Modern psychology is a complex system of scientific disciplines, among which a special place is occupied by psychology or, more correctly, psychology of human development. This is a study of age-related dynamics of human psyche, mental processes of ontogeny, and psychological qualities of the individual quality of time-varying individual. The concepts of psychology in general, developmental psychology as well as development itself are seen as functions of chronological age or age period. Developmental psychology is not only connected with the study of age-related stages of human ontogeny, but considers a variety of processes of macro- and micro-psychological development in general (Santrock, 2011).
The main forms of human development are phylogeny and ontogeny. Mental development in phylogeny is accomplished by the formation of psychic structures in the course of biological evolution of species or socio-cultural history of mankind as a whole. During ontogeny, mental structures are formed during the life of the individual. In other words, ontogeny is a process of development of the individual. In this paper when using a term development, a process of individual psychological development is implied.
Like any science, developmental psychology is a function of description, explanation, prediction, and correction. For a particular field of research, these features act as specific scientific tasks i.e. common goals, which science seeks to achieve in order to create a description of phenomenology of development processes in their entirety (from the point of view of external behavior and inner experience). Therefore, psychology of human development is related to the study of age-related dynamics of human psyche, characteristics of ontogenetic and mental processes, and psychological qualities of the individual quality of time-varying rights in the context of vital and diverse socio-cultural processes.
There are several stages of human development. They can be divided into the following groups: early-late childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, middle adulthood, and late adulthood. Firstly, it is necessary to concentrate on the first stage, which is early-late childhood. Actually, this stage combines three sub-stages: early, middle, and late childhood. It seems rational to consider all of them. Early childhood period lasts from one to three years and corresponds to Freud’s anal stage. Biological maturation provides the basis for the emergence of new possibilities of self-actions of the child in a number of areas (for example, stand, walk, climb, wash, dress, eat). From the point of view of Erickson, clash of a child with requirements and standards of society is not only accustoming the child to the potty, but parents should gradually expand possibilities of independent action and implementation of self-control for children. Identity of a child at this stage may be indicated by the formula: “I myself” and “I – what I can.”
The period of middle childhood from 3 to 6 years old is a period of a conflict between initiative and guilt. Children begin to take interest in various exercises, try new things, and communicate with their peers. In this period, social world encourages child’s activity, overcoming new challenges and developing new skills. Children have added responsibility for themselves, for younger children, and pets. This is the age when the primary sense of identity is “I – what I’ll be.”
At this stage, children can easily identify themselves with significant others (not just parents), readily go to training and education, and focuse on a specific goal. This stage includes the adoption of social taboos formed by the super-ego, a new form of self-restraint. At this stage parents should encourage vigorous and independent undertakings of a child, recognize their right to curiosity and imagination, promote initiative, expand boundaries of independence, and develop creative abilities of children.
The period of late childhood corresponds to psychosocial latent period in Freud’s theory. Rivalry with the parent of the same sex has been overcome. At the age of 6 to 12 years, a child is introduced to a life beyond family and begins systematic training, including introduction to technological side of a culture. Terms “hard work” and “taste for work” reflect the main themes of this period. At this time children engrossed in what they want to know. They obtain knowledge about how things operate and function. Ego-identity of the child is now expressed as follows: “I – what I’ve learned”. While studying in school, children are attached to the rules of discipline of conscious and active participation. As the theory of early-late childhood is fully discussed, it is necessary to discuss the next period – adolescence.
Adolescence is considered to be the most important period in the development of the person. Adolescence is a final determination of the age of the dominant positive ego. It was then that the future, in reasonable limits, becomes a part of a conscious plan of life. Erickson paid great attention to adolescence. He believed it was central for the formation of psychological and social well-being. It lasts from 12 – 13 years old to about 19-20. At this period a teenager is faced with new social roles and their associated requirements.
