College Papers

Developmental shaped by natural instincts that we have

Developmental approach to
psychology is a scientific approach which elucidates the progression, modification
and consistency throughout a person’s lifespan. It focuses on how a person’s rational,
feeling, and comportment can change throughout their lives. Human development
is considered to being from the point of fertilisation and ends at death. A substantial
proportion of these theories are within the area focused on child development,
as this is the critical period during an individual’s lifespan when the utmost
change transpires. These studies on child development conducted by
developmental psychologists consist of an extensive range of theoretical areas,
such as biological, psychoanalytic and cognitive approaches McLeod, 1970.

The biological approach argues that
our behaviour is largely shaped by natural instincts that we have no control
over. An instincts is an innate, pre-programmed and fixed pattern of behaviour
shared by all members of given species. For example, blackbirds are involuntary
‘programmed’ to produce the same song patterns, and blackbirds reared in
isolation from other blackbirds will still produce the same song (Webb, 2008).

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This leads me to Arnold Gesell’s
(1925) ‘Maturation Theory’ which discussed
the way that biology and the environment can influence child development by
introducing considerations not just about structures but with the ‘nature’ of development. Gesell proposed
that children are individuals starting before birth, and the individuality exhibits
itself not only in characteristic paths of corporeal growth but likewise in steady
and durable personality traits and maturation of the mental capabilities and
styles. Individual changes in behaviour are part of the organism as forms of corporeal
growth, and all traits are hereditary from both the family and the race as a
whole. Though infants are “plastic and learn from the culture, the limits of
this plasticity are themselves genetically determined”. Consequently, children’s
constitutions govern how, what, and to some magnitude even when they will
learn, therefore humans are bi-products of our environment, which has an impact
on our biology. This links in with biology as at the same time children have
innate and prefigured individuality developmental pathway, they also have
biological individuality as a function of their age. This individuality is
reflected in physical skills, cognitive abilities and temperament.

 Given Gesell’s views on individuality, his
whole purpose of the “Maturation Theory”
on developmental approach is that the core support systems which are the society
and family must be personalised to fit to each child’s competences and must offer
the child an environment that permits the child to interact with nature in
order to fully develop and reach its optimal potential. No child should be
given any task beyond his/her state of maturational readiness. However,
Gesell’s theory has been criticised for being stifling and incomplete by account
and he also had many blind spots (Thelen
and Adolph, 1992).

By comparison, psychologists argue
that both nature and nurture are critical for any behaviour and development. It
cannot be argued that certain behaviours are genetic and the other is environmental.
In fact, it is impossible and illogical to detach the two influences as nature
and nurture do not function in a separate way but interrelate in a complex
manner. The psychoanalytic approach to child development can be shown through
Freud’s theory of psychosexual development, which presents to us the way in
which children develop psychologically. Freud argued that personality has five
main stages which are; Oral (sucking, biting etc.), Anal (defecation), Phallic
(penis/clitoris masturbation), Latency (little/non sexual motivation) and
Genital (penis/vagina) to its development. According to Freud, these stages are
driven by the ID, Ego and Superego, and that both personality and the drivers
are connected by complexes. Freud also established that personality could be
negatively impacted if the child does not successfully complete the complex. The
theory explains and proposes how personality develops in human beings as they
pass through a series of dynamically differentiated developmental stages during
the life span, and that mishap during different stages, especially during early
childhood plays an important role in the aetiology of psychological problems
including mental disorders.

While
Gesell’s theory focused mainly on the biophysical and not really the
environment, Freud’s theory is based on the interaction with social
surroundings as his concepts are based around human beings, also known as
‘Pleasure seekers’. However, critics of Freud’s theory argued that it
cannot be considered to be scientific, and the sample cannot be generalised as
it was all white middle-class individuals.

Research has shown that another
fundamental means of understanding child development regarding the nature-nurture
debate is through the cognitive approach, where children learn and develop
their intelligence. Like several theories on child development, Piaget’s (1936)
theory of cognitive development is of importance in association with the
nature-nurture debate as he assumed that knowledge is directly an outcome of
the interface between a child’s experiences and their stages of biological development.
In quintessence, he recognised that both nature and nurture are imperative. He argues
that nature plays a substantial fact in understanding why all children (of all
culture) go through similar stages of cognitive development in similar
sequence.  According to his theory,
innate, maturational vicissitudes within the intelligence justifies the
sequences of the four distinct stages which are the sensory motor,
pre-operational, concrete operational and formal operational stages. However, he
argues that the rapidity within how children advance through the different
stages relies on environmental factors, where in the environment (i.e. school)
assists with learning, benefits the child’s cognitive development. A weakness
in Piaget’s theory is that it is reductionist, as he saw the development of
rationality based on innate and maturation factors. This meant that he
neglected the impact of the social and cultural context in which it affects a
child’s thinking (Price-Williams et al.,
1969). 

