Theories of Development

Psychology 683, Fall 2002


Prof. Martin Packer

Wed 3:15 - 5:55

College Hall 548


office: 531 College Hall, ext 4852,


How is the change from child to adult to be interpreted? This course reviews both mainstream and existential-phenomenological theories of the processes of development and learning, including structuralist, cognitive, behaviorist, psychodynamic, and dialectical theories, as well as recent attempts to view development and learning as more than cognitive phenomena, including theories of situated cognition and practice, and cultural psychology.


In this course we undertake a critical examination of the core concept of developmental psychology. What is development? How is it to be theorized? How can and should it be distinguished from learning? Notions of learning and development are currently under debate; the field is in transformation.


To do this we’ll begin with a historical review of the major theoretical frameworks of developmental psychology: maturationalist, environmental learning, constructivist, and the most recent: the cultural context paradigm. Then we will review the major phases of development--infancy, early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence--in sequence.


Two papers will be assigned in the class, one due March 1, the second due at the end of the semester. Students will also be responsible for class presentations on their midterm papers, and on selections from the reading.


Readings are available on electronic reserve from the Gumberg Library ( ).


1. Aug 28. Introduction & overview: Four paradigms, four developmental stages.



         Wertsch & Youniss. (1989). Contextualizing the investigator: The case of developmental psychology.

         Youniss. (1990). Cultural forces leading to scientific developmental psychology. In Ethics in applied developmental psychology.


2. Sep 4. Biological-maturation paradigm.



         Excerpts [from Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences (1930),] on Child Psychology (by Gesell), Behaviorism,

                  and G. Stanley Hall.

         Excerpt from G. S. Hall. Adolescence. 

         “Studying Children for their Life Work” (On G. S. Hall)

         Gesell, A., & Ilg., F. L.  (1943). Infant and child in the culture of today; the guidance of development in home and nursery school. Pp. 9-14, 64-67, 252-253, 287-297.

         Gesell, A. (1923). The pre-school child from the standpoint of public hygiene and education.


         Look in the library at Gesell, (1934). An Atlas Of Infant Behavior: A Systematic Delineation Of The Forms And Early Growth Of Human Behavior Patterns.



3. Sep 11. Environmental-learning paradigm


Watson, J. B. (1928/1972). Psychological care of infant and child, Arno Press. Pp. 3-10, 184-187.

Watson, J. B., & McDougall, W. (1929). The battle of behaviorism; an exposition and an exposure: W.W. Norton.

Watson, J. B. (1928). Introduction & Chapter 7: The Behaviorist Apologia. In Watson, J. B. & Watson R. R., Psychological Care of Infant and Child (Reprint Edition ed., pp. 1-10; 184-187). New York: Arno Press & The New York Times. 

Kalonyme, L. (1925). Man at birth has no fear, tests reveal, Hearth and home: 1920-1945 (pp. 94-96)..

Chomsky, N. (1959). Review of "Verbal behavior" by B. F. Skinner. Language, 35, 26-58.


4.  Sep 18. Cognitivist paradigm I.


In the late 1950s-early 1960s developmental psychology became psychology, showing the impact of the ‘cognitive revolution’ (See Gardner, 1985).  Several influences were at work: the new computers, cybernetics, ...  Developmental psychology shows the impact of two people in particular, neither of them psychologists. Jean Piaget called himself a ‘genetic epistemologist’; Noam Chomsky is a linguist.


This week we look at Piaget’s conception of child development, considering his views of psychological structure and function, the well-known developmental stages he delineated, the constructions that underly these states, and the structuralist reconstructions of the child’s competence. We drew from the first major English survey of Piaget’s work, by John Flavell, a graduate of Clark University (G. Stanley Hall’s old department).


         Furth, H. (1969). “On Asking the Right Questions.” pp. 3-21, 55-67. 


Other Resources:

         Flavell, J. H. (1963). The developmental psychology of Jean Piaget.  [book in library]

         Gardner, H. (1985). The mind’s new science: A history of the cognitive revolution. .  [book in library]

Broughton, J. M. (1981). Piaget's structural developmental psychology: I. Piaget and structuralism. Human Development, 24, 78-109.

Broughton, J. (1981). Piaget's structural developmental psychology: IV. Knowledge without a self and without history. Human Development, 24, 320-346.

Broughton, J. (1981). Piaget's structural developmental psychology: V. Ideology-critique and the possibility of a critical developmental theory. Human Development, 24, 382-411.

Bickhard, M. H., Cooper, R. G., & Mace, P. E. (1985). Vestiges of logical positivism: Critiques of stage explanations. Human Development, 28, 240-258.


5. Sep 25. Cognitivist paradigm II.


This week we turn to the assimilation of Chomsky’s linguistics to the study of child language. Developmental psycholinguistics owes much to Roger Brown’s laboratory at Harvard, so we’ll take a look at Brown’s work.


         Brown, R. (1970). Psycholinguistics. Pp. vii-x, 16-17, 100-154, 155-157 [Preface, remark on Chomsky, The Child’s Grammar from I to III, further remarks on Chomsky]

         Brown, R. (1973). A first language: The first stages. Pp. ix-xi, 3-59. [Unbuttoned Introduction.]





