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General Developmental Theories

General Developmental Theories -Temperament theory

Seven major theories of development are listed in Table 1-2, along with key concepts and criticisms of each theory. These theories, along with their applications, are described in detail in the sections that follow.

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General Developmental Theories-Organismic Theory

No one has had more influence in developmental psychology than Piaget. The coherence of behavior across diverse domains and the tendency for changes in abilities to occur simultaneously across domains form the basis of the organismic theory of Piaget and others such as Gesell, Werner, and Baldwin. This theory attempts to describe general features of human cognition and the systematic changes in thought across development. The organizing principle in organismic theory is structure, which is a closed system of transformational rules that govern thought at a particular point in development. Consider the 5-year-old girl who observes one row of nine beads placed near each other and a second row of six beads stretched across a greater distance than the first row. Even though the girl has counted the beads in each row and knows that nine is greater than six, in response to the question,"Which row has more beads?” she will answer,"The row with six beads.” Moreover, the girl will see no contradiction in her answer. According to Piaget, this nonobvious phenomenon occurs because the girl’s structural transformation law is to consider the whole of a stimulus, not each part separately. The child’s rule structure is closed; that is, it is internally consistent and not easily altered by external contradictions.

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General Developmental Theories-Social-Information-Processing Theory

Social-Information-Processing Theory

The comprehensive extension of social learning theory and attribution theory is to consider all of the mental processes that people use in relating to the social world. Simon’s work in cognitive science forms the basis for social-information-processing theory. This theory recognizes that people come to social situations with a set of biologically determined capabilities and a database of past experiences (Figure 1-3).

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General Developmental Theories-Attachment Theory

Attachment Theory

Bowlby generated a theory of attachment that has had enormous influence in contemporary developmental psychology. According to Bowlby, infants are born with innate tendencies to seek direct contact with an adult (usually the mother). In contrast to Freud’s perspective that early attachment-seeking is a function of a desire for the mother’s breast (and food), Bowlby argued that attachment seeking is directed toward social contact with the mother (the desire for a love relationship) and driven by fear of unknown others. By about 6??8 months of age, separation from the mother arouses distress, analogous to free-floating anxiety. The distress of a short-term separation is replaced quickly by the warmth of the reunion with the mother, but longer separations (such as occur in hospitalization or abandonment) can induce clinging, suspicion, and anxiety upon reunion. Similar effects are seen in older children until individuation occurs, at which point the child is cognitively able to hold a mental representation of the mother while she is gone, enabling the child to explore novelty.

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General Developmental Theories-Social Learning Theory

Social Learning Theory

Bandura’s social learning theory, though acknowledging the constraints of biological origins and the role of neural mediating mechanisms, emphasizes the role of the individual’s experience of the environment in development. Other learning theories are based on the organism’s direct performance of behaviors, whereas social learning theory posits that most learning occurs vicariously by observing and imitating models. For survival and growth, humans are designed to acquire patterns of behavior through observational learning. Social behavior in particular is a function of one’s social learning history, instigation mechanisms, and maintaining mechanisms.

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General Developmental Theories-Ecological Theory

Ecological Theory

Ecological theory evolved from the recognition that even though the environment has a major effect on development, many models of development have limited generalizability across contexts. Consider, for example, classic studies by Tulkin and his colleagues on the effect of mother-infant interaction patterns on the infant’s development of language and mental abilities. This effect is stronger among socioeconomic middle-class families than among lower-class families. Likewise, Scarr has found that the magnitude of genetic influences on intellectual development varies according to the cultural group being studied. Greater genetic effects are observed in middle-class white groups than in lower-class African-American groups. Among lower-class families, different influences on development are operating. Findings such as these led ecological theorists such as Lewin, Bronfenbrenner, and Barker to conclude that models of development are bounded by the context in which they are framed.

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General Developmental Theories-Attribution Theory

Attribution Theory
The emphasis on cognition in social learning theory is largely consequence oriented (ie, based on individuals’ cognitions about the likely outcomes of their behavior). Attribution theory is more concerned with how people understand the causes of behavior. Its origins are in the naive or common-sense psychology of Heider, who suggested that an individual’s beliefs about events play a more important role in behavior than does the objective truth of events. For social interactions, an individual’s beliefs about the causes of another person’s behavior are more crucial than are the true causes. For example, in deciding whether to retaliate aggressively against a peer following a provocation (such as being bumped from behind), a person often uses an attribution about the peer’s intention. If the peer had acted accidentally then no retaliation occurs, but if the peer had acted maliciously then retaliation may be likely. The perceiver’s task in social exchanges is to decide which effects of an observed action are intentional (reflecting dispositions) and which are situational.

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