Psychological Perspectives and Behaviours in Childhood

Key Characteristics of a Range of Psychological Perspectives

Psychodynamic Perspective

Freud suggested that there were vital five stages of development in childhood: oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital. These are called psychosexual because they represent different stages of libido fixation that are contingent on one’s instincts (Guntrip, 2018). A person’s physical growth can be linked to pleasure, potential frustration, or even both at the same time.

During the oral stage, the baby’s mouth becomes the center of its libido. As the baby puts different things inside its mouth, the baby’s id demands satisfaction through oral interaction with the world. Breastfeeding, sucking, and biting become the essential processes during the first year of the baby’s life (Hall, 2016). Oral fixation in later life gives rise to the development of such personalities as thumb-suckers and smokers.

The anal stage is also essential as the libido switches to the anus – this means that the individual starts getting pleasure from defecating. The wishes and demands of the child (from 1 to 3 years) are getting them into conflict with the environment (parents, for example). Potty training is one of the leading examples of such conflicts, as the child faces certain restrictions in terms of where and when they can defecate (Hall, 2016). If potty training is too punitive, it will lead to the development of an obsessively tidy personality that detests disorder and untidiness.

Throughout the phallic stage, both sexes become much more concentrated on the idea of masturbation and the role of genitals in their lives. From 3 to 6 years, children become much more sensitive to the anatomical sex differences and expose themselves to jealousy, erotic attraction, and two types of fear: the Electra and the Oedipus complexes (Hall, 2016). The conflict is resolved through the child’s identification with a parent of the same sex.

During the latency stage, the child is not exposed to any psychosexual development. From 6 years to puberty, the libido remains inactive as the majority of sexual impulses are restrained by the subconscious (Hall, 2016). The child spends the majority of his or her energy on acquiring new knowledge and does not channel any efforts into sexual activities.

The last stage is called the genital stage. At this point, adolescents (from puberty to adulthood) are open to sexual experiments and try to gain as much sexual experience as possible (Hall, 2016). The conflict is often successfully resolved through a one-to-one relationship with another person when the individual is approximately 20 years old or older.

As per the ideas developed by Freud, the id is the primitive element of personality that includes Eros and Thanatos – the libido and the death instinct respectively. The ego is an average representation of one’s personality that forms under the influence of the external real world and the id. The ego epitomizes rational thinking while the id is unreasonable and muddled (Lazaratou, 2017). The superego, at the same time, is aimed at controlling the impulses that the id sends. In most cases, those related to aggression, sex, and other similar behaviors that are forbidden by society.

There are three primary levels of consciousness – the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious. The conscious includes the surroundings and ourselves, as it only consists of all the things that a person knows (Lazaratou, 2017). For instance, it could include such concepts as actions, thoughts and feelings, but only those that a person is actually aware of now. For instance, when a person has breakfast, they could easily reminisce over the taste or recipe of their breakfast. Such thoughts might only occur within the conscious mind.

The preconscious is represented by memories that are available for easy retrieval and not repressed by the id (Lazaratou, 2017). It includes anything that is stored somewhere within the human memory, with the person in question being able to access those mental activities when an inquiry comes into the brain. For example, if a person were asked about a childhood memory, they would be able to pull it from their memory with no complications and retell it to the other people.

The unconscious stands for all the items that are outside of a person’s awareness, meaning that there may be specific thoughts or memories that an individual might not be recognising. Any mental activity that a person is not aware of may be considered an example of an unconscious mind (Lazaratou, 2017). Certain emotions or feelings that are stored within the unconscious may also lead to unexplained behaviours that the brain expects to hide at most times. For example, when a person moves to a new place they could call one of their neighbours with their old neighbour’s name. This means that certain feelings from back in the day can be still found in that person’s unconscious mind.

The three levels of mind described beyond are often depicted in the form of an iceberg. The portion of the iceberg that is above the water represents everything that relates to the conscious awareness. Approximately 10% of the iceberg is the visible part, while the preconscious and unconscious take on the remaining 90% (Lazaratou, 2017). As for the portion of the iceberg that can be found under the water, 10% and 80% respectively are allocated among the preconscious and subconscious.

