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The Psychology of Human Development


The learning development theories of human can be divided into two main categories, namely, stage theories and non stage theories. It is important to understand the nature and sources of growth in individuals’ skills and within such context, the theories have been divided into these two broad categories (Good& Brophy, 1990). However, it has been observed that there are many researchers and studies conducted in this area. The stage theories assert that the individuals progress through the sequence of certain transformations advancing from simple towards complex levels (Jarvis, Holford,& Griffin, 2003). Furthermore, there are number of theories, which are providing different stages for the development of human beings across their life span. It can be implied that the individuals can only develop by moving through different stages and phases (Sun, 2008).

The coursework writing service has found that the question of whether certain knowledge and skills can be acquired by individual before he has reached the specific stage (Durkin, 1995). Therefore, it has been recognized that the development in individuals is the result of gradually acquiring of skills and abilities without involving into stage developments. Additionally, the non-stage theories have played vital role in consistent human development and there are numbers of approaches implemented in this category (Jarvis, Holford,& Griffin, 2003). The purpose of presenting this paper is to illustrate the critical evaluation of stage and non-stage developmental theories of human beings. Moreover, the paper is reflecting social learning theories as a non-stage theory and Erikson's stages of psychosocial development as a stage developmental theory. These theories are providing critical evaluation and the implementation of the theories as a guidance counselor. The paper is further concluding with the findings observed from the critical evaluation of these two theories.

2.The Psychology of Human Development

This thesis writing service has found that the human development is defined as psychological and emotional changes that are observed in the perceptions of human over the span of time (Bee, 2010). Thus, the development that is extended to the end of life starts with the birth of individual with the changing condition, first as infant, adolescence and adult (Carr, 2006). The human development covers numbers of issues related to human life such as the extent to which the development takes place through the continuous accumulation of knowledge and skills. In addition, the development is studied in the context of development of motor skills, cognitive skills, problem solving skills and language acquisition (Bee, 2010).

However, the conflicts and controversies about the theories and concepts have been observed throughout the history of psychology, similarly, the major controversy observed in the development psychology is about whether development is continuous or discontinuous (Staudinger& Lindenberger, 2003). In respect of the conflict, discontinuous development is regarded as stage theory whereas continuous development is regarded as non-stage theory of development. According to stage theories of development, development is a discontinuous process, which involves different stages characterized by the qualitative distinctions in human behaviors (Craig& Dunn, 2009). On the other hand, according to non-stage theories, development does not take place in stages but rather as a continuous process, thus, human development is not divided into different stages.

Different theories have emerged favoring and arguing the human development whether the development occurs as continuous or discontinuous process. Different theories of stage theory includes Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development, Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development, James W. Fowler's stages of faith development theory and Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development (Damon& Lerner, 2006). Different theories of non-stage include social learning theory, behavioral approach theory, and the information processing approach theory (Sigelman& Rider, 2011).  

2.1 Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development

Erikson’s eight stages of psychological development is one the most important stage theory of human development, which has encapsulated the human life into eight different stages through which an individual passes from infancy to adulthood (Surhone, Timpledon,& Marseken, 2010). As identified the characteristics of stage theory of human development, Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development theory associates the change in human behavior as the result of transfer from one stage to another stage (Nevid, 2008). Thus, according to the theory, in each stage, individual builds and develops new skills after experiencing and confronting new challenges (Kail& Cavanaugh, 2008). Erikson in his theory has conditioned the transfer from one stage to another stage with the successful completion of earlier stages. Therefore, this shows that an individual should be considered to be shifted to other stage unless he has successfully accomplished the previous stages, such as an individual cannot be passed to adulthood stage unless he passes by the infant and adolescence stages (Rathus, 2007). Determining specific development in particular period of life can be helpful in understanding and estimating the speed of growth and development of individuals. Yet, it can create other considerable problems related to people’s perception about the development stages, significance to age rather than life experiences, and most importantly, it elaborates the sudden shift from one stage to other stage, which shift may occur gradually rather than sudden (Salkind, 2004).

Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development presents model for the emotional development, which an individual needs to survive in the society (Salkind, 2004). In this respect, he has accepted Freud’s theories about id, ego and superego and has incorporated them in his theory, but he has rejected his idea that human personality is merely based on the sexuality (Newman& Newman, 2007). Concerning with important role of emotional development as the basis of personality development, Erikson has significantly classified the human development into eight different stages, and according to him, the development process occurs in eight different phases of life (Sigelman& Rider, 2011). In his theory of psychosocial development, individual from his birth until death learns eight different traits that help him developing the personality including trust vs. mistrust, autonomy vs. shame or doubt, initiatives vs. guilt, industry vs. inferiority, and identity vs. role confusion, intimacy vs. isolation, generatively vs. stagnation and integrity vs. despair (Surhone, Timpledon,& Marseken, 2010).

In addition, the essentials are the age ranges that have been suggested with each attribute of developments such as the first stage known as hope is defined occurring in infants from birth to 12 or 18 months. In this stage of hope, infants develop either trust or mistrust resulting from the satisfaction of his basic needs by his parents (Staudinger& Lindenberger, 2003). Thus, if his basic needs such as food, protection and comforts are met by his parents or guardians, he will develop trust in them and vice versa. Similarly, in the second stage of will that occurs from toddlers to 3 years, the infant develops either autonomy or shame/doubt resulting from the protection given by the parents in terms of exploring the surroundings. However, as discussed above, the child develops trust and mistrust in environment depending on the satisfaction of his basic needs, the important questions rises if the trust of child changes in the other stage in case of experiencing opposite of the first stage (Rathus, 2007). Moreover, this theory confines the development occurring in one stage from occurring in another stage (Sigelman& Rider, 2011).

In the third stage named as purpose that occurs from 3 to 6 years, child learns to explore the skills that keeps him active such as zipping, tying and counting. In this stage, child determines whether he is good or bad. Moreover, at this stage, if child knows that he is unable to accomplish the task independently, he develops the shame, therefore, at this stage, child requires the attention from parents for helping in the accomplishment of action for a purpose. The fourth stage is the competence that occurs from 6 to 12 years in which child either develops industry or inferiority (Newman& Newman, 2007). Since the virtue of the stage is competence, child tries to do productive actions such as it is important to make them realize that they are doing the right thing.  The fifth stage is the fidelity that occurs from 12 t o 18 years in which child learns to identify his role such as sexual identity. Amongst all, identity development is considered as the most important development whereas this classification of development raises numerous questions regarding whether identity development occurs only in this specified stage or it can occur in other stages too (Damon& Lerner, 2006).

According to the sixth stage of development that occurs from 19 to 40 years, child becomes a person, and in this stage, he develops the virtue of intimacy or isolation. There are numerous criticisms on this stage as the theory has restrained the feelings of intimacy with the age of 19 and 40 while the feelings of love and being loved is developed in individual since he starts understanding his surroundings such as family, neighbors, and friends. According to theory, there are other two stages of development, which encompasses the development regarding generatively and integrity from 40 until death. The stages defined in the theory are of great significance whereas this classification of development raises numerous questions regarding whether the development occurs sequentially or occurs within the suggested age ranges (Nevid, 2008).

From the practical perspective as guidance counselor, Erikson’s stage theory of psychosocial development can provide important guidelines for understanding where individuals are present in their development phase as to ensure the normality of the development (Watts, Duncan,& Cockcroft, 2009). On the other hand, non-stage theory signifies no specific stage at where individual stands in his development. Moreover, through non-stage theory of development it is rather difficult to identify if the individual is behind in some aspect of development (Shaffer& Kipp, 2009). Erikson’s theory can also be used for the counseling guidance, as it provides with effective rubric for human development, which can be very beneficial in measuring the development.

2.2 Social Learning Theories

It has been observed that research on learning process consistently increasing and it is not possible to provide an integrated summary of each theory. Therefore, some authors have given these theories a common name of“Current Learning Theories School” (Burns, 1995). However, these theories as observed include modification of behavioral theories, improvement upon gestalt theories, and integration of gestalt and behavioral theories. According to Bruner (1990), it can be said that the most of the recent research on learning is conducted in such a way that they transcend the boundary of one specific area. Therefore, it has been found that concepts and disciplines of areas such as biology, neurophysiology, mathematics, physics, and chemistry are also being utilized within learning theories (Durkin, 1995).

