“”¦a sufficient diversity of child behaviour can be modified at such a range of ages and in such a range of sequences as to make a developmental psychology unimportant”ť
(Baer and Wright, 1974)
Â The developmental psychology has made a considerable progress, especially within the 20th century, when ideas of leading psychologists supporting the concept of the developmental psychology, such as Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, made their major discoveries in the field of psychology. At the same time, it should be pointed out that practically from the beginning of the formation of the concept of the developmental psychology and its basic theoretical assumptions, it was severely criticized by supporters of traditionalist views on human psychology and development of human beings. In this regard, the idea that of the possibility of a substantial modification of child’s behaviour at any age is apparently a challenge to the contemporary concept of the developmental psychology. On the other hand, it raises probably the most arguable point in the developmental psychology ”“ the possibility of such changes, which actually undermines the basic theoretical points of the developmental psychology.
In actuality, the developmental psychology is widely spread and many specialists (Gruber and Gruber, 1977) stand on the ground that its basic ideas are practically unarguable. At any rate, it is possible to estimate that the majority of contemporary psychologists agree that the developmental psychology cannot irrelevant, at least at the large scale, when the general trends in the development of human beings are defined. On the other hand, it is worth mentioning the fact that the criticism of the developmental psychology has never stopped and, at this point the idea of Baer and Wright (1974) is a quintessence of the criticism of the developmental psychology, which actually leads to its total denial.
In order to better understand the extent to which the idea that the developmental psychology may be irrelevant, it is necessary to take into consideration the position of both supporters and opponents of the developmental psychology.
In this respect, it should be said that Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky viewed the development of an individual as a process of the gradual transformation which affected not only physiological but also psychological and social spheres. It is worth mentioning the fact that initially, they focused on the initial stages of the development of humans, especially on the early childhood, but later the attention of psychologists was extended on the adolescence and early adulthood, while nowadays, the developmental psychology covers practically all stages in the development of humans in the course of their life, until their death.
In fact, the major idea of the development psychology is the formation of an individual in accordance with certain stages of his/her development. To put it more precisely, Jean Piaget, for instance, developed the stage theory, according to which he classified different stages in the development of an individual on the basis of his/her psychological characteristics, experience, skills and abilities. Similarly, Lev Vygotsky singled out several stages in the development of an individual, but unlike Jean Piaget, he mainly focused on the social context in which an individual develops. In other words, Lev Vygotsky viewed the development of an individual through several stages of socialization, which affected the behaviour of an individual, his physical and physiological progress, skills, abilities, and relations with other people. Later the ideas of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky were developed by other supporters of the developmental psychology, such as Michael Cole, who developed the Theory of Cultural Development, Albert Bandura, who developed the Social Learning theory, and many others (MacDonald and Hershberger, 2005).
However, their opponents (Klein, 1997) argue that the creation of the strict stages of the development and its classification does not fully reflect the actual situation and the real development of children as well as adults. The major point of the argument is the fact that the standardized stages of the development of an individual do not really take into consideration individual peculiarities that are typical for an individual (MacDonald and Hershberger, 2005). What is meant here is the fact that each individual has his/her own, unique psychological peculiarities, individual traits of character, internal inclinations, etc. In such a situation, the attempt to assess the level of the development of an individual on the basis of psychological characteristics that are typical for a specific stage of the development would not be absolutely correct. For instance, the cases of the accelerated development of children, especially at the perturbation period, may lead to rapid changes on both physiological and psychological levels. As a result, a child, whose development is accelerated, is supposed to be at the childhood stage of the development, while in actuality, his/her psychological and physiological development would be similar to those of adolescents.
Moreover, the rapid progress of technologies and the dramatic change of the traditional rhythm of life make children susceptible to such significant influences that their behaviour changes irrevocably to the extent that the traditional development psychology becomes simply irrelevant and unimportant. In this respect, it should be said that many psychologists indicate to the emergence of such phenomenon as “indigo children”ť, which are actually children whose development consistently surpass the developmental psychology’s norm (MacDonald and Hershberger, 2005). In fact, the development of such children is accelerated due to the larger opportunities for receiving information and learning since the early childhood. As a result, it is hardly possible to apply the standard stages of the development to such children because they develop in a unique way and the external influences are so significant that their behaviour changes rapidly in response to such external influences.
