Human Development Theories Analysis


There are many theories that have been developed over the years in order to help us understand how and why we develop as we do. While some aspects may appear odd and limited by today’s standards there are undeniably at least some parts of these theories which still hold significant relevance. Whether we agree with all that is put forth by these various theorists or not they still remain influential in the way in which we make sense of the way we develop.

Get your customized and 100% plagiarism-free paper on any subject done
with 15% off on your first order

This essay will evaluate and analyze various human developmental theories put forth by some of Psychology’s most renowned psychologists it will also discuss how these various developmental theories influence the way that we think about human development while questioning their adequacy in describing how and why we develop in the way that we do.

The value of human development theories goes undisputed; they offer a systematic means to understand the processes that define our existence. They provide a way to categorized data, compare behavior and identify specific patterns. These theories enable us to make generalizations about what it is that we understand. As such they are the basis of recognizing the differences and variations in development and behavior and thus enable us to make decisions appropriate to the stages that children are going through. Theories also provide a means of gaining insight into future events thus enabling us to anticipate future occurrences (Goldhaber, 295-301 ).Having an understanding of how we develop can ensure a child is nurtured in the best way according to their culture and family situation (Smith, 115-18).

Erikson’s Theories

Erikson began as one of Freud’s followers. However he disagreed with Freud’s rigid psychosexual stages of development and Freud’s claim that development was limited to early life experiences and so formulated ideas of his own thus becoming a respected theorist of human development in his own right. (Crain, 251-54) Although his views differed somewhat, Erikson still based his theories on Freud’s discontinuous psychodynamic conceptions with his first three stages being developed from Freud’s theory (Bouffard, 171-86). Erikson’s theory is notably implemental for understanding the variances in development among different cultures, as is his view that we continue to change and develop throughout life (Bouffard, 171-86).

Freud and Erikson were similar in their theories of understanding development and their teachings have enabled practitioners and laymen alike to build on their theories and develop new understandings on development. While perhaps not the most influential figures on human development in this present time Freud and Erikson’s contribution was nevertheless fundamental in the way that we look at how we develop (Crain, 251-54).

Erikson placed a much greater emphasis on cultural and societal influences than did Freud. Drawing on the thoughts of Erick Fromm, Erikson felt a person’s goal in life was to find a sense of ‘identity’ within society. (Coles, 113-116) His own personal circumstances would almost definitely have influenced his opinion on this matter. Developing from his belief that the search for identity was the central motivating factor in human development, Erikson introduced the idea of ‘identity crisis.’ (Erikson, 88-92) Having worked with veterans of the Second World War, Erikson observed that many of these men displayed signs of what he described as loss of identity. The psychological symptoms shown by these men were very similar in nature to those he had witnessed among adolescents. He eventually concluded that a problem of crisis of identity is prevalent throughout our lives but not usually to the extent of the situations already mentioned. The notions of identity and problems of identity crisis became an intrical component of Erikson’s theory.

Our academic experts can deliver a custom essay specifically for you
with 15% off for your first order

There are other ideas introduced by Erikson that differentiated him from Freud. Erikson placed a much greater emphasis on the Ego than did his master. Freud’s Ego had a primary purpose, to defend and inhibit, whereas Erikson’s Ego was more in line with Neo-Freudian concept of the Ego. This Ego integrated and organized the personality. Indeed, generally Erikson felt that the Ego had a more significant role in the make-up of the unconscious than Freud would ever have acknowledged.

Another vital variation that exists between the two theorists is blatantly evident in their methodologies. Freud’s theory was developed as a result of his study of a very small and specific group. He arrived at his judgments largely as a consequence of his work with the mentally ill in Vienna. His patients were typically upper middle class women and therefore, it is difficult to conceive how he could maintain to have developed a theory that claimed to encapsulate the whole of humanity.

Erikson’s approach is very different. From his days in Vienna, working with Anna Freud he had began the use of observation, particularly in regard to children’s play. He had also moved away from the traditional Freudian method of almost exclusively studying those who were ill. His use of cross-cultural studies was another serious departure from what had previously been the norm. Another process, which came to be identified with Erikson, was his development of psychohistories of renowned individuals, both past and present. Freud and Erikson refers to the structure of their developmental theories. The most obvious and clearly defined differences between the theories are their duration. (Miller, 156-63)

Freud’s theory of psychosexual development covers only a short period of the life span, from birth to adolescence. His notions and beliefs place little if any great emphasis on the remainder of an individual’s life. In fact, Freud’s theory would actually suggest the personality is largely developed in the first four to five years of life, during his ‘Polymorphous Perverse Stages’ of development. The climax of which is brought about with the Oedipus complex in males and the Electra (Negative or Feminine) Complex in females.

The duration of Erikson’s theory is much more substantial. It in fact covers the complete life span. He believed that we as beings continued to develop throughout our lives. Much as Viorst felt that our search for inner-freedom was a lifelong dynamic struggle, so too Erikson felt our psychological journey continued for the duration of our lives. (Erikson, 128-33) His theory encompassed eight stages as opposed to Freud’s five. Erikson referred to these stages as the ‘eight ages of man.’ As his theory extended over the entire life of an individual, his students jokingly nicknamed it the ‘womb to tomb theory.’ (Erikson, 63-70) As previously mentioned, Erikson’s theory inherited its framework from Freud’s. He felt it necessary however, to add a psychosocial aspect to Freud’s beliefs. For example, Erikson would have seen the toddler’s oral pleasure when making verbal sounds in a psychosexual nature like Freud. However, he would also have viewed this phenomenon in a psychosocial way, due to the infants increased ability to communicate with his parents and the wider society.

We’ll deliver a high-quality academic paper tailored to your requirements

With regard to physical maturation, Erikson felt the child would face both personal and societal repercussions. If we look closer at the oral stage, we see how speech enhancement gives the infant the heightened sense of independence, and personal growth. However, Erikson would maintain that this comes at a price. With this boost of sovereignty, there ensues an escalating burden placed on the infant from those around them. This element is extremely consequential, as it underlines the strong relationship Erikson envisaged between the individual and his environment. The pure fact an infant, for example, is passing through a particular stage of development has to be seen through a wider lens. Erikson would emphasize the influence of those around them, and more specifically how they themselves are dealing with their own particular stage of development. Basically, all human interaction is intensely related.