Furthermore, it has been found that some of the learning theories such as Social Learning Theory of Bandura possess major relevance within the context of training and development. However, the Bandura’s social learning theory has observed to possess the widest acceptance due to its complete and prudent interpretation of social learning (Good& Brophy, 1990). Furthermore, the theory of Bandura explains the human behavior in terms of consistent reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, and environmental determinants. Therefore, Ertner and Newby (1993) claimed that the learning takes place as a result of both experienced responses and observing the effects on the social environment of behavior of other people.

It has been observed that the social learning theory plays an important role in trainings and development by implementing the self-managed approach through self-observation and self-monitoring. Furthermore, it is said that the world and the behavior of individual are interdependent in which any change influences each other. It can be consider that the personality is the way to interact between three elements, namely, the environment, behavior, and one’s psychological procedures. However, social learning due to this reason is often called as the bridge between behaviorist and cognitive learning theories because it contains attention, memory, and motivation (Bandura, 1997).

According to Vygotsky (1962), it can be suggested that the learning levels of children are reflected in their tasks done with help as compared to the tasks they perform on their own. Therefore, it can be said that the learning of children becomes increasingly complicated with the growth of child and the social environment is very important because it accelerates or hinders the development of the child (Bruner, 1990).

Furthermore, it has been observed by Jarvis, Harfold, and Griffin (2003) that the social nature of learning has been recognized by the huge range of learning theorists and Mead observed it as the pure social function in which the individuals can learn by sharing and communicating with others. It further implies that the qualitative nature of learning is defined by the social boundaries of the society (Jarvis, Holford,& Griffin, 2003). On the other hand, Bandura has worked within cognitive and behavioral frameworks, and he further argues that the children learn from observing other children but they will learn from the model behavior in a case when it leads them to positive results (Good& Brophy, 1990).

However, social learning theories has been used by the counselors for treating individuals with different issues such as self-efficacy theory is used for substance-abuse issues. It can be said that the fundamental responsibility of the counselor is to promote the well-being of individuals by tapping into the possibilities rather than focusing on the current negative conditions (Ertner& Newby, 1993). Some research have reflected that the strength perspective of social learning theory helped in recovering mothers and their children shift from issue-oriented to possibility-oriented thinking to deal with family issues (Durkin, 1995). Therefore, the counselors should implement the social learning theory by avoiding labeling individuals by using negative metaphors. Moreover, the counselors should listen to the personal or family history of individuals because these stories can be used to discover the latent strength of individuals (Sun, 2008).

According to Johnson (1984), it can be notified that the social learning theory approach to counselor is conceptualized in terms of teaching-learning situation in which the counseling is considered as the specific set of skills. For instance, an individual who comes to therapy for quitting smoking cigarettes may possess little confidence in his ability to quit smoking. It is the responsibility of counselor to enhance the cessation self-efficacy of individuals’ smoking. It further implies that the counselor implements certain strategies for coping with uncomfortable feelings related to the withdrawal of nicotine (Sommers-Flanagan& Sommers-Flanagan, 2004). 


Recent and consistent research on human development provides a significant platform for establishing guiding principles aimed at improving the developmental procedures of individuals. From the above discussion, it is evident from the Erik Erikson's stages of psychosocial development that the personality of human being is developed into the series of different stages. Moreover, each stage in this theory provides the sense of competence to the individual along with the element of motivation and specific actions (Damon& Lerner, 2006). Moreover, it can be concluded from the above discussion that the social learning theory of human development illustrates a summary of vast amount of knowledge regarding the laws of learning. These theories provide a conceptual framework for interpreting the learning procedures and directing the focus to the variables, which are crucial in achieving the desired goals and objectives (Jarvis, Holford,& Griffin, 2003). Therefore, it can be said that the counselor gets the underlying structure of the learner’s way of learning with the help of this theoretical knowledge to identify the specific behaviors involved in the counseling of the individual (Sommers-Flanagan& Sommers-Flanagan, 2004). Additionally, it can be concluded that the counselor should implement both categories of human development because the individuals need both types of development across the span of their life. However, it should be noted by the counselor that he should not necessarily focus on any one of the categories for treating certain issues or providing guidance to the individuals (Sun, 2008).

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