Social science and humanities
Psychology – Development in Childhood and Adolescence
Theories of Social Development Essay
Coleen Marie Roberts (01302371)
Word Count: 1650 Words
Theories of Social Development
McLeod (2012) suggests that the practice of developmental psychology only became a discipline after the industrial revolution (18th century). In the need to create an educated workforce, a person’s childhood was considered a prominent and influential stage in their later life. Originally developmental psychologists conducted studies on children’s minds to maximise the effects of education and learning. “Charles Darwin was one of the early pioneers in the study of children” (Keenan and Evans 2009, P.5) Today, understanding development is the “scientific study of changes in human behaviours and mental activities as they occur over a lifetime” (Bukatko and Daehler 2004, P.4). Development occurs emotionally, cognitively, biologically and socially. Most developmental psychologists limit their research to the developments which have a direct link to the changes in behaviour structures. The main purpose of studying development is to further the knowledge about how and why development evolves over the entire life span and the differences and similarities in development across individuals. Emotional attachment is a major development milestone acknowledged by psychologists in how a child develops, a child’s early attachments play an important role in moulding their social lives. Many developmental psychologists/behaviourists have produced theories that explain human development and behaviour, plus its direct link to attachment.
According to Shaffer (1996) attachment is an emotionally close bond between two people witnessed in their behaviour, normally characterized by mutual affection and a desire to conserve closeness. However, attachment may not always be a two way commodity. Sometimes one could have an attachment to another although it may not be reciprocated. In an attempt to measure the effects of attachment on social development, psychologists proposed two main theories about how attachments are formed. Ironically both major theories are based upon the behaviour of animals, also known as Ethology. Ethology acknowledges the survival or adaptive behaviour of animals and the similarities between human behaviour and that of other species. Konrad Lorenz is infamous for his observations of animals and discovered that a new born animal could form an attachment to any animal present, even when the animal is not the same species. Lorenz (1935) conducted a study using Greylag Geese were he hatched eggs using an incubator. The other half were hatched by their mother. The geese formed attachments to the first thing they saw once hatched, either the goose or Lorenz. When placed back together they had no recognition of their real mother and the geese hatched by Lorenz returned to him, known as ‘Imprinting’, a pre-programmed instinct. This ensures that young geese stay close to the mother for food, protection and security. Berk (2010) suggests that when the mother is absent during an early, restricted period of development, known as the ‘Critical Period’, the baby will imprint on something resembling the mother and form an attachment.
McLeod (2007) suggests imprinting studies influenced psychologist Bowlby to apply the ethological approach, when trying to understand human behaviour in his ‘Evolution Theory’. In particular, the relationships between a child and its primary carer. He discovered that, like animals, children display innate behaviours such as crying and smiling, called social releasers, in order to create important emotional / physical attachments. The first exposure to social releasers is when a baby is born. Bowlby believes that children form one social bond with the carer that is most