Developmental Psychology - Part V: Content Review for the AP Psychology Exam

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Developmental Psychology
Part V: Content Review for the AP Psychology Exam


The life-span approach to developmental psychology takes the view that development is not a process with a clear ending. For decades, development was thought to end with the onset of adolescence. Rather, it is now viewed as a process that continues from birth to death. From this perspective, developmental psychology can be defined as the study of the changes that occur in people’s abilities and behaviors as they age. It is important to differentiate between life-span psychologists and child psychologists. Although both study development, the child psychologist has decided to focus on a particular earlier portion of the typical life span. Erik Erikson was the first to successfully champion the view that development occurs across an entire lifetime.

Research Methods

Research methods in developmental psychology vary according to the questions being asked by the researcher. Some developmental psychologists are interested in studying normative development, which is the typical sequence of developmental changes for a group of people. For example, some developmental psychologists talk about development occurring in a series of stages, universal to human development. Other developmental psychologists are more interested in individual development, or the individual pattern of development, including differences among individuals during development. Often, the techniques and research methods useful for studying one type of development are not useful for studying other types of development.

Normative development is often studied using the cross-sectional method. The cross-sectional method seeks to compare groups of people of various ages on similar tasks. So, for example, a cross-sectional study might involve administering cognitive tests to a group of two-year-olds, a group of four-year-olds, and a group of six-year-olds, and then comparing the means of the groups. This approach can reveal the average age at which certain skills or abilities appear. However, the data collected in cross-sectional studies tells us little about the actual development of any single individual.

To research the developmental process, many developmental psychologists use the longitudinal method. The longitudinal method involves following a small group of people over a long portion of their lives, assessing change at set intervals. As you might imagine, longitudinal research is more difficult and more expensive to conduct and, therefore, is conducted less frequently than cross-sectional research. However, the longitudinal method does have some benefits because the study of individuals over time rules out the differences between subjects that other studies include. It also allows for the study of the temporal order of events.


Developmental psychology, like most aspects of psychology, must deal with the so-called nature-nurture debate. Maturationists emphasize the role of genetically programmed growth and development on the body, particularly on the nervous system. Maturation can best be defined as biological readiness. From their point of view, greater preprogrammed physiological development of the brain allows for more complex conceptualization and reasoning.

The opposing position is the learning perspective, and adherents to this position are sometimes referred to as environmentalists. The extreme form can be found in Locke’s idea, which states that almost all development is the direct result of learning—infants are born like a blank slate onto which experience etches its lessons. The organism develops more complex behaviors and cognition because it acquires more associations through learning.

There are other issues to be considered when studying development. One is whether development is continuous or discontinuous—gradual or stage-oriented. Evidence of growth spurts and leaps of cognition support the discontinuous approach, but other studies show gradual development, particularly in social skill building. A critical period refers to a time during which a skill or ability must develop; if the ability does not develop during that time, it probably will never develop or may not develop as well. An example of a skill with a critical period is language. Scientists believe that, if a person is not exposed to language by roughly age 12, the ability to learn language significantly diminishes or disappears.

The Feral Child

One famous example in favor of the critical period is Genie, the “feral child” who was isolated from other humans from infancy until age 13, preventing her from learning spoken language.

Culture also impacts development in important ways. A collectivist culture is one in which the needs of society are placed before the needs of the individual. Conversely, individualist cultures promote personal needs above the needs of society. It is important to realize that a developing child’s relationship with her environment and culture is bidirectional, meaning that just as a child’s social environment plays a role in how she develops, she also contributes to the society in which she is born.


Developmental theories can be divided into two broad classes: those that conceptualize development as a single, continuous, unitary process and those that view it as occurring in discrete stages. Stages are patterns of behavior that occur in a fixed sequence. Each stage has a unique set of cognitive structures, or sets of mental abilities, that build on the cognitive structures established in the previous stage. Quite likely, some aspects of development may occur in stages at the same time that others occur along a continuum. Psychologists typically agree that the edges of stages are blurred and may overlap for various domains within a stage.

Dimensions of Development

Development typically occurs within three realms: physical, cognitive, and social.