During this period of development, people perform a spontaneous search for new answers to important questions: “Who am I?”,” Where am I going? “,” Whom I want to become?”. The task of the teenager is to bring together all knowledge about themselves available at that time and create a single image of the self (ego-identity), including recognition as past and prospective future. A perception of him/herself as a young person should be confirmed by experiences of interpersonal communication. Teens have a poignant sense of worthlessness, mental disorder, and aimlessness. They sometimes rush into a “negative” identity delinquent (deviant) behavior. In the case of a negative resolution of the crisis, there occurs “role-confusion”, which is vagueness of identity of the individual.
The stage of early adulthood lasts from 20 till 25 years. It is a formal beginning of adult life. In general, it is a period for professional development, courtship, early marriage, and early independent family life. The main goal of people at this stage of development is to maintain reciprocity in the relationship and to merge with the identity of another person without fear of losing him/herself. The main danger of this stage of psychological development is excessive preoccupation with or avoidance of interpersonal relationships. Inability to establish peaceful and trusting personal relationships leads to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and social vacuum. Erickson stressed the importance of romantic, erotic, and sexual components. Nevertheless, individuals at this stage value true love and intimacy more. This is because love gives the ability to commit oneself to another person and to remain true to this relationship, even if it requires concessions or self-denial and a willingness to share with him/her all difficulties of life (Feldman, 2011). This type of love is manifested in a relationship of mutual caring, respect, and responsibility for the other person.
The next stage of human development in middle adulthood falls in the range of middle years of life and lasts from 26 till 64 years. The main problem in this period is a choice between productivity and inactivity. Productivity relates to a concern about next generation of people who will replace them. People are concerned with how to help next generation to establish themselves in life and to choose a right direction. A good example in this case is a sense of self-realization in a person associated with achievements of his/her descendants. Those adults who fail to become productive gradually move into a state-absorption, where the main object of their concern are their own personal needs and desires. These people do not care about anyone or anything. They just pander to their wishes. With the loss of productivity, the person stopped functioning as an active member of a society. Life becomes centered on satisfying his/her own needs and impoverished interpersonal relationships. This phenomenon is the “crisis of the older”. It is expressed in a feeling of hopelessness and meaninglessness of life.
Late adulthood stage lasts from 65 years old until death. In almost all cultures, this period marks the beginning of old age, when one overcomes many issues. These include adjustment to the decreasing physical strength and deteriorating health, getting used to a more modest financial position and reclusive lifestyle to adapt to death of a spouse and close friends as well as establishment of relations with people of their own age. At this time, the focus of human attention shifts from worrying about the future to past experiences. People look back and revise their life decisions and think about their achievements and failures. This last phase of life is characterized not so much by new psychosocial crisis but by summation, integration, and evaluation of all previous stages of ego development.
Domains of mental development indicate essence of the development. Many misunderstandings in determining the mechanism of psychological development arise from mixing of different areas of human mental development. Each of them is qualitatively different from the other. If they are all in the development subject to general principles and laws, the mechanisms of development of each will be different by virtue of their qualitative uniqueness (Biek, 2006). Therefore, the release of areas of mental development and their carriers should be identified.
There are three domains of human development: psycho-physical, psychosocial, and cognitive. The first one is responsible for external (height and weight) and internal (bone, muscle, brain, prostate, the senses, the constitution, neuro-and psychodynamics, psychomotor) changes in the human body. The second one (psychosocial) relates to changes in emotional and personal spheres. It constraints the importance of interpersonal relations for harmonious development of the personality: his/her self-understanding and self-identity. The last, however, not the least domain is cognitive one. It involves all aspects of cognitive development: capacity and mental evolution.
At the present stage, the knowledge about the development of psychological thought mysteries of the human mind is not complete. There are many theories, concepts, and approaches to understanding the personality and essence of the human mind, each of which reveals one aspect, but not the whole truth about the phenomenon under study. Therefore, it is not efficient to accept on faith any theory or concept and reject the rest. Even though sometimes they contradict each other, they all have a right to exist. In order to make a complete and comprehensive picture of knowledge, it is necessary to be familiar with primary approaches to understanding personality and consider the human psyche from different sides.