From these three theories, another and
possibly the most important in relation to child development is attachment. Attachment
is the emotional and physical proximity built/formed between an infant and
their primary caregiver to meet the primary needs of the infant. Depending on
how successful an interaction/bond is formed between the infant and primary
caregiver, it transpires and has an impact on the child at their later stage. In
relation to the nativist-empiricist debate, Bowlby’s evolutionary ‘theory of attachment’ proposed that
attachment behaviours are exhibited because children enter the world already
biologically pre-programmed to form attachments with others as it guarantees
survival of the infant and the continuance of the parents’ genes.  This survival significance is additional augmented
as attachment has consequences for future relationship development; there is a
critical period of 2½ years where an attachment has to be formed, which will
eventually proselytize efficacious reproductions. If not, the infant will
experience social and emotional problems in their later life.

This nativist approach by Bowlby was
predisposed by ethological theory such as that of Lorenz’s (1935) study of ‘imprinting’.  Lorenz presented that attachment was innate
(in new born ducklings and its caregiver) and therefore has a survival
importance. Lorenz’s study proposes and supports the indication of an innate
initiative to form an attachment. This links in with Bowlby’s believe that
attachment comportments are also innate and will be triggered by any circumstances
which appear to threaten the attainment of vicinity i.e. fear, separation and insecurity.
Bowlby (1969, 1988) also suggested that the fear of strangers signifies a vital
survival mechanism, constructed by nature. 
Babies are born with the inclination to show indubitable intrinsic behaviours,
known as social releasers (i.e. smiling, crying, etc.), as it ensures vicinity
and interaction with the primary caregiver or attachment figure (McLeod, 2015).

On the other hand, the learning
theory of attachment is a behaviourist elucidation, which opposes the innate
pre-programmed theory of attachment and proposes that attachment is developed
through classical/operant conditioning. It is occasionally referred to as a ‘cupboard love’ theory, as the infant
attaches to the caregiver who offers the food (tutor2u.com, 2018). An empiricist study by Schaffer and Emerson in 1964
showed a large-scale observational study, which established that after a central
attachment was created, numerous attachments followed. This challenge Bowlby’s proposal
of monotropy as more than one attachment was formed. This study also had a high
ecological validity compared to Bowlby’s theory, however can be criticised as
being prone to bias as the mother of the infants’ kept the records. Another
empiricist study which supports the operant conditioning of attachment and
counterattack the behavioural theory of attachment that suggests that an infant
would form an attachment with a caregiver that provides food was by Harlow
(1958). Harlow (1958) study desired to govern what was most imperative in a
relationship, predominantly between a mother and child, by conducting
experiments using infant monkeys. He acquired them from their parents as
infants and gave them to surrogate “mothers” made of cloth to explore
whether it was comfort/caregiving, or food/sustenance. He later found that
comfort/caregiving was more important as infants have an intrinsic prerequisite
to cling and touch something for emotional comfort. Harlow’s study improved the
childcare system as early child development attachment experiences forecast long-term
social development. However, his study was unethical as it could be disputed
that animals have a right not to be researched on/ harmed (tutor2u.com, 2018).

Bowlby’s (1944) case study known as
’44 thieves’ research study on the
theory of attachment in terms of child and later development also contributes
to our understanding that he believes that the bond formed between the infant
and its mother/primary-caregiver within the first five years of existence was
most critical to socialisation.  He
believed that interference of this primary bond might lead to a “higher incidence of juvenile delinquency,
emotional difficulties, and antisocial behaviour”. To assess his theory, he
studied 44 juvenile delinquents in an adolescent management clinic. His aim was
to examine the long-term effects of maternal deprivation on children, to see
whether delinquents have suffered deprivation. In accordance to the ‘Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis’, disintegration
of the maternal bond with the child during their early stages of their lifespan,
is likely to have severe effects on its social, emotional, and intellectual development
(McLeod, 2007).

Bowlby (1944) interviewed 44 adolescents’
thieves who were referred to a child protection program in London for stealing.
Bowlby then progressed to select another group of 44 children to act as the ‘controls’ group (adolescents referred to
the clinic because of emotional difficulties, but not yet committed any crimes).
Thereafter, he ensued to interview the parents from both groups, stating
whether their children had experienced separation throughout the critical
period and for how extensive. His findings showed that more than half of the
adolescent thieves experienced separation from their mothers for more than six
months during their first five years, whereas in the control group, only two
experienced such separation.

Bowlby (1944) conclusions were that
maternal deprivation (separation) in the child’s critical period caused
long-lasting emotional maladjustment. He identified this as a condition called
‘Affectionless Psychopathy’.
According to Bowlby, this condition necessitate a deficiency of emotional
development, delineate by a lack of responsibility and concern for others, and
also incapability to form worthwhile and long-lasting relationships. A study
with supports this maternal deprivation hypothesis is Bifulco et al (1992).They
studied 250 women who before they were 17, had lost their mothers, through
separation/or death. They established that loss of their mother doubled the
risk of depressive and fretfulness disorders in adult women. The highest rate
of depression was in women whose mothers had deceased before the child reached
age 6.