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Child Development Theories
Psychoanalytic Theory
Learning Theory
Cognitive Development Theory
Sociocultural Theory
Bioecologocial Theory
Psychoanalytic Theory
Sigmund Freud -- early 1900s
Development based on meeting needs
Id, Ego, Superego interact to meet needs
Psychosexual stages of development (oral,
anal, etc. stages)
People who don’t resolve the issue of each
stage get “stuck” in that stage for their life
Erik Erikson -- 1940s to 1960s
8 Psychosocial stages of development
Each stage is a conflict the child must resolve
How society or parents respond to the child in
each stage determines if the child succeeds
or fails to resolve the conflict of that stage
Typical Psychoanalytic comment: “(S)he must
never have learned to trust people when (s)he
was a little kid.”
Learning Theory
Classical Conditioning
Operant Conditioning
BF Skinner
Social Learning
Classical Conditioning
Pavlov believed behavior is the result of
Dog+ food=saliva
Dog+food+bell = saliva
Dog+bell = saliva
Watson believed behavior is
observable. He is called the “Father of
Operant Conditioning
BF Skinner believed
Positive Reinforcement (rewards)
increase a desired behavior
Negative Reinforcement (punishment)
decrease an undesired behavior
Rewards and punishments shape behavior
when given right after the behavior is
Social Learning
Bandura believed that people learn
behavior by observing and imitating
“Monkey see, Monkey do”
Typical Social Learning Theory
“You can teach a dog new tricks if you
show him how to do it, and reward him
each time he does a good job.”
Cognitive Development Theory
Jean Piaget, Switzerland, died in 1980’s
His theory describes how children’s
thinking and learning develops
He believed
knowledge is built by the child over time
children are active learners in their
knowledge is the result of interaction
between the child and the environment
Cognitive Development (cont.)
Knowledge is the result of interactions:
Child +
Environment +
Understanding +
Interest =
Cognitive Dev. Vocabulary
Assimilation: adding new info to current
Schema: knowledge about something; a
child’s idea of a task, concept, item, etc.
Accomodation: incorporating new info
into current info = Learning
Stages of Cognitive Development
Stages of Cognitive Development
Stage 1: Sensorimotor
Birth to age 2
Learns through the senses, body and
Stage 2: Pre-Operational
Ages 2 - 6
Child expresses and explores learning by
using symbols (words, pictures, toys)
Very basic logical thought (when... then...)
Sensori-Motor Stages (cont.)
Stage 3: Concrete Operational,
Ages 7 - 12
Learns by using logic, concrete examples,
and can think about what is being said
Stage 4: Formal Operational
Ages 13 - adult
Learns by using logic, symbols, if-then
concepts, hypothetical thinking, conceptual
Sociocultural Theory
Theorist: Lev Vygotsky
Social elements plus Cultural elements
Beliefs for the social element:
Knowledge is built in steps over time
Social interaction is a critical element
All knowledge is socially constructed
Beliefs for the Cultural element
Cultural information is passed through
language and the use of language
Children progress from a less skilled ability
to a higher skilled ability with the help of an
The language, thinking and thoughts of a
child are the product of many interactions
between a child and their elders within their
Sociocultural Theory Vocabulary
Knowledge is socially constructed by the
child and others within a culture
The ways a culture is transferred from one
generation to the next
Sociocultural Vocabulary (cont.)
Zone of Proximal Development
The gap between dependent performance
(doing a new task with help)
and independent performance
(doing the task without help)
ride bike with
mom and ZONE of Proximal Development
training wheels
ride a bike
alone, without
falling off
Common Statements Based
on Sociocultural Theory
“She will learn to read if you give her
some help to learn more words and
sounds, then pretty soon she will read
on her own.”
“If you help him define the problem,
then he can probably start to solve it.”
“A child can’t automatically know how to
behave ... you have to tell her and show
her what the family expects.”
Bioecological Theory
Uri Bronfenbrenner
Believed that
5 interacting systems influence a child’s
The child participates in each system
The quality of each system either
enhances or interferes with the child’s
Bioecological Theory Vocabulary
Microsystem: Closest to the child family, school, neighborhood, church
Mesosystem: relationships within the
immediate environment - who lives with
child, who is the teacher, what is the
neighborhood like?
Exosystem: social settings that
indirectly affect the child - parent’s work,
neighborhood safety, services, media
Bioecological Vocabulary (cont.)
Macrosystem: the culture, values,
beliefs, attitudes - a value for family? a
work ethic? a respect for elders? pride
in possessions? ethnic &
socioeconomic factors?
Chronosystem: time, the changes
over time in all systems - job change,
family change, death/moving, school
change, new sibling, getting older and
having more responsibility
Bioecological System Beliefs:
The quality of the systems and people
affect the child’s development,
The characteristics of the child affect
other’s perceptions of the child, which
then affects the child’s development
for example: the study of two teachers and
two levels of classes getting mixed up....