The procedure involved in Erikson’s developmental theory is based on the Epigenetic Principle. The basic thrust of this principle is that we as beings are preordained to mature in a certain way and maturational changes occur in a precise order, at relatively predetermined ages in our lives. At birth we leave the security of the womb, and become part of the interpersonal society into which we were born. Erikson would contend that how well we advance through our somewhat predestined path is greatly affected by the opportunities and possibilities offered to us within our culture.

Built within this progression of maturation the individual must overcome a number of psychosocial crises. They must adapt to their expanding circle of critical associations with others and must learn and adjust to the rules of their particular society. In regard to the crises in which they must overcome during each juncture of development, Erikson integrates his theory much more than Freud, although certainly not as closely as Piaget. Although the emphasis is placed on initiative in his third period of development, Erikson believed it was also present during other stages as well. He certainly would propose that it was present in the period preceding and following its most emphasized stage. Erikson believed that the advances made within one stage of development would be incorporated and built upon in subsequent stages.

Each crisis in psychosocial development involves both positive and negative outcomes. It is imperative for the individual to get the balance right in order to successfully overcome the unique crisis points. In his first stage for example, ‘Basic Trust vs. Mistrust,’ Erikson would argue that it is essential to have a certain degree of mistrust to warn of potential dangers for instance. Nonetheless, to enable us to thrive as individuals living within a society, trust must outweigh mistrust. This stage of development spans the period from birth to approximately the age of one. Erikson emphasizes the mother child relationship during this period. The child’s trust in the mother’s ability to provide the things he needs is paramount. A child, who feels at ease in this regard, in getting the things he needs such as food, warmth and comfort, will develop within itself a willingness to support and trust in others. The child’s faith in this relationship will also equip them to acquire religious faith in the ‘Cosmic Order.’ Remembering the fact that Erikson is a social theorist, the part the mother plays is also highlighted. A mother who has conviction in her own ability as a parent is much more likely to nurture a child who is trusting. Failure of an infant to develop a trusting personality will normally culminate in them being frustrated, withdrawn and lacking in confidence as adults.

The second stage of Erikson’s theory is called ‘Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt’ which runs from more or less the age of two to the age of three. During this period the infant advances greatly physically. They learn how to walk, talk and are capable of anal control. With this progression there inevitably becomes more physical and psychological independence. However, this is not always such a positive thing. A child may fail in their endeavors at anal control and a loss of self-esteem may be the outcome. With their new found limited sovereignty and their ability to have an obvious degree of control over their decision making, they may find it troublesome to contend with their own powerful and violent drives. They may also discover that their search for a heightened sense of independence is thwarted by the supremacy of their parents.

When autonomy does not win out, shame and doubt result in the child. In the main this is the result of an under developed sense of trust stemming from the first period of maturation. Alternatively, trust may have been established during the first stage of development but it has since given way to mistrust as a consequence of a failure in their attempts at achieving independence. This is particularly momentous in the realm of toilet training. In many circumstances foundering in this regard may be contingent on stern or overly severe parenting.

The psychosocial implications of this juncture in growth are holding on or letting go. Lack of success here can lead to a compulsive, or rigid character, what Freud termed an ‘Anal Personality.’ The rules and guidelines introduced to the infant during this stage (Where in the house they can go, where and when they can use the toilet, etc.) give the maturing child an idea of the real world and its many laws and regulations. Erikson believed the society in which we live is enormously relevant to our capacity to nurture our perception of independence and autonomy. In a well-structured and successfully functioning society, the autonomy established during this period of development will continue to evolve for the duration of our lives.

The third stage of Erikson’s theory corresponds with Freud’s phallic stage and is possibly the most significant period of development for both men. In this stage, Erikson believes the infant begins to examine what sort of person he is and what sort of individual he wishes to become. For Erikson, the answer is obvious. They want to become just like their parents. They are powerful, beautiful and like Freud’s estimates of them, very possibly dangerous. Erikson basically accepts Freud’s understanding of this stage particularly in regards to the Oedipus and Electra complex. However, as we would expect his focus is more on the social implications more so than the sexual. Up to this period of development, Freud and Erikson would see both male and female infants as somewhat gender neutral. However with the discovery of the fact that one either possesses or does not have a penis everything changes.

It was Freud’s belief that it was not uncommon for young boys to successfully complete this period of growth. The triumphant fulfillment of which resulted in the creation of the unconscious, and the development of the Super-Ego. With the establishment of a powerful Super-Ego, there followed a capability for considerable moral development. The most significant result of this being the creation of a sense of justice. For Freud, and we must assume for Erikson, the outlook was not so bright for young girls as few if any, overcame the challenges of this stage. The result of which was often Hysteria.

Erikson as we might suspect took a broader view of things, and considered the social implications of this period as well as the sexual. In this stage the emphasis is on ‘Initiative versus Guilt.’ The psychosocial modality of this period is making, forming and carrying out goals. The advancements physically and intellectually greatly aid this process. A child who successfully overcomes the challenges offered by this stage develops a sense of initiative, were as those who fail in their endeavors are left feeling a sense of guilt due to the establishment of an overwhelmingly severe conscience. Another detrimental effect that may arise out of this stage, according to Erikson, is the development of an overly competitive individual who is never content unless competing with others.

As previously mentioned, Erikson developed a theory that encapsulated the entire lifespan. His fourth and fifth stages of growth, ‘Industry vs. Inferiority’ and ‘Identity and Repudiation vs. Identity Diffusion’ corresponded somewhat with Freud’s ‘Latency’ and ‘Genital’ stages of development. However, whereas Freud’s theory terminated at puberty, Erikson saw psychological growth continuing for the duration of a person’s life. Erikson added additional stages to those proposed by his master. ‘Intimacy and Solidarity vs. Isolation’ encompassed development during young adulthood. ‘Generativity vs. Stagnation and Self-Absorption’ is how he defined progression during middle adulthood. Finally, ‘Integrity vs. Despair’ encapsulated his beliefs on late adulthood.

