it is wrong. This is because; in a school, there are different students with different types of behaviours. Behaviourism theory is often perceived as the stimulus-response theory, but it does not have stimulus-response action. It takes thinking and the feeling into account. Other critics argue that behaviourism theory is one of the on-dimensional approaches where internal influences such as thoughts or moods of a person do not have any role. Behaviourism does not account for the other learning types (Thoutenhoofd & Pirrie, 2015). This theory does not support learning that is occurred without utilising the punishments and reinforcements.
Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is one of the comprehensive theories that mainly explain the development and nature of human intelligence. The core idea behind the theory is the primary mental structure of children that they gain during their birth which offers them a structure for the future knowledge and learning (Derewianka & Jones, 2012). Theory of Jean Piaget not only focuses on the understanding of how children acquire knowledge, but it also focuses on the understanding of the nature of intelligence. According to Piaget, every child goes through four different stages (sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational as well as formal operational) in which their cognitive abilities are developed (Bowes & Hayes, 2008). This theory stated that children take an active role in the process of learning by making an observation, performing experiments and developing learning about the world. Children always interact with the world around them that helps them in building new knowledge, improving new knowledge and adapting ideas for accommodating new information.
According to Carlson and Buskist (1997), Piaget does not offer any operational definition that can create a link among the posited change as well as observed behavioural changes. Lacks of the operational definition has created difficulties for another researcher because it creates difficulties for them in forming a relationship of cause and effect among the variables of Piaget theory. On the other hand, Gray (1994) noted that Piaget does not offer any view about the cognitive capacity's qualitative differences among two different children who are in different stages. Piaget has offered a point of view that each of the stages is different but he did not provide any evidence about the qualitative differences among the stages that have not been achieved comprehensively. Another criticism of the theory can be levelled as the action-oriented approach. According to Piaget, external objects are necessary for the facilitation of normal cognitive development. However, theorists have argued that children who born without any physical capabilities are still able to facilitate normal cognitive development. Weiten(1992) has pointed out that Piaget has underestimated young Children’s development. Other criticism of Piaget theory is the subjects are not studied across their entire lifespan so that this theory cannot explain the lifetime learning of a child. Moreover, this theory does not consider influences among the emotions as well as motivation. The study of Piaget finds the stages of developments that are too broad.
Bandura’s social learning theory
According to Bandura (2018), learning is one of the complex processes that are generally influenced by various factors. Different learning theories are there that explains how people can achieve learning. Albert Bandura, who is one of the psychologists, has proposed an SLE (social learning theory) that mainly suggests that modelling, as well as observation, play an essential role in learning. Therefore, according to the theory, children learn on the social environment by observing other people, and then they start to imitate the behaviour of others that they have seen. This theory explains that children mainly learn with the help of four different stages. The first stage is attention, where children focus on social contexts that help them in reinforcing the perception. The second stage is the retention where children recall the information in responding to a situation that is similar to the situation where the information was first learned (Cook & Artino Jr, 2016). The third step is the reproduction of information. In this step, information is reproduced for improving the responses that were previously learned. The fourth step is the motivations that are originated from the observation of children that motivated children to perform something or avoid something.
SLT offers a good explanation of human learning by recognising the meditational process's role. As stated by Cook & Artino Jr (2016), SLT sufficiently explains complex behaviour, it is not successful about in demonstrating how a whole range of behaviours can be developed among children that includes feeling and thoughts. This theory does not offer a full explanation of behaviour. As argued by Chen, Wang & Hung (2015), there are not any explanations about the development of behaviour when there are not any role models in the life of a person. Critics of the SLT mainly pointed out the distinction among children and Bobo the doll. The main critics of the theory are children can learn aggressive behaviours from others. Cumberbatch has reported that children who do not know about the doll are five times more likely to learn aggression. On the other hand, Durkin (1995) has described that it is very difficult for adults in teaching a child about how they can attack something.Conclusion
After analysing different methods on child development and learning, it can be inferred that child development is a complicated matter and cannot be explained completely using just one theory. Therefore, different scholars have proposed different theories from different perspectives on child development. Although all the discussed theories are criticised for various reasons, their role in understanding children learning and development cannot be overlooked.