Family Crisis
Social Exchange Theory and Developmental Theories

Social Exchange Theory

Social exchange theory has its origins in Structural Anthropology (Levi-Straus), Behavioral Psychology (B.F. Skinner, Albert Bandura), Utilitarian Economics (D. Ricardo, Adam Smith, J. S. Mill), Sociology (George Homans, Peter Blau), and Social Psychology (Thibaut & Kelly)

Focus: Individuals interact for profit or the expectation of it. Remember that behavioral psychology (a.k.a. operant conditioning, stimulus-response psychology) explains all behavior in terms of its reward seeking/punishment avoiding motivation. Out of a very basic desire to seek rewards and avoid punishments, individuals (a.k.a. organisms, subjects, units) create sets of strategies that they believe will increase the odds in their favor. We learn what is rewarding by emitting an array of behaviors until one of them results in a positive reinforcement.

Thus, throughout life, but beginning in infancy, we are trained (i.e., we learn, our behavior is modified) so that our behavior and thought processes are consistent with the goals of the persons doing the socializing. The fact that those socialization agents are working for the State (i.e., the society, the culture, the larger set of values) brings the psychology of this developmental theory into the social world.

Basic Assumptions of Social Exchange Theory

  1. People who are engaged in interaction are rationally seeking to maximize profits (Could this be a selfish and hedonistic view of human nature?). Thus, Social Exchange (SE) theory is Subjective and Introspective.
  2. Most gratification among humans is located in others. Dyads or small groups are the unit of analysis.
  3. People have access to information about social, economic, and psychological aspects of interaction that allows them to consider alternative, more profitable situations relative to their present condition.
  4. People are rational and calculate the best possible means to compete in rewarding situations. The same is true of punishment avoidance situations. SE is organismic mechanistic to the extent that the individual is not in control of the expectations for his/her behavior. individual reactions are narrowly defined as acceptable.
  5. People are goal oriented in a freely competitive system. SE is a Formal Theory.
  6. Exchange operates within cultural norms.
  7. Social credit is preferable to social indebtedness. SE is Nomothetic.
  8. The more deprived the individual feels in terms of an act, the more the person will assign value to it. Again, SE is nomothetic--based on general laws.

The language of Social Exchange theory betrays its assumption that we are all in it for ourselves.
The basic formula for predicting the behavior for any properly socialized individual in any situation is:

      Behavior (Profits) = Rewards of interaction - Costs of Interaction.
      Costs are any real or perceived debits resulting from a behavior.

    Rewards are the obvious perceived credits resulting from a behavior.
    Profits are short- or long run gains of interaction with others.
    Satiation occurs if rewards are given too often and become devalued.
    Scarcity, and the perception of it, increase the value of rewards.

    Bargaining/Negotiation is a process by which individuals may perceive a sense of power in their relationships.

    Each relationship stands on its own in SE theory.

    Reinforcement is a device by which behaviors are encouraged (positive reinforcement, rewards or absence of punishment), discouraged (negative reinforcement, punishments or lack of rewards).

    Power is the ability of one person to exert influence or control over the behavior of another.

    Proximity is the distance of the individual from the reward.

    Propinquity is simply nearness in place, and refers to the human tendency to seek rewards from the closest possible source while removing themselves as far as possible from sources of punishment.

    Competition is a cost factor in the perception of the reward structure.

Individuals are all in competition for rewards, and will attempt to reduce competition by any means necessary, given the desire to be rewarded. Distributive Justice refers to an individual's perception of the reward structure and his/her rightful portion of it. Thus, it is possible for privileged individuals to feel slighted or punished because their rewards for behavior are smaller than another persons.
In an academic setting, for example, salary raises are usually given according to job performance. A publication in a refereed science journal will be worth some percentage amount of salary increase--say .25%. Faculty who have higher salaries will receive a higher dollar raise (.25% of a large chunk salary) compared to faculty who have lower salaries (.25% of doodly-squat). Doodly-squat salaried folk will feel righteous indignation over this arrangement until their salaries approach the large chunk level.

The Principle of Least Interest was invented by Waller and Hill during their research on the Princeton collegiate man back in the 1930s. They were interested in the college male's perception of women they dated. They found that, in a dating relationship, the person who had the least interest in continuing the relationship (usually the male) also had the most power in that relationship. Thus, the one most interested in continuing the relationship had to work much harder to maintain it:

    Most Interested: "I made you a wonderful meal, darling. Would you like me to rub your feet? May I serve you your evening cocktail before we dine?"
    Least Interested: "Thanks, but I decided to go out with my friends tonight."

    Most Interested: "Oh, that sounds wonderful. You don't get out enough. Should I put dinner away for later?"
    Least Interested: "No - We'll find something."

    Most Interested: "O.K. - I love you! Be careful out there. I'll be here when you get home."

Social exchange lends itself to an array of research topics.
Mate selection research describes the process of finding a mate that meets our needs.
Marital stability research describes the state of having needs met with little cost. If we weren't happy, we'd leave.
Marital satisfaction, family violence, parenting, sexual scripting, role differentiation, and work and family relationships research all use SE theory tenets as guiding principles. You will remember that a theory is a general principle that interrelates a series of events allowing a broad range of predictions with a degree of accuracy not otherwise possible (well, maybe you didn't remember theory that way).

