The influences of childhood development have long been a debated issue, including the common argument of nature versus nurture. Developmental psychologists have continued to research the underlining influences of an individual’s development, whether it’s suggesting development predominantly arises from a biological process or an environmental process. While studying developmental psychology a clear understanding of developmental theorist is required, however it can be beneficial to apply two developmental theories to aspects of a real adult life.
The aim of this essay is to apply two developmental theories to a developmental event in an interviewee’s life through a questionnaire. The aim of this essay will be achieved by providing clear identification of the developmental event in the interviewee’s life that will be discussed throughout the essay, being their moving out of the family home for the first time. The essay will then outline how the questionnaire was developed and also how the questionnaire was administrated. The essay will then go on to introduce the first developmental theorist: Albert Bandura, who’s social learning theory, will be briefly discussed.
A brief discussion around the second developmental theorist, Urie Bronfenbrenner, and his ecological theory will follow. The essay will continue with a detailed analysis of the interviewee’s responses, exploring how they relate to the two theorists, Bandura and Bronfenbrenner. Finally, this essay will aim to demonstrate the application of developmental theory to an interviewee’s own personal experience and the continued relevance of these developmental theories by reflecting and concluding on all the information discussed through out the essay.
The interviewee of this case study is a 28 year old woman from Victoria, Australia. The developmental event, which she was questioned about for the purpose of this case study, is moving out of the family home for the first time. This was a developmental event that although significant, was not stressful, and did not cause any additional stress or discomfort for the interviewee when discussing. The questionnaire was developed with Albert Bandura and Urie Bronfenbrenner’s theories in mind. The questions were designed to initially gain some historical information about the interviewee, therefore allowing
the interviewer some insight into their childhood and adolescence. The interviewer also attempted to obtain information about their family, such as siblings and parents, which included the disciplinary style of the parents, the level of presence of both parents, family dynamics, and stability. The questions then shifted onto the interviewee’s development event of moving out of the family home. These questions attempted to illicit information from the interviewee about their emotional responses during the developmental event and also what they believed to be the reasons that lead them to the developmental event.
The questionnaire also sort information about the developmental event itself, such as when it occurred, and what level of support the interviewee received from family and friends. Before beginning the questionnaire the interviewee was given a prepared Client/Interviewee Consent Form, which the interviewee read and signed before handing back to the interviewer. The interviewee was informed that the questionnaire will be used for a postgraduate assignment that the interviewer in completing.
It was further outlined that the questionnaire will be included in the assignment, and the answers will not, however it was informed that a number of the answers will be discussed in the assignment. The questionnaire was completed in the interviewee’s home with no one else present. The environment in which the questionnaire was conducted was an attempt to allow the interviewee the privacy to answer the questions as openly and honestly as possible and to also make the interviewee feel as comfortable as possible.
Although the questionnaire was administered in a formal manner of the interviewer and interviewee sitting across from each other, with the interviewer taking notes and asking each question in numerical order, there were periods of time where both the interviewee and interviewer engaged in small talk and had short breaks from the questionnaire to allow the interviewee time to reflect and debrief. At the completion of the questionnaire the interviewee was thanked for their time and honesty, and was reminded about the confidentiality of the questionnaire.
The social learning theory developed by psychologist, Albert Bandura has arguably become one of the most influential theories of learning and development. While developed from the basic concept of traditional learning theory, Bandura challenged the proposal that direct reinforcement is accountable for all types of learning (Sigelman & Rider, 2012). Bandura’s cognitive research demonstrates that observational learning is the most important element to understand effective changes in human behavior.
Bandura’s most recognised experiment was the “Bobo Doll”, where Bandura supported his belief that by imitating other people, we learn how to speak and how to act in certain situations such as educational environments, social environments and in relationships (Sigelman & Rider, 2012). In this experiment children were witness to adults aggressively attacking a plastic clown called the Bobo doll. The children then watched a video where an adult would aggressively hit the Bobo doll on the head with a mallet, throw it on the floor, sit on it, punch it, and kick it across the room and throw balls at it (Pajares & Urden, 2004).
