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Development Psychology: Personality Development Theories


From the point of birth to the point of death, an individual keeps growing and having changes occurring on his or her body, such changes are not normally random; they are orderly and follow a certain pattern. For instance, a child loses teeth in the process of development and an elderly person may show decay areas of body functions. Thus, development involves systematic direction in all aspects from the size and proportion of the body to how a person thinks, lives and feels.

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At every stage in life there are exceptional developmental and social circumstances that may sustain or detract an individual’s value of life and their relationship in society. To successfully sustain optimistic progress with persons in these different groups, psychologists must appreciate the opportunity and risks that are there at dissimilar developmental stages, and how the relations between a person and his environment can foster or hinder positive development.

Theories of Developmental psychology

Theory of Behavior

One of the maturity psychology theories is the Behavioral theory, also referred to us as behaviorism. The Behavioral theory has the intention of highlighting the behaviors that individuals have conditioned, thus, the way a person behaves is a consequence of a state either from his instant neighboring or by replication from other places. Nowadays, techniques to study behavior are still in use especially in counseling psychology to help the recipients to adopt new behaviors. For example the way a child asks for permission to do something in the house will depend on how he has been taught by his parents or elder brother and sister.

Theory of Cognitive ability

Children’s cognitive process continues to change during their early childhood; hence they become proficient in using symbols such as images to represent a variety of objects and situations. Beyond early childhood, their thinking grows and becomes more logical and their process to remember information improves a lot.

A response to behaviorism, cognitive theory believe that human beings are not programmed to an extent of them just responding to their immediate environment but people require active participation so that they can be able to learn new ideas and cement true thinking that they have, and it is believed that people action is as a result of consequences thinking. Changes in people’s behavior occur not only through the environment but it is also affected by what is happening in the person’s brain. For example we do not expect a mature person just to starts crying in the name of misunderstanding with his peers but he has to sit down and think of solutions. Cognitive uses mostly the brain where information comes in, is being processed and leads to certain outcomes.

Developmental Theory

Thirdly psychological development involves the development theory which believes the development of the physical body takes the center stage in human growth. It believes that development is both a continuous and discontinuous process, and all the changes that occur are orderly and are related to the previous changes that have already taken place. Theories of development give us a precise framework for knowledge about human development, growth and learning. If you have ever wondered concerning what motivates an individual’s contemplation and actions, appreciating these theories can provide valuable insight into individuals and the public (1983, Baker).

Humanist Theory

This approach is focusing purely on how people view themselves and others around him or her; it focuses on the wholeness or completeness of personality. It encourages self-actualization for an individual to realize one potential hence fully develop their capacities and talents (Allport, 1987).

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The theories of Humanistic psychology gained popularity in the nineteen fifties. While previous theories frequently paid attention to anomalous behavior and psychosomatic problems, humanist theories in their place emphasized the fundamental decency of individual beings. Some of the major humanist theorists include Abraham Maslow who states that the major goal in life is the need to realize positive needs which eventually lead us to self-actualization (Maslow, 1970).

Abraham H. Maslow felt as though conditioning or behavioral theories did not explain the concepts and ideas behind the way human beings act at different stages of their lives. A paper called a theory of motivation was published by Abraham Maslow in 1943 where he explained that human behavior is controlled by goal attainment in life. An act could meet different functions at the same time in human life for instance going out for dance could be able to meet and satisfy one’s needs for self-esteem and social interaction.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has been modified into a pyramid of four levels for easy understanding of the issues he was addressing; the human needs have been arranged in an ascending order starting from the bottom where we have the basic need going to the top where we have the growth needs. The subordinate needs also called physiological needs need to be fulfilled before the development needs which can manipulate behavior. The four levels are as follows:

  • Self-actualization for example morality, creativity, problem-solving.
  • Value building needs include confidence, self-esteem, achievement, respect, etc.
  • Self Belonging needs include love, friendship, intimacy, family, etc.
  • Safety needs include security of the environment, employment, resources, health, property, etc.

Personality Theories

Most of us are able to point out or describe the personality traits of the people around us, whether we are correct or not the ability to do this varies widely, it begins Almost everyday we describe and assess the personalities of the people around us. Character psychology deals with the way individual beings reflect, think, and conduct themselves, all that which makes an individual only one of its kind. The theory has concentrated upon the factors which explain why an individual is the way he is, how he has become so and what factors make him remain with his unique qualities despite the circumstances round him (Allport, 1987).

The importance of psychology development theories

The above development psychology theories are used to predict and explain why human beings have a wide variety of behaviors, whether from work, at home, or at social scenes. Therefore development psychology cannot be ignored; they take central part in human development.

Understanding of human behavior

The above theory provide a framework for understanding why human beings are not at all the same in their behavior, the way of thinking, decision making and innovativeness. When we know how and why people act in a certain way, we are able then to explain why we ourselves are acting in a particular manner. It makes us aware of ourselves, it enable one to understand him or her better. For instance when a toddler starts to utter the word mum or dad, it is his environment that has told him that a man is dad and a female is mum, and it makes its parents to pay attention whenever they are called by their child.

A young man in an adolescent stage will start speaking in a deep voice and his attention to opposite sex will increase at a rapid rate. His parents will appreciate his behaviors because they are aware of the changes that are taking effect on their son’s body.

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The key concepts in development psychology


A believe that an individual can only known by his movements, actions and his relationship with the people who he socialize with. For instance, whilst we are discussing about intelligence maturity, it is necessary to look at activities of work, and the person’s position of belonging to assemblage (Porter, 1961).

Most of the development psychology theories believes that standing before our blank future which is the unknown, every individual struggles to become more perfect and everyone is motivated by the fact the there is a reward for upward thriving for completion. One of those motivations is to have a better Behavior in society although people may be unaware of this motivation.