Social Exchange theory has all this:

  • The economic analysis is elegant, although, simplistic.
  • Micro/macro level analysis is possible.
  • SE considers value of interaction to all actors.
  • SE is testable.
  • SE has propositions
  • SE is Parsimonious and heuristic.

These are all good things for a theory to possess. However, there are some disadvantages.

Social Exchange explains away all altruistic behavior or motives. Sweetness and kindness for their own sake are not possible! Watch the 1960 movie "The Rat Race" and see Debbie Reynolds' hard bitten style that she learned on cold city streets melt away, as she encounters the bumpkin Tony Curtis' sheer faith in love and honesty. SE would have us believe that love is simply a means to an end. SE is also a tautology in that a reward is defined as that which increases behaviors. Behavior is that which increases rewards (or cost avoiding).

The Roots of Social Exchange Theory

Social exchange can be traced to a variety of scholars. From the study of the economy, Adam Smith and David Ricardo, the architects of modern capitalism, suggested that any philosophy promoting any principle other than hard work for money was dangerous for the nation. Everyone must harbor strong beliefs in their own ability to generate income. Some, such as John Malthus argued against any form of public welfare, since the coddling of the poor would enable them to generate more of their pitiful kind (It is actually a kinder act to simply let them die away). John Stuart Mill's

Utilitarianism was more humane, suggesting that every act of every human being should be classified according to its utility. Useless activities were scorned. All these philosophies, upon which American capitalism and our economy is centrally based, emphasized the economic or personal value of behavior. The idea was that hard work benefits the individual and the nation, while frivolity benefits no one. The idea flourished from the turn of the century until the late 1960s (see Figure 13).

Until the early 1960s life in our society was perceived as a rat race, literally a behavioral experiment in producing narrowly socialized functionaries. Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique is a terrifying report on the stiflingly anti-intellectual social environment in which women were supposed to live their lives in the 1950s (I doubt that anyone reading this text can explain what she meant by the title of her book). After the publishing of her book and the thoughts of other feminists, important revisions to the capitalist line by John Kenneth Galbraith, and Michael Harrington among others, academic views of life in America began to change somewhat.

Levi-Straus, in his study of the Nambikwara natives of the Brazilian jungle, found economic motives tended to create a pattern of interaction impervious to revolution or alterations. While revolutions may change the superficial organization of a society, the individual's motives remain forever selfish.

Malinowski's discovery of the Kula Ring Ceremony was evidence of human need to exchange. Members of the Trobriand Island tribes exchanged arm bands and necklaces in opposite directions around a ceremonial circle. Anthropologists saw only one function of this ritual--to solidify the society emotionally through exchange. The assumption is that man is rationally seeking to maximize benefits and minimize costs of social relationships. Among all alternatives, humans will select the most profitable course of action.

Adam Smith was the first great figure in economics. Author of the free enterprise system, his formula for economic progress was written in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, and was simple. Wealth was found through the workings of the liberal economic society in which regulation was by competition and the market, and never by the state. Each man was left to his own resources, laboring effectively for the enrichment of the society (thereby laboring for the enrichment of himself). Smith had little hope that the have-not's would ever rise above their circumstances, given the economic stronghold of those with bargaining wealth. But the chance of achieving was the motivation to try. I'm going heavy on economics because it is the one area of social exchange theory that most family social scientists seem to overlook. For example, our family system is based on an economic model (Smith's) that actually asserts the maintenance of the working class at just above subsistence levels as a necessity for the good of the entire society.

Smith's Iron Law of Economics states: "A man must always live by his work, and his wages must at least be sufficient to maintain him. They must even upon most occasions be somewhat more; otherwise it would be impossible for him to bring up a family, and the race of such workmen could not last beyond the first generation."

David Ricardo (1772-1823) was the first scholar to analyze the factors determining prices, rents, wages, and profits with a sense of system. He noted that nothing but stark need limits the numbers of people who are propagated and who endure. As a result, humans will forever live on the verge of starvation and the inevitability of mass poverty. In Ricard's view, profits and wages were in flat conflict for the rest of the product. An increase in profits, other things being equal, meant a reduction in wages; an increase in wages must always come out of profits. Increasing profits necessarily meant an increase in population, leading to an increase in the price of things. The producer/landowner/capitalist must necessarily reap the rewards. The natural price of labor is that price which is necessary to enable the laborers, one with another to subsist and perpetuate their race, without either increase or decrease. Thirty years after Ricardo, John Stuart Mill arrived with his ideas of social utilitarianism. His Principle of the Greatest Good for the Greatest Number of People states:

"The greatest good is promoted by allowing citizens to criticize their government, to worship as they please, to choose their own mode of life, and to think and to act as they choose."

