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Theories of child development: Sites2See. Last updated April 2010

Theories of child development

Download a basic introduction (.pdf 389 kB) Tto theories of child development. Images and link to file. Psychosocial theory

Erik Erikson believed we develop in eight psychosocial stages. The Personality Theories website has a biography and introduction to his theories and the site Educational Psychology Interactive has material on Socioemotional Development.

Mary Salter Ainsworth was best known for work in assessing the security of infant attachment and linking attachment security to aspects of maternal care giving.

Text box: A range of perspectives on early childhood, combined with practical knowledge can help us meaningfully understand child development.Heading below: Cognitive theory.

Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development concerned the growth of intelligence. Read more on Piaget’s stages of intellectual development, how children learn and the implications for education, or visit the Jean Piaget Society.

Lev Vygotsky explored the role of social interaction in the development of cognition. Read more on social development theory or use a searchable archive of his work.

Behaviourist theory

Albert Bandura’s social learning theory posits that people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modelling. Read more about social cognitive theory.

B F Skinner sought to understand behavior as a function of environmental histories of reinforcing consequences. Visit the B F Skinner Foundation to learn more.

John B Watson is considered the father of behaviourism, due to his opposition to psychoanalytic theory.

Ecological theory and Language development

Download an overview (.pdf 160 kB) of Urie Bronfenbrenner’s sociocultural view of development, and learn more about the theory informing the US Head Start program.

Noam Chomsky's theories hypothesise that children have an innate knowledge of the basic grammatical structure common to all human languages.

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Physical development (maturation theory)

The Gesell Institute bears the name of Arnold Gesell (1880–1961), psychologist and paediatrician who was a pioneer in the field of child development. The Gesell Institute program philosophy is developmentally based.

Read the a related research paper: Developmentalism: An Obscure but Pervasive Restriction on Educational Improvement.

Psychodynamic theory

The Personality Theories website has a biography and lengthy introduction to the theories of Sigmund Freud and the site ChildStudy.net has material on Freud’s phases of child development.