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Theories of Development
Concepts and Applications

William Crain
Sixth Edition

Pearson Education Limited
Edinburgh Gate
Essex CM20 2JE
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ISBN 13: 978-1-292-02262-8

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Table of Contents



1. Early Theories: Performationism, Locke, and Rousseau


1William Crain

2. Gesell’s Maturational Theory


21William Crain

3. Ethological Theories: Darwin, Lorenz and Tinbergen, and Bowlby and Ainsworth


35William Crain

4. Montessori’s Educational Philosophy


71William Crain

5. Werner’s Organismic and Comparative Theory


93William Crain

6. Piaget’s Cognitive-Developmental Theory


119William Crain

7. Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development


159William Crain

8. Learning Theory: Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner


183William Crain

9. Bandura’s Social Learning Theory


209William Crain

10. Vygotsky’s Social-Historical Theory of Cognitive Development


231William Crain

11. Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory


261William Crain

12. Erikson and the Eight Stages of Life


289William Crain

13. Mahler’s Separation/Individuation Theory


315William Crain


14. A Case Study in Psychoanalytic Treatment: Bettleheim on Autism


331William Crain

15. Schachtel on Childhood Experiences


341William Crain

16. Chomsky’s Theory of Language Development


351William Crain

17. Jung’s Theory on Adulthood


373William Crain

18. Humanistic Psychology and Developmental Theory


387William Crain



399William Crain



Early Theories:

Locke, and Rousseau

The two great pioneers in child psychology were John Locke and
Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Locke was the father of environmentalism
and learning theory; his heirs are scientists such as Ivan Pavlov and
B. F. Skinner. Rousseau began the developmental tradition in psy-
chology; his followers include Arnold Gesell, Maria Montessori,
Heinz Werner, and Jean Piaget. Both Locke and Rousseau made rad-
ical departures from an earlier outlook called preformationism.


For centuries, people seem to have looked on children as fully formed
miniature adults. The French historian Philippe Ariès (1914–1984)
described how this view was predominant during the Middle Ages.
Medieval paintings and sculptures, for example, routinely portrayed
children—even newborns—with adult body proportions and facial
characteristics. The children were distinguished only by their size. It
was as if the children had arrived preformed in the adult mold (Ariès,
1960, pp. 33–34).

In medieval social life, too, Ariès argued, children were treated
like adults. When they were 6 or 7 years old, they were typically sent
off to other villages to begin working as apprentices. They learned car-
pentry, farming, domestic service, weaving, and other crafts and trades
on the job. The child lived as a boarder in a master’s house and often
worked alongside other apprentices who were much older than he or
she. No one paid much attention to the child’s age, for the child had
basically entered adult society. The child wore the same clothes, played
the same games, and participated in the same festivals as the grownups

From Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications, Sixth Edition. William
Crain. Copyright © 2011 by Pearson Education, Inc. Published by Pearson
Prentice Hall. All rights reserved.

■ ■ ■ ■ ■


Early Theories

(Ariès, 1960, pp. 71–72, 411). “Wherever people worked,” Ariès said, “and
also wherever they amused themselves, even in the taverns of ill repute,
children mingled with the adults” (p. 368).

Ariès acknowledged that younger children—before the age of 6 or 7—
were treated differently. People recognized their need for protection and care.
But on the whole, Ariès suggested, people were indifferent to children’s
special characteristics. No one bothered to study, for example, the infant’s
developing speech or motor development; and when artists included chil-
dren in their paintings, they depicted even newborns as miniature adults.

Some historians have challenged Ariès’s views. Because medieval
written documents are sparse, it’s difficult to evaluate all the disagree-
ments, but historians such as Barbara Hanawalt (1986) and Shulamith
Shahar (1990) have gathered enough evidence to indicate that Ariès was
sometimes prone to overstatement. It appears that apprenticeships, while
common, were not as universal as Ariès claimed, and that 6- and 7-year-olds
sometimes entered the adult workplace more gradually than Ariès implied.
Still, by the age of 12 or so, most children were carrying out adult respon-
sibilities, and I believe that Ariès’s critics have done more to qualify Ariès’s
accounts than to refute them.

Moreover, other sources have shown that the image of children that Ariès
highlighted—that of the child as a little adult—has been prevalent through-
out the ages. This image is perhaps most evident in preformationistic theories
in embryology. For centuries, many scientists believed that a tiny, fully formed
human, or homunculus, is implanted in the sperm or the egg at conception
(see Figure 1). They believed that the human is “preformed” at the instant of

Drawing by Hartsoeker (1694) of a fully
formed human in the sperm.
(Reprinted in Needham, 1959, p. 206.)