Physical Development

Physical development starts at conception. The zygote, or fertilized egg, goes through three distinct phases of gestation prior to birth. The first stage is the germinal stage, in which the zygote undergoes cell division, expanding to 64 cells and implanting itself in the uterine wall. This stage lasts about two weeks. The embryonic stage consists of organ formation and lasts until the beginning of the third month. In the fetal stage, sexual differentiation occurs and movement begins to develop. Growth is rapid in this stage. Various harmful environmental agents, known as teratogens, may affect fetal development. One such agent is alcohol. Some fetuses exposed to alcohol develop fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), resulting in physical abnormalities and cognitive deficiencies.

A newborn baby, or neonate, is nearly helpless, but is equipped with a few reflexes. The sucking reflex can be triggered by placing something in the baby’s mouth. The palmar reflex is the automatic grabbing elicited by something being placed in one of the neonate’s hands. Stroking the bottom of the foot causes the toes to splay out. This is known as the Babinski reflex. The head-turning reflex (also called the rooting reflex) is the response elicited by touching the baby’s cheek, and the Moro reflex is the splaying out of the limbs in response to loss of support, such as when a baby believes it is suddenly falling. Finally, neonates have an orienting reflex, which is activated when they orient themselves to sudden changes in their surroundings. For example, if there is a loud crash, infants will search for the origin of the noise to orient themselves. This reflex persists into adulthood. However, most of the reflexes mentioned above disappear months after birth as the child matures and develops.

Infants also seem to have innate likes and dislikes. Infants prefer to look at face-like patterns over other more or less complex patterns. Infants have a developed sense of taste. Neonates will make stereotyped ingestive responses, sucking and smacking their lips, if someone places a drop of sugar water in their mouths. If one uses lemon juice, the neonate will gape—allowing the fluid to come out of the mouth—will stick out the tongue, and will probably cry. This behavior makes evolutionary sense given that sour and bitter flavors are often associated with harmful bacteria that can make the baby ill.

Much of the research on the physical development of children focuses on the refinement of motor control and perceptual abilities. Humans undergo a fairly predictable course of motor development, beginning with rudimentary reflexes and progressing through the learning of specialized movements to assist with daily living and recreational activities.

Reflexive movements are primitive, involuntary movements that serve to “prime” the neuromuscular system and form the basis for the more sophisticated movements to come. For example, the palmar grasp reflex primes the nervous system for the more controlled grasping learned at later stages. Reflexes, and learning to inhibit reflexes, occur during the first year of a child’s life and overlap with the stage in which rudimentary movements are learned.

Rudimentary movements serve as the first voluntary movement performed by a child. They occur in very predictable stages from birth to age 2, and they include rolling, sitting, crawling, standing, and walking. These form the foundation on which the fundamental movements are built and are primarily dictated by genetics (that is, these movements are more or less “pre-programmed”).

The fundamental movement stage occurs from age 2 to age 7; during this time, the child is learning to manipulate his or her body through actions such as running, jumping, throwing, and catching. This stage is highly influenced by environment, much more so than the rudimentary movement stage that precedes it. Children are typically in school at this stage, and physical activity and games are necessary for proper motor development. Movements initially start out uncoordinated and poorly controlled, but as the child advances in age, movements become more refined, coordinated, and efficient.

During the stage of specialized movement, children learn to combine the fundamental movements and apply them to specific tasks. This stage can be subdivided into two shorter stages: a transitional substage and an application substage. During the transitional substage, a combination of movements occurs; for example, grasping, jumping, and throwing are combined to take a shot in basketball. The application substage is defined more by conscious decisions to apply these skills to specific types of activity; for example, one child might choose to play basketball, whereas another might use the same set of skills and abilities to play baseball. Additionally, the application of strategy to movement is now possible; for example, a child choosing to delay shooting the basketball until she has a clear shot at the basket.

Ultimately, children progress to a lifelong application stage, typically beginning in adolescence and progressing through adulthood. During this time, movements are continually refined and applied to normal daily activities as well as recreational and competitive activities.

