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AS and A Level: Developmental Psychology

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Five key cognitive development theorists

  1. 1 Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist who developed a maturational four stage theory of cognitive development: he said that all children go through the same sequence of sensori-motor, pre-operational, concrete operational and formal operational thought. Learning occurs through assimilation of ideas and accommodation of schemas. His ideas have been hugely influential in education, particularly mathematics.
  2. 2 Lev Vygotsky was a Russian psychologist. He proposed the influential zone of proximal development (ZPD) concept in learning and stressed the importance of cultural mediation – the internalisation of knowledge through the social interaction between adult and child. Unlike Piaget, he argued that language was crucial for cognitive development.
  3. 3 Jerome Bruner is an American psychologist proposed three ‘modes’ of learning as opposed to a strict sequence of stages: enactive, iconic and symbolic. He proposed the ‘spiral curriculum’ and coined the term ‘scaffolding’ -two very influential ideas in education.
  4. 4 Robbie Case is one of a group of neo-Piagetian theorists who have developed Piaget's theory by incorporating ideas and methods from Vygotsky's social-constructivist theory, information-processing, linguistics and developmental neuroscience.
  5. 5 Simon Baron Cohen is a prominent autism researcher. He has contributed much to our understanding of the development of Theory of Mind. This concept is crucial to the development of social cognition and empathy through the ability to take another person’s perspective.

Key attachment theorists

  1. 1 Melanie Klein’s Id-based object relations theory was a key influence on John Bowlby. Psychoanalytic ideas by Klein, Donald Winnicott and other British psychoanalysts were significant in the later development of attachment theory.
  2. 2 John Bowlby was an important attachment theorist. He was director of the psychoanalytic Tavistock Institute in London, where he ran a child guidance clinic. His Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis, proposing the link between attachment and mental health was published in an influential report for the World Health Organisation in 1951. He developed his attachment theory over decades, publishing a three volume series ‘Attachment and Loss’ between 1969 and 1980. His ideas stimulated a significant body of research into attachment and his work paved the way for a revolution in childcare in the 20th century.
  3. 3 James and Joyce Robertson worked with Bowlby and were also very influential. James Robertson developed the Protest- Despair–Detachment model of bond disruption (1953a). The Robertsons also concluded that consistent substitute ‘mothering’ was vital for the maintenance of attachment bonds and the emotional wellbeing of the child.
  4. 4 Mary Ainsworth – was a Canadian researcher who worked with John Bowlby at the Tavistock in the 1950s, and later carried out important research in Africa and the US. She is best known for identifying attachment types and her Caregiver Sensitivity Hypothesis, which has been disputed by Jerome Kagan – who proposed the temperament hypothesis in direct contradiction.
  5. 5 Michael Rutter is Bowlby’s main critic. His book ‘Maternal Deprivation Reassessed’ (1972) was an influential critique of Bowlby’s research. Rutter made the distinction between deprivation and privation and argued that privation, poor parenting and family conflict were more significant in attachment disorders than deprivation.

Five classic studies of attachment

  1. 1 Bowlby’s ‘44 Juvenile Thieves’ (1944) were the inspiration for his Maternal Deprivation Hypothesis. They were children who he saw in his child guidance clinic and examined for signs of ‘affectionless psychopathy’ – a condition that he argued would result from separation during the critical period for attachment.
  2. 2 Harlow’s monkeys (1959): Harlow’s experiments on rhesus monkeys provided an unintentional insight into the importance of responsive care in infancy for good emotional development and subsequent parenting skills in adulthood.. His work had a huge influence on John Bowlby.
  3. 3 Ainsworth’s ‘Strange Situation’ (1970): Ainsworth found ways to test Bowlby’s ideas in controlled procedures. She designed the 'strange situation', a tool which has been used across the world to study the attachment types that underlie parent and child interactions.
  4. 4 Robertson & Robertson’s ‘Young Children in Early Separations’ (1971): A series of highly influential films following on from Robertson and Bowlby’s seminal ‘A Two Year Old Goes to Hospital’; these case studies revolutionised the care of children in hospital and fostering.
  5. 5 Hodges & Tizard’s 'Social and family relationships of ex-institutional adolescents' (1989): An influential longitudinal study of children who had experienced early privation resulting from institutional care. The study showed that children could form good bonds with adoptive or biological parents beyond the so called ‘critical period’. They were likely to have difficult or disinhibited peer relationships, but not the affectionless psychopathy predicted by Bowlby.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 61
  • Peer Reviewed essays 18
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  1. Marked by a teacher