In evaluating Erikson’s theory, one cannot help but recognize the many positive aspects he introduced to psychoanalytical thinking. By widening its base, he greatly increased its credibility and acceptance. The broadening of the psychoanalytical framework, helped in its success in counseling and therapy particularly in adolescents. His emphasis on cultural factors and the impression he gave of universe in which all beings are somehow interlocked was also a new and attractive addition to psychoanalytical thought. That fact that his theory saw psychological growth as being a life long endeavor, and not something that was relatively complete at puberty, and after which we have little, if any control, helped ensure its acceptance.

On a more skeptical note, Erikson’s theory is comprised very loosely of observations, generalizations, and abstract claims. The major underlining problem for him is his weak methodology. Erikson’s theory cannot be measured under controlled experimental conditions and therefore for many within the psychological community in particular, it lacks legitimacy.

Erik Erikson is a psychoanalytically oriented stage theorist who, following Freud, proposes a stage theory of human emotional development. But, in addition, within each of the eight stages of development that Erikson specifies, we shall see the inclusion of an emotional crisis in development which is conceptualized in differential terms. We shall see, then, that Erikson combines both stage and differential concepts of development and provides a theoretical account of the development of human beings across their entire life span. In other words, Erikson sees development within each of the eight stages of his theory as involving a person’s location along a stage-specific differential dimension; in addition, the location one attains on a dimension within any later stage of development is influenced by one’s location(s) in previous stages.

Of course, Erikson’s primary use of differential notions as theoretical constructs does not obviate the fact that research may be derived from his theory. Moreover, this research is also of a differential character; that is, the research derived from Erikson’s stage-differential theory leads empirically to the differential categorization of people into subgroups on the basis of status attributes such as “stage” and/or sex. Thus, after we review the features of Erikson’s stage differential theory, we shall consider several lines of differential research derived from it. It is useful to begin our discussion by reference to some of the events in Erikson’s life.

Maslow’s Theories

Of all the psychologists and their theories, the most interesting is That of Abraham Maslow. His hierarchy of needs is real and that people do fall in one of the levels of his pyramid. Most of us start at a bottom level in life and strive to reach a higher level of financial and educational stability along with a satisfying career. We all have basic needs in life and once we have these we climb the ladder to higher achievements in life. Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who studied the Humanistic aspects of psychology. He became interested in psychology after learning about John Watson and his contributions to the behavioral theory. In 1943, Maslow created a pyramid he called the Hierarchy of Needs. This pyramid was based on a person’s basic lower needs to the higher needs in one’s life. (Maslow, 137-40)

Maslow disapproved of behaviorism and later on took a similar direction as Freud and his writings. He accepted the existence of the unconscious but, he opposed Freud’s conviction that the greater part of who we are is hidden past our consciousness. Maslow thought that for the most part we are aware of our actions and that without impediments in our life that we all could become psychologically fit people with a greater understanding of whom we are and better able to accept the world we live in. In areas that Freud saw pessimism or negative behavior in a person’s life, Maslow looked for more positives in mankind.

Maslow believed that we are all born with certain needs and without meeting these needs a person was sure to die. The first and bottom level of his hierarchy was physiological needs such as warmth, shelter, and food. Physiological needs were concerned with a biological balance and homeostasis or equilibrium. (Maslow, 137-40) Without these basic needs a person would not be able to thrive. The second levels of the pyramid were for security needs. These included living in a safe area away from any danger or physical threats. This is most often found in children who need the protection of their parents from any harm. These two bottom levels of the pyramid are also where in the workplace most people start out at. Most people need to find work to create a safe loving home with food and warmth to keep themselves and their children from harm.

The third level deals with social needs such as love, friendship and family needs. Many people spend a lifetime looking for belonging and love in their life. This third level focuses on a desire to be accepted by others and to fit in and feel like we have a place in this world. Many young people struggle through this period of time trying to find them and not really knowing who they can trust and not trust. The fourth level of the pyramid deals with Ego needs and self respect. It focuses on the need for self-esteem and respect from others. A person likes to feel like he or she has made something of them and have achieved success in all they do. We all like to strive for higher careers and increase our knowledge in the world while at the same time seeking autonomy in life.

The fifth level of Maslow’s hierarchy is self-actualization. This level deals with the person and knowing they have used their full potential in life. At this level people become fully functional and act purely on their own volition and at the same time have a healthy personality. The fifth level is the hardest of all levels to achieve. To honestly be self-actualized means to really know who we are, where we belong in society, and to feel like we have accomplished all that we have set out to achieve. Self-actualization means to no longer feel disgrace or remorse, or even hatred, but to believe in the world and see human nature as naturally good. Many people in their lifetime do not reach this final level of Maslow’s hierarchy. (Maslow, 98-102)

Each level of Maslow’s hierarchy can be attributed to stages in a persons working life. The employees who are struggling to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads and feed their families. There are other employees who are beyond this level and are striving for a higher education to climb the ladder in their careers. The top leaders of workplace are sometimes on the highest levels of Maslow’s hierarchy. They know who they are and have all they need in life. Many of the retirees have reached the self-actualization that Maslow created on his pyramid while others remained at the fourth level of autonomy and self-worth. Those that have reached a certain level on the pyramid, take one or two steps backward. While the others that have one foot on one level and the other on the next level trying to reach and pull themselves up.

When looking at Maslow’s theory, it is very obvious that even after reaching each stage in the order, the other needs must continue to be simultaneously fulfilled. A person who achieves self-actualization will only be capable of maintaining it so long as his/her other needs continue to be met; impossible. A person cannot possess the power to continually control all four stages, eventually something in one of the four pre-steps will fail. Consequently skewing the validity of one who proclaims he/she is self-actualized. Although maintaining self-actualization for a prolonged state of time is very difficult to achieve, suffice to say, this is one of his theory’s only flaws. Abraham Maslow developed the Hierarchy of Needs theory fifty years ago and remains valid today for understanding instincts, needs, and development. His theories, seen everyday are becoming more and more profound. He and many others have concluded that this theory, in fact was everyone’s path uphill struggle to achieve self- actualization. Our personality is a tough code to crack because of its beautiful complexity of feelings and behaviors. Many psychologists theorized many understandings of the human personality, such theories are the psychoanalysis perspective and the humanistic perspective. (Freud, 44-49)

In contrast to the psychodynamic perspectives, the humanist perspectives studies healthy people thus taking a more positive outlook upon personality. Two important psychologists lead the humanistic point of view, Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, these two psychologists emphasized on fulfilling our potential. Abraham Maslow who created the hierarchy of needs believed that humans ultimately seek self-actualization (or our highest potential). Carl Rogers agreed with Maslow, he explains that our deep inner drives are our desires to become perfect and to have positive regards from others. Humanist psychologists believe that the sense of our ‘self’ portrays how our personality will be portrayed.

Psychodynamic and Humanist perspectives are vastly different. However both perspectives believed in unconscious motives, whether it was humanistic theory of our deep inner drives to become perfect, or drive to conquer our childhood anxieties. Both perspectives agree that childhood and growth plays an important role in developing a personality. Most importantly each perspective believed in the changing of the personality through releasing inner tensions or controlling themselves. Putting great effort to understand the complex human mind the psychodynamic and humanist came to many great conclusions that both conscious and unconscious feelings contribute to the growth of our personality. (Mischel, 208-11)

Maslow’s theory of free will is the key to the mind and personal growth. This approach is very optimistic and studies the whole person rather than individual segments, emphasizes self-growth and aims to unify the psychoanalytical, and behaviorist approaches to provide a more holistic outlook. It is phenomenological, approach, which is the view of the persons through their own eyes and not an observer’s interpretation or analysis. Maslow developed the human hierarchy of needs, which states that lower needs must be satisfied before higher need or self-actualization are achieved. At the bottom of the hierarchy is Food and Water, the physiological base, next is shelter and money providing safety, then affection and friendships providing love, respect and pride brings esteem and at the top is true potential, equaling self-actualization. (Maslow, 137-40)

In Jung’s theory, the psyche is separated into three sections: ego, personal unconscious and collective unconscious. Ego is the conscious mind, which is in close relation to the personal unconscious, defined as anything that has the potential to be conscious but is not in that status at present, such as memories. (Jung, 117-30) What makes his theory similar to those of Maslow is his idea of collective unconscious. This concept differs from personal unconscious in the sense that it is not acquired through personal experiences. This is something that we humans universally inherit as a race, something that’s innate yet we are never directly aware of. We know of it by seeing its influences in everything we do. A few examples include love at first sight, deja vue, inspirations of art and music, as well the near-death experience. When any of the above occurs, it has been noted that our experiences are mostly parallel. This phenomenon could best be explained by Jung’s idea that the experiences were built in us by birth.

According to Jung, there are an infinite number of archetypes; however there are a few basic or more common ones. Examples are the mother, the warrior/hero, the child, the wise old man and etc. A great analogy of archetypes is a story of an invisible man who could only be seen when he dons clothing. In the same way, archetypes cannot be seen until it is dressed with the culture of its time. To Jung, the most important archetype is the self, which is a status where all aspects of the personality unite. Figures of this archetype include Buddha and Jesus Christ. The ultimate goal of life is to fulfill the self by surpassing the opposites and evenly expressing every facet of one’s personality. Jung presented three principles of operation along with his theory. The principle of opposites states that for everything there are two opposing sides, the good must be accompanied by the bad. (Jung, 117-30)

In Rousseau’s view, proper moral upbringing consists of protecting the young one’s innate goodness from damage as the child advances to adulthood. Abraham Maslow ratified Rousseau’s opinion by proposing that the young child has a kind of intrinsic feeling of the right thing to do. (Rousseau, 141-45) This feeling is an intuitive knowledge of one’s true self.

Motivation stemming from rewards, whether it being from intrinsic or extrinsic methods, contribute to psychological internal needs. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory that classifies fundamental human needs into five categories, from a physiological and psychological standpoint. Motivation within the work place would fall into the esteem category of Maslow’s hierarchy, because an employee must experience a sense of belonging before he/she will ever feel like a part of the team. Since Maslow’s hierarchy places basic physiological needs on the bottom, it is essential for other needs to be met in order to gravitate towards the top of the pyramid. It is important to note that esteem is the characteristic that is placed on the fourth level, with only self-actualization being above. People who need intrinsic motivation would be classified in the “need for affiliation” group. People who fits into this category like to give compliments and also receive them. These people require higher need recognition the most and thrive on it. This goes without saying that individuals like to be recognized for their individual achievements and in some situations group rewards may damage the moral of the business.

Herzberg’s motivational theory breaks motivational needs into two main categories, which are motivational factors as well as hygiene factors. Intrinsic rewards would be included in the motivators and monetary rewards or extrinsic rewards would fall into the hygiene factors, although, monetary or salary incentives are in the middle Herzberg did list it as a hygiene factor. Hygiene factors are not true motivators in the sense of the word. They simply cause dissatisfaction if they are not present in the workplace. On the other hand motivators produce job satisfaction and recognition is a big part of this equation. Motivators are the more important of the two in Herzberg’s theory. Thus this would put more emphasis on the intrinsic incentives over the extrinsic. (Bouffard, 171-86)

The founding of the monumental theory of personality belongs to that of Abraham Maslow. He used his knowledge to persuade various fields, such as education. Maslow’s theory is so influential because of the profound level of logic he possessed. People can understand the point of Maslow’s theory because it describes the realities of their own personal experiences. Everyone, including myself, can relate to most of the features, behaviors, and experiences Maslow conjured into the theory of personality. The Hierarchy Theory of Needs describes the five steps one needs to accomplish for self actualization. All of the primary or physiological needs are basically instincts, the same instincts found in animals. People start with a very weak organization, that is then developed as the person grows. According to Maslow, “All the evidence that we have indicates that it is reasonable to assume in practically every human being, and certainly in almost every newborn baby, that there is an active will toward health, an impulse towards growth, or towards the actualization.” If the environment is right, people will grow realizing the potentials they have inherited.