In psychodynamics, there are eight essential defence mechanisms. The identification is a mechanism that suggests that the victim could adopt a behaviour that has been earlier displayed by a more powerful individual who had been hostile toward them in the past. Repression is an unconscious mechanism that is based on the ego subjugating thoughts related to threats and disturbance from becoming conscious (Hall, 2016). Projection is a defence mechanism where individuals attribute their unwanted behaviours and characteristics to other people. Displacement stands for the redirection of aggression or any other specific impulse onto a smaller, helpless target. The mechanism of sublimation is similar to displacement, with the difference being that sublimation transforms unacceptable behaviours into their socially tolerable versions (Hall, 2016). The defence mechanism of denial forces individuals to reject reality and block awareness from any external events. Regression means that a person in a stressful situation reverts to earlier development stages. Rationalisation is a defence mechanism that allows individuals to provide excuses for not doing something.

The main concept introduced by Jung was the collective unconscious, meaning that the inherited human behaviours and outlooks would genuinely mix with the personal unconscious of an individual. This view of individual experience can be seen as an amalgamation of external forces (social stimuli or conditions) and the individual’s personal position on the issue at hand (Lewin, 2018). Another valuable addition to Freud’s theory was Jung’s concept of synchronicity, which connected perception and the human mind. Also, Jung became the first to hypothesise that the full human potential could be realised only throughout the entire lifetime, which distanced him from Freud who believed that human development is only linked to childhood.

Adler also managed to contribute to personality psychology, claiming that human personality could be eventually shaped by birth order. According to his ideas, older siblings do not get enough attention from their parents when a new child appears in the family (Black, Gronqvist and Ockert, 2018). It leads to the older siblings compensating the lack of attention by becoming workaholics. On the other hand, the youngest siblings would be the most spoiled out of all, being exposed to most negative dynamics. Despite the popularity of this theory, there is no specific conclusion regarding the validity of Adler’s hypotheses.

Ultimately, Horney believed that self-realisation stood at the forefront of one’s development (similarly to Jung). For her, the most important objective of psychoanalysis was to explore the ways to become a healthy self and not the childhood patterns from the past. Horney disproved Freud’s idea regarding penis envy, as she claimed that there was no jealousy of male secondary sexual characteristics among girls and women. In turn, Horney developed a hypothesis that men had womb envy due to the incapability of giving birth (Polledri, 2018). For her, childhood experiences became the main contributor to unconscious anxiety.

Behaviourist Perspective

One of the main representatives of the behaviourist perspective was Ivan Pavlov, who was the first to introduce experiments with animals and the concept of conditioning. Operant conditioning became a fundamental behaviourist concept that provided psychologists with the scientific basis for many prior beliefs. The next psychologist who took on behaviourism and developed it was Watson. He considered control and prediction of behaviour to be the two essential objectives of behaviourism (Baum, 2016). The idea that Watson tried to promote among the scientific society was that human behaviour was only a part of the essential behaviourist investigation. Ultimately, Skinner developed the concept of radical behaviourism that aimed to extend Watson’s findings (Reese, 2015). According to Skinner, internal mental events could be explained by environmental factors, which led to the deterioration of the methodological behaviourism branch. Skinner hypothesised that humans were born with specific innate behaviours and their components.

Cognitive Perspective

The cognitive perspective appeared as a response to internal mental processes that also had to be researched in order to gain more insight into language, problem solving, and memory. The majority of works in cognitive psychology has been successfully integrated into other areas of psychology including its developmental, social, personality, educational, and behavioural counterparts. The main difference that came with the development of the cognitive perspective was that it (a) acknowledged internal mental states while also (b) accepting utilisation of scientific methods and refuting Freudian phenomenological methods (Eysenck and Keane, 2015). These dissimilarities has led to the development of an algorithmic view of psychology, with the main focus being placed on thinking, memory, perception, language, and numerical cognition abilities.