Both of these processes are dependent on neural development. There is evidence that the brain is still organizing itself in the months after birth. In fact, nervous system development continues into early adulthood. It is important to note that although perceptual and motor development depend on the development of the nervous system, the development of the nervous system depends on environmental interaction on the part of the child. It has been demonstrated that children raised in situations in which their ability to crawl or walk is restricted have impaired motor skills. This occurs, for example, in some institutions in countries without regulation of childcare facilities. Additionally, perceptual development can be delayed by lack of stimulation. An important theme in developmental psychology is that of the critical period—that for some parts of the brain, the phrase “use it or lose it” holds true.

Experiments with animals have shown that depriving an eye of stimuli by covering it at the very beginning of life will lead to the underdevelopment of the part of the occipital lobe responsible for vision in that eye. As a result, that section of the brain will be allocated to another function. This plasticity, or changeability, of the brain is illustrated in an experiment in which a third eye was added to a frog. The occipital lobe flexibly responded by dividing the processing power of the occipital lobe into three eyes rather than two. This experiment worked only if the eye was introduced very close to birth, demonstrating the limited critical period during which some experience must occur for the brain to develop in a particular way.

Nature, Nurture, and the Critical Period

This phenomenon is informative with regard to the nature-nurture issue. The child is not born as a blank slate: it has some innate reflexes. However, the physiological development of the child depends on its interactions with the environment. Nature and nurture play complementary roles in development.

Puberty is another landmark of physical development. Growth spurts in height and weight, development of secondary sex characteristics, and menstruation in girls or nocturnal emissions in boys characterize this stage. There are also social and cognitive changes that are discussed later in this section.

Most people peak physically in early adulthood. One just needs to look at professional athletes to recognize this fact. Adulthood is marked by gradual decrease of physical abilities, although a healthy lifestyle will slow this process. At approximately 50 years old, women experience menopause, a change in estrogen production causing menstruation to cease.

In the elderly population, the gradual diminution of adulthood reaches noticeable proportions. The senses lose much of their efficacy. For example, half of those over age 80 have lost their sense of smell. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s can affect memory, cognition, and personality.

Cognitive Development

Cognitive development refers to the development of learning, memory, reasoning, problem-solving, and related skills.


Jean Piaget proposed an influential theory of the cognitive development of children. Piaget’s developmental theory is based on the concept of equilibration. Equilibration is a child’s attempt to reach a balance between what the child encounters in the environment and what cognitive structures the child brings to the situation. Children try to reach equilibration through assimilation, incorporating new ideas into existing schemas. For example, a child may develop a schema, or mental representational model, for animals after encountering dogs and cats. When he goes to the zoo and sees more exotic four-legged animals like elephants or giraffes, he must assimilate this new information into his existing category of animals. However, when facing information that does not easily fit into an existing schema, the child must modify the schema to include the new information. This process is called accommodation. For example, this child’s schema of animal might go through a process of accommodation if he encountered a kangaroo that hopped on two legs.

Q: What are the typical age ranges for Piaget’s stages of development?

Answer on this page.

According to Piaget, children go through a series of developmental stages. Piaget believed that these stages occur in a fixed order, and a child can be in only one stage at any given time. The following are the four stages Piaget proposed, first presented as a chart and then in more detail.

Each stage can be categorized by the presence/absence of schemas, the types of mental operations the child can perform, and the presence or absence of theoretical thought.


· Sensorimotor Stage. This stage usually occurs during the first two years of life and is typified by reflexive reactions and then circular reactions, which are repeated behaviors by which the infant manipulates the environment. For example, if an infant kicks its legs and hits the mobile on its crib with its foot, stimulating movement, the infant is likely to repeat the action in the future. Object permanence, which develops during this stage, is the knowledge that objects continue to exist when they are outside the field of view. For example, if a ball rolls under a chair, the child will continue to look for it. At this age, the child lacks the ability to access mental schemas or solve problems through performing a mental operation, which is the ability to represent and manipulate information in a person’s mind. Schemas are acquired in the preoperational stage, while mental operations become accessible during the concrete operational stage. Another hallmark of the sensorimotor stage is the development of goal-oriented behavior. For example, a very young child who is able to roll over at will, but not yet able to crawl, may consciously roll over multiple times to reach a favorite toy.

