Psychology of the Child and the Adolescent

By Robert I. Watson; Henry Clay Lindgren | Go to book overview

influence is external, that the social environment conditions, reinforces, models, or instructs the child and thus causes him to acquire or learn the skills, strategies, and attitudes that he needs to become accepted by and participate in the society into which he has been born. Such theories generally ignore the reasons why these environmental forces have an effect at all, or why children want to become fully functioning members of society.

Whereas learning theories focus on the child's environment, personality theories are primarily concerned with his inner life. Freud, Erikson, and the Neo-Freudians either say overtly or tacitly assure us that there is an inborn mechanism-- Erikson ( 1968) calls it "ground plan"--that determines how children are going to respond to the events in their lives. Such theories do not dismiss environmental effects. On the contrary, they stress the importance of the child's experiences with significant others: experiences that lead him to develop normally socialized patterns of behavior under favorable conditions, and patterns that are inadequate, neurotic, antisocial, or asocial when conditions are unfavorable. In a sense, we are continuing the theme we mentioned in earlier chapters and gave particular attention to in Chapter 3, where we discussed differences between the environmental and the maturational explanations of child development. It is futile to argue which is the more valid. As far as child study is concerned, both approaches have their value. Environmentalist approaches generate more experiments that enable us to test conflicting hypotheses. They may clarify many points about child development, but the concepts examined are seldom broad enough to present a coherent picture. Personality theories of the developmental type, like those of Freud and Erikson, may falter on details and make some incorrect interpretations, but they give us more generally usable concepts of the trends in development.

Both approaches are needed; one complements the other. Learning approaches help by correcting the mistakes of the personality theorists, but broad-scale theories are needed to integrate and interrelate the data from isolated observations of children's behavior.

In the chapters that follow, we shall make use of both social learning theory and personality theory, and in each discussion shall use the approach that makes the best sense in interpreting the available data.


summary

Socialization is the process that enables the child to take on patterns of behavior that permit him to become accepted as a functioning member of the society into which he is born. Each society or culture channels the responses of infants and children so that certain modes of behavior are encouraged and others are discouraged.

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