Contemporary Psychological Approaches

Many of the early psychological theories and approaches changed over the years, as new evidence shed light on behavior and development. Some of these approaches have remained a constant influence, some have changed significantly over the years, and some have faded into history. Currently, several major contemporary approaches apply to development: psychodynamic, behavioral, humanistic, cognitive, contextual, biological, and evolutionary approaches.

Regardless of changes to these psychological approaches, throughout history and still in the present day, key issues remain among which developmental theorists often disagree. Particularly oft-disputed is the role of early experiences on later development in opposition to current behavior reflecting present experiences–namely the passive versus active issue. Likewise, whether or not development is best viewed as occurring in stages or rather as a gradual and cumulative process of change has traditionally been up for debate – a question of continuity versus discontinuity. Also, consider whether the pattern of change the same for everyone, or are there different patterns of change—one course of development versus many courses. Further, the role of heredity and the environment in shaping human development is a much-contested topic of discussion – also referred to as nature versus nurture debate. We will examine each of these issues in more detail throughout the chapter.

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