· Preoperational Stage. The preoperational stage typically occurs from ages two to seven. Children generally begin this stage with the development of language. Language represents a shift to symbolic thinking, or the ability to use words to substitute for objects. Other characteristics of the stage are egocentrism, seeing the world only from one’s own point of view, artificialism, believing that all things are human-made, and animism, believing that all things are living.

· Concrete Operational Stage. Typically occurring from ages seven to eleven, this is the stage when children develop the ability to perform a mental operation and then reverse their thinking back to a starting point, a concept called reversibility. Another important concept is conservation—the idea that the amount of a substance does not change just because it is arranged differently. For example, conservation of mass might be demonstrated by taking a large ball of clay and using it to create several smaller balls of clay. A child in the concrete operational stage will understand that the total amount of clay has not changed, while a child in the preoperational stage might think that there is more clay because there are more balls.

Criticism of Piaget

Piaget’s theory is not universally accepted. Other researchers have found flaws in his research methods and his underestimation of children’s abilities, especially at ages four to five. Critics attest that some children that age can take another’s perspective and are not so egocentric. Other criticisms include the failure of Piaget to recognize the environmental factors pushing child development.

· Formal Operational Stage. This stage begins at about age 12. At this level, children are fully capable of understanding abstractions and symbolic relationships. They are also capable of metacognition, or the ability to recognize one’s cognitive processes and adapt those processes if they aren’t successful. The formal operational stage is also the point at which a child acquires hypothetical reasoning, which is the ability to figure out answers to problems with which a person does not have direct experience. For example, a child in the concrete operational stage would have great difficulty imagining how the world might change as a result of an alien invasion, while a 12-year-old could posit numerous theories on the issue.

Theory of Mind (TOM) and the False Belief Task

A key cognitive ability that develops in childhood around the age of four is theory of mind. TOM allows children to understand that other people see the world differently than they do. It is the opposite of egocentrism. Psychologists test theory of mind through the “false belief task.” For example, in this test, a child under the age of four opens a container that is labeled “pencils” and finds gumballs instead. The child is asked what another child, who is not present, would think is in the container. The correct answer is “pencils,” but because a child under the age of four does not have TOM, that child will answer “gumballs.” Psychologists now believe that the absence of theory of mind helps to explain the actions of people with autism, which is discussed in Chapter 16.

A: Sensorimotor: 0—2 years old

Preoperational: 2—7 years old

Concrete Operational: 7—11 years old

Formal Operational: 12 years +


Another influential theory of cognitive development was proposed by Lev Vygotsky. Piaget believed that biological maturation is the driving force in development. Vygotsky, on the other hand, stressed social factors as critical to the developmental process. Vygotsky believed that much of development occurs by internalization, the absorption of knowledge into the self from environmental and social contexts. Vygotsky also proposed the concept of a zone of proximal development, which is the range between the developed level of ability that a child displays and the potential level of ability of which the child is actually capable. These two levels are often referred to as the actual development level versus the potential development level, respectively. Actual development rarely lives up to its potential because ability depends on input from the environment, and environmental input is rarely truly optimal. According to Vygotsky, the way by which a child realizes his potential is through the process of scaffolding. Scaffolding is the support system that allows a person to move across the zone of proximal development incrementally, with environmental supports, such as teachers and parents. If a person fails to advance, it might mean that the scaffolding steps are too high above the person’s current abilities.

Older but Wiser

A related feature of adult cognitive development is wisdom. It is assumed in many cultures that older members of a society have a perspective or level of accumulated knowledge that gives them wisdom. Wisdom is a form of insight into life situations and conditions that results in good judgments about difficult life problems.

Life-span psychologists have realized that cognitive development continues into adulthood. Childhood and early adulthood are times marked by relatively rapid neural growth. However, we lose a small percentage of brain weight between our early 20s and our 80s. In the later years, many adults show a decrease in fluid intelligence—that is, the ability to think in terms of abstract concepts and symbolic relationships. This decrease, however, is accompanied by increased crystallized intelligence, or specific knowledge of facts and information.

