Human development Essay
When looking at the development of Abraham Lincoln I first wanted to look at cognitive development. Early cognitive development consists of changes in how children think about the world. The most influential theorist in this area was the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. Piaget’s early training as a biologist influenced his views. Piaget believed cognitive development is a way of adapting to the environment. Children do not have many built-in responses unlike animals. This gives them more flexibility to adapt their thinking and behavior to fit the world as they experience it at a particular age.
Lincoln’s early years were spent growing up in a log cabin and at that time no electric or running water. His father was a farmer and did carpentry for odd jobs. His mother stayed at home, but was illiterate and did not give Abraham any formal education. He did later go on to primary school where he did learn some reading and writing. It is apparent that during his formal operational stage of Piaget’s theory his ability for abstract thoughts became a very strong trait that followed him into adulthood evident by his career in Law and Politics (MacPhee, Kreutzer & Fritz, 1994).
This formal operational period is between 11 and 15 years of age. Individuals at this stage can think in abstract terms. They can formulate hypotheses, then test them mentally and accept them or reject them by how the outcome unfolds. So they are capable of going beyond the here and now to understand things in terms of cause and effect, to consider possibilities as well as realities, and to develop and use rules, principals or theories. Many think that Piaget’s theory is too formal that one would have to fall between the lines or there would be a problem.
I believe it is a format to follow as a general rule, but if someone doesn’t follow through with a stage then I do think problems down the road will happen. Maybe this could help explain Lincoln’s constant battle with depression that he suffered (Kail & Cavanaugh, 1996). Moral development is very important during childhood and adolescence. Lawrence Kohlberg studied this kind of development using stories that would later be studied that would give complex moral issues. The “Heinz dilemma” is the one most often used.
Kohlberg theorized that moral reasoning developed in stages a lot like Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. Lincoln gives credit to his mother for his convictions on moral reasoning. She was very religious and gave Lincoln a very strict understanding of right and wrong until her death when he was nine. With Piaget’s theory this would have happened around the concrete operational stage when children became more flexible in their thinking and would have occurred during Kohlberg’s preconventional level of moral reasoning.
Younger children at this level base their judgments on right and wrong behavior on whether they will be rewarded or punished. A little older child will make choices on what will satisfy needs and especially their own (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2004). Eventually Lincoln would have moved into the conventional level of development that Kohlberg’s theory describes. At this level the adolescent as first defines right behavior if it pleases or helps others and is approved by them. Around mid-adolescence they would begin to consider various abstract social virtues, such as being a good citizen and respecting authority.
The third level of moral reasoning, the postconventional level requires an even more abstract form of thought. This level is marked by an emphasis on abstract principals such as justice, liberty and equality. Personal and strongly felt moral standards become the guide for deciding what is right and wrong. Clearly something Lincoln had a strong developed sense of and influenced his decision to go into public office (Rogoff & Morelli, 1998). Lincoln’s language development was clearly influenced by his family. He often referred to himself as backwoods and simple.
This was reflective of his upbringing. Children quickly pick up the vocabulary of their native language, as well as the complex rules for putting words together into sentences. There are two different theories about how language develops. One is by B. F. Skinner and the belief is that parents and other people listen to the infants cooing and babbling and reinforce or reward the baby for making those sounds that are more like adult speech. But most psychologists and linguists now believe that reinforcements alone cannot explain the speed or accuracy that they learn this language.
Noam Chomsky believes that children are born with a language acquisition device an internal mechanism for processing speech that is basically wired into the brain making language a universal process (Boyatzis, 1998). When looking at social development Lincoln didn’t really have any interaction with siblings until around nine years of age. This was when his father re-married and his new step-mother had 3 children from a previous marriage that where brought into the home.
The theory of social development has children by the time they are three as having expanded their relationships to include siblings, playmates and other children and adults outside the family unit. Lincoln was pretty much isolated by geography and a time when the population was small; outside interaction with others would have been very difficult. Social development theories assess the level of attachment or emotional bonds individuals develop. Attachment is created by hours upon hours of interaction and usually the signs show up about six months of age sometimes sooner.
Some important findings is by Konrad Lorenz who discovered that ducklings will follow the first moving object they see, regardless of whether it is their mother or something else like a human. It is when the children go off to school, as with Lincoln, that their social world is greatly expanded (Bronfenbrenner, 1977). Biological changes such as physical changes occur most dramatically in adolescence. That is a period of time during human development between roughly the ages of 10 and 20. This is a time when a person grows from a child into an adult.
