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5 Terms & Theories of Child Development

1. Diana Baumrind’s Parenting Styles

Baumrind categorized different parent’s approaches to parenting into three categories:


A parent who would be defined as permissive would have the characteristics of which they would allow their child to do whatever they please, with little discipline or redirection of unwanted behaviors.


An authoritarian parent would be the polar opposite of a permissive parent, having unrealistic expectations and rules for their child to follow. This category could also be classified as controlling, cold, and unwilling to hear their child’s perspective and overall voice for that matter.


An authoritative parent would be the well-balanced parent who sets clear, reasonable boundaries and expectations for their child to adhere to, but also values their child’s thoughts and opinions.

2. Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory

Gardner believed that people do not learn in only one specific way, but rather a combination of different ways. He came up with eight different categories into which people can learn:

1. Linguistic

2. Mathematical

3. Spatial

4. Bodily-Kinesthetic

5. Musical

6. Interpersonal (extroverted)

7. Intrapersonal (introverted)

8. Naturalist (learning through natural environment)

3. B.F. Skinner’s Operant Conditioning

Skinner created the term operant conditioning by conducting studies where he would

experiment with rats and other animals. The animals would be given two buttons to push and when they pushed the correct one, food would be dispensed, this is called positive

reinforcement. When they pushed the incorrect button, no food would be dispensed, otherwise known as negative reinforcement. A third aspect to the experiment was called extinction, which was when no matter what button the animal pressed, no food would be rewarded.

Skinner discovered that intermittent reinforcement, mixing positive reinforcement with

extinction was the most effective way to make sure the good behavior continued. Hope for

the reward was the most powerful motivator for good behavior.

4. John Bowlby/Mary Ainsworth's Attachment Theory

Bowlby believed that humans were born to form attachments to their closest caregiver. The following are the different characteristics of attachment.

  • Proximity maintenance (desire to be close to the ones we are attached to)

  • Safe haven (returning to attachment figure when scared or threatened)

  • Secure base (attachment figure acts a base for which the child can comfortably explore the surrounding environment)

  • Separation Distress (separation anxiety)

Mary Ainsworth further expanded on Bowlby's theory by identifying the three major styles of attachment:

Secure attachment

Children who can depend on their caregivers show distress when separated and joy when reunited. Although the child may be upset, they feel assured that the caregiver will return. Securely attached children are comfortable seeking reassurance from caregivers.

Ambivalent-insecure attachment

When children become very distressed when their parent/caregiver leaves. As a result of poor parental availability, these children cannot depend on their primary caregiver to be there when they need them.

Avoidant-insecure attachment

Children with an avoidant attachment tend to avoid parents or caregivers, showing no preference between a caregiver and a complete stranger. This attachment style might be a result of abusive or neglectful caregivers.

5. Rudolf Dreikurs Misbehavior Theory

Believed all misbehavior was a result of isolation, which often resulted in the child feeling forced a child to try and fit in through:

- Attention (acting out to get noticed)

- Power (child tries to take leadership role and tell others what to do)

- Revenge (retaliates against the people who are not giving her the positive response

they crave)

- Avoidance (when the child withdraws, not responding to anything).

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