The other four steps are as follows:

  • Security: Needs such as living in a safe area away from threats. This level is more likely to be found in younger individuals as they have a much greater need to feel safe.
  • Social: Needs such as, the love of family and friends.
  • Ego: Needs such as healthy a self esteem, a sense of achievement, or recognition by others. Needs focus on our need for self-respect, and respect from others.
  • Self Actualization: Needs such as purpose, personal growth and realization of potentials. This is the point where people become fully functional, acting solely on their own discretion.

When looking at Maslow’s theory, it is very obvious that even after reaching each stage in the order, the other needs must continue to be simultaneously fulfilled. A person who achieves self-actualization will only be capable of maintaining it so long as his/her other needs continue to be met; impossible. A person cannot possess the power to continually control all four stages, eventually something in one of the four pre-steps will fail. “You can’t motivate someone to achieve their sales target (level 4) when they’re having problems with their marriage (level 3).

‘You can’t expect someone to work as a team member (level 3) when they’re having their house re-possessed (level 2)’.” Consequently skewing the validity of one who proclaims he/she is self-actualized. Although maintaining self-actualization for a prolonged state of time is very difficult to achieve, suffice to say, this is one of his theory’s only flaws. Abraham Maslow developed the Hierarchy of Needs theory fifty years ago and remains valid today for understanding instincts, needs, and development. His theories, seen everyday are becoming more and more profound. He and many others have concluded that this theory, in fact was everyone’s path uphill struggle to achieve self- actualization.

Skinner’s Theories

B.F. Skinner was primarily concerned with how ones environment controlled their behavior. He wrote about operant conditioning, which stated that we were likely to repeat behaviors that were positively reinforced. He believed that human behavior was based on consequence. This meant that human behavior could be controlled based on what we reinforce. Operant conditioning techniques, Skinner said, could be used to modify behavior. (Skinner, 78-79) This is a very strong chemical reaction that is impossible to top with any other form of enforcement. Relapse prevention uses this theory in teaching addict to find new ways to reward themselves and to gain positive reinforcement, so that they can lessen their automatic urge to reward themselves with drugs and alcohol.

Skinner’s studies resulted in him rejecting Watson’s views on environmental conditioning and developing his own learning perspective theory, based on operant conditioning. While he agreed that people respond to their environment he maintained that this was reciprocal and that development and behavior is as much a result of how we manipulate the environment in order to produce certain consequences. While much of Watson’s and Skinner’s works were conducted with animals, Bandura maintained that humans did not react in the same way thus making their theories basically redundant. Bandura agreed with Skinner that operant conditioning is an important aspect of learning however he maintained that humans are cognitive beings and actually think about the consequences of their behavior (Shaffer, 43-50).

Despite their differing opinions, these three theorists have been hugely influential in providing a basis to how we think about human development. Although we should perhaps not take these theories too literally and it may seem obvious that reciprocal environmental events and stimuli coupled with cognitive insight would have an impact on a child’s development these theories have nevertheless given us a viable way in which to measure and monitor it. Piaget is certainly an influential contributor of how we understand human development; his theories are still being followed today in particular by some early childhood educational centers.

Skinner concurred with Watson that it is unproductive and foolish to refer to structures of the personality that cannot be directly observed. He therefore developed a psychology that concentrates not on the person but solely on those variables and forces in the environment that

influence a person and that may be directly observed. This presented behaviorism and learning theory in its purest and most extreme form. (Skinner, 129-34) He felt that the term personality was unnecessary because overt behavior can be completely comprehended in terms of responses to factors in the environment. He derived a preliminary definition of reinforcement as anything that increases the likelihood of a response. It is the effect of one’s behavior that determines the likelihood of its occurring again. He distinguished between two types of behavior; respondent and operant. Respondent behavior refers to reflexes or automatic responses that are elicited by stimuli. Operant behaviors are responses emitted without a stimuli necessarily being present. They occur spontaneously.

Skinner distinguished three different schedules of reinforcement: continuous, internal and ratio reinforcement and he described their effectiveness. In continuous reinforcement, the desired behavior is reinforced each time that it occurs. In interval reinforcement, the organism is reinforced after a certain time period has elapsed regardless of the response rate. In ratio reinforcement, reinforcement is determined by the number of appropriate responses that the organism emits. The last two of these can be on either a fixed or variable basis.

He also described the effects of generalized conditioned reinforcers and distinguished among positive reinforcement – occurs when a behavior is followed by a situation that increases the likelihood of that behavior occurring in the future; negative reinforcement – comes about when a behavior is followed by the termination of an unpleasant situation, increasing the likelihood of that behavior in similar situations; and punishment – occurs when a behavior is followed by an unpleasant situation designed to eliminate it. Skinner suggested another method to eliminate undesirable behaviors. (Skinner, 55-60)The use of satiation entails permitting the behavior to occur until the individual tires of it. He emphasized that positive reinforcement is most effective in initiating and maintaining desired behaviors.

Skinner employed a procedure termed shaping. This is where he deliberately shaped or molded the organism’s behavior in order to achieve the desired behavior. He taught pigeons to play ping-pong and showed that it was possible for them to guide missiles to their targets. He believed that most animal and human behavior is learned through operant conditioning. Skinner sought to eliminate a person’s undesired behavior by changing the environment within which they occur. (Skinner, 75-78) This was in contrast to Freud who’s intent was primarily to increase a person’s self-understanding. He advocated the development of a social utopia, a behaviorally engineered society that employs a program of positive reinforcers to shape behavior. His theory evolved from experimental laboratory investigations and emulates a strict scientific approach. There are definite philosophical assumptions that underlie his theory.

Skinner’s theory works well in predicting and controlling behavior, particularly the behavior of infrahuman species. It is effective in dealing with human situations that are surrounded by reward or punishment. He believed that the answer lies in recognizing our lack of control, renouncing our ambitions for inner control and committing ourselves to being more effectively controlled by behaviorally designed technology. To a developmental stage theorist there are universal stages of development. If people develop, they will pass through all these stages, and they will do so in a fixed order. Moreover, the ordering of the stages is held to be invariant; this means that people cannot skip stages or reorder them. Let us use the stages in Freud’s ( 1949) theory as an example.