Early Theories

conception and only grows in size and bulk until birth. Preformationism in
embryology dates back at least to the fifth century B.C.E. and is found in
scientific thinking throughout the ages. As late as the 18th century, most sci-
entists held preformationist views. They admitted that they had no direct
evidence for a fully formed homunculus, but they argued that this was only
because it is transparent or too small to see (Balinsky, 1981, p. 11; Needham,
1959, pp. 34–35, 91, 213–222).

As we look back on the “little adult” views of the past, it’s easy to regard
them as quaint and antiquated. But we often lapse into the same thinking
today, as when we expect young children to be able to sit as still as we can
in social settings, or when we assume that their thinking is the same as ours.
For example, I was recently standing in a supermarket checkout line and
heard a mother next to me upbraid her toddler for having put several items
that he liked into the shopping cart: “You know I can’t afford those things,”
the mother said, as if the toddler had an adult knowledge of grocery budgets.
We are vulnerable to an adult egocentrism and assume that even young chil-
dren think as we do, even if our attitude isn’t as dominant as it once was
(Ausubel, 1958, p. 24).

In embryology, preformationism gave way during the 18th century,
when microscopic investigations showed that the embryo developed in a
gradual, sequential manner. In European social thought, preformationism
began to decline earlier, in the 16th century, accompanying changes in the
occupational world.

During the Middle Ages, most of the occupations—such as farming, car-
pentry, domestic service, metal work, and weaving—required skill, but the
adults believed that 6- and 7-year-olds could begin learning them on the job.
Children, therefore, were able to mix in with adults. After 1500 or so, the occu-
pational world showed clear signs of change. With the invention of the print-
ing press, the growth of commerce and market economies, and the rise of
cities and nation-states, the occupational world began to take on a “white-
collar” look. New opportunities arose for merchants, lawyers, bankers, jour-
nalists, and government officials—occupations that required reading, writing,
and math. The members of a rising middle class saw that they could advance
their families’ fortunes by providing their children with the academic instruc-
tion that these new occupations required. This new demand for education
sparked a tremendous growth of schools in 16th- and 17th-century Europe
(Crain, 1993).

The upshot was that growing numbers of parents (especially in the
middle class) were no longer willing to send their children off to work at the
age of 6 or 7 years. Parents wanted their children to go to school first. Parents
began keeping their children in school at least until they were 12 years old, and
often until they were well into their teens. Thus the growth of schools gave the
child a new status. The child was no longer someone who was ready for the
adult world, but someone who had to be kept apart from it while undergoing


Early Theories

an extensive education. The child was seen less as a little adult and more as
a future adult (Ariès, 1960, pp. 329, 412).


Biographical Introduction

As the rising middle class pursued new opportunities, it challenged the tra-
ditional feudal order. The middle class no longer accepted a society in which
everyone’s place was predetermined by birth. It sought a brighter future, pin-
ning great hopes on education to bring it about. In so doing, it helped usher
in the modern way of life.

But the feudal regime wasn’t about to just hand over its authority. It
imposed economic regulations and waged an ideological war. It accused the
new middle class—the bourgeoisie—of selfishly abandoning loyalty, honor,
and the old ways.

In these battles, those seeking change drew inspiration from the intellec-
tuals of the 18th-century Enlightenment, such as Denis Diderot and Nicolas de
Condorcet. These writers argued that if people could rid themselves of the
authoritarian state and church, people could live freely and democratically, and
science, technology, and education would produce great progress for all. These
writers, in turn, drew heavily on the late-17th-century theories of the British
philosopher John Locke (1632–1704).

Writing in language that was refreshingly clear and sensible, Locke rejected
the widespread belief that there are vast, innate differences among people.
Instead, Locke argued, people are largely shaped by their social environments,
especially by their education. Locke then showed how this happens and how
education could be improved. To many Enlightenment thinkers, Locke’s writings
were full of wonderful possibilities. If one could change people’s environments
and education, one could produce an egalitarian, democratic society (Gay, 1969,
pp. 511–516).

Locke was born in the village of Somerset, England. His father, a small
landowner, was the first to instill in him a belief in democracy. Locke
attended the Westminster School and Oxford University, but found both
plagued by the pedantic lessons so prevalent in his day. Although he seems
to have been a rather shy boy, he frequently became so bored and restless
in class that he preferred to talk to his classmates rather than pay attention
to the instructor (Pheardon, 1952, p. vii; Quick, 1880, p. xx; Sahakian &
Sahakian, 1975).

