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Child Development and Theories

It is important that you have a strong theoretical base from which to build your knowledge of child development.

This discussion will be centered on two media presentations ("Stages, Milestones, and Domains" and "Human Development Theorists")

Choose two theories relating to child development to compare and contrast, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Be sure to consider how culture and context interact with these theories. Apply these theories to real-life examples to illustrate your points.

Introduction to the Theorists and Theory Behind Human Behavior

Carol Gilligan
Internationally acclaimed psychologist and prolific writer, Carol Gilligan was born in New York City. Gilligan's primary focus has been the moral development of girls and women. She has proposed that woman make their moral decisions based on caring for other people and expecting others to care for them. Gilligan is most well-known for the text that evolved from her research, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Gilligan is currently a full-time professor at New York University after teaching at Harvard Graduate School of Education for 35 years. She has been instrumental in research on adolescence, moral development, women's development and conflict resolution. As a feminist, scholar, professor, and author, she has helped to form a new direction for women.

Gilligan's Three Stages of Moral Development

Gilligan has helped to form a new psychology for women by listening to them and rethinking the meaning of self and selfishness.
She asked four questions about women's voices and their moral development:
1. Who is speaking?
2. In what body?
3. Telling what story?
4. What cultural framework of the story is presented?
Gilligan outlines three stages of moral development progressing from selfish, to social or conventional morality, and to post-conventional or principled morality. She believes that women must learn to care for their own interests and the interests of others. Gilligan believes that women hesitate to judge because they see the complexities of relationships.

Lawrence Kohlberg
Lawrence Kohlberg is known for his research on moral development and his stage theory of moral development, justice, and rights. Based on Piagetian theory, Kohlberg conducted research that lead to the first major theory of moral development. Kohlberg viewed the child as a moral philosopher and argued that children's moral reasoning was influenced more by emotional relationships, such as empathy, love, respect, and attachment. This was in contrast to a system of reinforcement or a system of reward and punishment.
Kohlberg's Six Stages of Moral Development
Level I: Pre-conventional Morality (age 4 - 10)
Moral value resides in a person's own needs and wants.
Stage 1: Obedience and Punishment Orientation—Individual's moral judgment is motivated by a need to avoid punishment.
Example: I do not say bad words because if I do, mommy will get mad at me.
Stage 2: Instrumental-Relativist Orientation—Individual's moral judgment is motivated by a need to satisfy own desires.
Example: For a cookie, I will pick up my toys.

Level II: Conventional Morality (age 10 - 13)
Moral values reside in performing good or right roles, in maintaining the convention order, and in pleasing others.
Stage 3: "Good Boy/Nice Girl" Orientation—Individual's moral judgment is motivated by a need to avoid rejection, disaffection, or disapproval from others.
Example: I do not eat in class because my teacher does not like it.
Stage 4: Law and Order Orientation—Individual's moral judgment is motivated by a need to not be criticized by a true authority figure.
Example: I do not talk during a fire drill because that is one of the rules.
Level III: Post-conventional Morality (adolescence - adulthood)
Moral values reside in principles, separate from those who hold moral values in principles, separate from those who enforce them, and apart from a person's identification with the enforcing group. Most people never reach this last level.
Stage 5: Legalistic Orientation—Individual's moral judgment is motivated by community respect for all, respecting social order, and living under legally determined laws.
Example: I pay taxes because it is the law.
Stage 6: Universal, Ethical Orientation—Individual's moral judgment is motivated by one's own conscience.
Example: I pay taxes not because it is the law, but because it is the right thing to do.


Solution Preview

Hi student,

was unclear how the first part of this point related to Child Development theories. I came to the conclusion that you were making references to the milestones in development theories (hope I was right). Both Kohlberg's and Gilligan theories were on moral development for a man and a woman/ In fact, Gilligan rendered her response to Kohlberg who wrote on the moral development of a man's life cycle; Gilligan responded by critiquing his theory as not being inclusive of a woman's moral development. As the theories of Kohlberg and Gillian relate to Child Development theories, according to Santrock (2006) "the study of moral behavior is emphasized by both behavioral and socio-cognitive theories. The processes of reinforcement, punishment and imitation are used to explain children's moral behavior" (Santrock, 2006, p. 260).

(1) Choose two theories relating to child development to compare and contrast, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Santrock (2006) points to three philosophical views that have endured throughout history regarding child development: (a) the goal of child rearing, (b) childhood experiences for optimal adult development (e.g., at birth each child is born as a blank slate (tabula rasa), and (c) children are innately good (p. 6). Based on these philosophical views, children acquire special skills during periods of growth and change (p. 6). Discussed here are two childhood development theories that describes the biological, and socio-emotional changes of children during their developmental stages.

(A) Theory of Mind

Theory of mind is defined as "the capacity to explain and predict human behavior in terms of mental states (Wimmer & Perner, 1983, as cited in Pavarin, Hollanda, & Hawk, 2013). The theory has been widely used to describe the social-cognitive development of children. According to Pavarin et al., much of the research on this theory is focused on children's understanding of false beliefs during their preschool years.

*Pre-school stage

Stage one —theory of mind is an important developmental process that leads children to a better understanding of themselves and of other people of them.
Stage two—Children gradually develop important skills to recognize the relationship between desires and emotions ...

Solution Summary

This solution describes two Child Development Theories, and discusses how the theories interact with culture and environment to produce an effect.