Individually put, the Principle of Utility suggests that utility defines the impact of actions on the individual's happiness. When people do not find in life sufficient enjoyment to make it valuable to them, the cause of this development is generally because people are caring for nobody but themselves. Next to selfishness, the principal cause which makes life unsatisfactory is want of mental cultivation. Mill writes:

    A cultivated mind - I do not mean that of a philosopher, but any mind to which the fountains of knowledge have been opened, and which has been taught, in any tolerable degree, to exercise its faculties - finds sources of inexhaustible interest in all that surrounds it. In a world in which there is so much to interest, so much to enjoy, and so much also to correct and improve, everyone who has this moderate amount of moral and intellectual requisites is capable of an existence which may be called enviable; unless such a person, through bad laws or subjection to the will of others, is denied the liberty to use the sources of happiness within his reach, he will not fail to find his enviable existence, if he escape the positive evils of life, - such as disease, indigence, and the unkindness, worthlessness, or premature loss of objects of affection.

Pretty refreshing stuff, in this discussion of selfish human nature.

Blau and Duncan, being the statistically minded sociologists that they were, attempted to quantify equitable social relationships into equations--something like:

Rewards - Costs for A = Rewards - Costs for B

All of the assumptions for Social Exchange still hold here, even though a socialization scheme is at work--the ideas of functional conflict and symbolic conflict used to motivate and teach the individual appropriate behaviors. Social Norms are gradually created and maintained (evolved) so that the special interests of the individual are largely the same as social interests.

General Propositions of Social Exchange: George Caspar Homans
Homans was a student of the Harvard Sociologists, such as Talcott Parsons. However, he was influenced by the work of B.F. Skinner and the Behavioral Psychologists. In his book, Social Behavior: Its Elementary Forms (1961), Homans attempted to reduce human behavior to a series of equations, guided by five propositions.

    -Success proposition - For all actions taken by persons, the more often a particular action of a person is rewarded, the more likely the person is to perform that action.

    -Stimulus Proposition - If, in the past, the occurrence of a particular stimulus, or set of stimuli, has been the occasion on which a person's action has been rewarded, then the more similar the present stimuli are to the past ones, the more likely the person is to perform the action, or some similar actions.

    -Value Proposition - The more valuable to a person is the result of his action, the more likely he is to perform the action (positive or negative value).

    -Aggression/Approval Proposition - When a person's action does not receive the expected reward, or receives unexpected punishment, he will be angry and is more likely to perform aggressive action. Likewise, when unexpected reward occurs, or expected punishment does not occur, he will be pleased and is more likely to perform approving behavior.

    -Rationality Proposition - In choosing between alternative actions, a person will choose that one for which, as perceived by him, the value (v), of the result multiplied by the probability (P) of getting the result is greater. "If it is rational of pigeons to LEARN to take the shorter of two paths, so it is of men and women" (B.F. Skinner).

Homan's idea of distributive justice (reciprocity) suggests that when a person gets slighted in interaction, it isn't a real big problem as long as everybody else always gets slighted too. It is when others do not share in the costs that interactions become unbearably costly. This also illustrates the basic flaw in socialism, and the amazing popularity of capitalism - basic human greed!

Peter Blau speculates on the idea of Functional Conflict and Symbolic Interaction, as it relates to Social Exchange theory. Blau is famous for saying, Exchange is a tool of the powerful to extract compliance of others. For him, Compliance was the same as coercion, or force. With this kind of calculus in mind, some of the testable principles of Social Exchange theory are revealed:

    Principle 1. The more services supplied in return for receipt of some valued service, the more power held by those providing valued services. Translation: In terms of teen lust, the more flowers, declarations of love, affection and promises supplied by the boy in return for precious few sexual favors supplied by the girl, the more power held by the girl. This makes complete sense to teenage boys.

    Principle 2. The more alternative sources for reward possessed, the less those providing reward can extract compliance. Translation: In terms of teen lust, the more alternative sources of sexual favors (or reasonable facsimiles thereof) at the disposal of the boy, the less the girl can extract compliance (i.e., She: "Why didn't you call me like you said?" He: "I was busy!"

    Principle 3. The more those receivers can apply force and coercion, the less those providing can extract compliance. Translation: In the case of the housewife and mother who expends countless hours of personal time in the service of her husband and children, she may have very few options to exercise. She continues to provide valued service to unappreciative family members because she has no other place to market her services. Principle 4. The more receivers can do without, the less providers can extract compliance. Translation: This works for nations, states, corporations, economies and FAMILIES - The one who has the resources is the one with the power. Conflict is inevitable, as each person's selfish interests cannot simultaneously be met.

Therefore, a constant, and quite functional, power struggle characterizes many marriages.
The Principle of Least Interest is another way of stating the four principles above. The interaction partner least interested in maintaining a relationship will have the most power in that relationship. In business relationships, as well as marital ones, rewards and costs are a function of each actor's negotiation skills, verbal AND physical. Consider the nature of parenting. Parents do the dictating and ordering around. Children to the complying. Children are much less interested in compliance than we are. Thus exists the helpless mother or father who is manipulated by children, in spite of superior intellect - until the threat of physical punishment is made.

Collective Exchange and Social Motive are "latent" functions of social exchange is that cultural norms are stabilized as the society evolves into a normal pattern of give and take.
The collective/culture operates out of social/symbolic exchange.

  • Money (symbol for wealth) is exchanged for goods & services
  • Time (symbol for caring) is exchanged for goods & services
  • Kisses (symbols for love) & terms of endearment (symbols for commitment) are exchanged for sexual access.

