Theories of Human Development

There are three theories of human development which are the Nature versa nurture, Continuity versa discontinuity and Nomothetic versa idiographic theories. The nature vs nurture theory is a debate which centers on the extent that our personality, development, intelligence and behavior are genetically inherited (nature) or they are all a result of our interaction with the environment (nurture).

Continuity vs discontinuity theory is a debate about whether human development is a smooth process with no recognizable changes taking place (continuity) or an alternate process in which development takes places in stages (discontinuity).

Nomothetic vs idiographic is a debate which is concerned with the investigation of a group of individuals to see what traits and behaviors they have in common (nomothetic) or the study of all the unique characteristics of one individual (idiographic). Psychological perspectives are applied to the understanding of human development as these are seen to be the study of the human mind and behaviors. There are six types of psychological perspectives.

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The behaviorist perspectives (Watson, Skinner and Pavlo) — The key idea of the behaviorist perspective is that it is possible to understand any type of behavior by looking at what the person has learnt. Behaviorisms studies the association between a sensation and a stimulus. Classical conditioning concerns learning an association between a paired stimuli and Operant conditioning concerns the replication or constant of behaviors via punishment and reward or reinforcement. Behavioral psychologists explain all human behavior as resulting from experience which means this perspective is an extreme nurture theory as fears are learnt not inherited.

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This perspective is extremely useful when trying to understand human behavior as it shows that individuals will carry out certain behaviors repetitively due to a certain experience.

Behaviorism according to classical conditioning could aid the explanation on why Sarah is more prone to suffer from depression because she was abused as a child. Due to her abuse, Sarah experienced positive punishment that she now is likely to associate everyday life with feeling sad, scared and feeling mental or physical pain increasing the likely hood of her struggling with clinical depression as this has left a negative effect on her self-image and self-esteem. A psychologist could support Sarah to start making positive associations with her everyday life which will then allow her to have more positive thoughts and develop strategies to overcome unpleasant thoughts and feeling’s which will eliminate any suicidal thoughts. Behaviorism does not fully explain why Sarah suffers from clinical depression but provides clear links between certain aspects of her association between a stimuli and sensation.

Similarly, Debbie may also have been a subject to a sense of operant conditioning. She could have learnt this behavior of cleaning and ensuring that everything is clean and ‘germ’ free by associating it with a consequence. It could suggest that Debbie’s environment may influence her compulsive behavior, and the response of the stimuli may be the achieved when cleaning. Debbie may also have associated the feeling of dipping her hands into neat disinfection with the obsessive thought of removing the germs on her hands. A behavioral treatment for OCD can involve a prolonged exposure to fear producing stimuli and the active blocking of associated compulsive behaviors. Behaviorism has a weak link with the explanation of why Debbie suffers from OCD but can support suggestions that she make’s associations between a stimulus and sensation.

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Theories of Human Development. (2020, May 08). Retrieved from

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