Human developmental theories explain human development in a series of stages. Various theories on human development have been proposed in psychology. The two human development theories discussed in this paper are; Brofenbrenner’s ecological development theory and the cognitive development theory by Piaget. The cognitive development theory was developed by Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist.
Cognitive development theory focuses on the development of human intelligence through various stages in life. It is composed of four stages; sensorimotor (between birth to 2 years), pre-operational stage (2-7 years), concrete operational (7-11 years) and formal operational stage (12 and above) (Newman, 2007). In the sensorimotor phase children learn object permanence. The child learns via accommodation and assimilation and children explore the world through sensations and movements. In the pre-operational stage children improve their language while at the same time becoming very egocentric (Newman, 2007). In the concrete operational phases, the child acquires an understanding of the concept of conservation. The last stage, formal operational stage, the child is able to reason and can think abstractly.
The ecological systems theory was developed by Urie Brofenbrenner. It explains human development in relation to the environment an individual lives in. It explains how environment influences human development. The ecological systems theory comprises of 5 phases. The microsystem refers to the immediate environment that affects one’s development. For example, family, neighborhood, school. Mesosystem refers to connections between different microsystems for example, the relationship between teachers and parents (Newman, 2007). Exosystem refers to the indirect environments affect the relationship between the child and parent. For example, how the parents work experiences affect their relationship between themselves and the child. Macrosystem refers to the culture individuals live in (Newman, 2007). the last system is chronosystem that refers to the changes and transitions that occur during the development of the child. For example, divorce.
Brofenbrenner’s theory is the best for explaining human development in relation to culture. It is the best since it involves systems that are in the environment the development is occurring in. According to Brofenbrenner, the culture and environment and individual is brought up in determines how they will develop. However, according to Piaget, the child reaches the last stage of cognitive development regardless of the culture they are brought up in.
Human developmental theories are useful in explaining child development. Their application in day to day lives varies. They have been used to educate parents on what to expect at what stage and have also been used to help diagnose early developmental disorders. Some of the theories are used to explain some behaviors and thinking processes that have been adapted by an individual as an adult. Human developmental theories play an essential role in our lives.
Newman, B. M. (2007). Theories of human development. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum