Theories of Development

The field of developmental psychology has been shaped by several different, and often conflicting, visions of childhood experience. These visions have, in turn, influenced early childhood and childhood education practice. In this course, we will study the classical theories—behaviorist, psychoanalytic, and cognitive-developmental—as they were originally formulated and in light of subsequent critiques and revisions. We will focus on the kinds of questions that each theory asks and the “image of the child” that each puts forth. Recent challenges within the field have highlighted specific conceptual problems, which we will address. Are patterns of development universal or culture-specific? Can childhood experiences be thought of as proceeding in a series of stages? How do we construct methods for studying children that will recognize and validate the significance of differing social and cultural experiences? How can we forge a multicultural view of development such that development is understood in terms of how it is experienced within a given cultural context? The goal of the course is to prepare students to integrate theory and practice into their work with children. Required papers will reflect this integration.