    Outline findings and conclusions of research into cross-cultural variations in attachment. (6 marks)

    4 star(s)

    However, an infant?s basic needs are universal and so there should also be some similarities. The ways in which Van Ijzendoorn and Kroonenberg tried to overcome problems by previous studies of cross-cultural patterns were firstly by using large sample sizes that can therefore be better generalised to whole populations and provide more reliable results. They also tried to examine whether or not the differences between cultures were any greater than the existing inter-cultural differences. Finally they used the use of the American ?standard? distribution of attachment types (20% type A, 70% type B, 10% type C)

    • Word count: 626
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Outline and evaluate different types of attachment

    4 star(s)

    Stranger anxiety would be seen, they would be wary and treat the stranger differently. There is a high level of separation protest, distress and crying was shown when the mother left, but they would easily be soothed when the mother was welcomed back on her return. On the other hand, a child with an insecure-avoidant attachment would be happy to explore, and there would be low stranger anxiety, the child would treat the stranger indifferently to the mother. Some separation protest can be shown, and the child may become distressed. However, when the mother returns they will carry on doing what they were before her return as they do not use the caregiver to provide comfort.

    • Word count: 821
  3. Marked by a teacher

    Outline and Evaluate 2 Cognitive Developmental Explanations of Gender Development

    4 star(s)

    In each of these stages, the child grasps increasingly more complex concepts about the nature of gender. Gender Identity: the first and most simple concept the child has to gasp relates to their own s*x - that of a girl or boy. Between the age of about two and three-and-a-half, the young child starts to use the label 'boy' or 'girl' to refer to themselves and then to other people. Gender Stability: when the child reaches the age of about three-and-a-half they begin to realise that their own s*x will not change.

    • Word count: 1342
  4. Marked by a teacher

    Piaget's and Freud's Child development theories

    4 star(s)

    This lead to Piaget's research into young child development. (Vialle & Verenikina, 2000) Through Piaget's research into early childhood development, he focused on how children process and change as they mature and adapt to the environment around them. He came up with the idea that every child has a schema which is a structure in the mind used to store knowledge and ideas of the world. As children develop and learn new information the schema grows, it does this through the process of accommodation and assimilation. Assimilation is when new information is added to the already existing schema.

    • Word count: 1766
  5. Marked by a teacher

    Outline and evaluate the evolutionary theory of attachment.

    4 star(s)

    Furthermore, Bowlby proposed that infants develop an Internal Working Model which acts as a template for future relationships. This is based on the relationships between the infant and the primary caregiver. Finally, Bowlby also suggested that there is a critical period of 21/2 years where an attachment has to be formed. If not, the infant will experience social and emotional problems in late life. This theory can be both criticised and supported through studies carried out by several researchers. For instance; Konrad Lorenz (1952) was an ethologist who found that a group of goslings became attached to the first living thing they encountered.

    • Word count: 703
  6. Marked by a teacher

    Dibs In Search of Self:Book Report

    4 star(s)

    One without the other is incomplete. Together, the inch along the road in search of truth, wherever it may be found" (pg. 21) A pioneer of play therapy and a gifted therapist, Virginia Axline, takes you on an incredible journey through the malleable mind of a child. Dibs in Search of Self is the story of the dauntless struggle of a young boy to establish his own identity, enabling him to become the person he is meant to be. His nursery school teachers strive to include Dibs in the classroom activities he is very uncommunicative and withdrawn and will sometimes attack other children if they try to approach him.