Biological Perspective

Physiological studies also turned out to be beneficial for psychology as they allowed researchers to introduce biological processes into the algorithm of studying human behaviour and many other concepts. One of the first researchers who sided with the idea that evolution and genetics could be essential for the process of studying human behaviour was Charles Darwin. He also introduced the concept of natural selection and tried to prove that behavioural patterns could be transmitted to future generations via genes and other biological assets (Clatterbuck, 2016). For example, if a person is aggressive, the biological perspective suggests that they might have had a sort of a brain injury in the past, which created premises for further unpleasant experiences. On the other hand, biological perspective supporters could also consider genetic factors when assessing a person’s health issues leading to behavioural changes.

Developmental Perspective

Within the framework of developmental psychology, the most important contributors were Erikson and Piaget. Erikson’s theory of development suggested that a personality goes through eight vital psychosocial development stages. Each of the stages was backed by a psychosocial crisis that could have an impact on the child’s development. Each crisis could be seen as a reflection of the psychological needs of any given individual, with basic virtues being acquired at the successful completion of every stage (Dunkel and Harbke, 2017). Piaget’s developmental theory was different from Eriksons’, as he believed that children only get through a total of four stages of mental development. He also tried to gain more insight into the nature of intelligence and develop a greater understanding of the learning process. Unstoppable interaction with the world around them, allows children to build upon the knowledge they already had and adapt to the ever-changing environment properly.

Social Perspective

From the social perspective, a person’s development is contingent on four key points. The first is the sociocultural element that suggests that interactions between adults and children lead to an experiential exchange. It influences social behaviour and considers multiple perspectives when making conclusions regarding certain behaviours in specific situations. Another aspect of social perspective is evolutionary. It suggests that inheritance and genetics are the two critical aspects that maintain a person’s development from the very childhood (Rutland and Killen, 2015). For example, it would be logical for a social psychologist to suggest that aggression only occurs under the influence of evolutionary and genetic factors.

Social learning is another critical checkpoint in social psychology, as different behaviours could be learned through observation and impersonation. Accordingly, a social perspective may become an answer to how parents and even media influence the advent of specific behaviours in children. The last aspect of social perspective is the social-cognitive context that pays close attention to how a person processes information and what are the essential patterns that alter a person’s behaviour (Malti and Noam, 2016). Behaviour-changing events are crucial for the social-cognitive context because they create the ground for alterations that touch upon both the individual and the environment where they interact with others.

Evaluation of Psychological Perspectives

Psychodynamic Perspective

Psychodynamic perspective offers many substantial advantages to psychologists and counsellors. The first one is that most observations made by psychologists may serve as a sign of defence mechanisms. Through psychodynamics, clients could be able to recall childhood traumas and overcome their experiences. Freud’s theory discusses human personality in rich detail, which allows for a comprehensive counselling framework (Lane et al., 2015). Also, the psychodynamic perspective is important because the distressed are often re-humanised to help the society realise their suffering. Overall, Freud’s psychodynamics is an important perspective because it offers an optimistic view of psychological distress and shows that some mental illnesses can be treated.

The main weakness of the Freudian perspective, in turn, is that the majority of assumptions cannot be measured in scientific terms or refuted. Another problem with this perspective is that personality is viewed as the one with predetermined behavior that cannot be changed (Pilgrim, 2015). The rationale behind that is the lack of free will in individuals (which sends us back to the psychosexual stages determined by Freud).

Behaviourist Perspective

The main strength of this perspective (compared to the psychodynamics, for example) is that it can be measured. In addition, counsellors could easily apply the information obtained through behaviourist perspective to their therapy sessions. In a sense, behaviourist perspective allows psychologists to draw a line between beliefs and facts. Behaviourist approach is widely used to treat mental disorders, as it can serve as a scientific approach to conditioned reflexes and an objective view of clients (Troutman, 2015). People with addictions can benefit from behaviourist approach through classical conditioning. The process of desensitisation is also met very often in the behavioural perspective as people get a chance to reduce phobias. In education, the concepts of reinforcement and punishment are also widely used to shape adequate behavior and achieve improved academic outcomes.

One of the key weaknesses of the behaviourist perspective is that it presupposes that all human behaviours are learned. Despite this belief, it was proved that biological and cognitive factors had an inextricable impact on behaviours (McGee and Johnson, 2015). Behaviourist experiments are also known to the world for their utilisation of animals, meaning that some of the experiments are unethical owing to the inability of animals to either withdraw or at least consent to participating in a study.