NOT only are things exchanged, such as money, fishes, and beads; but also exchanges of attitudes, values, social conceptions (symbols), all of this serving to integrate the social structure.

The Principle of Social Scarcity and Societal Intervention are also important.
Scarcity of any product promotes intervention by society to regulate its distribution on a collective level. Customs, laws, and rules govern the distribution and trade of scarce resources - all dictating the cost of each item. The relative worth (in social terms) is embedded in the culture. How much is love worth? Domestic Law is even effected.

According to Nye's work with SE theory and family relationships, the strategic concepts of social exchange theory are rewards (the pleasures, satisfactions, and gratifications that come from an intimate relationship) and Costs (the pains, dissatisfactions, missed or frustrated gratifications that are perceived as being part of an intimate relationship).

Total Costs + Total Rewards = Relational Profit

Because of the uncertainty built into human relationships, we tend to compare our relationships to others in proximity and in the culture.
Comparison Level is a standard by which the person evaluates the rewards and costs of a given relationship in terms of what he or she feels is deserved.
Level of Alternatives is the lowest level of outcomes that a partner will accept in light of alternative opportunities to engage in relationships with people other than his or her partner.

The Norm of Reciprocity means that there is a cultural norm in most societies that maintains the importance and correctness of returning the favor. - A form of indebtedness.
Some statements that follow from the Norm of Reciprocity are:

  • People help those who help them (returning the favor).
  • People help others in anticipation of future help.
  • People do not hurt others who can hurt them.
  • People like those who like them.
  • People show affection to specific others in anticipation of future affection received.
  • People do not invest in others who cannot return the investment in some way.

The Principle of Relative Deprivation suggests that those who receive what they feel they deserve feel satisfied, those who receive less feel anger, deprivation, a cost - regardless of the amount of reward received.

Equity Theory is a corollary to Social Exchange theory.
Equity is defined by individuals involved, not by society or culture. The emphasis is on over-benefit and under-benefit. Over benefits produce guilt. Under benefits produce anger and resentment.

The Restoration of Equity is much like the idea of homeostasis. If a spouse spends money frivolously, then the other spouse has the right to punish. "Perceptions of rewards and costs" are central to the idea of restoring equity.

Theories of Human Development

Developmental theories basically deal with the evolution of personality across the lifespan. Theories here deal with:

  • Behavior, based on sources of sexual gratification, such as Freud ( psychoanalytic theory).
  • Behavior, based on rewards and punishments, good old stimulus-response psychology, better known as Skinnerian Behavioral Psychology, Bandura's Social Learning Theory.
  • Mental ability by age, Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Unfolding, cognitive maturity and socialization.
  • George Herbert Mead's Symbolic Interaction.
  • Intelligence, biology and psychometricians, beginning with Binet.
  • Developmental tasks across the lifespan, Erikson's Psychosocial Development Theory.
  • Personality change during adolescence, Marcia's Theory of Identity Formation.
  • Moral development across the lifespan, Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development.
  • Family development, Duvall and others Family Life Cycle Theory.

Developmental theories are lumped together here, but often have little to do with each other outside the general idea of developmental stages. All tend to explain human behavior due to the stage of maturity or phase of development.

Psychoanalytic Theory - Freud
Really a theory of psychosexual development, older ages are less important than early childhood. For example, adolescence is much less important because personality is almost completely determined by age 12, according to Freudians. It is a structural theory, with fixed sequences of stages and approximate ages. Each stage is distinct from the others, and development is discontinuous.

Psychoanalytic theory has had an impact on the social sciences. It was the first set of ideas to be both widely accepted and to possess the look and feel of theory. To fully embrace psychoanalytic theory, one must make some assumptions about human behavior and development:

  • all behavior is motivated through unconscious
  • dreams are manifestations of unconscious
  • sexuality is the major motivator
  • early childhood experiences, particularly weaning, toilet training, expressions of sexuality, and aggression are significant in personality development.

Major Concepts in Psychoanalytic Theory:

The mind (personality) consists of three layers (id-ego-superego). Id is the seat of instinct and drive satisfaction/gratification. The motivation for primary-process thinking (pleasure principle). Ego is the rational mind (reality testing occurs here, with superego's help--secondary-process thinking here). Superego mediates between Id and Ego (Conscience, guilt, fears are here), and keeps us in line.

Human development occurs in psychosexual stages, each stage being the physical/anatomical (erogenous zone) region where gratification (pleasure) is most likely to enter.

At the Oral stage, a child's gratification comes from stimulation of the mouth, lips, tongue, and gums. Birth to 18 months. Fixation on mother (source of gratification later to be bothersome).

At the Anal stage, gratification from the stimulation resulting from waste elimination. Exercise of these muscles allows satiation of sexual energy and reduces body tension. 2 to 4 years.

At the Phallic stage, 4 to 6 years of age, instinctual energy finds its release in the genital area. Acute awareness of sexual anatomy and the differences between girls and boys. The Oedipal complex appears here.

During Latency, 6 to 12 years of age, psychic conflicts that were not resolved during the phallic stage are locked away in the ID/ child focuses on exploring the environment, mastering social skills.