Freud postulates that there are five stages in development, the oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital stages. Freud holds that if a person develops, he or she will pass through all these stages — which all of the stages apply to a given person’s development and, in fact, to all people’s development; moreover, Freud contends that the order of these stages is the same for all people. Thus it would be theoretically impossible for someone to skip a stage; one could not go right from the oral stage to the phallic stage; instead one would have to develop through the intermediary stage, the anal stage. (Gay, 170-83) Similarly, one cannot reorder the sequence; thus one could not go from the oral to the phallic and then to the anal stage. In essence, all people who develop must pass through each stage in the specified, invariant sequence.

Human Development Theories: Discussion and Analysis

There are many theorists that come to mind when one thinks of human development, Bronfenbrenner, Vygotsky, Erikson, Watson to name just a few, but we could not begin a discussion on development without first mentioning the father of psychology, Sigmund Freud.

Freud’s psychosexual theories on development and abnormal behavior were controversial to say the least. Over the years they have received much criticism and not much credence in aiding the understanding of later development.

Freud’s theories were largely passive and discontinuous. His theory assumed developing individuals to be dominated by their sexual desires. He maintained that one must satisfactorily pass through each stage of his five stages of development with as little parental conflict as possible in order to get to the next stage unscathed. This aspect of his theory is pretty much accepted although ideas do differ on whether development is quite as rigid in its succession as he suggests. However it is his more nurture based focus on how the influence of early experiences affects later development that is very much influential on how we view development today (Shaffer, 43-50). Most people would not question that early experiences and reactions would have an affect on later development and most if theories are based upon this concept to some extent.

John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth were also influenced by Freud and other psychoanalytic thinkers (Bretherton, 758-75). Their Integrated Attachment theory has been highly influential in our understanding of early parent child relationships. Besides generating thousands of scientific studies the attachment theory has changed the way that many childcare centers, including hospitals operate (Bretherton, 758-75). It describes the connection between relationships that occur early in our lives and those that happen later, including the relationships formed with peers throughout childhood and adolescence and romantic ones during adulthood (Elliot and Reis, 317-31).

This theory has been influential in understanding the importance of forming secure adaptive early parental bonds which in turn enables the developing child to desire autonomy and thus seek out peer relationships and subsequently enter into a relationship where they in turn will become the parent. This is indeed the ideal scenario, and unfortunately there are many variations to the actual parental child relationship which have an impact on future events and how we in turn interact with others. However this theory remains eminent in stressing the importance of forming early bonds between parent and infant and in maintaining a nurturing non constraining relationship which will influence how the child will form future relationships as they grow. It also provides an idea on which we can reasonably expect one to develop and prosper through their relationships with others (Weiss, 171-84).

As the psychoanalytic theory gained in prominence the Learning viewpoint also began to influence human development (Bouffard, 171-86). This theory moves away from the psychoanalytical theories and introduces the views of Watson, Skinner, and Bandura (Bouffard, 171-86). These theorists were of the opinion that we develop continuously according to what we learn. Additionally that we can understand how and why we develop through the study of directly observable events, stimuli and responses (Bouffard, 171-86). Perhaps the most renowned of these theories is the behavioral perspective, founded by Watson who gained notoriety for his classical conditioning studies which have proved fundamental in behavioral psychology as we know it today (Bouffard, 171-86).

Behaviorism suggests that it is the way that we respond to our environment, events and stimuli that determine how we will develop and who we will become (Shaffer, 43-50).Furthermore this theory asserts that cognition has little or nothing to do with how we develop (Wozniak, 59-63). While behaviorism certainly has its place in understanding how we develop it certainly seems ludicrous to assume that we as humans are that vacuous to be entirely devoid of anything innate that make us who we are.

Although not without its criticisms his schema based model of development nonetheless provides a solid basis for how we understand children to develop cognitively. The basis of Piaget’s theory is based on assimilation and accommodation. This being the process in which the child uses their existing structures to deal with their environment and the way in which they modify their structures to understand any new environmental demands (Smith, 115-18). Piaget’s theory empathizes four developmental stages and the ways in which children advance through them (Atherton, p6).

Piaget maintains that until they reach certain stages in their cognitive development children are incapable of understanding certain concepts. This theory has had great implications on how we perceive our children to develop, what we expect of our children at different stages in their development and the various stimuli that we expose them to (Atherton, p7). While undoubtedly a worthwhile contributor to how we understand development today Piaget has many critics, Vygotsky being his most prominent (Bhattacharya and Han, 3-6). While Vygotsky agreed that experience with physical objects is a crucial factor in cognitive development he did not agree that this was all that cognition consisted of (Vygotsky, 88-92). Vygotsky believed that language forms the basis for cognitive development and that other influences such as family and friends assist in the child’s understanding of the world around them (Vygotsky,88-92). Most importantly Vygotsky maintains that biological and cognitive development are intrinsically linked and do not develop independently of each other. His social cognition learning model asserts that culture is the prime detriment of individual development.

Vygotsky maintains that children learn by example and interactions with their surrounding culture and social agents. Peers who have more experience and competencies also contribute significantly to a child’s intellectual development. Vygotsky’s most influential concept is the zone of proximal development, this implies that a difference exists between what a child is able to do on their own and what they can do with help (Vygotsky, 88-92). Vygotsky’s theory suggests that in order to develop in normal productive way children must have the interaction and guidance of those who are important in their cultural group. His theory has had great implications for understanding children’s potential and in the way that children are taught. With appropriate adult or peer help, children can often perform tasks that they would otherwise be incapable of achieving. When the level of help is decreased in relation to the child’s increasing competencies this instills the necessary independent problem solving skills for the future.

Bronfenbrenner taught us that to understand human development we must look at it in the context of not only the individual’s immediate surroundings but also their interaction with the larger environment, regardless of whether the individual is personally involved or not (Smith, 115-18). His ecological model of development consists of five environmental systems or ‘layers’ which are fundamental to a child’s development. Bronfenbrenner asserts that in the innermost layer, the mesosystem, behavior is reciprocal, this is also true of the remaining layers however most influential in the mesosystem. To develop successfully Bronfenbrenner maintains, a child needs stability and support throughout the whole structure of their environment (Smith, 115-18).