Still, Locke did well enough at Oxford to gain appointments at the uni-
versity tutoring Greek and moral philosophy. For a while, Locke had trouble
deciding on his future. A devout Christian, he thought he might become
ordained in the Church of England, but he decided to study medicine instead,


Early Theories

primarily so he could learn about the natural sciences. He assisted a note-
worthy chemist, Robert Boyle, and was deeply impressed by the scientific
method and its reliance on empirical evidence. As a physician, Locke suc-
cessfully treated Lord Ashley, later the Earl of Shaftesbury; became Shaftes-
bury’s friend and personal secretary; and also tutored his grandson. His
association with Shaftesbury, however, eventually proved troublesome. When
Shaftesbury was imprisoned for criticizing the king, Locke was forced to flee
England and find asylum in Holland. There, Locke wrote a series of letters to
his friend Edward Clark, offering advice on the upbringing of Clark’s son.
These letters inspired Locke’s most important work on education, Some
Thoughts Concerning Education (1693). After the successful Revolution of 1688,
Locke returned to England and saw the publication of two other great books.
The first was his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), which esta-
blished him as the father of empiricism in philosophy and learning theory in
psychology. His other great book was Two Treatises on Government (1689), which
set forth many of the central ideas in the U.S. Constitution (Lamprecht, 1928;
Russell, 1945).

Locke’s View of Development

The starting point of Locke’s theory was his refutation of the doctrine of
innate ideas. Prior to Locke, many philosophers held that some ideas, such
as mathematical truths and beliefs in God, are innate, existing in the mind
prior to experience. Locke argued that observations of children will show
that these ideas are not present from the beginning and that they are
learned. He said it is more accurate to think of the child’s mind as a blank
slate, and whatever comes into the mind comes from the environment. We
might consider

the mind to be, as we say, white paper void of all characteristics, with-
out any ideas. How comes it to be furnished? . . . Whence has it all the
materials of reason and knowledge? To this I answer, in one word, from
experience; in that all our knowledge is founded, and from that it ulti-
mately derives itself. (1690, vol. 1, bk. 2, sec. 2, emphasis in original)

Locke did qualify this statement a bit. He noted that although most of a
person’s knowledge comes from the environment, a person also can learn, in
time, by reflecting on his or her own thinking and beliefs (1690, vol. 1, bk. 2,
chap. 1). Locke also acknowledged that there are some innate differences
among individuals (1693, sec. 1).

But on the whole, Locke said, it’s the environment that molds the mind.
And the environment’s influence, Locke emphasized, is especially powerful
in the child’s early years. This is when the child’s mind is most pliable, when


Early Theories

we can mold it as we wish. And once we do so, its basic nature is set for life
(1693, secs. 1, 32).

Precisely how does the environment exert its effects? First, many of our
thoughts and feelings develop through associations. Two ideas regularly occur
together, so we cannot think of one without simultaneously thinking of the
other. For example, if a child has had bad experiences in a particular room, the
child cannot enter it without automatically experiencing a negative feeling
(Locke, 1690, vol. 1, bk. 2, chap. 33, sec. 15).

Much of our behavior also develops through repetition. When we do
something over and over, such as brushing our teeth, the practice becomes a
natural habit, and we feel uneasy when we have failed to perform it (Locke,
1693, sec. 66).

We also learn through imitation. We are prone to do what we see others
do, so models influence our character. If we are frequently exposed to silly
and quarrelsome people, we become silly and quarrelsome ourselves; if we are
exposed to more noble minds, we too become more noble (1693, sec. 67).

Finally, and most important, we learn through rewards and punishments.
We engage in behavior that brings praise, compliments, and other rewards; we
refrain from those actions that produce unpleasant consequences (sec. 54).

These principles, Locke believed, often work together in the develop-
ment of character. For example, a little girl is likely to hang up her clothes
if she sees her parents hang theirs up, through imitation. After she hangs
up her clothes a few times in succession, this good trait becomes a habit,
and this habit becomes all the stronger if she receives some praise or com-
pliment for it.

The previous example illustrates the usefulness of Locke’s ideas for
bringing up a child. Let us now look more closely at his views on education.

Locke’s Educational Philosophy

Locke thought of education broadly, as the formation of the child’s character
as well as academic learning. In fact, he gave greater weight to character devel-
opment, so we will consider this first.

Self-Control. Locke said the main goal of education is self-control: “It
seems plain to me that the principle of all virtue and excellency lies in a power
of denying ourselves the satisfaction of our own desires, where reason does
not authorize them” (1693, sec. 38).