A series of dramatic physical milestones brings in adolescence. The most obvious is the growth spurts. Lincoln remembers these quite well because he was so tall. They begin with the lengthening of the hands, feet, arms and legs. Abraham describes these as somewhat painful. In both sexes changes also happen in the face. The chin and nose become more prominent, lips get fuller. Increases in the size of the oil glands in the skin help acne and sweet glands make a more potent smelling secretion. The heart, lungs, and digestive system all expand (Kail & Cavanaugh, 1996).
Just as the body is changing in adolescents so are the patterns of thought. Piaget saw the cognitive advances of adolescence as a generally increased ability to reason abstractly this was called formal operational thought. They can understand and manipulate abstract concepts. Think about possible alternatives and reason in hypothetical terms. A problem with this is that some individuals become all too much into their selves and they become overconfident placing much too much importance on what they think. They do not account for other individuals’ way of thinking or thoughts.
Piaget called these tendencies egocentrism of formal operations. It was clear in Lincoln’s life that he was more developed at this stage. He was always giving thanks to his friends who helped him to understand things like human nature and law (MacPhee & Kreutzer, 1994). Something that most young adolescents experienced and I’m sure Lincoln did too was two fallacies that David Elkind noticed about adolescents. The first is imaginary audience; this is the tendency of teenagers to feel they are constantly being observed by others, that people are always judging them on their appearance and behavior.
Lincoln would comment quite a bit on his appearance, and how everyone made fun of him as a teenager. The other is personal fable and this is the adolescents’ unique sense of self. When Lincoln first fell in love he believed that no one had ever experienced a love like this before and no one, I mean no one could ever understand. Elkind used Piaget’s belief of adolescent egocentrism to account for the two fallacies of thought. Personality and social development are a time when adolescents are eager to establish independence from their parents, but at the same time fear the responsibilities of adulthood (Boyatzis, 1998).
Compared with adolescent development, development during adulthood is much less predictable. It is much more a function of the individuals’ decisions, circumstances and luck. In adulthood there are no milestone developments that happen at a certain age like childhood. Certain experiences and changes take place sooner or later in everyone’s life, but nearly every adult tries to fulfill certain needs that include nurturing partnerships and satisfying work. Erik Erikson’s theory of this stage of human development has Lincoln, just before his assassination at 59, as being in the Generativity verses stagnation.
This happens during middle adulthood, roughly between the ages of 25 and 60. The challenge is to remain productive and creative in all aspects of your life. If Lincoln would have lived he would have passed into Erikson’s level of Integrity versus despair. This level is the beginning of old age where people must try to come to terms with death. For some this is a period of despair because of their loss of jobs, roles or even parent. But at this stage Erickson believed this stage represented an opportunity to gain full self-hood.
Lincoln, I believe would have thought too. He was often heard talking of what he called golden years he was going to spend with his wife Mary (Kagen, 1989). Erik Erikson was a psychodynamic theorist that stressed the importance of parent-child relationships on how personality is shaped. His eight stage theory is very useful and influential today. His studies are adapted to and expand Freud’s theory of the stages of personality development. Erikson agreed with much of Freud’s thinking on sexual development and the influence of this on personality.
But also important for Erikson was the quality of parent-child relationships, because the family constitutes the child’s first experience with society. He believes that only if children feel competent and valuable in their own eyes and in societies will they develop a secure sense of identity. Abraham Lincoln was very close to his family and his extended family. During the interview he spoke of them often and how his family, even poor, was really rich in his development. He gives credit to everyone and everything in how he became the man he was (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2004).
Works Cited: Boyatzis, C. J. “A Collaborative Assignment on the Role of Culture in Child Development and Education. ” Teaching of Psychology 25. 3 (1998): 195-198. Bronfenbrenner, U. “Toward an Experimental Ecology of Human Development. ” American Psycholgist (July, 1977): 513-531. Clark-Stewart, Alison, Perlmutter, Marion, & Friedman, Susan. Lifelong Human Development. New York: John Wiley & Son (1988) Kagen, Jerome. Unstable Ideals: Temperament, Cognition and Self. Cambridge, Mass. ; London: Harvard University Press (1989).
Kail, Robert V. & Cavanaugh, John C. Human Development. Pacific Grove, California: Brooks/ Cole Publishing (1996). Kail, Robert V. & Cavanaugh, John C. Human Development: A live Span View 3rd. Ed.. Belmont, C. A. : Thomson/Wadsworth publishing (2004). MacPhee, D. , Kreutzer, J. C. & Fritz, J. J. “Infusing a Diversity perspective into Human Development Courses. ” Child Development 65 (1994): 699-715. Rogoff, B. & Morelli, G. “Perspectives on Children’s Development from Cultural psychology. American Psychologist 44 (1998): 343-348.