The theory of ethology in its simplest form states that all animal species are born with a number of innate evolutionary behaviors that are imperative for survival. Human ethologists believe that we display a range of preprogrammed behaviors and that if responded to in the appropriate manner development will continue normally, if ignored or responded to negatively, problems may arise. Like Freud ethologists believe that early experiences have a profound effect on future development and that we have critical periods for the development of many aspects of the self (Shaffer, 43-50). This theory although entirely nature based has had an impact on how we view development today, although perhaps it is best looked at in an eclectic way in accordance with other theories.

Bandura took all of the information set forth by the learning theorists and then added a social component. He believed that we learn a lot form imitation and observation. He also talked about vicarious reinforcement, which was the concept that we could learn probable consequences for a behavior through observation. Vygotsky coined the social historical theory of human development. This simply stated that our development is shaped by the cultural and historical context in which we are raised. Many theorists that came before him pointed out the impact that our surroundings have on our development, this would certainly include culture.

Freud outlined stages of human development based largely around the development of our pleasure centers and sexual feelings, he related all of our development as people to those stages. Erikson expanded on this and was one of the first theorists to outline stages of development that continued to change all the way throughout later adult life. He talked a lot about our formation of trust, identity, guilt, and intimacy. These theorists certainly set the stage for a lot more research into these areas. To me their specific stages seem a little out dated.

In outlining all of these theories there is a lot that has come out of them and been used in the field of addiction studies. There is a lot of information that has come out the studies done by the learning theorists. It is important for me as an addictions counselor, as with any counseling, to understand human development as much as possible. Even if we cannot go back and change how someone developed we can do everything in our power to understand it and to there for be of the most possible help to the client.

So far we have seen that there are many theories which influence how we think about the way in which we develop and why. Each has made a substantial although different contribution to a complex and broad subject. It would be impossible to define one theory as being the correct one when all have some relevance for particular aspects of development. In light of this, taking an eclectic view is perhaps the most appropriate way in which to understand how we develop.

Human Development Theories, Change and Motivation

There are many different techniques that can be used in order to reward others for a job well done. It is crucial for businesses to analyze these different methods and implement the one(s) that work(s) the best for them. There are many alternatives that an employer may choose to motivate its crew. There are extrinsic and intrinsic rewards, positive and negative motivators, as well as differentiating between individual and team, or group rewards. The purpose of this paper is to examine the different methods of motivation as an attempt to find the one(s) that are most appealing to employers, individuals, and/or teams. (Cocomelos, 39)

What is the most influential way to reward workers? This is a critical question that has been pondered by many companies and employers, in which there has not yet been a definitive answer. Managers evoke various processes in order to induce the most superlative results for their company’s welfare. Many of these managers have never received formal managerial training with employee motivation; however, they tend to revert to means in which they have been exposed through their previous superiors (Chang, 24-26). Depending upon the company’s needs, an individual motivational approach may be more beneficial than a group approach, or vice versa. Companies have also popularized the idea of mixing these two customs, as a way to maximize effectiveness.

Some employers focus on group or team rewards and have found that this is most efficient alternative. However, other employers have determined that group rewards create hostility between higher and lower producers within the group because all members of the group receive the same rewards, regardless of performance levels. For example, in some situations, the overall quality of a team could be carried by only a few of its colleagues. This scheme tends to frustrate those within higher performance categories, and may even force them to find an employer who will reward individual performance. There are situations in which individual and group recognition can have a significant effect when correlated together, however, it is argued that reward programs based on an individual’s performance has a higher probability for overall job satisfaction.

It is worth comparing both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards, and ways in which they are different. Extrinsic deals with material rewards (the key one being money), and, contrary to popular belief, this incentive is not the number one priority when dealing with job satisfaction. Employees need positive reinforcement and feedback to make room for improvement and to encourage them to strive for the goals that are expected from them. Research has indicated that managers and employees hold different value systems to induce improvement and goal-oriented behavior. Studies conducted over the last 60 years signify these discrepancies, and these studies have found that managers deem extrinsic awards as a more powerful method of motivation; however, employees seek appreciation above and beyond anything else (Richardson, 12-14).

When managers make an effort to recognize their employees on a personal level, there is a sense at which employees no longer feel like just a number, and this behavior lets the employees know that they are noticed and appreciated. There is a heavy emphasis placed upon extrinsic rewards because raises, promotions, along with other monetary incentives, are major keys to success in any organization, however, this argument does not supersede the fact that employees need and deserve recognition from their employers. When some employees do not receive any type of intrinsic recognition, it affects their performance and motivation levels because they see no point in improving if they feel that their managers do not care about their production. This in turn, significantly increases employment retention and churn due to job satisfaction levels. (Nelson, 22-25)

Positive reinforcement has been, and always will be, the best way to motivate people over the long term; however, negative reinforcement techniques can be useful, as a way to make employees aware of what their job expectations are, compared to their actual job performance. Negative reinforcers are most efficient when they are used on a short-term basis, and they should decline over time; however, it is important to proceed with caution when using this method of motivation, because employers do not want to upset and/or offend their employees, which in turn, could result in that person finding another job.

A great way of using this technique is to show obvious disappointment in the employee’s work, and then asking what can be done in order to make it better. Managers’ self-awareness of their relationships with their employees is also essential for building a successful motivational model. Managers often experience negative encounters from their previous bosses, and since they have no other model to follow, it has been found that these negative occurrences can lead to repetitive behaviors perpetuated by their previous director.

Some managers build up resentment for employees who do not show improvement because the managers feel as if they have done everything to help the situation. Offensive and threatening remarks towards an employee have never been useful in establishing a positive relationship between the employee and his/her work environment. However, there are many steps that can be taken in order to ensure that managers and their employees are on the same page as far as what is expected of them, along with how their current performance is affecting their stated goals. For example, providing help instead of criticism, giving and receiving feedback from employers, and customizing incentive programs to maximize performance, so these goals can be made possible (Chang, 24-26).