Cognitive Perspective

The biggest strength of the cognitive perspective is that it focuses on human thought processes. While the behaviourist perspective, for instance, mostly highlights outward actions, the cognitive counterpart looks inward and tries to realise the principles of how the brain deduces stimuli. Therefore, this perspective is based on the importance of realising brain functioning conditions (McMaster et al., 2015). For counsellors, this perspective is beneficial because it allows for positive behavioural changes. The improvements that individuals can make with the help of cognitive approach are useful for learning and individual benefits. Ultimately, cognitive perspective can be combined with other perspectives to elaborate a complex therapy where a number of approaches go hand in hand.

As for the weaknesses, cognitive perspective mostly ignores non-cognitive factors in human behaviour. Overall, it drives down human behaviour to cognitive processes, disregarding the majority of crucial concepts such as biological structures and personal experiences. On the other hand, the problem also is the high focus on controlled experiments with almost no observation and data processing (Benarous et al., 2015). It deters the scientific basis of the cognitive perspective and creates a certain deal of bias in findings that are cognitive-only.

Biological Perspective

One vivid advantage of the biological perspective is its measurability. The latter hints at the objective nature of this approach to psychology and allows for reliable research projects that can be replicated easily (Cicchetti, 2016). The biological perspective is deterministic by nature because it offers a different perception of abnormal behaviours and treatment methods for individuals with behavioural issues.

Compared to the behaviourist perspective, its biological counterpart is too preoccupied with the ‘nature’ factor in the nature/nurture debate. One of the weakest sides of the biological perspective is the belief that only hormones and genetics generate one’s behaviour. According to the supporters of a biological perspective, schizophrenia is a genetic disease, but the existing evidence dismays this idea, claiming that the environment also plays a considerable role (Cicchetti, 2016). The problem with the biological perspective is that it generalises humans and ignores the idea that every individual is unique in their own way. For instance, the General Adaptation Syndrome (in accordance with the biological perspective) is based on the idea that responses to stress are the same in all humans.

Developmental Perspective

The most important advantage of the developmental perspective is the focus on longitudinal studies that could be controlled for validity and adequacy. In this case, the emphasis is on the changes that occur throughout one’s life and how those impact the individual later (Meyers et al., 2015). Developmental perspective helps psychologists gain more insight into child-rearing techniques, meaning that the mental growth of a person is the key focus of the developmental perspective.

The problem with the developmental perspective is that it is rather resource-intensive. Longitudinal studies take a lot of time, and several participants could merely drop out of the research process over time. Adult behaviours are different, which also puts a strain on the utilisation of developmental perspective in practice. For instance, one cannot predict a child’s future behaviours with the current behaviours serving as the foundation for the verdict (Lapsley, 2015). The ethical side of research projects developed on the basis of developmental perspective may also be considered a disadvantage as children may not be apt for participation.

Social Perspective

The main strength of the social perspective in psychology is that the society allows any given individual to see their behaviour from a different viewpoint. With the help of this perspective, counsellors could discover novel ways of interacting with their clients as it looks at the clients’ behaviours and defines them (Turner, 2016). In addition, the social perspective is holistic by nature, which creates additional opportunities to look at how human behaviours could be explained. The social perspective is one of the few that reduce prejudice and prevent atrocities.

As for the disadvantages of siding with the social perspective, one of the biggest issues could be the lack of social knowledge in both counsellors and their clients. This leaves the future of this theory unpredictable, as there are numerous different cultures where the same studies would generate different outcomes. For the researchers who employ a social perspective, it may be a problem to control all the existing variables due to the study conditions that could be far from the real-life state of affairs (Turner, 2016). It is hard for them to observe ecologically valid behaviours when there are additional situational and individual influences that are hard to define.

Methods of Data Gathering in a Range of Psychological Perspectives

Psychodynamic Perspective

The most appropriate method for data collection in psychodynamics is talk therapy. It is used to examine early-life maladaptive functions and unconscious elements of one’s behaviour. Through talk therapy, counsellors are able to generate behavioural changes and help clients overcome difficulties. Similarly to Freud, many modern psychoanalysts are using case studies to develop their hypotheses regarding one’s behaviours, with the only difference being the absence of a couch. In psychodynamics, counsellors may also use observation to collect different information about the client (Aagaard and Matthiesen, 2016). The psychodynamic perspective allows for formal lab experiments and provides opportunities to control and restrict groups of people participating in those experiments.

