Developmental psychology is a part of psychology which basically deals with the study of psychological changes which occurs during an individual’s lifespan. Developmental theories generally try to explain the developmental processes in infants and children. There are number of theories which try to explain child developmental process. On addition to developmental theories there are personality theories which try to explain the constituents of an individual as an easy way of understanding human behavior. The most commonly used theory is the Carl Rogers’ humanistic personality theory. This theory is client centered though it was later named as person centered therapy. In his personality theory Rogers define human behavior as exquisitely rational. In personality theory man is looked at as a totally trustworthy being with an essentially positive core nature.
Human relationships can also be explained using the attachment theory. One of the basic principles of this theory is the need for a relationship between a child and a primary caregiver. This relationship is very important because it helps the child to develop emotionally, psychologically and even physically. The behavior which is developed by an individual during adulthood is greatly influenced by the past childhood experiences or encounters. This behavior may develop unconsciously for instance the individual may not realize whatever they are transforming into. These future behaviors are greatly influenced through object relation theory because previous relationships tend to leave lasting marks which may impact self esteem to a great extend. The effects on self esteem often lead to maladaptive behavioral patterns. Psychodynamic theories try to explain the influence of past relationships on a person’s character or behavior. In his theory Freud explains that developmental experiences and instinctive forces and drives greatly shape personality (Oates and Sheldon, 1987: 118).
Personality can be well explained through Freud’s stages of psychosexual development. The psychosexual developmental stages can either result to healthy or unhealthy personality. In this theory Freud believed that people develop through erogenous zone stages. For this reason a child is supposed to complete every given stage successfully because any other contrary results definitely results in impairment or fixation on the particular stage. For instance in oral stage which ranges between day one to two years the child entirely concentrates on oral pleasure which is suckling. He further explained that little or more gratification may result from this initial activity because of preoccupation to this activity. Basing on this initial stage a child may grow to become a smoker, an alcohol addict or on the other hand they may develop to become more dependent on others. Other possible habbits which may result from over occupation to the initial suckling habit may include aggression and pessimism towards other people.
The next developmental stage is anal stage which puts a lot of emphasis in retention and elimination of feces. This stage comes from two to three years and at this moment the child has to develop anal stimulation control. This experience may make the child to be obsessed with cleanliness, control and perfection. If the child fails to develop into the above three characters they may become disorganized and messy people. Phallic stage ranges between three to six years. At this stage the pleasure of a child is directed towards the genitals. Freud explains that at this particular stage boys tend to develop sexual desires unconsciously towards their mothers. This is the reason why they tend to compete for their mothers affection with their fathers. At the same moment boys tend to develop some fears because of these desires this is because they think that they can be forced into painful experiences. The mixed feeling at this particular stage is referred to as Oedipus complex (Shaffer 2008: pp 40).
Freud explains that these mixed feelings are not only developed by boys because girls go through the same experience. For example girls experience sexual attraction towards their fathers unconsciously. Freud explains that boys decide to identify with their fathers at this particular stage because of fear of conflict. Through the identification with the father the boys start to develop male features like masculinity and as a result they start to repress their sexual attraction towards their mothers. This stage may result to correct or confused sexual identity. During the latency stage most of the sexual attractions stay repressed and that is the reason girls comfortably plays with fellow girls while boys with other boys. When puberty sets in sexual desires are awakened. At this final psychosexual stage the past experiences helps the adolescents to direct their sexual feelings towards the opposite sex. At this stage the primary attention is towards the genitals. These early developmental stages influence our future interaction with clients.