The concern with the developmental interrelation of status and behavioral attributes may be expressed either in primarily theoretical terms or as a primarily empirical interest. Psychologists employing differential concepts as components of their theoretical writings may specify how specific status attributes will be interrelated with specific behavioral attributes. Such theoretical attempts may first posit particular status attributes and then specify, along with each status attribute, characteristics that are thought of in behavioral-attribute terms –for example, characteristics thought of as bipolar trait dimensions (e.g., activity-passivity).

On the other hand, differential psychologists whose orientation is primarily empirical do not a priori specify the exact interrelation of these attributes. They certainly may have theoretical orientations that affect their choices of particular status and behavioral attributes for study, and they certainly may make predictions about how status and behavioral attributes will interrelate, but they are primarily concerned with empirically discovering or verifying these interrelations. Thus this approach attempts to ascertain empirically how people become differentiated into subgroups over the course of their development.

Recognition is an important part of business, whether it be from a monetary standpoint or just simple encouragement, however, they both are necessary for a healthy business. It is important to recognize the individuals that perform at the top of the game and let them know that they are appreciated and that they are vital to the inter workings of the business. Group incentives may also be a possibility, but the key is to collect input from those who stand above the rest because they should take part in choosing a plan to motivate others. It is important to realize that money is not always the answer. Humans have needs that must be fulfilled, and one of these needs is recognition. For some individuals this is an all-powering force that drives them toward excellence.

Works Cited

Atherton, J. S. (2005) Learning and Teaching: Piaget’s developmental theory [On-line p. 6-7] UK: Web.

Bhattacharya, K.& Han, S. (2001).Piaget and cognitive Development. In M. Orey (Ed.),Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching, and Technology. pg 3-6. Web.

Bouffard, T., Marcoux, M.F., Vezeau, C. & Bordeleau (2003). Changes in self-perceptions of competence and intrinsic motivation among elementary schoolchildren. British Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 73, 171-186.

Bretherton, I. (1992).Developmental psychology 28, 758 – 775. Web.

Chang, J. (2003). Cracking the whip: in a perfect world, sales managers would use only positive incentives to get the best performance from their teams. But in less-than-ideal situations, is there a time and place for negative motivation? Sales & Marketing Management, 155(2), 24-26.

Cocomelos, M. (2003, Jan. 30). Loyalty & motivation – going solo with rewards. Promotions & Incentives, 39.

Coles, R. (Ed.) The Erikson Reader, London: W.W. Norton and Company, 2001. 113-16.

Crain, W. (2005) Theories of Development (5 ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. 251-54.

Elliot, A. J., & Reis, H. T. (2003). Attachment and exploration in adulthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 317-331.

Erikson, E. Childhood and Society, New York: Triad/Paladin Press, 1977. 63-70.

Erikson, E. Identity and the Life Cycle, New York: International Universities Press, 1980. 128-33.

Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity youth and crisis. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. Freud, A. ( 1966 ). The ego and the mechanisms of defense. New York: International Universities Press. 88-92.

Freud, S. Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, London: Penguin Group, 1976. 44-49.

Gay, P. Reading Freud, London: Yale University Press, 1990. Matthews, W. Lecture Notes, 2003. 177-83.

Goldhaber, D. E. (2000). Theories of human development: Integrative perspectives. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. 295-301.

Jung, C. G. (1956). On the psychology of the unconscious. In H. Read, M. Fordham, & G. Adler (Eds.), Two essays on analytical psychology (pp. 117-130). Cleveland, OH: World.

Maslow, A. H. (1987). Motivation and personality – Third Edition. New York: Addison – Wesley Educational Publishers. 98-102.

Maslow, A. H. (1968). Toward a psychology of being (2nd ed.). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. 137-40.

Miller, P, H. Theories of Developmental Psychology (3rd Ed,) W. H. Freeman and Company, New York, 1983. 156-63.

Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Smith, R. (2004). Introduction to Personality: Toward an integration (7th ed.). New York: John Wiley and Sons. 208-11.

Nelson, D., & Campbell, J. (2003). Foundations realities, & challenges organizational behavior. (4th ed) Thompson South-Western. 22-25.

Richardson, M. (2003). Rewards, recognitions that make cents. California CPA. 71(7) 12-14.

Rousseau J. J. ( 1955). Emile ( B. Foxley, Trans.). New York: Dutton, Everyman’s Library. 141-45.

Shaffer, D.R., (2002).Developmental psychology. (6th ed).Wadsworth, USA.

Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behavior. New York: The Free Press. 75-78.

Skinner, B. F. (1971). Beyond freedom & dignity. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company. 55-60.

Skinner, B. F. (1974). About behaviorism. New York: Vintage Books. 129-34.

Smith, A.B., (2002).Understanding Children’s Development. (4th ed). Wellington, NZ.

Stevens, R. Erik Erikson, Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1983.

Viorst, J. Necessary Losses, The Loves, Illusions, Dependences and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in order to Grow, London: Simon & Schuster, 1986.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978).Mind and Society: The Development of Higher Mental Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 88-92.

Weiss, R. S. (1982). Attachment in adult life. In C. M. Parkes & J. Stevenson-Hinde (Eds.), The place of attachment in human behavior (pp. 171-184). New York: Basic.

Wozniak, R.H. (Ed.) (1993). Theoretical Roots of Early Behaviorism: Functionalism, the Critique of Introspection, and the Nature and Evolution of Consciousness. London: Routledge/ Thoemmes. 59-63.

Human Development Theories Analysis
The following paper on Human Development Theories Analysis was written by a student and can be used for your research or references. Make sure to cite it accordingly if you wish to use it.
Removal Request
The copyright owner of this paper can request its removal from this website if they don’t want it published anymore.
Request Removal

Cite this paper

Select a referencing style


YourDissertation. (2021, November 19). Human Development Theories Analysis. Retrieved from

Work Cited

"Human Development Theories Analysis." YourDissertation, 19 Nov. 2021,

1. YourDissertation. "Human Development Theories Analysis." November 19, 2021.


YourDissertation. "Human Development Theories Analysis." November 19, 2021.


YourDissertation. 2021. "Human Development Theories Analysis." November 19, 2021.


YourDissertation. (2021) 'Human Development Theories Analysis'. 19 November.

Click to copy