Behaviourist Perspective

Behaviourism-supporting psychologists have always used the level of prompting and time interval data to divide the collected information into sets and analyse it correctly. Compared to the psychodynamic perspective, for example, behaviourists are much more focused on how clients react to the external stimuli and what kind of behaviours they might be able to display in certain situations (Baum, 2016). The most important part of data collection in behaviourism is the development of a behaviour plan, where the vital information regarding the clients’ behavioural patterns would be represented. When working with clients, behaviourists typically utilise operant conditioning. The latter is mostly necessary to generate positive reinforcement and help clients only complete tasks that they actually want to complete.

Cognitive Perspective

In the cognitive perspective, researchers mostly use mixed methods to develop more collaborative remembering and learn more about causal agents. One of the most prevalent methods is qualitative observation, where psychologists cannot only decipher the sequence but also reverse it properly. There are also modelling and experimental methods that enthusiastically support qualitative methods that currently exist (Nielsen et al., 2017). Therefore, there is no clear distinction between the use of quantitative and qualitative methods in the cognitive perspective. Cognitive phenomena are studied adequately from the point of cognitive perspective as researchers utilise both qualitative (such as observation) and quantitative (experiments), for instance.

Biological Perspective

From the biological perspective, the most ubiquitous method of data collection is questionnaires. The main benefit behind the utilisation of this method is that it can be considered apt for specialised studies and gathering of either infrequent or regular data. Therefore, researchers get the opportunity to obtain specific demographic information that can be used to discover population trends and calculate their frequency. Issues related to inquiry processing are also quickly addressed in the biological perspective because researchers often use structured interviews. It allows them to obtain the most relevant data with no bias involved, as study participants have to complete survey forms (Halle and Darling-Churchill, 2016). Further data analysis involves the direct interpretation of collected information, but researchers also often resort to open-ended interviews. They can be utilised to analyse obtained information even throughout the interview, but it requires several well-trained observers to take care of open-ended questionnaires where participants may share their personal opinion.

Developmental Perspective

From the developmental perspective, the best data collection method is experiments. This data gathering method suggests that there is an independent variable and a dependent variable, where the former is going to be changed, and the latter will be measured. At the same time, psychologists-researchers focusing on the developmental perspective are widely paying attention to additional factors such as the impact of the environment or any other additional elements (Darling-Churchill and Lippman, 2016). Researchers in developmental psychology also tend to rely on observation to collect vast arrays of data in a natural setting. This creates premises for research projects with a high level of validity. This type of data collection is not heavily influenced by experimenters, with a more natural behaviour and ability to maintain ethical principles.

Social Perspective

From the social perspective, one of the best ways to collect information is to utilise surveys. The latter are used most frequently among other descriptive research projects as well. The most popular variation of surveys are self-report inventories, where respondents share their opinions on certain subjects and generate expected behaviours. The most significant advantage of this data gathering method in social psychology is that it allows for quick data collection that is relatively low-priced and easy to perform (Curran, 2016). On the other hand, social psychologists utilise observation to gain insight into extraneous variables and how those could be controlled. Nonetheless, lab observations are rather costly and require the implementation of additional methods to ensure naturalistic observations. One of the least utilised methods is the case study. It requires researchers to perform an in-depth observation of either an individual or a group of individuals to gain insights into specific trends related to the population.

How Psychological Perspectives Can Be Used to Explain Behaviour

One of the most famous cases to explain behaviours is the case of the little Hans. As Freud quickly found out, the boy had an unconditional fear of horses. Based on the information obtained through psychoanalysis sessions, Freud was able to demonstrate that the child wanted to marry his mother, which is also called an Oedipus complex. Hans’ forbidden thoughts were punished by his father, and it led to the child’s phobia developing at a rather high pace. As a result, Hans’ phobia of horses began to deteriorate, but the debate on whether it was Freud’s contribution is still alive. There were two essential fantasies that allowed Freud to make his conclusions regarding the case. The first one related to Hans being married to his mother, with the father being eventually promoted to grandfather. The second one was that his penis was removed by a plumber and replaced with a bigger one. As a result, Freud concluded that horses symbolised Hans’ father because he was afraid of him and, subsequently, translated it into a fear of horses.