Recapitulation theory argues that human body in its natal development repeats the whole range of forms that its animal ancestors went through for hundreds of millions of years from the simplest single-celled creatures to primitive men. However, other scientists have extended the time frame of biogenetic law outside the uterine development. Thus, C. Hall believed that if the fetus for 9 months repeats all stages of development from single-celled creatures to man, the child during childhood passes the entire course of human development from primitive savagery to modern culture.
Freud believed that the source of mental development are drives and instincts. A child is born with a certain amount of energy – “libido”, which is the basis of human sexual drives. However, some points in Freud’s theories were not accepted even by his disciples. Overreliance of Freud on issue of sexuality in human life caused much criticism and served as an occasion for criticism.
The main content of social approach is most clearly represented in the concept of Erikson, where each stage of development is determined by the crisis situation that must be resolved in order to continue the development process. According to Erikson’s point of view, development of the individual results in the crisis (conflict) that occurs at the node points of development process.
Some psychological theories of cognitive development argue that development process consists of evolving mental (mental) structures or ways of processing information, and part of the genetically programmed behaviors depend on the maturity of the individual. Cognitive direction of human development highlights the impact of intellectual or cognitive processes on human behavior. American psychologist J. Kelly with his theory of personal constructs was one of the pioneers of this trend. He founded his approach on the philosophy of constructive alternatives. Kelly compared people with scientists, who were constantly speaking about hypotheses of the nature of things in order to be able to give an adequate prediction of future events (Newman & Newman, 2007).
The main purpose of the development of gender role theory is elimination of heterosexual division of people into men and women and its replacement with a new division. According to a theory, gender identity is sexual awareness of individual, subjective interpretation of his/her gender role, which is manifested in the unity of sexual identity and behavior. It is necessary to mention that gender role approach denies the existence of a causal relationship between male and female anatomy and social roles of men and women in a society. It draws attention to the role of the researcher as a social designer, to the distribution under consideration for development, and to the reproduction of multiple non-gender equality.
Environment influences human development through processes of learning and socialization. In addition, many behavior changes associated with the environment occur due to the interaction of maturation and learning. The effect of this interaction may vary greatly depending on the timing of these processes.
The basic process through which the environment initiates lasting change in behavior is called learning. Learning occurs as a result of the acquisition of a single-personal experience or performing a series of exercises. Whenever creating installations, opinions, prejudices, values and patterns of thinking, a person acquires skills and learns. Socialization is the process through which a person becomes a member of a social group: family, community, or nation (Montilla, 2006). Socialization involves assimilation of all installations, opinions, customs, social values, roles, and expectations of a particular social group. This process lasts for a lifetime, helping people to feel full members of the society or of a cultural group within that society.
In general, the process of socialization lasts throughout all stages of human development, not only in childhood or adolescence. Adults tend to explore new roles and prepare for the expected changes in life. However, in childhood, socialization processes produce patterns of behavior that persist in later life. Socialization helps create the nucleus of values, attitudes, skills, and expectations, the totality of which forms child and adult.
Today, almost all psychological schools reached an understanding that analyzing the psyche and personality structure and its development should be performed by taking into account biosocial nature of person, conscious and unconscious psychic sphere, the indissoluble unity of the cognitive, emotional, and volitional areas of the individual, as well as the essence of the person. Therefore, it is necessary to stress that all scientist that were working and who are still working on understanding of human development and nature bring special notes in notion of human. There exist various alternative theories, which describe the person as an integrating unit and at the same time explain differences between people. There is no agreement as to which personality approach is the most effective for an explanation of basic facts of human behavior. However, understanding of human development can be most effective with the complex usage of all theories and findings that complement each other.