Psychological Perspectives on Human Development

by James Fleming, PhD 2004-2008




Who may use this book?

Anyone – it’s a resource for students doing research assignments or for faculty who wish to supplement class assignments with further readings -- or even as an official (free) textbook for courses in Human Growth and Development (Lifespan Development), or perhaps Personality Development (by selecting appropriate chapters).


It is written (in my opinion) at a level which is appropriate for lower division college students. (Graduate students, however, might find it more difficult.)


Why is there a Need for another “Theories” Book? And How is  a "Perspective"  Different from a "Theory"?

There are several good "theories of development" books but they just didn’t cover all of the topics which interested me as an instructor. Also, a perspective is different from a theory (it’s broader), so even though the book's chapters are sometimes organized around major "foundation" psychological theorists (e.g., Piaget, Freud, Skinner) the material is never based solely on the ideas of just one or even two theorists, and in some chapters (e.g., intelligence, traits) the perspectives are presented from many different points of view.


Why are Some Chapters Missing?

This is a work in progress. I am redrafting many chapters and uploading them one by one over the course of several months.


Is this Text Really Free?

Yes, at least for now. Eventually I may seek commercial publication, but for the present I am making them publicly available. Part of my motivation for doing so is to get feedback from others – what they like or don’t like about it, and of course letting me know about any “misteaks” they may find. Other than that I hope people enjoy the text or at least find it useful.


So what is Different About this Textbook?

It includes sections or chapters on the following topics which are mostly if not totally ignored by other books at this level:


        Chapters on development of intelligence and of traits. I don’t know of any other “theories” books that cover these at this level but I see them as very important topics which should be introduced along with the others.

        Development of the self. The self has become, in the last 30 years or so, one of the most important topics in psychology, although it was once almost ignored. Although it is arguably difficult to separate development of the self from, say, emotional development or development of personality, in self-development there is a greater emphasis on adulthood and maturity (though not to the exclusion of childhood) which includes topics such as the actualizing tendency and self-actualization (humanism), freedom and responsible living (existentialism), and individuation (Jungian). The self section therefore consist of chapters on:


o       Both humanism and existentialism: These are hardly touched upon in other texts of this type, if at all. But I think these are important perspectives for anyone interested in later life development.

o       Jungian psychology. Although Jung is typically placed in the psychoanalytic tradition (because of Freud’s influence and the importance placed on unconscious processes) I really see Jung as, more than anything, concerned with the development and expansion of the self. It is also easy to see the influence of Jung on the humanists and existentialists, although Jung's  influence on these perspectives is often overlooked.


        Death and Dying. This is the final stage of life and as such I believed it should not be ignored!

        Research. The second chapter on science and theory considers developmental science as a science, including discussion of the scientific method, and designs that are useful for developmental research. Except for a brief, intuitive discussion of the correlation coefficient it does not require any statistical knowledge.

        Philosophy: The Nature of Human Nature. This chapter discusses the often unexamined or unstated philosophies behind the theories and perspectives, including concepts of morality, free will versus determinism, and the like. In my classes these topics appear again and again in later discussions of theorists and their worldviews.


Your Name can go here too!

I thank professors Dennis Abry, Al Garbagnati, and Herb Hilbig; and students Jessi Taylor, Chantille Fair, Stacie Flajnik, and Leila Inman, for their helpful suggestions and comments.


I hope my readers find this material useful and I would love to hear from YOU about your experiences in using it, either as a reference or as the main textbook in your course.


-J. S. Fleming, August, 2008