The Genital stage, 12 to the end of life, sexual interest is reawakened during and past puberty. By age 12, the individual's personality is set, unless tinkered with by a qualified, and only a qualified, psychoanylist. Some Neofreudians have carried the psychoanalytic tradition into the study and treatment of adolescents, young adults and older individuals.

Defense Mechanisms are the most intuitively attractive aspect of Frued's thinking.
Theoretically, human beings use defense mechanisms to protect the ego away from painful anxiety arousing wishes of the id.

For example, repression pushes unacceptable Id impulses back into the unconscious.
Sublimation converts distasteful actions into socially acceptable ones.
Regression allows the personality to revert to earlier stages of development when life events become painful to perceive or get difficult to understand.
Reaction formation occurs when an unacceptable impulse is transformed into its opposite.

Through defense mechanisms, an individual is able to protect himself/herself from ideas that run contrary to their beliefs or wishes. Neofreudian theorists de-emphasize the importance of sexual instincts in determining adolescent personality. The focus is on rational thought, developmental tasks, and social relationships. Freud's world view emphasizes biological heritage (mechanistic) and rigid stages (mechanistic). Freudians divide the personality into three groups.

The Id - the contents and processes of this part of the personality are exclusively unconscious. Id is the obscure, inaccessible and unorganized part of the personality. The oldest of the mental processes - everything inherited, including instinct and the Ids of countless past generations in one's family. The Id's sole purpose is to provide for the free and untrammeled discharge of quantities of libidinal energy while obeying the "constancy" and "pleasure" principles. Constancy is the state of "Nirvana" in which no excitation remains in the organism (Death instinct). The Pleasure Principle is the same thing in some kind of different way.

Ego is the organized subdivision of personality. It is the executive hand of the personality, controlling perception, learning, memory, and reasoning. It occupies a central position in the personality, standing equally between the Id, the Superego, and the external world. Ego is the product of the interaction between experience and the Id. Functions of the Ego - to protect the life of the individual against the perils arising in the external world. It does so by storing up perceptions (experience) and using that information to either adapt to the external world or change it. Here, "Reality testing" occurs by organizing the individual's mental activities to "fit" the perceived reality. The Reality Principle inhibits the discharge of excitation until the appropriate object or condition for action arises. The reality principle serves the pleasure principle by postponing immediate gratification (and its likely painful consequences) in favor of later, more favorable moments.

Superego represents morality. It is the last of the personality elements to be formed and reflects the standards of the society in which the child is raised. Striving for social perfection, the Superego has two aspects: 1) the conscience and 2) the ego ideal (ego ideal sets the standards for ethical conduct, and the conscience acts in the capacity of a judge). The superego is formed out of the Ego in childhood as a consequence of the dissolution of the Oedipus complex (this is accomplished by substituting identification with the parents for feelings of love and hate toward parents). Parents (their qualities as punishing and rewarding) are interjected into the ego and become a separate institution (superego) primarily via auditory impressions from parents (commands, accusations, threats, and exhortations). When ego breaks a superego rule, the superego punishes the ego by making the person feel guilty in the same way that a child is make to feel guilty by parental admonition. The superego withdraws its approval as parents once withdrew their love, so that the reproaches of conscience correspond to the child's fear of losing parents' love.

Freud's Motivational Theory. We are motivated by Instincts - the mental representative in the Id of an inner somatic source of stimulation. For Sigmund, instincts are psychologically inherited in an evolutionary sense, while needs are biological in nature. Instincts want to abolish the tension created by needs, thus returning to an earlier state of psychological equilibrium. You got your Eros (life instincts) having as their goal the preservation of life and the species (sexual instincts reside here - oral, anal, and phallic stages of development). And you got your Death instincts (no latinus equilibriato = roughly translated meaning "Yes we have no Havanas"). Of course, the aim of this instinct is death, or "post-life" stage of development, depending on one's therapeutic perception.

Freudians ramble on about anxiety, regression, suppression, repression, sublimation and loss of other allegorical representations of reality. This psychic distress is manifested in illogical thought processes. Personality development is completed, for the most part by the end of early childhood. The primary agents in this process, are parents, particularly mother, because she has the goods. Men are "biological accidents" having little to contribute to personality development of children. Freud felt they had no purpose past impregnation and insurance against financial disaster. Mothers not only had the physiological equipment to care for children, they also had maternal drives motivating them toward nurturance. Thus, adults with mental disorder are urged to trace their difficulties back to such events as unresponsive mothers, an unresolved Oedipal complex (in the case of boys only), and the transference of repressed sexual urges toward mother (boys only) to other "objects" (i.e., persons, places, vegetables with funny shapes, etc.).

