Theoretical Models of Development



Type of instruction




Part of degree program


Recommended in

Semester 1-4

Typically offered in

Autumn/Spring semester

Course description

The course covers the concept of development in psychology, the history of the theoretical approaches and explanations of development, and the contemporary models of development.

Issues to discuss:

  • Continuity and discontinuity in development
  • “Developmental function” and individual variability
  • Domain-specific models; models of cognitive development: constructivism, social constructivism, modularism, connectionalism
  • The claim for the overall explanation of development; atypical development in the focus of interest of developmental theoreticians
  • The nature-nurture dilemma. Main effect and / or interaction? Evolution and development
  • Systems-approach; dynamic system models
  • The importance of the transactional model for developmental psychopathology. Risk and protective mechanisms; vulnerability and resilience. Cumulative risk – linear or threshold effect?
  • Developmental pathways: multi- and equifinality
  • Ecological perspective; contextualism
  • Proximal and distal factors. Culture and development
  • The time factor: the chronosystem
  • The life-span perspective. Transitions and crossroads in development; normative and paranormative crises; horizontal and vertical stressors

Cicchetti, D. & Cohen, D.J. (Eds) (2006): Developmental Psychopathology. Hoboken, NJ, Wiley.
Vol. 1. Theory and method.
Damon, W., Lerner, R.M. (Eds) (2006): Theoretical Models of Human Development. Handbook of
Child Psychology, Vol.1. Chichester / New York, J. Wiley & Sons.
Bronfenbrenner, U., Ceci, S. J. (1994): Nature-nurture reconceptualized in developmental
perspective: A bioecological model. Psychological Review, 101, 568-586.
Masten, A. S. (2001): Ordinary Magic: Resilience Processes in Development. American
Psychologist, 56, Issue 3, 227-238.
Sameroff, A. J., Fiese, B. H. (2005); Models of development and developmental risk. In Zeanah,
C.H. (ed.) Handbook of infant mental health. 2nd Ed. New York, The Guilford Press, 2005.