To instill self-discipline, we first should tend to the child’s physical
health. When the body is sick and weak, one has little ability to control its
demands. Accordingly, Locke advised us to give children plenty of exercise so
their bodies will become strong, and he suggested that children play outdoors
in all seasons so they will learn to endure the hardships of all kinds of weather
(secs. 1–16, 33).


Early Theories

If children are to acquire discipline, we must be firm with them from
the start. Many parents coddle their children and give in to their every whim;
the parents think that such indulgence is all right because their children are
still small. But the adults fail to realize that early habits are difficult to break.
Children who find that they can get whatever they want, simply by asking or
crying out, never unlearn this bad habit. So parents should never reward chil-
dren when they desire things they do not need. Children should learn that
they will get favorable results only when they ask for things that their parents
consider appropriate (secs. 38–40).

The Best Rewards and Punishments. From the beginning, then, we
should pay close attention to how we reinforce our children’s behavior. We
should reward only reasonable behavior, never behavior that is unreasonable or

The use of rewards and punishments, however, is a tricky matter. Not all
rewards and punishments produce desirable effects. Locke was especially
opposed to the use of physical punishment. In the first place, its use establishes
undesirable associations. If a child is beaten or chastised for letting her mind
wander during reading lessons, she will not only associate pain with mind
wandering, but with the sight of books as well. Further, physical punishment
is often ineffective. The child submits while the rod is in sight, but just as soon
as the child sees that no one is looking, she does whatever she wants. Finally,
when physical punishment does work, it usually works too well. It succeeds
in “breaking the mind; and then, in the place of a disorderly young fellow,
you have a low-spirited moped creature” (sec. 51).

Similarly, not all kinds of rewards are desirable. Locke opposed the
use of money or sweets as rewards because their use undermines the main
goal of education: to curb desires and to submit to reason. When we reward
with food or money, we only encourage children to find happiness in these
things (sec. 52).

The best rewards are praise and flattery, and the best punishment is dis-
approval. When children do well, we should compliment them, making them
feel proud; when they do poorly, we should give them a cold glance, making
them feel ashamed. Children are very sensitive to approval and disapproval,
especially from their parents and those on whom they depend. So we can use
these reactions to instill rational and virtuous behavior (sec. 57).

We also can strengthen the effectiveness of our approval and disapproval
by pairing these reactions with other consequences. For example, when a little
boy asks politely for a piece of fruit, we give it to him, and we also compliment
him on his politeness. In this way, he learns to associate approval with agreeable
consequences and thus becomes more concerned about it. Alternatively, when
he breaks something he likes, we add a look of disappointment in him, so he
will come to associate our disapproval with negative consequences. Through
such practices, we deepen the child’s concern for the opinions of others. Locke


Early Theories

said that if you can make children “in love with the pleasure of being well
thought on, you may turn them as you please, and they will be in love with all
the ways of virtue” (sec. 58).

Small Steps. Locke was concerned that children acquire many fears.
For example, children are initially attracted to animals, but when one hurts
a child’s finger, she associates the sight of the animal with pain and fears
all animals of the same species. Locke wanted children to grow up to be
brave adults, so he recommended a method for eliminating fears. He didn’t
advise adults to just rush in and try to break the child of fears, but to elim-
inate them by “gentle degrees” (sec. 115). If a child fears a chicken, we should
first let someone else sit beside the chicken at some distance from the child,
until the child can watch the animal without fear. Then we should slowly and
gradually bring the child closer to the chicken, making sure the child can
observe the chicken without anxiety. Finally, we let the child touch the
chicken while the chicken is held by another, until the child herself can han-
dle the animal comfortably.

Rules. Most parents set down all kinds of rules and then punish their
children when they disobey them. This practice is basically useless. Children
have great difficulty comprehending and remembering rules in the abstract,
and they naturally resent getting punished for failing to comply with a rule
that they could barely keep in mind. As an alternative to commands, Locke
suggested two procedures.

First, since children learn more from example than precept, we can teach
them much by exposing them to good models. Children will eagerly model
their behavior after that of a virtuous person, especially when we compliment
them for doing so (sec. 68).

Second, Locke suggested that, instead of issuing commands, we have
children practice the desired behavior. For example, instead of instructing
children to bow whenever they meet a lady, it is better to give them actual
practice in bowing, complimenting them each time they bow correctly. After
repeated practice, they will bow as naturally as they breathe, without any
thought or reflection, which is essentially foreign to them anyway (sec. 66).