Behavioral Psychology - B.F. Skinner
Around 1950, the American psychological community bought into a new idea--Operant Conditioning, also known generally as Behavioral Psychology--B.F. Skinner being the major proponent. Skinner's point was that there was no need to understand how the mind works, or cognates, if we are able to manipulate behaviors as we want. We can modify behavior, in fact we already do, to achieve the behaviors we desire in people. All that is necessary is to find the correct stimulus. The black box, all unseen and inferred mental constructs pertaining to cognitive activity, is simply the gizmo that applies meaning to stimuli, and all gizmos are more or less the same. According to Operant conditioning, all predictors of behavior are in the environment:

As mentioned in the discussion of Social Exchange theory, Skinnerians are certain of their assumptions about the selfish nature of human beings. We seek pleasure and avoid punishment to the exclusion of the welfare of others. Skinnerians were very successful in applying the principles of operant conditioning in the laboratory. Ethological studies (lab rats) were run by the thousands in the 1950s and 1960s with stunning statistical accuracy. Once out of the lab, the theory fails to a great extent. Outside a controlled environment, and when human beings replaced the Canadian white rats, results got much more tenuous.

Bandura's Cognitive Social Learning Theory, a derivative of Behavioralism, has one big idea driving it--Reciprocal Determinism. Here, the concerted efforts between actors which shape attitudes and desires include imitation, modeling, and vicarious learning. The world view here is mechanistic with a little organismic thrown in. Bandura added strength to behaviorism by widening theoretical explanations of behaviors to include social elements. Bandura's additions to theory were limited, since his explanation of personality development was repackaged symbolic interaction theory expressed in behavioral terms. However, he reopened the theoretical door to include the black box.

In about 1963, Piaget emerged from the social science shadows to say that there was plenty of important stuff going on inside the black box. In fact, if we (as a society) are interested in getting the most out of each individual's potential value, we have to attend to the environmental factors that nurture that potential. Inside the box, there are expectations, insights, attention, memory, plans, imagery, problem solving, decision making, and thinking.

Jean Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development
Piaget's views on development were not well received in the United States in the 1960s, primarily because of his diametrical opposition to the mainstays of European psychology (Freud), American psychology (Skinner), and intelligence testing. Further, Piaget's ideas have a classlessness about them, which flies in the face of American pragmatism. For example, he would say that intelligence is neither genetically determined, quantifiably static, nor very important.

Instead, he argued that intelligence is derived from the richness of the environmental stimuli surrounding the developing child, and occurs naturally within the normal child's unfolding cognitive processes. A socially impoverished child is one who is deprived of a stimulating environment (his epistemology--the nature of the origin of knowledge).

Cognitive Development occurs in invariant stages of increasing complexity. Children begin thinking simply and rapidly move toward increasingly a more sophisticated ability to conceptualize the world around them. Because of a child's unique array of environmental stimulations (and not on the basis of ability), any given child will progress at a rate different from other children.
Piaget did make certain assumptions about the role of biology in cognitive development:

  • Cognitive development is assumed to occur, as the child takes in information as it is presented, and on a level of understanding befitting his or her development at the time.
  • Cognitive development occurs as the child either simply does not fully understand the item because it has no related concept with which to associate, or can make an association / classification.
  • Organization also refers to the child's increasing ability to think, behave, and otherwise physically and mentally grasp the concepts at hand.
  • Assimilation, Accommodation, and Organization are forever on the job when the individual moves through the developmental stages.

Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development

I. Sensori-Motor Intelligence (0-2yrs) Babies organize their physical action schemes, such as sucking, grasping, hitting, walking, making early attempts at speaking--all efforts to make sense of the world.

II. Preoperational Thought (2-7yrs) Children learn to think, to use symbols and internal images, but their thinking is unsystematic and illogical. It is very different from adults. Classifying things in the world is one of the main functions of this stage.

III. Concrete Operations (7-11yrs) Children develop the capacity to think systematically and logically, but only when they can refer to concrete objects and activities. In Concrete operational thought, the same amount of stuff can come in different shapes and sizes (conservation). Objects must be present in order for them to be ruminated over. Classification of objects is the main concern in Concrete Operations. Putting things into categories for later recognition.

IV. Formal Operations (11 to adulthood) Young people develop the capacity to think systematically on a purely abstract and hypothetical level.

In Formal operation thought, which begins just about the time that puberty and adolescence begins, the ability to think in abstract terms marks the difference from concrete. In formal operations, we can conjure up make believe situations, events that are strictly hypothetical. We can think thoughts about thinking thoughts--pretty abstract.

Other aspects of the formal operations stage:

  • Idealism: A part of formal operations, and we are able to see that things are different from the way they are supposed to be ideally.
  • Flights of fantasy: We can produce, in our minds, long scenarios about life and love and being all knowing, all powerful. Boys tend to think they are powerful and wise right up until the very moment they fail.
  • Hypothetical deductive logical reasoning: This is hypothesis testing. "Suppose I ask Suzy out for a date this weekend. How will it go? I'll call ... She'll probably say ... then I'll say..". Conditional relationships: If P, then Q.
  • Falsification strategies: To test a hypothesis, one has to find situations in which it could be proven wrong.
  • Nonverification insights: Even if we can't find any situations where the hypothesis fails, it still might.
  • Literal interpretations of rules. "You told me to take the trash outside, so I put it just outside the back door."
  • Advanced Understanding of Language/Adv. Language Facility: A developing capacity for using and understanding metaphors (She was a fox),
  • Satire/ironic turns of fate (They really made an ash out of Joan of Arc!), making fun of serious things (I think he died of a brain hemorroid.),
  • A wider range of words to describe emotional states (I am wasted, shredded, totally devastated, seriously deranged, basically spazzed, completely wadded and bunged, Today in gym I yakked up a whole crudload of phlem - It was quantifiable!), Increased ability to detect sarcasm, deceit, sincerity (... and I'm Sure YOU care! NOT!).

