Discuss How Theories of Human Growth and Development Can Help Understand Human Behaviour
Discuss how theories of human growth and development can help understand human behaviour. Human growth and development is studied and researched with differing perspectives. There are many ways human growth and development can be looked at. Certain disciplines, such as, biology, psychology and sociology all have opposing viewpoints on the subject. The psychological viewpoint concentrates on the different processes of the mind, whereas, the biological approach is centred on genetics and environmental factors.
The sociological viewpoint, however, focuses on individual thoughts and feelings as being socially constructed (Beckett and Taylor, 2010). Human growth and development is researched across the whole lifespan, however, for this essay I will be focusing on the early years of child development. Furthermore, human growth and development studies consist of various different theories; I will be discussing several of these theories whilst paying particular attention to Bowlby’s attachment theory.
Human growth and development is important for social work practice as children and adolescence may show behaviour difficulties and when coming to assess, it is key to have an understanding of the norm development of a child of a certain age, also, what behaviours may be observed as being abnormal. It can also be seen as important for communication purposes. For example, being able to understand a child’s stage of development will make you more attuned to the understanding of how they are communicating and what the best way will be in making a response.
Firstly, I am to introduce Bowlby’s attachment theory (Bowlby 1969). Bowlby’s attachment theory was based on the idea that subject- object relations are shaped by our initial relationship with our primary care giver, this usually to be the mother (Beckett and Hillary 2010). According to Bowlby, children are biologically pre- programmed to form attachments in order to help them survive. Children have an innate ability to attach to their main care giver (Sean Mcleod 2007). This is gained through attachment behaviours and gestures to maintain proximity to carers.
For example the child may cry or at a later stage smile and make eye contact and express body gestures to gain attention from the primary care giver. It was believed by Bowlby that the care giver will instinctively respond to the child; creating reciprocal interaction. Bowlby believed that attachment behaviours are instinctive and the child will express these behaviours when the child feels threatened by the achievement of proximity, such as separation, insecurity and fear (McLeod 2007). According to Ainsworth (1967, p. 29) attachment is more than evident behaviour but it is internal, ‘being built into the nervous system, in the course and as a result of the infant’s experience of his transactions with the mother’ Following Bowlby’s suggestion, the limbic system; A complex system of nerves and networks in the brain that controls the basic emotions and drives (Wikipedia) has been suggested to be the site of developmental changes associated with the rise of attachment behaviours (Anders & Zeanah, 1984, cited in, attachment and human development).
The lifespan period from 7 to 15 months has been shown to be critical for the myelination; for the proper functioning of the nervous system (Schore, 2010). Additionally, Attachment theory is able to be used within the practice of social work. The knowledge of attachment behaviour can signify when an individual is experiencing stress. Furthermore, the understanding of Bowlby’s attachment theory and other human growth and development theories can help with the framework for assessments.
To understand service users and to make sense of ourselves and respond appropriately and effectively, we need to have the basis of the understanding of why people behave as they do under stress and difficulty (Howe, 1995). For example a 12 year old boy may be extremely angry and behaving recklessly. Is there a connection between the behaviour and the quality of early relationships? (Howe, 1995) On the other hand, research has shown that resilient theory can be used in order to overcome the effects of poor quality relationships in childhood (Howe, 1995).
For example, according to Hart, Blincow and Thomas, resilient therapy may help a child in gaining good relationships with family and friends by tapping into good influences and finding place for that child to belong. Resilient therapy recognises the importance of attachment theory and aims for the affected child to feel a sense of family cohesion. According to Hart, Blincow and Thomas,in providing a resilient mechanism, two things are achieved. Firstly, a sense of belonging, as this is protective and gives children a secure base to attend; psychologically, when feeling under threat.
Secondly, with children experiencing a self of belonging somewhere, they are better equipped in facing rejection elsewhere. Further to the attachment theory, Bowlby derived the term maternal deprivation, (Bowlby, 1959). Bowlby identified the first two years of a child’s life as the most critical time for bonding. Bowlby hypothesised that if there was a lack of parent and caregiver bonding by the age of 2 then maternal deprivations may result in the child suffering psychological damages that may be irreversible.
According to Bowlby, children who suffered maternal deprivation at a young age may often become incapable of expressing empathetic emotions and affection later into their adult life. In addition to Bowlbys ideas; a collaborating psychologist; Mary Ainsworth (1978) expanded upon the attachment theory with her own study known as the ‘strange situation’. This was an experiment carried out by Ainsworth whereby, children between the ages of 12 and 18 months were joined with their mother is a playful environment and then left alone when their mother would leave the room and then be reunited back with their mother.