There is a concept of creative self which puts all his actions into his own hands, whatever we do with our personality has got a consequence (Burger, 1992).

Social cognition

Since the creation of the world, man was believed to be a social being; therefore our happiness in life depends to the way we interact with our peers, our coworkers, and the people we live with. It is supposed that triumphant man and females are persons who have cultured to mingle with others, not only with the populace they recognize but also very significantly with strangers, such persons face difficulty face-to-face, but is not plunged into hopelessness and misery by overwhelm or disappointment. His existence then is characterized by a simple system to living, the lack of nervousness and a welcoming broadmindedness towards others. The call for flee due to phobia is dismal. Those individuals who do not socially in life are not ready to cooperate, it proves that they are too self centered, they think always of themselves, and they do so because they lack confidence and courage such individuals do not feel able or prepared to deal with their problems. As a consequence of this logic of insufficiency and lowliness they live unhappily, deficiently, disturbed and substandard lives.

Language Adaptability

Infants impulsively generate talking sounds and start producing phoneme sounds. They commence attempting to converse, using recurring words and musical words including their own words phonemes at about four months of age. They begin unclear or unheard language, most of the time by means of one utterance to converse for example, they can be calling papa most of the occasion and up to around eighteen months when they start producing telegraphic words, small sentences similar to a short telegram, by means of content words to convey meaning with few function words.

Eriksson’s Stages of Development

One of the psychologists called Erik Erikson who was a German considered the impact of the external environment, parents and society in human development and he came up with the following eight stages.

1. Infancy: Birth-18 Months Old

Basic Trust vs. Mistrust – Hope

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As a child comes into the world at a round the first or second year, it is very important for the parents to take good care of the child especially when it comes to what he sees, what he touches and who to associate with. This will make a child to adopt trust, confidence, optimism and security. If the child lacks proper parental guidance he or she becomes insecure, develop mistrust, and general mistrust in the world, he will grow up with this in his mind.

2. Early upbringing days: eighteen Months to three Years

Embarrassment vs. self-rule

Early upbringing at eighteen months and three years is exhibited by the child having a chance to put up his self esteem and self-sufficiency because he learns novel skills and how to distinguish wrong from right. Those kids who are well taken care of are usually sure of themselves. They carry themselves around with delight rather than disgrace.

3. Preschool child: three to five Years

Inventiveness vs. remorsefulness – Rationale

At this phase the youthful ones build up a propensity and a longing to replicate the adults behavior. We make up stories with toys and blueprint for what we believe it means to be an adult.

The most important associational relationship is usually with the basic family.

4. School going Child: six to twelve Years

Diligence vs. lowliness – competency

As of age six to age twelve is the stage is normally latent, the children are able of gaining knowledge, and thus they develop good judgment. This phase is also a very communal stage of growth and if they get exposed to unsettled stance of insufficiency and lowliness amongst their peers, they can start getting stern tribulations in terms of capability and self-worth.

As the globe expands a bit, their most important association is with their educators and peers.

5. Adolescent: 12 to 18 Years

Identity vs. Role Confusion – Fidelity

from early childhood to this 5th stagein life usually has development depending on what the individual is subjected to by others. At this position, growth and development now depends first and foremost upon what the youngster does. A teenager usually moves violently to find out his or her own individuality, while struggling and negotiating with community connections and developing logic of decency (Eriksson, 1968).

There are some interventions which children can be subjected to, which can impact a delay into adulthood and withdraw from responsibilities. The children who are unproductive with this period are likely to get a lot of perplexity and disturbance. Children at teenage year’s period start to develop a strong association and attachment to standards and friends.

6. Young adult: 18 to 35

Confidence and commonality vs. remoteness – Love

At early stage of adulthood we always tend to seek companionship and to be loved. Some of individuals normally start to settle down and sustain families, although seems to have been pushed back farther in recent years.

Approximately all the youthful people normally look for being loved especially by the opposite sex, and if not so they usually have a feeling of being isolated.Those significant and important interactions at this period are usually with matrimonial associates and acquaintances.

7. Middle-aged Adult: 35 to 55 or 65

Generativity vs. Self absorption or Stagnation – Care

Middle age maturity is a very vital stage since most of individuals desire to have a job. Middle age is also the occasion when nearly all people can take on larger responsibilities and management of what is going on around them. For example, children leave the parents house, they start changing they career and father their studies and so on.The most important relationships are those which are found to exist within the workplace, family and other communal gathering places such as the local churches.

8. Late Adult: 55 or 65 to Death

Integrity vs. Despair – Wisdom

As Eriksson was coming up with these theory and stages he thought that a great deal of life is centered at the mid adulthood stage and that the last phase of life pertains a great deal of mirror imaging of a person life during the early ages. When people become old, they usually look back into time and develop a feeling of integrity which usually makes them to have contentment. While other individuals might have despair feelings during this time, when they actively reflect on their failures and experiences, they may fear that they have failed as they struggle to find a purpose to their lives. They might wonder what life had in store for them.


Adaptation through life depends on how each one of us negotiates the internal and external factors that smoothens or prevents us from getting to our full potential. The essence of life span development is on how we build our strengths to overcome these limitations as we grow.


  1. Allport G. (1987) Personality, New York: Holt.
  2. Baker R. (1983) Growing up. New York: Norton.
  3. Burger, J.M. (1992) Personality Development, Amazon publication.
  4. Erikson, E. H. (1968) Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: Norton publication.
  5. Maslow A. H., (1970) Motivation and personality, New York: Harper & Row.
  6. Porter L. (1961) Perceived need satisfactions in bottom and middle management jobs, Journal of Applied Psychology, 45. 1 – 10.

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