The teenagers advanced pragmatism in the use of language sometimes borders on manipulation. Adolescents are learning to use conversation and behavior to move others over to their way of thinking. Instead of "Dad, could you take me to the mall on Saturday?" it becomes, "Say Dad? My youthful dad. What do you have planned on Saturday?" Adolescents begin to understand the utility of conversation, taking turns in discussions instead of all talking at once, using questions to convey commands, using words to enhance understanding by placing emphasis. Try using the following words in a single sentence. As an adult, you will find this a little difficult, especially if you have that nasty grammar hang up:

-awesome, as in This is awesome yogurt!

-devastate, as in We'll devastate the babes with these tattoos! This sentence was actually spoken in real life by a teenager: I was, like you know, chillin' at Sulls when this radically awesome chick, who was obviously underwhelmed with the high school experience, just devastated every dude in the room. I felt like Kennedy's head after Dallas!

In formal operations, conversation is appropriate to the situation, polite, carefully worded and cooperative when goals are to be achieved. Stories and jokes become more complex, intricate. Perspective taking and empathy are also elements of Formal Operations.

The Value of Piaget's Theory.

  1. Indicates what behaviors and abilities to look for in cognitive development.
  2. Indicates appropriate ways education can enhance cognitive development of all kids.
  3. Asserts that the environment, not child's capabilities, are what limit learning during development.
  4. Explains that changes in mental activity are qualitative as well as quantitative.
  5. Offers an alternative to "statistical testing" for intelligence, since intelligence is irrelevant to the theory.

Social Cognition
Moving from the cognitive development to the social development of individuals, social cognition (social intelligence) develops right along side increases in cognitive abilities. Social Cognition refers to the ability to reason about oneself in relation to others, about others, and their place in one's network of friends. It involves a new sense of self, apart from relationships in family, to relationships with others (specifically and in general). Beginning with a set of facts, the adolescent is able to "put" new ideas, that sometimes do not fit, into his or her repertoire of ideas. With formal operations one is now able to hold two conflicting thoughts in mind at the same time. This is the process of accommodation and and assimilation. It is painful to do so, and the individual will work to resolve the conflict, but it is possible to know:

    You are a great kid. -----Your biology grades are the pits.

    We love you very much.- Your nose is too big.

Such a realization may cause enough uncomfortable feelings to cancel out one or the other statement. However, the well-adjusted adolescent will be able to live with the dichotomy long enough to resolve it.

David Elkind offers two aspects of adolescent life. Egocentrism, unlike Mead's (SI) use of the term, means that all eyes are on us, Everybody knows what we have done. We get a pimple in the middle of our forehead and it shines like a very large ruby. The imaginary audience suggests the belief that other people are as preoccupied with the adolescent's behavior as he or she is. There is a battle going on inside each teenager: the desire to be noticed, visible and on stage versus the desire to remain anonymous and unnoticed. Adolescents try to adjust to these conflicting desires by believing in themselves in two ways at the same time.

  • At once there is the:
  • 1. Abiding self - adolescent's willingness to reveal characteristics of the self that are believed to be permanent or stable - temperament, coolness, easy going nature.
  • 2. Transient self - features that are believed to vary over time or that seem to occur once in a while but are not really part of the true self.

Erikson's Psychosocial Stages of Human Development

Erik Erikson focuses on adolescence as a time for the development of identity through a process he calls psychosocial development. A student of Freudian Psychology, Erikson made a very definite departure from his mentor's idea of personality development as exclusively determined by gratification in early childhood.

For Erikson, maturation is a life long process that is motivated by interaction with others. Therefore, he posed psychosocial, rather than psychosexual (Freud), model of development in his eight stage life-cycle perspective on human development.

Development is guided by the epigenetic principle: that is, anything that grows has a plan, out of which the parts arise, each having a special time of ascendancy, until all of the parts have developed to form a functioning whole. (Very eloquent and orderly stuff.).

Note that Erikson is as faithful to his beliefs in order and natural justice as Talcott Parsons, or any other theorist covered thus far.

In order the stages of the Epigenetic Principle are, by age and stage of development:

Erikson's world view emphasizes sociocultural views (contextual and organismic).
Strengths are his focus on past events which lead to development of personality, and the role of unconscious conflict which carry forward into social relations.
Weaknesses - lack of testability of concepts and lack of empirical data
However, some research certainly possible, even with cross-sectional methodological techniques.

Additional theory has been generated by Marcia and his theory of identity formation. Based on Erikson's idea of adolescence as an important stage of development for one's own theory of self (Identity). According to Marcia, young people may be faced with choices (he calls them crises) regarding their identity. An adolescent may then personally invest in a commitment to their choice on a particular value, morality, or life choice, or not, illustrated below:

For example, a teenager who is faced with the prospect of being monogamous may have "foreclosed" on the issue of love with one person forever (made a commitment before actually having to resolve a real life love dilemma). He or she may also have been presented with a crisis of monogamy, but decided not to make any commitment (i.e., "so many sweeties, so little time!"). For this kid, monogamy has been placed in Moratorium.

