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social sciences

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Developmental Psychology  
 
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Lev Vygotsky also studied cognitive learning processes, but focused more on the environmental and systemic influence of socialization on thinking processes. According to Vygotsky, a constructivist language development is key to cognitive and intellectual learning processes.

Influenced by Piaget's seminal theories, Lawrence Kohlberg explored moral development, with stages representing different levels of moral maturity. Kohlberg believed that human beings develop morals and ethics through a cognitive developmental process that matures over time.

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Carol Gilligan has criticized Kohlberg's explanation of the development of moral reasoning because it does not take into account the particular ways that girls and women experience relationships. Females are socialized to value cooperation and attachment and therefore make moral decisions by weighing human needs differently than males do. Gilligan has been instrumental in shifting developmental theory to examine the "different voice" in which women speak, and to break down the hegemony of male experience and behavior as the norm for all human development.

Also influential in understanding how girls and women perceive the world and their relationships differently from men was Jean Baker Miller and the Stone Center at Wellesley College.

Erik Erikson expanded upon Freud's sexuality-based theories to examine the process of psychosocial development. Erikson viewed social development as the core element in human growth and maturation. He examined social tasks and normative transitional "crises" as the milestones of development. His stages of development address questions of trust, autonomy, identity, and generativity.

Urie Brofenbrenner studied the environmental impact on human development. His ecological model examined the systems in which human development takes place, including the microsystem (the individual), the mesosystem (family and neighborhood), the exosystem (societal institutions), and the macrosystem (large and historical context).

Finally, Betty Carter and Monica McGoldrick have situated life span development within a familial ecological context, outlining the stages of family life development within which individual growth takes place.

Glbtq Development

All these conventional models of human development have either ignored lesbian, gay, bisexual, and development or have seen it as pathological. Psychoanalytic theory in particular has seen the development of homosexuality and as aberrant. Such development has been viewed as a "fixated" or arrested state of psychological development. In particular, male homosexuality has been linked to regression in the oral stage of development.

Numerous theories have assumed that homosexual and/or feminine males have overprotective and engulfing mothers and absent and abandoning fathers. Some theorists have proposed that homosexuality is caused by same-sex seduction or abuse in childhood, and/or conflictual or chaotic family environments. Behavioral theories have focused on the role of imprinting patterns or reinforcement of positive homosexual experiences in the development of homosexuality.

Kohlberg postulated a theory of gender identity acquisition based in cognitive processes. According to this theory, children by the age of 5 should recognize the differences between males and females, and identify "correctly" his or her own gender status as originating from his or her biological body.

Inadequate sex-role training has often been implicated as causes of both homosexuality and transsexuality. Many researchers are currently examining the role of biology, genetics, and biochemistry in the development of sexual and gender identity development, with particular focus on the role of perinatal factors.

Some gender theorists believe that sexual and gender identity are developmentally related to one another, and that transsexuality is an extreme example of the same pathological processes seen in homosexual development.

There is, indeed, some compelling evidence that cross-gender behavior in childhood may predict homosexual identity later in life. But much of the literature on sexual and gender identity development is difficult to evaluate or take seriously since the underlying ideology of much of this work has assumed that alternative sexual and gender identities are by nature pathological. Researchers have generally presumed a heterosexual outcome, and have regarded traditional male/female behaviors as the normative result of healthy psychosocial development.

Non-Pathologizing Models of Homosexual Identity

Only recently has the development of sexual and gender identities been explored from the perspective that alternative sexualities and gender identities might be healthy. Rather than regarding homosexual, bisexual, or transgender identities as aberrations from "natural" heterosexual development, some recent developmental psychologists and sociologists have endeavored to understand the development of these identities from an ecological perspective that assumes these identities to be natural.

Vivienne Cass developed the first model of homosexual identity formation that was non-pathologizing. Cass proposed a six-stage process: (1) identity awareness, when the individual is conscious of being different; (2) identity comparison, when the individual believes that he or she may be homosexual, but tries to act heterosexually; (3) identity tolerance, when the individual realizes that he or she is homosexual; (4) identity acceptance, when the individual begins to explore the gay community; (5) identity pride, when the individual becomes active in the gay community; and (6) synthesis, when the individual fully accepts himself or herself and others.

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