Human development theory is anchored on the idea that individuals undergo through life in different stages. Accordingly, one is considered to develop to maturity if they navigate through the stages successfully and experience the different dynamics of the stages. There are various theories within the human development spectra. Mainly, the theories deal with the emotional, physical, and cognitive development of a person (Cherry, 2017). Different theorists have documented their findings with regards to the three main areas. The specific theories notwithstanding, it is important to note that the theoretical framework provides a solid ground for the evaluation of a young person's progression through the stages of development. That is to say, the frameworks provide a way to understand the behavioural patterns of youths and assess whether the actions are consistent with their age.
Having benchmarks for acceptable behavior helps educational practitioners such as teachers to flag abnormalities and prescribe appropriate remedial actions. The immediate danger of defining sets of behaviors as "normal" and others as "abnormal" is that it can stifle creativity and undermine the uniqueness that a young person may have. Tagging a youth as "abnormal" can interfere with the sense of self-worth and identity which ultimately curtails educational attainment (Cherry, 2017).
Following the above background, this paper aims to establish to what extent developmental theories are useful in understanding the issues that young people face today. Citing relevant examples from society and the educational environment, the paper aims to show that despite its underlying weaknesses the developmental theory lens is an indispensable tool in elucidating youth issues.
Before the discussion on the usefulness of the lens of developmental theory in understanding the youth, it is essential to note that the process hinges on the explanation of human behavior. It is, therefore, necessary to have a brief overview of the theoretical foundation that informs the practice of human explanation. Several attempts have been made over the years to explain why people behave the way they do. Of the many options, attribution theory has been found to be reliable and it is the predominant notion used in psychology circles to estimate the explanations that people give for behavior (Malle, 2013).
According to the theory, a behaviour is explained from two standpoints namely; reason explanations and causal explanation. In reason explanation, the agent of an action or behavior cites the reason for doing whatever they do. Such actions are normally intentional. Cause explanations, however, cite the causes of an unintentional behaviour. That is to say, a person enumerates the causes of an outcome after they have acted in a particular manner. It must be noted that intentionality is the guiding principle in both of the explanations (Malle, 2013).
The relevance of the reason-cause dichotomy of explanation in the current discussion cannot be overemphasized. To begin with, theories by their very nature aim to explain and predict phenomena. As an unwritten rule, the development theories seek to explain the behaviour of people as they transition from one stage of life to another. Furthermore, they outline certain "normals" that act as markers for identifying "abnormals." Putting it in the context of this paper, for example, it is reasonable to say that the behaviour of a young person can be explained by a reason or a causal perspective (Malle, 2013). With this information in mind, it is therefore easier to discuss the usefulness of the developmental theory lens in understanding the issues affecting young people.
The intricate and multidimensional landscape of youth development requires the usage of a solid framework to explore. Generally, human development cuts across different fields ranging from sociology to genetics. That is to say, the developmental process of a person from childhood to a young adult is an intricate interaction between different systems and actors (Lundberg & Wuermli, 2013). The systems have physiological, behavioral, neurological and environmental components. The different theories within the development continuum each have premises and notions that attempt to address the various aspects of human development. Looking at the various issues facing the young people under the developmental lens allows us to isolate risk that they face and how they respond to a crisis.
Moving on, the concept of timing is vital to understanding the different outcomes and interactions that occur at different stages of human development. For instance, studies reveal that the transition from childhood to teenage and young adulthood is susceptible to shocks that affect their nutrition and health. During this period, the cognitive and socioemotional aspects are developed and can process the changes taking place in the environment. Exposure to such fluctuations has long-term ramifications for both socioemotional and behavioral development. Evidence also shows that exposure to extreme malnutrition during the early stages of life may result in lower levels of educational attainment during young adulthood. The development lens is vital because it helps to put into perspective the intricate problems and allows us to put them in categories for easy analysis (Lundberg & Wuermli, 2013).
There is every reason to suggest that crises in life have the potential effect the cognitive and socioemotional development of young people. Though there is limited evidence, a study in Ecuador noted a significant decrease in the test score of children during the period of crisis at the dawn of the millennium (Lundberg & Wuermli, 2013). Looking from the developmental perspective one can conclude that the crisis coincided with a period in the development that require stability and security the absence of which created anxiety and hence the decline in performance. Alluding to the reason-cause dichotomy of the attribution theory, it is reasonable to assert that the developmental framework offers plausible explanations for the decline in educational performance. This evidence underscores the usefulness of the developmental approach to understanding the young people.
