Developmental Psychology

Developmental Psychology

Social Development

There was this girl that I met at one of my fraternity parties my junior year of college.  She was beautiful and made Jessica Alba look like Squidward.  I remember walking up to her and offering her a beer (root beer).  Her name was Dawn (from Long Island- in fact every girl from Long Island seems to be named either Jen or Dawn)) and we talked for awhile. 

Then I invited her up to my room to look at my fish tank (that is not a euphemism, I actually had a fish tank). 

We went up the stairs and studied together for awhile (studying is a euphemism). 

After we finished studying (she really knew her material), I told her that I would call her to study again.  I forgot to call her, but she started calling me everyday.  I guess she REALLY wanted to be study partners because she started showing up at the fraternity house almost every day.  When she found out that I had many study partners (there is a lot of material to cover in college), she started to write bad letters about my study habits and posted them up around campus.  It was at this point that I realized that although Dawn developed very well physically, it meant nothing because her social development was severely lacking.  Social development is a really funny thing- who you are now socially really began all the way back when you were an infant.

Social development begins the minute you enter the world.  Psychologists have identified periods of our lives that development MUST be healthy or they will not develop correctly- these times are called Critical Periods.  The first few months of life are a critical period for social development.  The focal issue for the infant is to develop is attachment– a reciprocal relationship between child and caregiver (usually a parent). 

Some animals develop attachment through the process of imprinting.  Scientist Konrad Lorenz showed us  baby ducklings would develop an immediate strong attachment with the first object it sees moving.  This object is hopefully the duckling’s mother, but Lorenz imprinted ducklings to humans, dogs and even balls. 

Now do humans imprint?  Of course not- otherwise we would all have a thing for doctors and nurses (the first people we see).

Harry Harlow proved to us that touch is critical for higher level mammals (like most of you) to develop attachment. 

Harlow was really into baby monkeys. 

He separated them from their mothers and used a wire mother- covered in soft cloth- with a nipple with milk- as a mother substitute for the baby. 

One day a baby monkey took a poop on the fake mother and Harlow had to wash the cloth.  The baby monkey freaked out with the wire monkey without the soft cloth.  So Harlow wanted to see if the cloth was really that important.   He put baby monkeys into cages with two mothers- one with a soft cloth and no food, one a hard wire mesh with a nipple that provided food.  To everyone’s astonishment, the baby stayed with the cloth mother all day and ignored the one with food.  Even when hungry the baby would quickly reach across, take some food, but run back to the soft mother. 

Thus, it was discovered that soft touch is critical for monkeys to develop attachment.   Further studies have been done with humans in orphanages.  Some orphans were touched daily (good touch not bad touch), with some stroking on the head, while other orphans were fed but never touched.  The ones that were never touched became socially isolated and when tested 12 years later, had lower IQs than the ones that were touched.  Yes, this was a cruel experiment.

Years later, psychologist Mary Ainsworth, labeled the various types of attachments humans can have with their parents.  She set up an experiment called Ainsworth’s Stranger Paradigm (I still have no clue what a paradigm really is).  She placed young children into rooms that they had never been in before and then asked their parents to quietly go out the door.

After observing how the child reacts with the parent away, she asked the parents to come back in the room and observed how the child reacted to their mom or dad’s return.  She discovered three main types of attachment.

  1. Secure Attachments (66% of infants): confidently explored the room with parent there, became distressed when the parent left, and came back to them for a hug when the parent returned.
  2. Avoidant Attachments (21% of infants): explore the environment even when parents leave the room- do not go to parents for comfort.
  3. Anxious/Ambivalent Attachment (12% of infants): show stress when parents leave, but do not want comfort when parents return.

* On a little side note about attachment, at around a year old most children develop what most psychologists call stranger anxiety, which is distress young children feel when they are around people they are unfamiliar with.  Stranger anxiety makes alot of sense from an evolutionary perspective.  What happens when kids turn one?  They begin to walk- they become mobile.  Way back in the cave man days, those kids that did not develop stranger anxiety by the time they walked, might have just wandered  off with some Cro-Magnon pedophile and died.  Those that had the anxiety lived long enough to procreate (have kids) and that trait was eventually passed on to you.

Parenting Styles

Do you think your parents have in any way affected your social development?  Think about the following 3 types of parenting styles and see if you can identify traits of your parents within them:

  • Authoritarian Parents: these are the "WHY, BECAUSE I SAID SO PARENTS!!!!".  They set strict standards for the child’s behavior and apply punishments for breaking the rules.  They favor obedience over rationale.

  • Permissive Parents: do not set clear guidelines for their children.  The rules are constantly being changed, and it creates a feeling that you can get away with anything.  Your parents are unpredictable- you come home two hours late and one day they will not care, but the next they may ground you for a week.

  • Authoritative Parents: have consistent standards for the child’s behavior, but the rules are reasonable and explained.  Encourage the child’s independence, but not to the point where the rules are broken.  They praise as often as they punish, and often let the children help make the rules.