He or she may have no feelings about the subject at all--Identity Diffusion. Any particular crisis may never be presented in the life of an adolescent, yet teenagers must make a wide variety of choices about the values they hold, the people they want to become. When a crisis is presented, and a choice is made, the individual is said to have "achieved identity" on this issue.

By the end of adolescence, an individual has made enough life choices to begin adulthood. Confidence in parental support, a sense of industry, and an ability for self-reflection are important in processing crises. Most advances in identity formation occur post-high school. College extends the moratorium period.

Research on Identity achievement shows that vocational and ideological factors dominate the identity concerns of adolescent males, while females are concerned with affiliative needs, and interpersonal relationships. The culture can also facilitate the identity formation process, allowing a longer or shorter moratorium period, allowing more of a variety of experiences.

Family Developmental Framework

The Family Developmental Framework (FDF) is the result of a combination of factors. Family studies has long been sensitive to the charge that it is a "soft" science, and thus, chooses to name any theory a framework, rather than a theory. It has something to do with the language of science, and not the actual predictive, explanative, or descriptive power of the ideas in family studies. The main concept in the FDF is the family life cycle idea. Simply put, it is theorized that all families that are in the same stage of the family life cycle will resemble each other in important ways.

The concept "family life cycle" is used as a demographic factor (Sorokin, Zimmerman, Rountree, Loomis). It is seen as a control variable in research, and is used to explain variations in family standard of living, consumption patterns, and social status. Family size at various stages of the life-cycle has also been related to family economics and poverty. Family life cycle is also a process variable (Glick, Duvall), associating changes in interactive processes (symbolic interaction) with changes in the family constellation (number and ages of members).

From Human Development theories, FDF theorists borrowed Havighurst's concept of the developmental task (e.g., a "task which arises at or about a certain period in the life of an individual). The successful completion of developmental tasks lead to the individual's growth, development, maturation, happiness and success with later, more difficult tasks. The failure of achievement of developmental tasks leads to unhappiness, low self-concept, and difficulty with later tasks. Theoretically, families have developmental tasks too. Imagine a young couple, madly in love. One of their first developmental tasks is to pare down their friendship network to only those who support their union. In other words, the couple will alter their single lifestyles to a common, coupled one.

Family Developmental Framework proponents first posed a definitional dilemma:
What is a family?
Several definitions vied for "best definition" status, from the vague ("A unity of interacting personalities" , Burgess, 1926), to the more restrictive ( "Any family group that tends to be more or less a closed system of social interaction ... in order to explain events within the family of interaction, we must often have recourse to events outside the system, but we may also very frequently explain family events by means of other family events." - Waller & Hill, 1951).

Given this type of thinking, it is easy to conceptualize those interacting personalities, each at a different stage of development, all contributing to the relative development of all others. However, given the statistical fact of abnormality among human beings, conceptualizing is about all that ever gets done with this theoretical framework. The notion of family structure, taken from structural functionalism, describes a family ideal with positions tied together by roles and guided by norms.

Here the family has functional value for society, as well as for individuals. The concepts of role strain, role clusters, and development of personality are borrowed from symbolic interaction theory.

Understanding individual development is aided by human developmental ideas, such as the acquisition of language. In fact, Piagetian ideas about development through adolescence and Eriksonian notions about the developmental stages through to adulthood are also part of the theory. Concepts of the sequential regularity of normal family history (e.g., every family goes through the same stages), family careers, and role sequences follow the line of simple age/role content ratios, including the number of children, ages of family members, parental marital stability, and so on.

Individual Development occurs in a growing, changing family, therefore, it is theoretically important to consider the individual in that context. In other words, the individual stages from infancy through early childhood and school age to adolescence are mediated by the quality of individual family members and the integrity of family structure.

The stages of family life begin with Young Adulthood and the Transition to Marriage. These are research topics on their own, with a very large body of supporting literature. According to FDF, we should view families in the process of growth and development, like an ongoing cycle of events. At any given point in the lifecycle of a particular family, there are "grandparental" and "New Generational" families in the process of demise and birth.

There are generally agreed upon ages for developmental tasks to be completed. Of course, these change from one historical era to the next. Thus

Research has attempted to operationalize the concept of developmentalism. However, in every case the family developmental framework never has predicted behaviors or conditions any better than age of respondent or length of marriage. Methodologically, developmental research demands longitudinal sampling, which is expensive. There have been some intergenerational studies, but only a few.

Some nice things about the approach: Stages are used in the classroom because they are easily understood and presented. Life-span development (adult development) was first considered by these people. It has the conceptual potential to explain family change from several points of view - individual, family, lifespan, history.

Disadvantages of the theory: Little empirical support for strict "stage" development past the Piagetian ideas of formal operations. Critical periods versus important phases. Nearly impossible to operationalize all variables and follow whole families across multiple lifespans. Problems of internal consistency - some propositions generated from this perspective violate each other: Nature vs. Nurture is still a controversy, but developmental theories house both sides of the dispute.

In the next chapter, we will explore a possible synthesis of these theories into a unified whole.