The research was seen as reliable and took into account various variables; such as, the home environment, relationships, the level of bonding between child and caregiver and the way in which the care giver responded when re-entering the room and also how the caregiver responded with absence and the effect this had on the child and how emotions were displayed. Ainsworth believed that Bowlby’s ideas were too set in stone and believed that there may be individual differences in attachment. Ainsworth set upon her research into individual attachments.
Ainsworth study identified three main areas of attachment; secure attachment, anxious- avoidant insecure attachment and anxious- ambivalent- insecure attachment. Main and Soloman (1986) later founded the insecure disorganised attachment theory, (Howe, 1999). The secure attachment theory is a child who is seen to be securely attached to the caregiver; will play freely whilst their caregiver is present and will involve in play with strangers when the caregiver is in the room (Brodie 2012). The child will also show profound emotion when the caregiver leaves, but is content when the caregiver returns.
Anxious- ambivalent insecure attachment is when the child shows anxiousness towards exploration and strangers, even when the care giver is present. When the caregiver departs the child is seen to be extremely distressed. The child regains normality when the caregiver returns, however, will be resentful and resistant when the caregiver pledges attention (Brodie, 2012). Lastly, anxious- avoidant insecure attachments when a child lacks initial response or emotion towards the caregiver when the caregiver returns or departs.
The range of emotion showed is not varied between strangers or caregivers and the child would act relevantly similar regardless of who was in the room or if the room was to be empty (Brodie, 2012). Furthermore, with reference to Ainsworth’s attachment theories, social workers are able to gain an understanding of how early attachment theories can affect the behaviour and later relationships of older children and adults. Each attachment pattern is related to a particular personality structure and level of social ability; in the way in which people are able to relate to others, effectively and appropriately (Howe, 1995).
Furthermore, Bowlby and Ainsworth’s attachment theory has been known to have been criticised. It can be criticised from a multicultural viewpoint. It can be argued that originally founded attachment theory is seen as ‘Eurocentric’. There is an over emphasis on the mother- child bond; undervaluing the other significance relationships such as the father, grandchildren and siblings (Beckett and Taylor 2010). It is also argued that over significant care from the mother by be seen as damaging for the mother- child relationship. The mother may suffer stress; resulting in the mother becoming resentful of the child (Beckett and Taylor 2010).
Piaget was a cognitive development psychologist and identified four basic stages to a child’s developmental thinking. However, in relation to Bowlby’s attachment theory, Piaget had differing opinions. Piaget believed that children had a secondary nature for food. Thus it was believed by Piaget that even at the age of two a child is still dominated by his physiological needs that he switches his affections to whoever may be able to meet them; disagreeing with Bowbly’s view of a primary care giver (Bowlby, 1980). In addition, the psychodynamic theory; founded by Freud (1856-1939) also differentiates from Bowlbys view.
Freud believed behaviour is based on motivational drive (Gullestad 2001), this drive being satisfaction and pleasure. Freud’s theory was set out in three stages, these being the, id, the ego and the super ego; Freud’s child development studies on personality was established in the first five years of a child’s life and consisted mainly of the id. The id is driven by pleasure; this seeks gratification of desires, wants and needs. Furthermore, Freud saw the id, as the part of the mind that dealt with sexual instinct, known as the libido; according to Freud this was the drive behind the behaviour’s shown.
If these needs and wants are not met the result can lead to anxiety or tension. The idea of the id can be seen as important for child development as it ensures that the child’s needs are being met. The id is the only personality theory for young children viewed by Freud and is explained as the pleasure principle. However, like Bowlby; Freud considered attachment with child and caregiver within his studies and believes how the id helps in gaining reciprocal attention from the caregiver by crying if the child is hungry or uncomfortable from a spoiled nappy until the needs of the id are met.
The theory of the id was seen as important in building attachment for the child’s survival. Moreover, the ego is seen as the part of the personality which is responsible for dealing with reality. According to Freud the ego develops from the id and makes sure that impulses of the id are expressed in an acceptable way (Cherry, 2011). In addition, the ego works in the conscious, preconscious and unconscious mind. The ego will excuse the impulses of the id resulting in the desires of the id to be delayed until a more appropriate time.
Lastly the super ego in accordance to Freud is the last stage of personality developmental process. The superego is the aspect of personality that deals with our internal moral thoughts and ideals that our care givers have started to instil in us. It distinguishes our sense of right and wrong. It largely rules our judgement and starts to emerge from around the age of five (Wilson, 2011). Conversely, Bowlby and Freud are seen to oppose theories. Bowlby states how the mother and child attachment is a primary bond and not secondary to drive satisfaction.