Now most of our parents do not fall exactly in one single category.  They may be permissive about watching TV, but authoritarian about dating.  In general, children of Authoritative parents have been shown to have more success in school.  But is that because authoritative parenting helps with academic success or the child is doing well in school, so the parent acts authoritative?

Stage theorists and Social Development

We already learned that the nature v nurture argument is a big one in psychology.  Another big controversy is an argument called continuity v discontinuity

Do we develop continually, at a steady rate throughout our lives, or is development discontinuous, marked by periods of rapid development along with periods of stagnation.  If you think about it, some development is continuous, like my ability to play Madden football on my PS3- I always get a little better at it as I practice.  But other development is discontinuous, like riding a bike.  You tend to fall off again and again until one day, you just get it.  The psychologists we are going to talk about believe in discontinuous growth, so we develop socially kinda like riding a bike, we struggle, until one day we just change.

Several famous psychologists who believe is discontinuity profess that we develop in stages- thus they are called stage theorists.  Two very famous stage theorists who are big in developmental psychology are Sigmund Freud and Erik Erikson.

Sigmund Freud Erik Erikson

Both Freud and Erik belong to what we called in the introductory chapter as the psychoanalytic school of psychology.  But they also studied in great detail social development.  They essentially believed that we develop socially in stages (thus you and your parents may be in different stages of social development- so that is why you guys fight so much).  Now these two theories do not really contradict each other, but rather take a different view of social growth.

Sigmund Freud

Freud (his friends called him Siggy) is probably the most recognizable psychologist of all time.  He is the father of the psychoanalytic school of psychology and we WILL discuss him in MUCH more detail when we discuss the psychoanalytic school.  But Freud did talk about social development and stated that all of us go through what he called five psychosexual stages

Now when you think about sex, you think about using your genitals for stimulation, rated R, late night Cinamax sex.  However to Freud, sex was a concept that explained how we get our pleasure from the world.  For most of you, although your parents would hate to think about it, your sexual pleasure comes from your genitals.  But to younger children they do not.  Freud believed that we all have a libido, or instinctual sexual energy. 

Go Ahead- work that libido!!!!

Your libido changes throughout your lifetime, focusing on different parts of your body.  Essentially, your libido has 4 stages of metamorphosis.  If some outside force deters our social development in one of the following stages, Freud said we could become fixated in that stage, meaning that we would become preoccupied with that earlier stage later on in our lives.  Lets explain the stages and see if we can get this to make some sense.

1.Oral Stage: About 0-2 years old, an infants libido is focused around their mouth.  You will notice that babies see the world through their mouths.  If I give my 8 month old son some dog vomit, the first thing he will do is taste it.  Freud believe that if you become fixated in the oral stage than you may overeat, smoke, or just have a childhood dependence on things.

2. Anal Stage: About 2-4 years old, the child becomes focused on controlling bowel movements (crapping).  The libido is focused on holding in and releasing defecation (poo poo).  This usually occurs during toilet training. The child meets the conflict between the parent’s demands and the child’s desires and physical capabilities in one of two ways: Either he puts up a fight or he simply refuses to go. The child who wants to fight takes pleasure in excreting maliciously, perhaps just before or just after being placed on the toilet. If the parents are too lenient and the child manages to derive pleasure and success from this expulsion, it will result in the formation of an anal expulsive character. This character is generally messy, disorganized, reckless, careless, and defiant. Conversely, a child may opt to retain feces, thereby spiting his parents while enjoying the pleasurable pressure of the built-up feces on his intestine. If this tactic succeeds and the child is overindulged, he will develop into an anal retentive character. This character is neat, precise, orderly, careful, stingy, withholding, obstinate, meticulous, and passive-aggressive. The resolution of the anal stage, proper toilet training, permanently affects the individual propensities to possession and attitudes towards authority.

3. Phallic Stage: About 4-6 years old, the child first realizes his or her gender.  In other words, the boy says "look I have an extra finger, Sally where is yours, you freak!!!". The libido is focused on exploring the penis and vagina (playing doctor- I have fond but disturbing memories of a plastic fisher price med kit) but not in the way you now think about playing with your genitals (you pervert). 

During this stage Freud believed that boys can develop an Oedipus Complex, where he begins to have sexual feelings towards his mother (not the "Mom, I want to see you in a pink thong" feeling, but more like I want to be with you on my phallic stage level). 

The girl can develop and Electra Complex, where they want to be with the father.  In particular, they develop what Freud called penis envy, or the idea that every woman wants to have a male penis (why did I say male, is there a female penis?).

During these complexes the children often have hateful feelings toward the same sex parent and the stage ends with a "if I can’t beat them, I’ll join them attitude toward that same sex parent.  Now I believe that penis envy has merit, not because I love my penis and think that of course every person would want to have it, but rather, the penis may represent what men have in society and women do not; power.

4. Latency Stage: About 7-11 year olds develop the need to just hang around peers of their own gender.  You might as well call this the "cootie stage".  Circle circle dot dot now I have my cootie shot.  This is the stage when the libido is hidden in the unconscious (this will be a big topic later) and sexuality is repressed (hidden).  But the libido makes a grand entrance in the next stage.

5. Genital Stage: From about 12 until death, this is the stage you are probably all in now (if not, don’t worry, your time will come).  Here the libido,sexual energy, is focused on your genitals and sex is as you think about it now.  Freud considers fixation in this stage normal- Congrats!!!!

Now we will be going over Freud a lot more later.  Just remember that his theories have some issues.  First, he lived in Vienna, Austria (not Australia dumb ass- it is a whole different continent!!!) and he studies himself, his children and rich white woman in Europe.  Are their thoughts generalizable to the rest of the global population?  Probably not.  Next, his theories cannot be tested, so it is hard to consider them true science.  But they make for cool conversation and many great ideas came from his wacky drugged out mind (yes he did drugs).

Erik Erikson

First of all, what were his parents thinking, naming him Erik, they must have been real deep people.  Erikson came from a group of psychologists that took Fred’s ideas and built upon them, called neo-Freudians (thus you can put Erikson in what school of psychology?- Psychoanalytic).  Erikson thought Freud was a perv and focused too much on sex.  So Erikson came up with his own stages of psychosocial development.  Erikson’s stage theory has eight stages and within each stage their is a social conflict or battle between two forces in our development.

1. Trust versus mistrust: This stage is all about fulfilling needs.  The baby needs to trust the world around them to take take of their needs.  If they are hungry, they need to develop trust that they will be fed.  If they are not fed, or their diaper is left dirty, they may develop a mistrust in the outside world.  This sense of trust of mistrust can effect us throughout the rest of our lives.

2. Autonomy versus same and doubt: Autonomy means being your own boss.  Here a toddler tries to control their own bodies by toilet training and their environment, by always saying "NO!!!!".  Sometimes they do poopy in their pants or get yelled at by their parents, causing shame and doubt in their own abilities.  If we learn how to control ourselves in reasonable ways, we develop a healthy will.  We are then able to face the later challenges of life.

3. Initiative versus guilt: Here the key word in a child’s life changes from "No!" to why?".  In this stage children want to understand the world and they ask too many freakin questions!!!!  If their initiative in questioning the world is encouraged, then they will feel comfortable with expressing their curiosity throughout the rest of their life.  If we smack them around and tell them to shut up, then they will feel guilty about their questioning and avoid being inquisitive later.

4. Industry versus inferiority: This is where most children begin formal education (what we call school).  For the first time children are being formally evaluated.  If they raise their hand in class and answer a question correctly. then they will feel industrious (competent).  If he tries to answer a question but stutters to get out the wrong answer and Matt Dunn, Nick Adams and Josh Beiber all start making fun of his speech impediment, then he will feel inferior (it still hurts even today).

5. Identity versus role confusion: In adolescence, Erikson believed that a teenagers main social need is to discover his or her social identity.  While searching for your identity, you may try out different roles, like trying to fit into various social groups, experimenting with drugs or sex, or just changing your wardrobe.  You should be trying to find a stable sense of self now, or Erikson believed you may have an identity crisis later.

I dated this Goth girl freshman year of college for about a week.  Three years later her whole demeanor and style changed to sorority girl.  We then dated again, but that still only lasted about a week.  But the point is- she was searching for her identity- which is what most of you reading this are doing right now.

6. Intimacy versus isolation: Young adults (early 20s into early 30s) are trying to balance their career efforts (work, school or self-improvement) with the need to be in an intimate relationship with another person.  How much time should I spend looking for a relationship?  What is I don’t find anybody?  What if I am all alone for the rest of my life?

7. Generativity versus stagnation: Erikson believed that by the time we reach our mid 30s to mid 50s we start to really examine our lives and see if it is going the way you planned it or did it take a drastic turn.  For example, when I was your age, I thought by the time I was 33 (yes- I am 33) I would be traveling around South America with a whip, discovering lost treasuring and meeting new exotic women from village to village.  Instead, I live in Rye and teach Social Studies in Harrison, with 3 kids and a big mortgage (I don’t even own a whip).  This is where some people take drastic steps and change their lives.  You will see alot of late divorces or extreme changes in clothes or cars- we call this experience a mid life crisis.

Which above best depicts my life now?  Not that I am bitter or anything like that….

8. Integrity versus despair: Towards the end of our lives we look back and evaluate ourselves.  Did we live a good life?  Leave behind a legacy of friends or family?  Or did we waste our time playing Madden 2023 on Playstation 7?  If we feel like there were many lost opportunities along the way we may fall into despair.  I like to use this stage to try to shape my life now- you should too.


There you have it- social development in a nutshell and that is all the reading for today- unless you are ready for cognitive development?