Children’s Special Characteristics. Locke’s discussion of the futility
of teaching rules that exceed a child’s understanding introduced something
new into his system. Before this, he had written as if the child’s mind were a
lump of clay that we could mold in any way we wished. Now, however, he
was saying that children have their own cognitive capacities that set limits
on what we can teach. He also suggested that children have temperaments
peculiar to their age, such as a liking for noise, raucous games, and gaiety,
and he added that it would be foolish to try to change their natural disposi-
tions (sec. 63). Thus Locke seemed to admit that children are not blank slates


Early Theories

after all. As various scholars have pointed out (e.g., Kessen, 1965, pp. 59, 72;
Russell, 1945, p. 606), Locke was not above a certain amount of inconsistency.
If he had insights that contradicted his basic environmentalism, the inconsis-
tency didn’t trouble him.

Academic Instruction. Locke was upset by the academic instruc-
tion of his time, which forced children to spend long hours a day struggling
with material that made no sense to them. Locke pointed out that instruc-
tion is most effective when children enjoy it. He suggested that children
could learn many things, such as reading letters and words, through games
(secs. 148, 150). Locke also recommended that instruction be arranged in
steps, so children could thoroughly master one topic before going on to the
next, and he wanted children to see the order and usefulness of their stud-
ies (secs. 180, 195).

Locke acknowledged that children will dislike some of the lessons that
adults consider necessary for their future. In these cases, the teacher should
try to ease the children through them. Certainly the teacher should avoid
physical punishment or strong verbal rebukes. Harsh discipline simply makes
the child fearful, and a teacher can’t do much with a fearful child. As Locke
put it, “’Tis as impossible to draw fair and regular characters on a trembling
mind as on shaking paper” (1693, sec. 167). It is better to rely on the kinds of
rewards and punishments discussed earlier—praise and disapproval.

In an interesting passage (secs. 118–119), Locke emphasized the need
to take advantage of the child’s natural curiosity. Children, he said, learn
for the sake of learning; their minds seek knowledge like the eye seeks light.
If we simply listen to their questions and answer them directly, their minds
will expand beyond what we would have imagined possible. In fact, Locke
attributed such power to the child’s natural curiosity that it makes one won-
der about his general thesis. If the child’s curiosity is so powerful, why do
we need to use external rewards and punishments for learning? Perhaps
they are necessary in the training of the child’s character, but it may be that
children will develop their intellectual powers through intrinsic curiosity
alone. But if Locke saw such a possibility, he didn’t say anything about it, and
in the end he reverted to his environmental thesis. When children reason
clearly, we should compliment and flatter them. In this way, we teach them
to reason (sec. 119).


As a psychologist, Locke was far ahead of his time. His principles of learning—
the principles of association, repetition, modeling, and rewards and
punishments—all have become cornerstones of one or another version of
modern learning theory. His thoughts on changing behavior by “gentle
degrees” is fundamental to some of the most contemporary thinking in


Early Theories

the field. We shall see the extent to which Locke anticipated modern think-
ing in later chapters.

Locke’s ideas on education, in addition, are pretty much those of the
contemporary educator. Most teachers use rewards and punishments, such
as praise, grades, and criticism, to motivate children to learn. Most enlightened
teachers are also aware of the influence of models and the need to proceed in
arranged steps and are opposed to physical punishment.

Most modern educators even share Locke’s inconsistencies. Although they
believe it is necessary to shape or mold the child through rewards and punish-
ments, they also recognize that such social influences are not all-powerful. They
are sensitive to the child’s readiness to learn different things, and they recognize
that children learn best when they are spontaneously curious about a particular
subject. Nevertheless, like Locke, educators are not prepared to rely too heavily
on children’s intrinsic motivation to learn on their own. Teachers believe it is up
to them, the adults, to teach children the right things. They do not really believe
children would learn what they should without external inducements such as
praise and grades. In general, they share Locke’s view that education is essen-
tially a socialization process. The child learns to gain adults’ approval, and in
this way the child learns what he or she needs to know to become a useful and
virtuous member of society.


Biographical Introduction

We have now reviewed two early conceptions of development. We have dis-
cussed the preformationist view, which considered the child as a miniature
adult. We also have looked at the views of Locke, who argued that children
are like empty containers that are filled by adult teachings.

The true developmentalist position is different again. Its first forceful
expression is found in the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778).
Rousseau agreed with Locke that children are different from adults, but he
made the point more positively. Children are not empty containers or blank
slates but have their own modes of feeling and thinking. This is because they
grow according to nature’s plan, which urges them to develop different capac-
ities and modalities at different stages.

Rousseau believed that it is vital for us …

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