Moreover, Bowlby challenges Freuds drive theory which believes that all human behaviour can be explained as derived from sexuality or aggression (Gullestad 2001). Whereas, Bowlby believed that attachment is more of a self-directed motivational system (Gullestad 2001). Erickson related to certain aspects of Freud’s work especially the ego. He was drawn to how social aspects impacted on certain areas of the lifespan; he found a particular interest and attention to the ego and how it developed through many stages and at each stage had to overcome a certain ‘crisis’ to then develop to the next level.
Even though Erikson was influenced by Freud’s work; unlike Freud, Erikson believed that the ego exists from birth and that behaviour is not totally framed by defence. Each stage with a ‘crisis’ were known as the ‘Eight stages of man’. This is seen as similar to the Freudian model; however, Erikson focuses on the whole lifespan and not just childhood. Additionally, Erikson become aware of cultural influences on behaviour and placed more emphasis on the external world (Arlene, 2010). Erikson’s research was based upon the whole lifespan and recognises eight stages of life where the ego starts and continues to develop.
New experiences occurring within the lifespan, new information gained and socialisation means the ego is constantly changing. Each stage has a favourable and an unfavourable outcome. However, the outcome for the certain individual would depend on the person’s ability to challenge a ‘crisis’. Furthermore, Erikson believed that we are motivated by achievement and if each stage is deemed as positive then this will motivate the individual in moving to the next stage. However, Erikson believed that if a stage was seen as a negative experience then this will drop positive thinking and leave a sense of dis-belonging.
The first stage of the eight is basic trust versus mistrust. This stage is specified to young children were the child is totally dependent on the caregiver. This stage requires the primary care giver to give consistent and stable care in order for the child to develop feelings of security. The second stage is autonomy versus shame and doubt. This is where the child will start to form a sign for independence and master skills for ourselves. During this stage the child learns to walk, talk and feed themselves and the child is learning finer motor skills.
Furthermore, within this stage it is important for the child experience control and gain self-esteem, learning right from wrong. However, during this stage there is an exposure of vulnerability, as shame might be felt when certain skills are not met. Stage three is initiative versus guilt. It is during this stage that children develop the erg to copy adults. Whilst Erikson was influenced on Freud’s findings, he swaps Freud’s biological sexuality in favour for psychosocial features between child and caregiver.
The most significant relationship at this stage is with the basic family (Arlene, 2010). If the previous stage reaches a favourable outcome then should have gained confidence and an awareness of their surroundings. Language begins to develop and they begin to explore surroundings. Stage four is known as industry versus inferiority. This is a key social stage of development. Children may experience inferiority amongst peers and experience self -esteem issues. As stage 5 reaches near it is observational that parents no longer have utmost authority.
This is because during this stage children are experiencing school and other experiences. The fifth stage; identity versus role confusion. At this stage life is getting more complex as the transition into adolescence takes place. Stage six is intimacy versus isolation. This is where signified relationships are built, however, if not successful isolation may occur. Stage seven; generatively versus stagnation. At this stage the maturing adult needs an importance in life to overcome the mid -life crisis. The final stage is the ego versus despair, this stage is a reflection on the previous life cycles and gaining acceptance on the last life cycle (Stevens, 2008). In conclusion, this essay has brought attention to many psychologists and theories. Theories of human growth and development are important for caregivers to highlight the need for secure attachment and for social work professionals and in gaining the skills important for practice. Reference list Cassidy, J. , and Maryland, U. (2000). Adult romantic attachments: A developmental perspective on individual differences.
Dept of Psychology, Review of General Psychology. Gullestad, E, 2011, Attachment theory and psychoanalysis: controversial issues, Accessed on line:http://66. 199. 228. 237/boundary/attachment_theory_and_psychoanalysis/attachment_theory. pdf R, Broadie 2012:DCM child development media: Mary Ainsworth and attachment theory: Accessed online:http://www. childdevelopmentmedia. com/mary-ainsworth-and-attachment-theory. html Arlene, F, 2011:support for change: The developmental stages of Erick Erickson: Accessed online:http://www. support4change. com/index. php? ption=com_content&view=article&id=47&Itemid=108 Allan N. Schore (2000): Attachment and the regulation of the right brain, Attachment & Human Development, 2:1, 23-47 Howe, D. (1999) Attachment theory for child maltreatment and family support : a practice and assessment mode, published: Basingstoke, Macmillan. Wilson, K. (2011) Social work: an introduction to contemporary practice, published: Harlow, England; New York, Longman. McLoed, S, 2007, Simply psychology: Bowlby’s attachment theory: Accessed online:http://www. simplypsychology. org/bowlby. html Cherry, K, 2011, The id,