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Human Development Paper

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There are many different theories related to human growth and development as to how and why humans do what they do. This paper will discuss in summary three theories and how each related to human growth and development and will identify one influential theorist for each. Additional this paper will include different aspects of the life span perspective followed by an explanation on how heredity and the environment influence human development. Developmental theory can be described as a systematic statement of principles and a generalization that can provide framework to understand how and why people change as they grow in age. Theorists attempt to make sense out of observations and configure a story of the human journey in life from infancy all the way through adulthood (Berger, 2010).

Sigmund Freud, John Watson, and Jean Piaget will be the influential theorist discussed in this paper. Psychoanalytic theory is a theory of human development that holds that irrational, unconscious drives and motives, often originating in childhood, underlie human behavior (Berger, 2010 p. 17). (Berger, 2010) According to Freud, development in the first six years occurs in three stages, each characterized by sexual pleasure centered on a particular part of the body (p. 18). Infants experience the oral stage, early childhood experience the anal stage, followed by preschool years in experience with the phallic stage. In middle childhood, Freud stated the latency stage takes effect, in which a silent period that ends when he or she enters the genital stage at puberty. Freud was known to be the most famous theorist who thought that the development of a child stopped after puberty and the genital stage still continued throughout he or she’s adulthood (Berger, 2010).

It is difficult to identify the philosophical roots of psychoanalytic theory, because most psychoanalytic theorists would consider their roots to be in embryology, the biological study of the embryo from conception until the organism can survive on its own (Salkind & Lee, 2005 p. 565).

Behaviorism theory is a theory of human development that studies observable behavior. Behaviorism is also called learning theory, because it describes the laws and processes by which behavior is learned (Berger, 2010 p.19). According to Watson, a well known theorist he argued that, if psychology was the way to science, psychologists should focus and examine only what one could see or measure. Watson also stated if psychologists focus on behavior, they will realize that anything can be learned (Berger, 2010 p.19). Other psychologists, found that the unconscious motives and drives that theorist Freud spoke about were impossible to verify through the scientific method. Through research of other theorist they found that the guardians approach to potty training, for example did not determine the child’s personality later in life.

(Salkind & Lee, 2005) the behavioral model makes the laws of learning and the influence of the environment paramount in the developmental process. Through such processes as classical conditioning and imitation, individuals learn what behaviors are most appropriate and lead to adaptive outcomes. Given that this model views development as a learned phenomenon, behaviors can be broken down into their basic elements (p. 566).

Cognitive theory is a theory of human development that focuses on changes in how people think over time. According to this theory, our thoughts shape our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors (Berger, 2010 p.22).

According to Berger (2010) the most famous cognitive theorist was a Swiss scientist, Jean Piaget (1896–1980). Unlike other scientists of the early twentieth century, Piaget realized that babies are curious and thoughtful, creating their own schema (Piaget’s word for minitheories) about their world (p. 22). Piaget began to observe his own infants; later he then began to study thousands of older children. From this work, Piaget developed the central thesis of cognitive theory: How people think (not just what they know) changes with time and experience, and human thinking influences human actions (Berger, 2010 p.22).

(Salkind & Lee, 2005) another characteristic of the cognitive-developmental model that sets it apart from other theoretical models is the presence of psychological structures and the way in which changes in these underlying structures are reflected in overt changes in behavior. The form these changes take depends on the individual’s developmental level. Many people categorize the cognitive– developmental perspective as an “interactionist” model because it encourages one to view development as an interaction between the organism and the environment (p. 567).

According to (Berger, 2010) life-span perspective is an approach to the study of human development that takes into account all phases of life, not just childhood or adulthood (p. 7). Life-span perspective was first set forth by Paul and Margaret Baltes and their associates (P. B. Baltes et al., 2006; Staudinger & Lindenberger, 2003), this approach is a study of human development that accounts for all phases of life, not just from childhood to adulthood. Life-span perspective is broken down into 5 merits that note the development throughout one’s life.

Berger (2010) (1) Multidirectional: Change occurs in every direction, not always in a straight line. Gains and losses, predictable growth, andunexpected transformations are evident. (2) Multicontextual: Human lives are embedded in many contexts, including historical conditions, economic constraints, and family patterns. (3) Multicultural: Many cultures—not just between nations but also within them— affect how people develop. (4) multidisciplinary: Numerous academic fields—especially psychology, biology, education, and sociology, but also neuroscience, economics, religion, anthropology, history, medicine, genetics, and many more—contribute insights. And (5) Plastic: Every individual, and every trait within each individual, can be altered at any point in the life span. Change is ongoing, although neither random nor easy (p. 15).

In conclusion theories are made up of one’s observations to the human growth and development of one or many infants through adulthood. Heredity and the environment influence human development in more ways than one. The stability of one’s personality may also be influenced on culture. The social norm, geographical location, social media, friends, family, and institutions all influence human development regardless if it is heredity or environmental.


Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S. A. (1961). Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive modes. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 3, 575-582. Salkind, N.J., & Lee, S.W. (2005). Theories of human development. Theories of Human Development, (p. 565-567), . Retrieved from http://asp6new.alexanderstreet.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/psyc/psyc.object.details.aspx?dorpID=1001021892 Berger, K.S. (2010). Invitation To Life Span. Retrieved from https://ecampus.phoenix.edu/content/eBookLibrary2/content/DownloadList.aspx?assetMetaId=926bfdb4-6de3-44e7-9e10-0d1e29c41fb7&assetDataId=a3e0acab-a61f-4b0b-9397-d6d1c0f1cd1d.

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