6. Oct 2. Socio-cultural paradigm I.


Rogoff and Chavajay see three phases to the new socioc-cultural paradigm in developmental psychology. First (1960s-70s) was cross-cultural research on cognition; second (1980s) was a transition that followed the translation in the 1970s of Soviet sociocultural writings of Vygotsky and others; third was the 1990s consolidation.


         Rogoff, B., & Chavajay, P. (1995). What's become of research on the cultural basis of cognitive development. American Psychologist, 50(10), 859-877.

         Cole, M., Gay, J., Glick, J. A., & Sharp, D. W. (1971). The cultural context of learning and thinking. New York: Basic Books, pp. vii-xviii (Preface), 213-235 (Conclusions).


Other Resources:

Cole, M. (1990). Cultural psychology: A once and future discipline? In J. J. Berman (Ed.), Nebraksa symposium on motivation 1989 . Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Wierzbicka, A. (1993). A conceptual basis for cultural psychology. , 21(2), 205-231.

Holland, D. C., & Valsiner, J. (1988). Cognition, symbols, and Vygotsky's developmental psychology. , 16, 247-272.


7. Oct 9. The Socio-cultural paradigm II.


         Minick, Norris. (1989). Mind and activity in Vygotsky’s work: An expanded frame of reference.  Cultural Dynamics.

         Bruner, J. (1987). Prologue to the English edition. In R. W. Rieber & A. S. Carton (Eds.), The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky. Volume 1. Problems of general psychology, (pp. 1-16). New York: Plenum.

Minick, N. (1987). The development of Vygotsky's thought: An introduction. In R. W. Rieber & A. S. Carton (Eds.), The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky. Volume 1. Problems of general psychology (pp. 17-36). New York: Plenum.

Valsiner, J. (1989). How can developmental psychology become 'culture inclusive'? In J. Valsiner (Ed.), Child development in cultural context (pp. 1-8). Toronto: Hogrefe and Huber.

Wertsch, J. V. (1991). Introduction.  In Voices of the mind (pp. 1-17). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Other Resources:

Valsiner, J. (1989). Organization of children's social development in polygamic families. In J. Valsiner (Ed.), Child development in cultural context (pp. 67-85). Toronto: Hogrefe and Huber.

Williams, M. (1989). Vygotsky's social theory of mind. Review of 'Culture, Communication, and Cognition: Vygotskian Perspectives,' and  'Vygotsky and the social formation of mind,' by J. V. Wertsch. Harvard Educational Review, 59, 108-126.

Lawrence, J. A., & Valsiner, J. (1993). Conceptual roots of internalization: From transmission to transformation. Human Development, 36, 150-167.

Wertsch, J. V., & A., S. C. (1985). The concept of internalization in Vygotsky's account of the genesis of higher mental functions. In J. V. Wertsch (Ed.), Culture, communication, and cognition (pp. 162-179). Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press.

Valsiner, J. (1991). Building theoretical bridges over a lagoon of everyday events: A review of 'Apprenticeship in thinking: Cognitive development in social context' by B. Rogoff. Human Development, 34, 307-315.

Stone, C. A. (1985). Vygotsky's developmental model and the concept of proleptic instruction: Some implications for theory and research in the field of learning disabilities. Research Communications in Psychology, Psychiatry and Behavior, 10, 129-152.



8. Oct 16. Exploring an Existential-Phenomenological approach to development.


         Dreyfus, H. L., & Rubin, J. Kierkegaard, Division II, and later Heidegger. In H. L. Dreyfus (Ed.), Being-in-the-world: A commentary on Heidegger's Being and Time, Division I., (pp. 283-340). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

         Packer, M. J., & Goicoechea, J. (2000). Sociocultural and constructivist theories of learning: Ontology, not just epistemology. Educational Psychologist.

         Packer, M. (2001). The problem of transfer, and the sociocultural critique of schooling. The Journal of the Learning Sciences.


9. Oct 23. Student presentations.


Midterm papers due.


10. Oct 30. Infancy.


         Egan, K. (1997). The educated mind: How cognitive tools shape our understanding. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ch. 1, Ch. 4 on somatic understanding.

         Cole, M. (1992). Culture in development. In M. H. Bornstein & M. E. Lamb (Eds.), Developmental psychology: An advanced textbook, (pp. 731-789). Hillsdale, New Jersey: Erlbaum.


11. Nov 6. Early childhood.


         Egan, chapter 2.

         Packer, M. (1994). Cultural work on the kindergarten playground: Articulating the ground of play. Human Development, 37, 259-276.


12. Nov 13. Middle childhood.


         Egan, chapter 3.

         McDermott, R. P. (1977). Social relations as contexts for learning in school. Harvard Educational Review, 47, 198-215.

         Egan, chapters 5 and 6.

         Bruner, J. (1996). Chapter 1, from The culture of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Willis, P. (1981). Cultural production is different from cultural reproduction is different from social reproduction is different from reproduction. Interchange, 12(2-3), 48-67.


13. Nov 20.  Adolescence.


Reardon, S. F. (April 2000). Social class and the cultural construction of 'adolescence'. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans.


14. Nov 27 – Thanksgiving Break


15. Dec 4.  Where next?