    • Word count: 1792
  7. Marked by a teacher

    The Theme of Ethics in Psychological Research making reference to Social Psychology and Developmental Psychology research

    4 star(s)

    Has the use of deception in the study been approved by other psychologists or a board of control e.g. the British Psychology Society. * Debriefing - Have the subjects been effectively debriefed. Has any stress psychological or physical been caused by the procedures? * Withdrawal - Are the subjects aware that they have the right to withdraw from the procedure at any time without penalty? * Confidentiality - The subjects taking part in the procedures have the right to expect that the information that they provide will be treated confidentially. * Protection of Participants - Investigators must protect subjects from any physical or mental harm during the research * Observational research - Unless the participants give their informed consent

    • Word count: 1642
  8. Free essay


    4 star(s)

    From this point of view Scraton (1997) argues that within the prevailing standards of each age there have been cruel and loving parents and those children who had cruel parents were likely to be abused, but society did not necessarily condone or accept such abuse. VARIOUS VIEWS ON CHILDHOOD The three main theories on the history of childhood have been recapitulated by Orme (2001) as: (a) Aries, Hoyles, Hunt, Shorter, Stone, Tucker, hold the opinion that before the 17th century there was no concept of childhood and children were regarded as being at the very bottom of the social scale and therefore unworthy of consideration.

    • Word count: 3411
  9. Marked by a teacher

    How current provision and practice is influenced by the work of the early years educators and approaches to practice.

    4 star(s)

    Genuine relationships: high-scope practitioners aim to bring warmth and trust to the children, respect and value their cultural diversity. Appropriate curriculum: high-scope was developed through observations of the children and was designed to give key learning experiences. High-scope approach has a range of resources similar to the mainstream early years settings. The Reggio Emilia Approach The Reggio approach is child-centred, based on individual children's needs and interests and on educators respect for the differences between individual children. Children are encouraged to develop their own ideas and theories about the world and will use these theories as a starting point for projects with other children and adults.

    • Word count: 1225
  10. Marked by a teacher

    Welcome to our private day nursery. The information in this booklet refers to the children within our setting who are 2-3years old, however some of the information may be common throughout the nursery

    4 star(s)

    Our toys and activities are rotated regulary and offered in a variety of ways to offer 'new activities' which encourage experimentation and problem solving. All activities are designed to allow children to succeed at their own level. Activities include sand/water play, painting, drawing, dough, bikes and other outdoor equipment, story, music and singing sessions, imaginative and role play, baking, collage and junk modelling. HYGIENIC AND HEALTHY To keep our environment hygienic we follow strict cleaning and hygiene routines. We maintain a good standard of personal hygiene and provide positive role models for the children to follow.

    • Word count: 3851
  11. Marked by a teacher


    4 star(s)

    but no one actually knows what either persons looks like as you cannot compare them just like the mind no one knows what exactly is in them. The most famous experiment looking into behaviourism is by the Russian scientist I.P Pavlov (1849-1946) in which he found that by ringing a bell every time he fed the dogs in his lab, he realised that the dogs learned to associate the bell with food so therefore salivated, eventually the dogs would salivate without the need for food as the simple ringing of the bell was enough for them to assume that the bell meant food therefore salivation would occur.

    • Word count: 928
  12. Marked by a teacher

    Outline and evaluate research into the effects of deprivation/separation.

    4 star(s)

    (AO1) Robertson's research reliably showed the effects of deprivation over a two-year period. Nevertheless this research used an opportunity sample which was very small consequently it may lack external validity in that it may mean that the findings cannot be generalised to situations other than hospitals or residential nurseries nor situations involving reasons for separation other than hospitalisation of the child or main caregiver. However because this study was a naturalistic observation of children experiencing real deprivation in a real-life situation the study might well have high external validity in that the research situation does represent real life.

    • Word count: 1350
  13. Marked by a teacher

    What makes a successful Early Years Practitioner?

    4 star(s)

    There are many courses available today to enhance/ensure early years settings are providing the best possible care to young children. Early years practitioners need to understand the educational guidelines provided by the government. They must be able to teach children each aspect of the curriculum in an enjoyable and stimulating way. Children need support physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially. Young children will not learn if they are not enjoying themselves. Practitioners need to understand what children can and want to do at different stages of growth.

    • Word count: 1202
  14. Marked by a teacher

    Bowlby's Attachment Theory

    4 star(s)

    A full evaluation will be made of his deprivation hypothesis, including detailed criticisms of his theory. Finally, conclusions will be drawn to show if Bowlby's deprivation hypothesis can still retain any credibility. The first task is to define the terms attachment and deprivation. In 1973 the leading attachment psychologist, Mary Ainsworth, pointed out that "Attachment is an affectional tie that one person forms to another person, binding them together in space, and enduring over time". Deprivation can occur when there is insufficient opportunity for interaction with a mother figure (privation), when there is insufficient interaction with mother (masked deprivation), or when there are repeated breaches of ties with mother figures.