Social Development

Social development involves the ability to interact with others and with the social structures in which we live. Erik Erikson tried to capture the complexities of social development in his psychosocial theory. This theory is important not only for its description of the developmental process as a series of stages marked by the resolution of specific developmental “tasks,” but also because it was the first theory to assert that development is a life-span process. Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development include the following.

Trust vs. Mistrust

This stage occurs during the first year of life. Infants decide whether the world is friendly or hostile, depending on whether or not they can trust that their basic needs will be met. Trust and hopefulness are the outcomes of positive resolutions of this stage.

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

Between the ages of one and three, the child must develop a sense of control over bodily functions as well as over the environment. Successful resolution of this stage involves mastery of toilet training, walking, and others skills related to control of the self.

Initiative vs. Guilt

This is the stage that occurs at about three to six years of age and often corresponds with a child’s entry into a broader social world outside the home. Children at this stage must take initiative and learn to assert themselves socially, without overstepping their bounds. The successful resolution of this stage results in the development of a sense of purpose.

Industry vs. Inferiority

Children from ages six to twelve are in this stage. They are now in school and are becoming accustomed to receiving feedback for their work. Thus, they must gain a sense of accomplishment and pride in their work. They begin to understand what they are capable of doing. The successful resolution of this stage produces a sense of competence.

Identity vs. Role Confusion

This stage involves the adolescent search for identity. Adolescents question what type of person they are and begin to develop their own values at this stage. The resolution of this stage is fidelity, or truthfulness to one’s self.

Intimacy vs. Isolation

This is the stage of early adulthood when we attempt to form loving, lasting relationships. The successful resolution of this stage results in one’s learning how to love in a mature, giving way. If this stage is not successfully resolved, feelings of isolation or a lack of intimacy may result.

Generativity vs. Stagnation

This stage occurs during middle adulthood and brings with it the struggle to be productive in both career and home, and to contribute to the next generation with ideas and possibly with children. Being productive in these ways is called generativity. This is the stage where we try to leave our “mark” on the world. Failure to resolve this stage can result in feelings of stagnation or isolation.

Integrity vs. Despair

This stage occurs during old age and brings with it the struggle to come to terms with one’s life, which involves accepting both successes and failures. The positive outcome of this stage is wisdom, whereas the failure to resolve this stage can lead to bitterness and despair.

Erikson’s is not the only social development theory. In the 1950s, Harry and Margaret Harlow demonstrated that rhesus monkey infants need comfort and security as much as food. Through the use of artificial, inanimate surrogate mothers, Harlow ascertained that these infants become more attached to soft “mothers” without food than to wire ones with food. Attachment is defined as the tendency to prefer specific familiar individuals to others. John Bowlby is considered the father of attachment theory. He devoted extensive research to the concept of attachment and pioneered the psychoanalytic view that early experiences in childhood have an important influence on development and behavior later in life. Bowlby believed that a close and loving relationship between a child and a caregiver is critical to the infant’s healthy development and provides a model that the growing child will use to build mutually beneficial relationships in his or her life. In contrast, a lack of responsiveness and physical support on the part of the parent will hurt the child in the short-term and his or her relationships in the long-term. In the 1970s, Mary Ainsworth studied human infant attachment. Using the strange situation, in which a parent or primary guardian leaves a child with a stranger and then returns, Ainsworth recognized four attachment patterns.

· Secure—The child is generally happy in the presence of the primary caretaker, is distressed when he or she leaves, but can be consoled again quickly after he or she returns.

· Avoidant—The child may be inhibited in the presence of the primary caretaker, and may pretend to not be distressed when he or she leaves. (Blood pressure and cortisol analyses show that the child is in fact quite stressed out.)

· Ambivalent—The child may have a “stormy” relationship with the primary caretaker, is distressed when he or she leaves, and has difficulty being consoled after his or her return.

· Disorganized—The child has an erratic relationship with the primary caretaker and with other adults. This attachment style is more common in cases of severe neglect and/or abuse.

Diana Baumrind has identified the following three types of parenting styles.