In addition, the opponents of the developmental psychology often refer to example of children who grew in isolation from human society and who failed to come through traditional stages of the development. Cases of such children reveal the fact that under certain conditions, namely isolation from human society, children’s development may fail to undergo stages defined in terms of the developmental psychology and their behaviour will be absolutely different from the behaviour of children of their age (Geary and Bjorklund, 2000).
Furthermore, it is important to underline that the development of a child is not necessarily a process of the external influence of his/her social environment. In fact, the development of a child may be viewed in the context of nature-nurture argument. In such a context, it is obvious that the developmental psychology basically refers to the environmental aspect and characteristics which are acquired in the course of life under the impact of the social environment of a child. However, it is necessary to remember about a significant of natural inclinations and characteristics of a child that influences consistently his/her behaviour and even shape the personality of a child.
The development of genetics contributed consistently to the better understanding of the significance of heritage in the development of an individual. For instance, it is not a secret that people can inherit certain illness from their parents, but, what is more important, the recent researches show that a person can inherit inclinations to alcoholism or obesity, which cannot fail to affect the development of such a child and shape his/her identity (Johnson-Pynn et al, 2003). Naturally, it does necessarily mean that such a person will definitely become an addict, alcoholic or he/she will suffer from obesity, but still due to the inherited predisposition to such problems, the risk of becoming an addict or getting obesity, for instance, will be higher for this individual compared to other people, who do not have such inherited predisposition.
In addition, it should be said that the development of a child may be affected by some natural factors that can change his/her behaviour to the extent that basic principles of developmental psychology will not work in relation to this child. At any rate, it is obvious that in the course of life a child naturally acquires certain skills, develops new abilities, gets new experience, etc. In fact, it is hardly possible to imagine that children could develop in a different way than they normally do because their development may be viewed as a natural process, while their socialization and the influence of their social environment may be viewed just as a part of such natural development. What is meant here is the fact that a child grows and naturally in the course of his/her life he/she learns and explores the surrounding world. As a result, the formation of his/her character and personality occurs along with his/her physiological development. In this regard, it is possible to estimate that psychological development of a child is as natural as his/her physiological development (Johnson-Pynn et al, 2003). In such a situation, the impact of social environment can occur simply because humans are social beings and, therefore, children normally grow up in their social environment, which cannot fail to affect their development. In such a way, it is possible to arrive to a kind of compromise in the view on the development of a child. To put it more precisely, it is possible to estimate that a child may have some inherited inclinations which can be developed in the course of his/her natural development and his/her social environment can either stimulate their development or oppress them as well as it can also assist to the formation of some unique features of character and psychological characteristics which are shaped in the result of the external influences of people surrounding the child.
In general, it is possible to speak about the intersection of various perspectives in views on the development of child since along with nativism, which implies some innate inclinations and abilities, there is also the process of acquisition of new experience. In fact, this process may be defined as empiricism since a child empirically explores the surrounding world, especially at the early stages of the development and the first experience can produce a profound impact on the behaviour of a child in his/her later life. For instance, violence in the early childhood in relation to a child may provoke some psychological disorders or problems in communication of a child with other people, some inexplicable fears, etc. At the same time, it is important to remember about authoritarianism, because some parents tend to authoritarian style of upbringing of their children. They totally control the behaviour of their children and deprive them of any kind of independence that affects dramatically behaviour and development of children. Finally, it is possible to speak about interactionism since children always interact with their social environment and they cannot avoid its impact.
Thus, in conclusion, it should be said that arguments of both sides may seem to be quite convincing, but it is important to underline that, at the present moment, the position of the developmental psychology is still very strong.
In this respect, it should be said that the opponents of the developmental psychology basically attempts to appeal to some exceptional cases, while, the developmental psychology is traditionally focused on an average, normal development of a child. As a result, certain variations determined by individual peculiarities or specific conditions of the development of particular individuals may affect their development but it is impossible to deny the fact that the majority of people develop in accordance with physiological and psychological characteristics defined by the developmental psychology. It is important to remember that along with social and environmental factors there are also natural factors that define the behaviour of children and their influence may be so significant that, under certain conditions, it would be really possible to speak about the low importance of developmental psychology.