    • Word count: 2291
  15. Marked by a teacher

    What have been the major challenges to Piaget's theory of cognitive development? What aspects of the theory still have value?

    4 star(s)

    Piaget alleged children's thinking goes through changes at each of four stages (sensori motor, concrete operations and formal operations) of development until they can think and reason as an adult. The stages represent qualitatively different ways of thinking, are universal, and children go through each stage in the same order. According to Piaget each stage must be completed before they can move into the next one and involving increasing levels of organisation and increasingly logical underlying structures. Piaget stated that the 'lower stages never disappear; they become integrated into the new stage (hierarchic integration) (Inhelder and Piaget, 1958). Children themselves, through their actions on the environment, interacting with there biologically - determined level of maturation, bring about the cognitive changes, which result in adult thinking.

    • Word count: 2606
  16. Peer reviewed

    OCR G544 - Using examples of research that you have studied, discuss the strengths and limitations of using the nurture debate to explain human behaviour (12 marks)

    5 star(s)

    Negative school experiences, weak family bonds and growing up in an impoverished area where life prosperity is low were all contributing risk factors, but even so, this study does not attribute any behaviour to the nature side of the debate and therefore ignores important genetic factors that may also predetermine behaviour from birth (such as explored in a study by Raine where he observed brain dysfunction as a reason the crimes committed by serial murderers). Another weakness of the nurture debate is shown in Meichenbaum?s study, whereby a comparison group of students suffering exam anxiety enrolled on a course of

    • Word count: 575
  17. Peer reviewed

    OCR G543 - Evaluate the use of a longitudinal research design when considering upbringing as an explanation for criminal behaviour.

    5 star(s)

    study conducted at just one point in time – and consists of a singular analysis of the school reports of 2,000 14/15 year olds and one interview, thus making the practicality of psychological research far easier than the 40 year-long longitudinal study Farrington conducted. On top of this, the most commonly used approach to collecting data from longitudinal research is self report; both Farrington and Wikstrom & Täfel used them. Self report techniques are a good indicator of partiality to criminal behaviour because you can ask personal questions and learn about smaller crimes that unreliable criminal records (used by Farrington in a bid for concurrent validity)

    • Word count: 622
  18. Peer reviewed

    Freuds Psychosexual Stages of Development

    5 star(s)

    The stage finishes at the weaning stage. The stage lasts approximately one and one-half years. The a**l Stage At one and one-half years, the child enters the a**l stage. With the advent of toilet training comes the child's obsession with the erogenous zone of the a**s and with the retention or expulsion of the faeces. This represents a classic conflict between the id, which derives pleasure from expulsion of bodily wastes, and the ego and superego, which represent the practical and societal pressures to control the bodily functions. Two types of a**l characters: the a**l expulsive character (The child wants to fight, takes pleasure in excreting maliciously, perhaps just before or just after being placed on the toilet)

    • Word count: 719
  19. Peer reviewed

    Outline and evaluate one Social Learning Theory explanation of personality development

    5 star(s)

    However, although unnecessary, reinforcement will affect the performance of the behaviour; this is known as vicarious reinforcement. Bandura's theory incorporates cognitive factors into its explanation, and for a model's behaviour to be imitated, there must be some internal mental representation of the model. There are five steps to the modelling process. The first step is availability: for the observation to occur, the learner must be able to see the model exhibiting the behaviour. Then, the learner must, voluntarily or involuntarily, pay attention to the model's behaviour. Third, the child must be able to store mental images of the model's behaviour.

    • Word count: 978
  20. Peer reviewed

    Outline the development of attachments

    5 star(s)

    Describe the procedures and findings of one study of individual difference in attachment The type of attachment between an infant and its caregiver is very important to the child's emotional development, however assessing infant-caregiver attachments is hard to do, as it isn't always possible to observe such relationships over a long period of time. Ainsworth and Bell developed the Strange Situation procedure to assess infant's attachment type. The procedure lasts for about 20 minutes and takes place in a laboratory.

    • Word count: 1319
  21. Peer reviewed

    Outline and Evaluate Bowlby's Theory of Attachment

    4 star(s)

    Since attachment is innate there is likely to be a limited window for development. This is said to be when a child is 3-6 months when a child is most sensitive to an attachemnt. After this stage attachment can become more difficult. The internal working model is a cluster of concepts about relationships and what to expect from others. In the short term it gives the child and insight into the caregivers behaviour. In the long term it acts as a template for future relationships as it generates expectations.

    • Word count: 542
  22. Peer reviewed

    Stages of Development. Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development, Freud's Stages of Psychosexual Development, and Erikson's Theory of Psychosocial Development. These three theories all approach this topic in very different ways, yet they all may be correc

    4 star(s)

    Firstly, we have look at how these approaches are similar. The most obvious one is that they all show how the common human being develops, but not in the same way. Also, Freud's theory and Erikson's theory are similar in several ways. Both stress and show the emotional dynamics of social development. Basically, this is saying that they both believe that learning the rules of society are different than learning how to walk or how to swim. Also, they both present four similar stages in he beginning, oral, a**l, phallic/genital, and latency.

    • Word count: 455
  23. Peer reviewed

    Outline and evaluate psychological explanations of schizophrenia

    4 star(s)

    people - although the incidence of schizophrenia in Caribbean countries is similar to that of white people in this country (Cooper 2005). These findings suggest that the experience of r****m, added to other inner-city stressors of unemployment, poor housing and poverty, makes people more vulnerable to schizophrenia. For many years psychologists have suggested that certain patterns of family interaction can induce or at least contribute to the maintenance of schizophrenia symptoms. Two theories have been suggested: double-bind communications and expressed emotion.

    • Word count: 967
  24. Peer reviewed

    Strange Situation

    4 star(s)

    Procedure: This was a longitudinal study. Meaning it was conducted over a long period of time, where Ainsworth visited 26 mother - child couples at home every month of the child's first year of life. Every aspect of the mother and babies behaviour was recorded, but Ainsworth was primarily interested in the reunion behaviour of both the child and mother. The study was broken down into seven stages, each three minutes long: Stage 1: Mother and child enter room; child is free to play with toys while mother is passive.

    • Word count: 619
  25. Peer reviewed

    Discuss explanations of the development of gender identity and / or gender roles

    4 star(s)

    People can also model their behaviour on gender roles shown in the media, which affects their self-efficacy. Additionally, the principle of self-efficacy suggests that we learn what is possible for our own gender through seeing others succeed or fail. Therefore we are more likely to engage in behaviour that we've seen our own gender succeed in. Perry and Bussey (1979) support modelling by showing that children copied the fruit choices of same s*x models but this was limited by existing stereotypes e.g. men don't wear dresses. However, fruit choice is a trivial example and it is not clear that one modelling session had long-term effects.

    • Word count: 914

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Outline and evaluate the behaviourist/learning theory for attachment.

    "Validity is also questionable of the learning theory. Studies are largely based with animals and therefore there is not sufficient data to draw conclusions from their studies to directly apply to humans. Human behaviour is more influenced by emotions and the thinking process, which does not support the learning theory as it is oversimplified version of human behaviour. Overall the evidence for the learning theory is very weak. Although principles of the theory have been proved (Pavlov's dogs and the Skinner box) the main idea that food is the primary incentive for attachment is opposed by many studies. This suggests that the theory is too simple; it does not take in other 'rewarding' factors and is too oversimplified to be applied in human behaviour."

  • Outline and evaluate Bowlbys explanation for attachment

    "In conclusion I believe that bowlbys explanation for attachment is a strong theory as there is plenty of evidence and supporting points. Every theory will have one or two criticisms, however one of bowlbys was simply an alternative explanation that in itself has much less support than bowlbys theory. Bowlbys attachment theory has had a big influence on many aspects of everyday life and everyone's understanding of emotional development."

  • Evaluate the evolutionary explanation of attachments.

    "In conclusion this is just a basic theory and many arguments can be made for and against Bowlby's evolutionary theory of attachment. However even though various pieces of research have shown elements of his theory to be incorrect or not thoroughly supported enough the research still suggests that the theory provides a good understanding of attachment. Also Bowlby's work has been very influential to others therefore it can be considered fundamental to our understanding."

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