When assessing the case from the behaviourist perspective, one should pay most attention to the patterns that are related to Hans’ fear of horses as the child recurrently went back to his fantasy of horses falling over. This may lead a behaviourist counsellor to the conclusion that the root of the boy’s fear was in the father’s behaviour. The latter recorded numerous sessions of conversations with his son, assisting Hans in describing his behaviours as clearly as possible. One of the key behaviours that could lead a psychologist to discovering the root of Hans’ phobia could be the new pattern in toilet function. Also, the birth of the boy’s sister could significantly affect Hans’ behaviour, making him pay much more attention to his mother (which sends us back to the original Freud’s idea who highlighted the possibility of the child being affected by Oedipus complex). The toilet function behaviour was later extended by Hans’ going to the toilet either with his house cleaner or with his mother. Nonetheless, there was nothing abnormal about the boy, especially given that Hans could communicate his wishes and fears at a rather young age.

The cognitive perspective could also give a counsellor an extensive insight into why Hans was so preoccupied with the fear of horses. Hans, though, had the ability to resolve his anxieties and come up with specific solutions to his conflicts with the self and the environment. This shows that there is no clear distinction between normal and neurotic. Hans was one of the first clients who proved that a person could successfully take on both normal and abnormal cognitions. For the most part, the cognitive perspective may be based on the idea that Hans perceived his mother as possession material. Freud’s theory of Hans suffering from the Oedipus complex is also supported by the cognitive perspective as the boy’s ultimate wish (or fantasy) was to marry his mother and get away from the father.

The trace of the biological perspective may be the hardest to highlight in Hans’ case study. Even though the boy’s willingness to interact with his mother more may be considered natural, Freud’s inability to meet the boy and see him could be the biggest disadvantage of the whole study. In accordance with the biological perspective, Hans was mostly affected by the growth of his organism and secondary sexual characteristics that made him believe that he could be a decent husband for his mother. Freud’s interpretations were somewhat distant from what the biological perspective offered due to the lack of visual information. Despite intimate discussions with Hans, Freud would never be able to reach the right verdict without seeing the boy in person frequently enough.

The importance of the developmental perspective cannot be underestimated either as the reports obtained from Hans’ father first appeared when Hans was approximately a 3-year-old boy. On the other hand, the boy’s development went so quickly that he often referred to his phobia as nonsense. As Hans’ body also developed (in biologic terms), the connection could be made between the boy’s interest in his genitals and the phobia of horses. Compared to other children of his age, Hans developed rather quickly as he experienced anxiety being just three years old. The boy’s interest in genitals – both his own and other men’s – could also be linked to the developmental perspective, as not all children of his age would behave the same way. This hints at the idea that Hans’ development went too quickly, and the growing amount of information obtained negatively affected Hans.

The social perspective could also be used to explain Hans’ problem with his father. The explanations that the boy’s father transmitted to Freud showed that Hans, being five years old, was much more interested in socialising with other people than his peers. This shows how Hans’ phobia became the biggest catalyst for a young boy to develop the willingness to interact with others in both appropriate and inappropriate ways. The attempt to resolve Hans’ fear of horses through the social perspective would be centred on his social anxiety and the inability to exist without his closest relatives. Compared to Freud’s original ideas regarding libido, the social perspective could be much more focused on the relationships among family members instead of seeing Hans’ mere sexuality as the only reason for the development of the fear of horses.

Overall, it may be concluded that any of the perspectives discussed within the framework of the current paper could be utilised to explain and analyse the case of Little Hans. There may be a more straightforward, shorter explanation for why the child developed a fear of horses and became so attached to his mother. However, Freud’s psychoanalysis may be considered the most original approach to Hans’ issues. Given the child’s traumatic experiences from the past, it may be concluded that the boy would be exposed to the case of classical conditioning if no intervention would be performed. One death would caused the fear to carry over horse species.

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