Once the children finished watching the video they were placed in a room with toys similar to that of the Bobo doll. The experiment found that 88% of the children imitated the aggressive behavior that they had witnessed in the video. Bandura also discovered that eight months after the experiment 40% of the children continued to repeat the violent behavior, which they had witnessed in the video (Pajares & Urden, 2004). Bandura’s main contribution to developmental psychology was the notion of observational learning, which is “learning that results from observing the behavior of other people” (Sigelman & Rider, 2009, p.
42). Sigelman & Rider (2012) state that “observational learning is regarded as a more cognitive form of learning than conditioning because learners must pay attention, construct and remember mental representations (images and verbal summaries) of what they saw, retrieve these representations from memory later and use them to guide behavior” (p. 45). Bandura’s work continued into the importance of social-cognition, as he believed that behavior, environment and cognition are all key elements in development.
Berk (2007) suggests that watching, self-praise and self-blame through feedback on actions help children develop the belief that their own abilities will enable them to succeed. Bandura called these aspects of social cognition vicarious reinforcement and reciprocal determinism. Vicarious reinforcement affects whether the individual will repeat the behavior based on the consequences directly after engaging in the activity. While reciprocal determinism states that an individual, their behavior and the environment are constantly involved with reciprocal determinism between themselves (Sigelman & Rider, 2009).
Thus social cognition outlines that human development is based on more than merely humans being reactive to the environmental forces that surround them. Like Albert Bandura, psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner has significantly contributed to the field of developmental psychology. Bronfenbrenner developed ecological theory, which defines several environmental systems containing roles, norms and rules that shape development. According to Bronfenbrenner there are five environmental systems, including the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem and chronosytem (Sigelmen & Rider, 2009).
The microsystem is the developing person and the context in which that individual lives, including family, friends, religious settings, peers and work colleges. This suggests that the individual and the context have reciprocal influences on each other. The mesosystem consists of the connections between the microsystems, such as the connections between family experiences to peer experiences, and the connection between family and work experiences.
Another environment system is the exosystem which comprises of the links between the individual’s immediate context and the social setting in which they are not directly involved, which can include the parents workplace or health services in the community. The macrosystem is the larger culture of the individual’s life, and includes socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and whether the individual is based in an industrialised setting or a developing country. The final environment system is the chronosystem, which is the pattern of environmental events and milestones over the lifespan within a sociohistorical context.
The chronosystem is described as the background within which the nested systems occur (Sigelmen & Rider, 2009). Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory emphasis’s the individual’s environment in regards to its quality and context. Bronfenbrenner’s theory attempts to explain the differences in individual’s knowledge, development and competencies through the support, guidance and structure of the society in which they live. According to Bronfenbrenner the interaction between various overlapping ecosystems affects an individual significantly, thus why ecological theory incorporates all areas of influence on the development of children.
Ecological theory indicates that individuals bring their own biological selves to the development process while also focusing on the changing relationship between an individual and their environment (Zgourides, 2000). Bronfenbrenner’s theory also focuses on how ones development is based on the relationship that forms their environment. Suggesting that one can still be nurtured, but the effects of the environment that they are in can still impact their development. In turn this development reflects the influences of the five nested environment systems.
(Bronfenbrenner, 2004). Thus Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory demonstrates the importance of both nature and nurture in regards to an individual’s development. When questioned about her childhood the interviewee described happy memories, of both parents being very present in her life as she comes from a nuclear family. Both of her parents harmoniously worked from home, and she describes having a positive relationship with both her mother and father. The interviewee also discussed having a younger sister whom she also identifies as having a positive relationship with.
Furthermore the interviewee discussed her extended family, and again spoke of them in a positive manner, describing numerous family events that she attended. According to Bronfenbrenner’s environmental systems, this is the interviewee’s microsystem, as it is the setting where the individual lived. It is also where the individual has a reciprocal effect on the system, as she took experiences from this setting as well as helped construct the settings. (Kelly, 2006).
During the questionnaire it was outlined that the interviewee received large amounts of encouragement from her parents and relatives during her childhood in regards to her education, peer groups and support to join activities such as dancing. It is suggested that the interactions the interviewee received from this setting would have had a great impact on her development, as she was given adequate nurturing and encouragement to develop into a healthy adult who was able to complete a major developmental event in her adult life of moving out of home (Chiari & Nuzzo, 2010).
