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The Five Theories of Psychology and Child Motivation

Info: 1585 words (6 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 1970 in Psychology

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Five well known theory of psychology are namely behavioral, cognitive, developmental, humanistic and personality theory. These five theories have gained support from psychology society. Psychologist study and research various field observed child development of an attempted tasks from home or school. These five theories have helped us to understand better of child motivation and better understanding of child’s aid.. Theories shows the systematic study of behavior and experience. However these theories may or may not work well on each individual, its depends on aspects of one’s mind and behavior. Theories conducted are supported with experiments from birth until adulthood. These evidences, methods and result are not expressive enough. Until today psychology theory has no right or wrong.

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Behavioural theory is a theory about the link of attitude and behavior. The result of how we behave stimuli both in the environment and within ourselves. The behavior we exhibit helped us learn a great deal about our behaviors, the effect our environment has on us, how we learn new behaviors, and what motivates us to change or remain the same (Moore,1995). In the early half of the twentieth century famous psychologists such as John B. Watson and B.F Skinner researched the aspect of behavioral theory.

One of the aspect of behavioral theory is classical conditioning. These techniques are useful for treatment of phobias and anxiety problems. An examples of his theory is called Little Albert Experiment conducted by John B.Watson. His controversial experiment with a graduate assistant, of a small child and a rat shows how classical conditioning can be used to condition an emotional response. Teachers would apply classical conditioning to motivate student overcome fear and anxiety problems by group presentation in class. As a result, these student will feel calm.

Another aspect of behavioral theory is operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is a method of learning of occurring rewards and punishment of a behavior. It is an association of an action and the consequences of that behavior. Psychologist B.F.Skinner believed that we do have such a thing as a mind, but that it is simply more productive to study observable behaviour rather than internal mental events ( Moore,1995; Kalat 2008).

He identified positive and negative types of responses that can follow a behaviour. His experiment called the Skinner’s Box which a rat and food dispenser that provides snacks. Its shows that a positive reinforcement strengthens a behavior by providing an individual a rewards. This would motivate a child to learn when a parents would give $5 when a child complete an assignment. This behavior would likely be repeated by a child in the future, strengthening the behavior of completing an assignment.

Negative reinforcement removes an unpleasant experience to strengthen behavior. (Mcleod,2007) The same experiment of a rat but this time researchers stopped providing food, the rat stopping touching the lever. Parents would likely to use this method of asking $5 from a child who did not complete an assignment. Thus a child would complete an assignment to avoid paying $5, strengthening the behaviour of completing an assignment.

Punishment weaken a response rather than increase it. Like reinforcement, punishment can work directly applying an unpleasant stimulus like a shock after a response or by removing a potentially rewarding stimulus. An example will be a child never complete an assignment assigned by the teacher will punished by cleaning the classroom for a week.

Cognitive Theory

Cognitive theory is the internal mental processes of thought such as visual processing, memory, problem solving, and language (Kalat,2008). From birth, babies learn actively. They developed thinking skills through gathering, sorting and processing information around them (Kalat,2008). In Jean Piaget’s view, early cognitive development involves processes based upon action and later progresses into changes in mental operations. Piaget suggested that children go through four different stages of a child’s maturation and relevant types of experiences (Kalat,2008).The four stages are known as sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational stages.

Sensorimotor stage in a child is from birth to about two years old. Infants gained knowledge by hearing and seeing action. This stage developed an understanding for a child that objects that are not exist to be seen, heard or touched. The preoperational stage is between the age of two to seven years old. Language was the most important development. This allows them to describe people, events and feelings. It is viewed as own child’s view of perspectives. Using symbolic for an activity. Children developed in more logical manner. An example is a ball of clay that is rolled into a snake piece of clay.

By the age of seven to eleven years they have an understanding of time and space. An example of a comic that hides under a box, then leaves the room. However an adult moved it into a drawer, the child will still think its inside the box. Concrete operational stage children can conceptualize the stage in their heads without having to see the action performed.

The last stage of formal operational stage developed from eleven years to adulthood. It can reason logically about abstract and concepts thus developed strategies and planning in advance. Piaget’s theory shows children motivated through maturation and environmental stimuli.

Developmental Theory

It is a theory that for thinking about human growth ,development and learning. It is an understanding of what motivates human thoughts and behavior into individuals and society. There are many stage of developmental theories focus primary development of children, others propose stages the maturity of an adult to old age.

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One of the best known theory is Erik Erikson, explained the eight stages of life span of human. Infant stage of basic trust versus mistrust. Toddler stage of autonomy versus shame and doubt. Preschool child stage of initiative versus guilt. Preadolescent stage of industry versus inferiority. Adolescent stage of identity versus role confusion. Young adult stage of intimacy versus isolation. Middle adult stage of generativity versus stagnation. Older adult stage of ego integrity versus despair (Kalat,2008).

The value of his theory would motivate a child in learning trust and autonomy in toddlerhood and at the same time, its guide that could be used to assess teaching and nurture a child practices a healthy emotional and cognitive development (Erikson,1987). This would motivate a child to trust their teacher in class when their parents not around. Children learn social skills by interacting with schoolmates.

Humanistic Theory

Humanistic theory deals with consciousness, values, beliefs and spiritual experiences that people live and die for. Humanistic psychologist study the special qualities of an individual through counseling and therapy. Carl Roger’s regarded human nature responsible for their own lives. As we grow up, parents or teacher only give us what we need when we show are worthy. This show someone self concept to individual ideal self. Children developed positive self regard to become what they can be. An example will be a child get a sweet after finishing an assignment in class on time. This motivates a child to achieve one’s full potential. Rogers believed the achievement of one’s potential of natural drive to self actualization by seeking new experiences or master new skills.

Personality Theory

Personality theory refers a characteristic of a person that consists pattern of feeling, thinking and behaving as they lead their daily lives. Sigmund Freud tackled phenomena that are extremely difficult to study. He analyse human by dreams, sexual desires, internal mental conflicts and the psychological life of an infant. His method of explaining and dealing with personality based on interplay of conscious and unconscious forces known as psychoanalysis.

He believed that psychoanalysis could bring parts of the unconscious into the conscious mind. Freud’s stages of psychosexual development of oral, anal, phallic, latent and genital stage have an effect on adult personality. He claimed there are three aspect of personality; id, ego and superego. However Freud test is vague and difficult to test (Grunbaum,1986; Popper, 1986).An example will be when a child with a group of friends, each of them had a lastest mechanical pencil, the child who don’t have it would like to have it. However, the child can steal or borrow from the friend. Each human have a desires. To motivate a child to be get the mechanical pencil from the parents, they can asked the child to pass a test and get a reward out of it or the child could save money. According to the theory there are qualities of human behavior that are useful to conceptualized in these structural terms.


These five theories of research and assessment of a child was considered separately. Issues of behavior of an infant to adulthood each have its basic nature of theory. All theories emphasized on its own structure, process, growth and development. To motivate a child of the future is relatively important.


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