Developmental Psychology Definition

What is developmental psychology?

Developmental psychology (formerly known child and adolescent psychology, now by some called life psychology) studies the psychological changes with increasing age, so from birth through infancy, toddler years, infancy, school years, adolescence, adulthood into old age. The main focus of the researchers are still looking forward to the period in which the changes follow each other the fastest, that of birth to early adulthood.

formerly known child and adolescent psychology Developmental Psychology Definition


Thinking about the psychological changes undergone by the man in the course of his life and the influences that cause these changes is very old; philosophers like Socrates and Plato thought and wrote about education. They need to determine their educational goals and their teaching methods to take account of what could handle their young students. Think of the Socratic method as demonstrated in the "Dialogues" of Plato. Plato in his Republic pleaded for the early detection of special talents in children, that education and pembinaan could be focused on developing these talents. But until just about the 17th century, there were still no separate studies devoted to children, their education and development.

The English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) saw the child as a blank sheet of paper (tabula rasa) that literally everything had to be learned through experience, and a consistent system of rewards and punishments. Locke has become the great example of what is called empiricists. This was offset by the views of the nativisten who believed that if one but children well fed and in a healthy environment allowed the development of innate talents would come naturally large. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) is often considered one of the most outspoken nativisten. But he gave in his book Émile to tutor the role of a strict educator who dedicated his pupil Emile many things and also denied him many things. In the practice of raising the contrast between both directions was never drawn so sharply.

In the 19th century described several educators, biologists and philosophers (including the Swiss pedagogue Pestalozzi and the English biologist Darwin) the development of their own children. The new was that they no longer just philosophized, but also began to carefully observe and record. Besides this also formed the basis for scientific theory. For example, the Darwinian evolution brought Ernst Haeckel's recapitulation theory to be where the human fetus and baby all through states have passed the higher species in evolution. The American psychologist G. Stanley Hall (1844-1924) compared the earliest stages in the development of infants and toddlers with those of developing nations that nature in highly developed societies. Incidentally Hall was also the first psychologist who focused on adolescents, by indicating their behavior as arising from a natural phase of storm and stress, with three main features: conflict with parents, strong mood changes and taking risks.

Only in the first decades of the 20th century a modern scientific study of psychological development in children and adolescents. Famous names are those of William Stern in Germany, James Mark Baldwin in the United States, Alfred Binet in France and Jean Piaget in Switzerland. And although Sigmund Freud himself no empirically studied the development of children's observations with him will carry out its own young children contributed to his theory of psychosexual development in the course of the 20th century has been so influential.

After World War II was gradually American psychology, the methods developed there, the dominant animo in the Netherlands and Belgium. Until then the German, Austrian (Freud, Alfred Adler), French and French-Swiss (Piaget, Carl Gustav Jung) been psychologists and psychiatrists who were read by the psychologists and pedagogues and imitated. And with the exception of the work of the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, that here only became known in the 60s (the first publications by Carel Frederik Parreren) has since developmental psychology at American scientific footing.

In the seventies of the last century they started to save children and adolescents also focus on the development of adults. Concepts such as life and psychology psychogerontology were in vogue. The latter also under the influence of an increasing number of elderly people and their specific problems of aging (see also gerontology). In developmental psychology of adults, a central question is whether there is such a thing as a general midlife crisis.

Maturation and Learning; Heredity and Environment; Nature and Nurture

The above contrast between the old and nativisten empiricists is reflected in the demand which causes a certain mental development. Comes arising from the properties of the genes and the resulting aging of the brains, and exercise or from the influence of the environment, or from both? This is not whether one or the other is true. Indeed, there is always an interaction, so a combination of heredity and environment. For example, the surroundings affect the genes can be: a particular instance may, for example, better time to develop in a suitable environment. But the other genes or construction can determine which setting is chosen.

Some behaviors can be taught with a lot of practice at an age when the central nervous system actually is not optimal for developed there. An example is the now old experiment of psychologists Gesell and Thompson conducted with identical twins. When the twins were 46 weeks old was one of two six consecutive weeks daily lessons in stair climbing. Her twin sister came all this time not in contact with stairs and could therefore not spontaneous and learn from itself stair climbing. Only when she was 53 weeks old, she got two weeks of practice and teaching in those two weeks much faster and more efficient to go on the stage than her sister in three times as long practice period, but at a younger age.

Especially behavioral genetics has yielded important insights into the influence of heredity, genes so, on human characteristics. This applies to individual differences in intelligence and other personality traits, such as the tendency to aggressive behavior or alcoholism, autism, schizophrenia, depression or, rather, the opposite, a cheerful nature. Partly under the influence of this research is going to give you the last time more weight to the role of genetic predisposition. At least more than in the 60s and 70s of the last century was the case when an optimistic belief in the perfectibility of man and the power of the environment predominated.

Cognitive development

A central theme in developmental psychology is to gain insight into features such as intelligence, thinking, memory and use of language of young and older children, and how these features evolve. For example, whether jumps or specific stages in development, or a more gradual development? To what extent are individual differences in intelligence determined by genetic or environmental factors? What factors determine children's learning? Also important is the extent to which cognitive development are determined by development of the brains. Thus, there is a gradual increase rather than number of synapses, the white matter (myelin) and glial cells. Especially the last two factors have a strong increase in brain volume in the first six years of life as a result. Also, recent research shows that the growth of the brains pass was completed in late adolescence. The latter may also provide an explanation for immature behavior during puberty and adolescence.

Formats in phases and stages, gradually or abruptly

In the study of the stages in the development is concerned with certain specific psychological characteristics in those periods, for example, characteristics of the psycho-sexual development or of cognitive development, and the mechanisms of the transition from one to the next stage. The most famous stage formats Freud with his oral, anal and genital phase in childhood; Piaget with his classification in the sensorimotor stage where babies are still followed by the stage of preoperational, concrete operational and formal-logical thinking operations. Slightly less known are the phase classifications of Americans Erik Erikson, who built upon the work of Freud and of Lawrence Kohlberg, who built upon the work of Jean Piaget. The first focused on the development of personality in relation to themselves and others (identity), especially in adolescence and early adulthood, the second was limited to the development of thinking about ethical issues (moral development).

Cognitive aging

The study of mental capacity in later life is also known under the name of psychogerontology. In general, during the course of human life cognitive functions (analogous to physical functions) is first an increase, and see at a later age give a decrease in efficiency. These changes in cognitive functions are also referred to as cognitive aging. The aging phase, especially in the sign of reduced efficiency of functions that rely on speed of information processing. On the other hand seem older to take advantage of features that depend on experience and knowledge.

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