· Authoritarian—Parents have high expectations for their child to comply with rules without debate or explanation. This style is the most likely to use corporal punishment (like spanking) for disobedience. Children of these parents are socially withdrawn, lack decision-making capabilities, and lack curiosity. Authoritarian parents will exert a high level of control and low level of warmth.

· Authoritative—Parents also expect compliance to rules but explain rules and encourage independence. Parents set limits, give out punishments, and forgive. Children of these parents have high self-esteem, are independent, and are articulate. Authoritative parents will exert a high level of control and high level of warmth.

· Permissive—Parents have few expectations and are warm and non-demanding. Children are rarely punished, and parents consider themselves friends of the child. Children of these parents are not good at accepting responsibility, controlling their impulses, or being generous in social relationships. Permissive parents will exert a low level of control and high level of warmth.

Another theory of social development concerns the stages of death and dying developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She identified the following ways people tend to come to terms with terminal illnesses—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Later psychologists have acknowledged these as well as other emotions involved in grieving and have shown that the stages are not necessarily ordered.

Moral Development

The most influential theory of moral development was advanced by Lawrence Kohlberg, who expanded on an early theory proposed by Piaget. Kohlberg’s theory can be divided into levels, each of which has two distinct stages.

Kohlberg’s Level I

Level I encompasses ages seven to ten and is the level of preconventional morality. Preconventional morality is a two-stage system of moral judgment. In the first stage, it is based on avoiding punishment and receiving rewards. In this stage, children often will mention a fear of being punished as a reason why rules should not be broken. As children age, preconventional morality changes slightly. The second stage of preconventional morality is characterized by a focus on individualism and exchange. Children work for their own interest at this stage, and while they will strike deals with others to satisfy the other person, their primary interest is a selfish one. In summary, in stage 1 of preconventional morality, children make judgments motivated by fear; in stage 2, they make judgments by evaluating the benefit for themselves.

Kohlberg’s Level II

Level II typically occurs from about ages 10 to 16 and sometimes beyond. This is the stage of conventional morality. Conventional morality is the internalizing of society’s rules and morals. The motivation to follow these rules is generated by the child’s knowing that it is “right” to do so. The first stage of this level (stage 3) is typified by the child’s trying to live up to what others, especially authority figures, expect of him or her. The child understands that the rules set forth by society are important, and the child tries to conform to these rules. The second stage of conventional morality (stage 4) involves the development of conscience. Young teens at this stage obey rules and feel moral, societal obligations.

Kohlberg’s Level III

Level III occurs from age 16 and onward. This is the level of postconventional morality. At this level, societal rules are still important, but an internal set of values has developed that may generate occasional conflict with societal values. The first stage of this level (stage 5) is characterized by a belief in individual rights and social contracts. Individual rights, such as those of life and liberty, may outweigh social contracts. In general, however, a balance must be maintained between individual interests and societal rules. The second stage of postconventional morality (stage 6) represents the highest stage of moral development in Kohlberg’s model. This stage involves the belief in universal principles of justice. Universal principles of justice are universal rules of morality that typically do, but occasionally do not, agree with the rules of society. An individual at stage 6 believes that the universal principles of justice outweigh societal rules and acts accordingly. Few people reach this level, according to Kohlberg.

Criticism of Kohlberg

Although Kohlberg’s theory is an important and influential one, it has been challenged as being inadequate for describing the moral development of people who live in non-Western culture and of women. Carol Gilligan has developed a revised version of Kohlberg’s theory. Rather than focusing on the awareness and development of the concept of justice, as Kohlberg did, Gilligan’s theory places the development of caring relationships as central to moral progress.


Psychosexual development is the development of an awareness of one’s own sexuality, including the identification of the self with a particular gender. There are differences between the sexes at birth, and, although most observable sexual development occurs during adolescence, psychosexual development starts at a much younger age.

Children develop gender identity, the awareness that they are boys or girls, by age two or three. The acquisition of sex-related roles, called gender typing, also occurs very early, from the ages of two to seven. This age range is also when children come to understand that there is gender constancy—that is, that gender is a fixed, unchangeable characteristic. At this age, children begin to understand that gender is a characteristic of the individual and that items such as clothes or even behavior do not define the sex of the individual. Androgyny may develop as children begin to blur the lines between stereotypical male and female roles in society. For example, androgynous individuals can be assertive and aggressive when necessary, but they can also be gentle and nurturing.