The interviewee also discussed her memories of school, stating that the most challenging period of her life was moving from primary school into secondary school as it was during this time that her family moved into a new home and into a new suburb, causing the interviewee to not know anyone in her secondary school. The interviewee also stated that it was at this time that her younger sibling was diagnosed with the health condition Alopecia, which created a great deal of stress for herself and all of her family members.
Although this was a difficult period of time in the interviewee’s life because her family and friends adequately supported her she was able to overcome the difficulties she faced. Although the interviewee described herself as not being academically motivated she stated she enjoyed her educational setting. Analysing this from the perceptive of ecological theory suggests that the interviewee’s mesosystem, such as her school and community, was positive due to the fact that she was able to build positive relationships at school and in the community due to her positive microsystems (Brendtro, 2006).
The interviewee described herself as growing up in a middle class suburb in an industralised country, which according to Bronfenbrenner is the interviewee’s macrosystem (Kelly, 2006). It would be argued that the interviewee’s successful completion of the developmental event of moving out of home is due to her surroundings, which would have inspired the interviewee by others who reside in her neighborhood that live similarly (Kelly, 2006). Thus suggesting that Bronfenbrenner’s environmental systems can be related to the interviewee’s developmental event.
The interviewee informed she moved out of home to live with her fiancee, and believes that if she were single she would still be living in the family home. According to Bandura the interviewee’s decision to move out of home to live with her fiancee is because this behavior has been modeled to her. The interviewee informed that all of her close friends still live in the family home and none of them are married, however she has one close friend who is engaged and will only be moving out of the family house once she is married.
Bandura’s social learning theory proposes that people commonly have a strong desire to be accepted by society and therefore imitate their peers to gain that acceptance, which is what the interviewee has described as doing during her developmental event (Bandura, 2002). When the interviewee was asked if she feels she was adequately supported during her developmental event, she informed that she feels as though she was, via financial support and verbal encouragement from family and friends. The interviewee continued by stating she has also felt as though she has been supported in all endeavors’ throughout her life.
Bandura would describe this as self-efficacy as it is the idea that the interviewee decides how to act in her life based on her belief in her own capabilities, which stems from the interviewee’s learning from observing and from reinforcement and punishment during her childhood (Bandura, 2002). As the interviewee discussed predominately positive experiences during her childhood, according to the social learning theory this could be detrimental, as if success is obtained too easily it is likely that the individual will struggle to recover from failure if it is encountered during their life (Pajares & Urden, 2004).
The interviewee informed that her parents are still married and living together happily, thus continuing to model the behavior in which the interviewee is aspiring too (Bandura, 2002). Therefore Bandura’s social learning theory adequately describes how the interviewee was able to successfully complete her developmental event of moving out of the family home. Albert Bandura and Urie Bronfenbrenner are both highly regarded developmental theorists.
Although Bandura and Bronfenbrenner having different views of how influential biology and environment is in regard to an individual’s development, they have both been able to provide a strong basis for continued study and research in the field of developmental psychology. Despite the continued progress in uncovering the development of human’s, there is yet to be a general consensus on the debate of nature versus nurture. This essay has allowed me to develop a better understanding of both Bandura and Bronfenbrenner’s theories, by applying their theories to a developmental event in an interviewee’s adult life.
In doing so it has also demonstrated that both theories contain relevant research and information in regards to an individual’s life in the 21st century. The key concepts that related most to my interviewee’s development event were observational learning, structured from Bandura’s social learning theory, and the five environmental systems, centered around Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory. The analysis of the interviewee’s experiences in light of the chosen theories equally enabled a greater understanding of the applicability of these theories in practice. References Bandura, A. (2002).
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New York, United States of America: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. Kelly, J (2006). Becoming Ecological. New York, United States of America: Oxford University Press. Pajares, F. , & Urden, T. (2004). Self-efficacy Beliefs of Adolescents. United States of America: Information Age Publishing. Sigelman, C. K. , & Rider, E. A. (2012). Life-span human development (7th ed. ). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Sigelman, C. K. , & Rider, E. A. (2009). Life-span human development (6th ed. ). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Zgourides, G. (2000). Developmental Psychology. California, United States of America: IDG Books Worldwide.
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