There are many different Theories of human development. Each theory provides a framework of general principles that can be used to interpret our observations. George Boeree (1997, p.
1) states ‘theory is a model of reality that helps us to understand, explain, predict and control that reality’. The interpretation of human development theories varies from different prospectives, but they all attempt to provide a basic understanding of individual development and behavior.These theories are loosely grouped together in four main categories, Psychoanalytical (social and personality theories), Cognitive (the mind and its importance), Behavioural (external factors) and Humanistic (Individual potential) concepts. All of the theories have their own strengths and weakness, along with their own possible application. Each suggests instructional and guidance processes most apt to enhance the way they go through dramatic changes on the way from baby to adulthood. Comparisons, contrasts, and criticisms are expressed on models established by notables as Piaget, Erickson, Bruner, Maslow, Freud and Rogers.When taken as a body of knowledge, each model affords a part of the entire panorama of human development and addresses the vast impact it has on the behavior and development of the individual.
Sigmund Freud (1856 -1939), the fore father of classical psychoanalytical theory, emphasizes that our actions are the results of ideas that arise in our unconscious level of awareness. Freud proposed that essential childhood development needed three stages to complete which are characterized by sexual interest and pleasure on particular parts of the body.Berger (1998, p32) states ‘in infancy, it is the mouth (the oral stage), early childhood it is the anus (anal stage), and in the preschool years it is the genitalia (the phallic stage)’. Freud claimed that the satisfaction associated with the three stages is essential in major development of the human identity. Erik H. Erikson’s neo – psychoanalytical theory is based on eight stages of development, called “the psychosocial stages”.
Wu (2005, p. 1) states ‘each stage is characterised by a different psychological crisis, which must be resolved by the individual before the individual can move on to the next stage’.Stages start with birth and continue up until the time of death. The psychological crisis that affects development include, trust Vs mistrust, Autonomy Vs Doubt, Initiative Vs Guilt, Competency Vs Inferiority, Identity Vs Role Confusion, Intimacy Vs Isolation, Generativity Vs Stagnation and Integrity Vs Despair Important.
(Boeree 1997, p. 34). Behavioural theorists are also known as Learning theorists, there main beliefs lies in behaviour that can be measured or observed. They are especially interested in why certain behaviours exist, and the events or catalyst that produced such behaviour in the first place.There is an emphasis on ‘conditioning’ behaviour, and a belief there is an association between a stimulus and certain responses, like sympathy morning sickness or headaches.
Operant conditioning is where a person learns that a type of behaviour produces particular consequences, if the consequence is desired; the behaviour is often repeated like the reward-punishment system. Behavioural modeling ideals that we learn to behave in a certain fashion by patterning our own behaviour on what we observe others to be doing. Ivan Pavlov, B. F. Skinner and Albert Bandura provide a basic framework for behaviourist models.
With this view all development is a process of learning. Ideas that behavioural reactions are the results of stimuli, namely events or experiences. It should be noted that some responses are automatic like blinking to bright light and salivation when smelling food. There is the notion that any behaviour that seems to be deeply rooted or inborn may be results of unconscious learning (Berger 1998, p36) Jean Piaget (1898 – 1980), was considered a major pioneer in cognitive theory. With the understanding of how people think it also reveals how they interpret experiences and form an understanding of the world.
These understandings or expectations form attitudes, beliefs and in turn behaviour. Piaget argued that at each stage people develop ways of thinking about ideas and objects. Learning is accomplished by processes of organization and adaption. Berger (1998, p. 43) states the four stages to the cognitive theory. ‘Birth to age 2 in which infants use their senses and motor skills to understand their world, second stage from ages 2 to 6 in which children are able to think symbolically and understand some features of past and present.Third stage from ages 7 to 11 in which school age children think in concrete and real thoughts, they are unable to grasp abstract situations.
Age 12 onwards is known for hypothetical, logical and abstract thought’. The notion exists that all people continually attempt to make sense of new experiences by reconciling them with their existing understandings. The other side of the cognitive theory is the perception of a “Processing Theory” which likens human thinking the same way that a computer processes information. They are able to access and store huge amounts of information, and analyze situations in terms of problem solving skills.The attempt to understand the mental structures and strategies of thought, and to appreciate the internal need for new ones when old ideas become out dated, is the key concept of the cognitive mode of thought (Berger 1998, p 43). The Humanistic approach is often based on reactions to psychoanalytical and behaviorist theories, the most common belief is that the answers are to be found in consciousness or experience. There are two streams of Humanistic behaviour, Proper as represented by Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers and George Kelly.
The second is existential as depicted by Ludwig Binswanger and Viktor Frankl (Turner; Helms1995, p54). Turner and Helms (1995, p. ) emphasizes the individual’s uniqueness, personal potential and inner drives. A persons self concept and maximization of human potential are paramount concerns of this school of thought. The idea that people are not bound by taught behaviour or by the environment that they are free and creative and capable of growth and self-actualization. Abraham Maslow born in New York in 1908 is considered to have developed the humanistic theory. There are two main theories confined in the school of thought.
Maslow’s heirachy of needs, a concept that people have less obvious needs than biological or psychological needs, the need for uniqueness and full development of self, the idea that needs are met on the basis of priority, from food and security to love and then esteem. Roger’s self-concept theory ‘maintains that people can become fully functioning human beings only when they are given the freedom and emotional support that enables them to grow psychologically’ (Turner& Helms1995, p55). That people have two parts, the ones we are and the ones we would like to be.