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Theories of Human Development - Stages of Development

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Theories of Human Development Stages of Development It is easy to see life as a series of stages, which people pass through. Babies look and behave very differently from young children, but adolescents are very different children. Infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age can be seen as different stages in life. In past centuries Europeans often saw the human life-span as being like the four seasons of the year. Infancy and childhood were like spring, full of new beginnings and possibilities. Adolescence and early adulthood were like summer - the most exiting and best time of our lives. Adulthood was autumn, a time of harvest and fulfillment. Old age was a winter - a time of decline and death! Shakespeare saw the male life cycle as having seven stages. He runs through them in a famous speech in a play As You Like It, Act 2: scene 7. 1. Infancy 2. The school boy 3. The lover 4. The soldier (or warrior) 5. The justice (or judge) 6. The shrunken, impaired old man 7. Last of all, 'second childishness and mere oblivion' These theories of life stages were picked up by Charlotte Buhler (1933). According to her theory, biological stages of development create a basis for understanding our lives. There are five stages of biological development as listed over leaf. Charlotte Buhler's Stages of Development * 0-15 years Progressive growth but no reproduction ability. ...read more.


These attractions are called the Electra and Oedipus complexes: named after characters in ancient Greek mythology who experienced these attractions. Freud believed that as children develop they have to give up the opposite sex parent as a 'love object' and learn to identify with the same sex parent. He believed children's experience of 'letting go' of their love may have permanent effects on their later personality. * Latency: After the age of 5 or 6, most children have resolved the Electra and Oedipus complexes (Freud believed that this was usually stronger and more definite in boys, i.e., girls often continue with a sexual attachment to their father!). Children are not biologically ready to reproduce so their sexuality is latent or waiting to express itself. * Genital: With the onset of puberty adolescents become fully sexual and 'life drive' is focused on sexual activity. Freud's Mental Mechanisms Freud believed that we are born with an id. The 'id' is part of our unconscious mind that is hidden from the conscious understanding. The 'id' is like a dynamo that generates mental energy. The energy motivates human action and behaviour. When a young child learns to control, its own body during toilet training the ego develops. The 'ego' is a mental system, which contains personal learning about physical and social reality. The 'ego' has the job of deciding how to channel drive energy from the unconscious into behaviour which will produce satisfactory outcomes in the real world. ...read more.


The idea that human development fits eight stages (or five stages) of coping with crises of change does not make intuitive sense to everyone. While there may be some important ideas about emotional development in psychodynamic theory, some authors claim that the theories are both too rigid to provide a full understanding of development. Many people fail to identify with the idea of the developmental crises. Many people seem to experience change as a smooth sequence of gradual adjustment. Psychodynamic theory provides an interesting way of interpreting past life experience - but it is possible to question whether people in the future will experience the biological pressures that Erikson originally identified in the middle of the last century. Castells (1997) argues that science now gives people not only the power to live longer, but also the power to delay reproduction and the effects of aging. Sexuality can be decoupled from reproduction so that sexual behaviour becomes a form of recreational pastime rather than linked to a biological time clock for reproduction! As technology gives people the power to intervene in their own biological nature, notions of biologically controlled stages of development may become increasingly dated, at least with respect to adult life. Theories of human development Contents Page Stages of development 1 Charlotte Buhler's stages of development 2 Arnold Gasell's biologically determined development 3 Freud - psychodynamic theory 4 Freud's stages of psychosexual development 5 Freud's mental mechanisms 6 Erikson's stages of development 7-10 Conclusion 11 (Extracts taken from Neil Moonie (ed) Advanced Health and Social Care Heinerman Educational Publishers (2000) p 309-314) 1 ...read more.

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