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    Theories and Influences on Human Development

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    Outline and discuss the theoretical perspectives have guided lifespan development. Which perspectives make the most sense to you? Why?

    Describe the bioecological approach to development. List and discuss the advantages to taking this approach to development.

    Cite specific examples from your own experience to substantiate the advantages you note.

    Explain the key aspects of individualism and collectivism and give examples (in addition to the ones listed in the text) of cultures using each. Point out the advantages and disadvantages of each.

    How do the environment and genetics work together to determine human characteristics? Give specific examples.

    Describe the influence of both the mother and the father on prenatal development. Explain how each affects the impact of teratogens as well as other aspects of the environment.

    I need help with these questions to get me started e.g., ideas, infromation, examples, etc.). Please provide references. Thank you.

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    Solution Preview

    Interesting questions! Let's take a closer look through discussion and various research sources, which you can draw on for your final responses.


    1. Outline and discuss the theoretical perspectives have guided lifespan development. Which perspectives make the most sense to you? Why?

    There are three primary theoretical perspectives with developmental psychology:
    · The structuralist perspective,
    · The information processing/cognitive perspective, and
    · The life-span developmental/developmental dimensions perspective.

    Each of these perspectives and their respective worldview has generated a family of theories. For example, the theories of Erikson (1982), Kohlberg (1963), and early Piaget (1950) are more consistent with the structuralist perspective (organism world view); those of Bandura and Walters (1963) and Newell and Simon (1972) are consistent with the learning and information processing perspectives, respectively (mechanistic world view); and Riegel (1976) and Baltes et al., (1980) are consistent with the life-span developmental/developmental dimensions perspective (contextual world view).

    1. The structuralist perspective: Biological or organism worldview

    The structuralist perspective to the study of human development is consistent with the organismic worldview.

    · First, the structuralist perspective maintains that development consists of a series of stages through which the individual progresses. Thus, the family of structuralist theories is often called stage theories. Second, these stages are qualitatively different than the previous stages. Development has resulted in a change in the structure as opposed to just behavioral change. Thus, the organism is viewed as active. Third, this change in structure results in a change of function. Change comes from within as opposed to being in response to external forces. Fourth, change in the individual is described as discontinuous. The stages are qualitatively different and thus, they do not merely represent cumulative change. Lastly, the perspective is holistic. The individual as a whole is not equal to the sum of their parts. Therefore, the structuralist perspective is consistent with the five developmental issues as they relate to the organismic perspective. As a case in point, let's look at an example.

    . Early Piagetian theory (1950) can be described according to its structural aspects. These general stages and structural changes are sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete-operations, and formal operations. Progression through these stages is due to biological adaptation. The child's cognitive abilities evolve gradually in qualitatively different steps, which are tied to neurological structural change. This is the result of countless assimilations and accommodations. As such, the mind is not passive but active (criteria 2 - structural change). Middle childhood and adolescence-adulthood can respectively be described, according to Piaget (1950), as concrete-operational and formal-operational. The distinction between the two is not just age but includes differences in distinguishing the real versus the possible, the method adolescent versus the middle adult uses in solving problems (empirico-inductive versus the hypothetico-deductive, respectively), and the way children and adolescents construct representations of the external world (intrapropositional vs. interpropositional, respectively). Thus, structural change results in changes in how the individual functions in the world (criteria 3 - structure/function). It also demonstrates that the stages are qualitatively different as opposed to quantitatively different (criteria 4 - discontinuity). Lastly, Piaget was concerned with the entire structure of thought and how the individual parts related to the whole. Thus, the theory is holistic (criteria 5 - holism). Early Piaget (1950) therefore represents an example of the relationship of the structuralist perspective to the organismic worldview

    (Source: http://www.webster.edu/~woolflm/theories.html).

    2. The information processing perspective: Mechanistic worldview

    The information processing perspective is consistent with the mechanistic worldview. This can be demonstrated by an examination of the five developmental issues as they relate to information processing and the mechanistic world view. First, the information processing system does not support the concept of stages. If used at all, it is only as a descriptive term. Second, change occurs in response to external forces and not due to changes in internal structure. Thus, the individual is viewed primarily as reactive as opposed to active. Third, change is viewed as quantitative in response to external forces. No change in structure is theorized to occur. As change is quantitative it is also proposed to be multidirectional. Fourth, as change is quantitative and multidirectional, it is also proposed to be continuous. Last, the information processing perspective is an elementaristic perspective. It views the organism as a machine, with the whole being equal to the sum of the parts.

    Therefore, the information processing perspective is consistent with the mechanistic worldview. To further demonstrate this consistency, the information-processing model of cognitive development will be described in greater detail below.
    The information-processing model of cognitive development compares the complex cognitive system in humans to that of a computer (Newell & Simon on, 1972). The computer consists of hardware (the machine itself) and software (the programs used to instruct the machine). This is comparable to the mind as hardware and the learned strategies of processing information as software (criteria 5 - elementarism). Information external to the system is entered into the system, can be processed and encoded, and retrieved from memory for use when needed. This input/output does no result in structural change (criteria 2 - antecedent/consequent). Information in the system builds upon itself, such that some information can not be used by the system until other information is present. Therefore, change is quantitative in response to external input and output (criteria 3 - behavioral change). The study of memory and learned strategies examines the parts of functioning memory and is reductionistic (criteria 5 - elementarism). Information processing describes development as gradual and cumulative. The "hardware" remains the same. Only the information that is stored in the system and the programs themselves are changed as a result of learning. Thus, the information processing perspective is continuous (criteria 4 - continuity; criteria 5 - elementarism). Finally, the concept of stages is not an integral part of the information processing perspective (criteria 1 - no stages). Thus, it is clear that the information processing perspective is based upon a mechanistic worldview.

    (Source: http://www.webster.edu/~woolflm/theories.html).

    3. The developmental dimensions and the life-span developmental perspective: Contextual worldview

    For example, "the developmental ...

    Solution Summary

    By addressing the questions, this solution addresses aspects of psychology and human behavior and biology e.g. theoretical perspectives have guided lifespan development, bioecological approach to development, aspects of individualism and collectivism, impact of genetics and environment (e.g. family, etc.) on human behavior, and others. Supported by examples and research.