Attempting to understand the fixations of his patients, Sigmund Freud elaborated a theory of psychosexual development. This is a stage theory in which attention was given to parts of the body that were especially significant for the developing person. During the oral stage, from birth to about two, the primary source of pleasure for the infant comes from sucking, as well as using the voice to cry out for caretakers. People who develop fixations during this stage may become addicted to gum, cigarettes, or alcohol, or may become verbally abusive. During the anal stage, from about two to three, toddlers learn that they are praised when they do well with toilet training, and are not praised (or even scolded) when they do not. People who develop fixations during this stage may have issues with control, either being overcontrolling (he’s so anal!) or being willfully messy (she throws her crap everywhere!). During the phallic stage, from about three to six, children realize that they are boys or girls, and begin to puzzle out what that means. Although Freud wrote later (non-judgmentally) about bisexuality and homosexuality, this early theory focused on heterosexual development. Accordingly, the opposite-sex parent is taken as an ideal for future partner choices. People who develop fixations during this stage may be extremely picky about their partner choices, only selecting people who are similar to their parent. During the latency stage, from about six to twelve, there is no one particular part of the body that has the most importance for the developing mind. Children in this stage are partly focused on gender identification, which is why many boys associate primarily with other boys, and many girls associate primarily with other girls, and the two groups regard each other with a mixture of interest and suspicion. This is the age of “cooties.” People who develop fixations in this stage primarily socialize with their own gender as adults, even though they are heterosexual. During the genital stage, from about twelve until death, the genital region becomes the primary source of sensual/sexual pleasure, unless traumas in prior stages have resulted in fixations.

A later psychoanalyst, Erik Erikson, developed another stage theory, one that focused on social and interpersonal factors. Thus, his theory is referred to as one of psychosocial development. Although you may not need to know the details of his eight stages, you should know that he focused on issues of identity. For example, he recognized that teenagers struggle not only with hormones (as Freud talked about), but also with identity and with roles. After all, the teenager no longer has the child identity he or she used to have, but does not yet have the adult identity he or she will have in a few years. As popular singers have recognized, the teen is no longer a girl, but not yet a woman; the teen is somewhere from Boyz to Men. Erikson is also known for extending developmental psychology to include life after 13, including the concept of the “mid-life crisis,” another moment of identity reformation.

Another theory of how sex roles develop has been proposed by Albert Bandura. Bandura felt that, like violent behavior, sexual roles could be acquired through social or vicarious learning. Young boys see older boys being rewarded for being masculine and punished for being feminine. This pattern creates a self-perpetuating cycle, according to Bandura, with each successive generation providing the model for the following generation. This view has been supported by research showing that parents reward independence and competition in boys, while they reward nurturing and caring behaviors in girls.

It is important to consider that biological, social, and cognitive factors all play a role in sexual development. Additionally, we must consider that, when discussing sexual development, there is much disagreement on what is “normal.” Theories of sexual development are often products of the culture and time in which they were developed and do not always reflect what is considered normal in modern society.


Life-Span Approach

developmental psychology

life-span psychologists

child psychologists

Erik Erikson

normative development

cross-sectional method

longitudinal method

Developmental Issues

nature-nurture debate






critical period


collectivist culture

individualist culture

Developmental Theories


physical development


germinal stage

embryonic stage

fetal stage


fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)


sucking reflex

palmar reflex

Babinski reflex

head-turning reflex

Moro reflex

orienting reflex

stereotyped ingestive responses

reflexive movement

rudimentary movement

fundamental movement

specialized movement

transitional substage

application substage

environmental interaction

cognitive development

Jean Piaget





sensorimotor stage

object permanence

preoperational stage

symbolic thinking




concrete operational stage



formal operational stage


Lev Vygotsky


zone of proximal development

actual development level

potential development level


fluid intelligence

crystallized intelligence

social development

psychosocial development




Harry and Margaret Harlow


John Bowlby

Mary Ainsworth

strange situation

child attachment patterns: secure, avoidant, ambivalent, disorganized

Diana Baumrind

parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

moral development

Lawrence Kohlberg

preconventional morality

conventional morality

postconventional morality

Carol Gilligan

Sex Roles, Sex Differences

psychosexual development

gender identity

gender typing

gender constancy



Sigmund Freud

stages of psychosexual development: oral, anal, phallic, latency, genital

Albert Bandura

Chapter 13 Drill

See Chapter 19 for answers and explanations.