Generally, more consideration has been set to the long-standing effects of initial childhood experiences. However, it should be noted that during the adolescent years and early adulthood people develop key skills and proficiencies such as the ability to establish autonomous personal relationships with peers as well as reason logically. The skills develop as they start to explore the environment outside the confines of the home such as educational centers (Lundberg & Wuermli, 2013). Proper training, therefore, plays a central role in the development of the youth.
Specifically, education is the foundation upon which a child goes forth to build his or her life. Schools play a significant role to this end and it is expected to be a safe place for learners. On the contrary, it is not the case always. Many cases of gun violence have been reported in learning institutions (Lockhart, 2018). Development psychologists have attributed such behavior to emotional breakdown, depression and other psychosocial factors. The perpetrators end up in detention while the survivors of such crimes live in perpetual fear. This ultimately undermines the holistic development of the young people. Without the aid of a developmental framework, it would be difficult to understand and subsequently help the youth to cope with the challenges.
Apart from gun violence, another problem that the youth are confronted with is alcohol and drug abuse. The media is guilty of portraying drug use as cool. A survey in the United States revealed that approximately 21 percent and 41 percent of senior high schoolers get high and consume alcohol respectively (Standberry, 2017). Evidence shows that the consequences of drug abuse range from poor test scores, anti-social behavior, and violent conduct.
Morelli (2018) attributes such type of conduct to the self-identity crisis postulated in Erik Erikson's psychosocial development theory. The theory suggests that during adolescence young people struggle to find a balance between their true identity and the identity that is deemed acceptable by their peers. Lundberg and Wuermli (2013) comment that "adolescence is a time when youth become more subjected to the world outside their family; they experiment and take risks while developing their identity" (Pg. 12). During this stage, it is necessary that young people define whom they want to be and how they want others to perceive them. Following this example, it is clear that a developmental lens is an indispensable tool in understanding youth affairs.
Finally, through the developmental lens one gains a deeper knowledge of the exchanges and intricate progressions that motivatedrive human behavior. Behaviourism mainly involves the observed and quantifiable aspects of human conduct. The behaviorists mostly highlight the changes in behavior that originate from cause-effect associations made by the young people (Zhou & Brown, 2017). This assertion is consistent with the attribution theory of explaining human behavior. That is, the response of young people to the social stimuli depends on timing or the specific age and the environmental condition where he or she lives. It is therefore useful for everyone desiring to understand youth to think along the perspective of development responsibilities relating to every period of development.
It is important to point out that the developmental approach is not without limitations. The approach is accused of giving explanations of human personality development but failing to provide details concerning how the development happens. Further, critics of the approach maintain that it is overly simplistic and use generalizations instead of dealing with underlying maturity and genetic processes that inform diversity in behavior. The criticism leveled against the approach seems valid however based on the discussion it is evident that the usefulness of the framework far outweighs the limitations.
In summary, developmental theories play a vital role in understanding human behavior. The overarching proposition of the developmental approach is that people go through different stages in their social, cognitive and physical development. The young people face many challenges that are directly linked to their environment. Gun violence, abuse of alcohol and other social vices have a connection to the development of the individual. The identification of the various stages of development can help in the realization of healthy human development objectives. The use of the developmental lens in analyzing the problems of young people remains a viable strategy for identifying the assessing the state of youth affairs with the aim of finding lasting solutions.
Cherry, K. (2017, December 4). Child Development Theories and Examples. Retrieved from Very Well Mind: https://www.verywellmind.com/child-development-theories-2795068
Lockhart, P. R. (2018, May 19). It's not just school shootings; children across the United States are dying from gun violence. Retrieved from Vox: https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/5/19/17369916/gun-violence-school-shootings-race-santa-fe-high-school
Lundberg, M., & Wuermli, A. (2013). Children and Youth in Crisis: Protecting and Promoting Human Development in Times of Economic Shocks. Washington DC: World Bank.
Malle, B. F. (2013). How People Explain Behaviour: A New Theoretical Framework. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 23-448.
Morelli, A. O. (2018, August 30). Child Development Theory: Erik Erikson and Se...
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