Developmental Theories

The development of children was ignored in the beginnings of Psychology. Children were not viewed as complex individuals capable of making decisions therefore, most researchers did not find it beneficial to study them.

The study of development in children did not begin until the early 20th century and it’s main focus was studying abnormalities in children. From there many researchers began to see the value of studying children in hopes that it would lead to more scientific answers in adult psychology.

It is essential to study the development of children in psychology. From cognitive, emotional, physical, and social development; understanding developmental psychology in children has opened up a new realm of research and allowed for many theories to develop.

Where did developmental theories begin?

The developmental roots of child psychology began with the studies of Descartes.  Descartes was one of key influences in the scientific revolution, where philosophers began looking at the biological and medical standpoint of individuals. By the mid 18th Century Jean Jacques Rousseau began exploring children’s stages of childhood: infancy, childhood, and adolescence. Rousseau’s exploration of childhood was the first time that children had been looked at from a developmental standpoint in psychology. Towards the late 19th century Charles Darwin began looking at psychological development from his theory of evolution. Darwin believed that by studying the development of children, he could describe the evolutionary history of the human species. From there we began to see the work of James Mark Baldwin who studied mental development in infants. His work was most important during this time because it was a major influence in Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development in children.

Let’s look at two important individuals that majorly influenced the development of child psychology and left their imprint on where we are with studying the development of children today.

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Jean Piaget

Lawerence Kohlberg




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