1.In neonates, the response to a feeling of lost bodily support (like falling) that involves a splaying out of the limbs is called the

(A)palmar reflex

(B)Babinski reflex

(C)orienting reflex

(D)Moro reflex

(E)rooting reflex

2.The belief that there is often a discrepancy between a child’s outward cognitive abilities and his or her true cognitive abilities is most closely associated with which of the following theorists?

(A)Jean Piaget

(B)Lev Vygotsky

(C)Leon Festinger

(D)Sigmund Freud

(E)Julian Rotter

3.According to Erik Erikson, the major developmental task of school-age children before puberty is to develop

(A)a sense of competence in their efforts

(B)the ability to form stable intimate relationships

(C)a feeling of trust that their basic needs will be met

(D)control over basic bodily functions

(E)a consistent self-view of identity and roles

4.Shyera, approaching the age of five, believes that all things, from people to animals to plants to objects, are alive, but she has trouble understanding circumstances from these other “living” things’ points of view. Piaget’s theory would place Shyera

(A)at the sensorimotor stage

(B)at the preoperational stage

(C)at the concrete operational stage

(D)at the formal operational stage

(E)at the latency stage

5.Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development posits that a child at the first stage of preconventional morality

(A)is motivated primarily by the evaluation of self-benefit

(B)is motivated primarily by the desire to live up to expectations

(C)is motivated primarily by a belief in balancing individual rights with social contracts

(D)is motivated primarily by the desire to maintain a “just world”

(E)is motivated primarily by the desire to receive reward and avoid punishment

6.An infant cries when his mother leaves the room but is quickly consoled when she returns. The infant feels comfortable to explore and wander around when the mother is in the room. Mary Ainsworth would describe this infant as having

(A)insecure attachment

(B)avoidant attachment

(C)secure attachment

(D)disorganized attachment

(E)generalized attachment

7.A school-age student is able to recognize that the water she poured from a short wide cup is still the same amount of water in a tall, skinny vase. This concept is known as


(B)object permanence


(D)crystalized intelligence


8.Trivial Pursuit, a board game that asks for answers to random facts, relies most heavily on which form of knowledge?


(B)Crystalized intelligence



(E)Fluid intelligence

9.In a modern art museum, Mira comes across an abstract furniture exhibit. She sees one particular piece that looks like a desk, but is later told it is actually a bookshelf. After looking at the furniture piece a little longer, she then sees it can be a bookshelf. This concept of learning is called

(A)functional fixedness

(B)object permanence

(C)a mental set



10.Bandura believed which of the following statements about gender development?

(A)Gender is a learned behavior that has a critical period right before puberty.

(B)Gender is genetically based and does not have to do with socialization.

(C)Gender is a result of hormonal fluctuations that happen during puberty.

(D)Gender roles are a result of cognitive development only.

(E)Gender roles are at least in part observed and rewarded through socialization.


Respond to the following questions:

· Which topics in this chapter do you hope to see on the multiple-choice section or essay?

· Which topics in this chapter do you hope not to see on the multiple-choice section or essay?

· Regarding any psychologists mentioned, can you pair the psychologists with their contributions to the field? Did they contribute significant experiments, theories, or both?

· Regarding any theories mentioned, can you distinguish between differing theories well enough to recognize them on the multiple-choice section? Can you distinguish them well enough to write a fluent essay on them?

· Regarding any figures given, if you were given a labeled figure from within this chapter, would you be able to give the significance of each part of the figure?

· Can you define the key terms at the end of the chapter?

· Which parts of the chapter will you review?

· Will you seek further help, outside of this book (such as a teacher, Princeton Review tutor, or AP Students), on any of the content in this chapter—and, if so, on what content?