Donette Steele, M.A. / Clinical Psychology

Study Guide - Psychological Disorders





Human Development


          Developmental psychology: The study of progressive changes in behavior and abilities

          Heredity (nature): Genetic transmission of physical and psychological characteristics from parents to their children

          DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid): Molecular structure shaped like a double helix that contains coded genetic information


          Specific areas on a strand of DNA that carry hereditary information

    Dominant: The gene’s feature will appear each time the gene is present

    Recessive: The gene’s feature will appear only if it is paired with another recessive gene

    Still only 25% chance trait will be expressed

Polygenic Characteristics

          Personal traits or physical properties that are influenced by many genes working in combination


Developmental Level

          An individual’s current state of physical, emotional, and intellectual development

Environment (Nurture)

          All external conditions that affect a person, especially the effects of learning

Prenatal Issues

          Congenital problem: A problem or defect that occurs during prenatal development; “birth defect”

          Genetic disorder: Problem caused by inherited characteristics from parents (e.g., cystic fibrosis)


          Anything capable of directly causing birth defects (e.g., narcotics, radiation, cigarette smoke, lead, and cocaine)

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

          Caused by repeated heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy


    Have low birth weight, a small head, body defects, and facial malformations

    Lack cupid’s bow, the bow-shaped portion of the upper lip (look in the mirror to see)

Sensitive Period

          A period of increased sensitivity to environmental influences; also, a time when certain events must occur for normal development to take place

Environments: Deprivation and Enrichment

          Deprivation: Lack of normal stimulation, nutrition, comfort, or love

          Enrichment: When an environment is deliberately made more complex and intellectually stimulating and emotionally supportive

Reaction Range

          Limits that one’s environment places on the effects of heredity


Temperament and Environment

          Temperament: The inherited physical “core” of personality; includes sensitivity, irritability, distractibility, and typical mood (Kagan, 2000)


Easy Children

          40%; relaxed and agreeable


Difficult Children           10%; moody, intense, easily angered


Slow-to-Warm-Up Children          15%; restrained, unexpressive, shy

Remaining Children           Do not fit into any specific category (Chess & Thomas, 1986)

Newborns (Neonates) and Their Reflexes

Grasping Reflex

          If an object is placed in the neonate’s palm, she’ll grasp it automatically

          All reflexes are automatic responses (i.e., they come from nature, not nurture)

Rooting Reflex

          Lightly touch the infant’s cheek and he’ll turn toward the object and attempt to nurse; helps infant find bottle or breast

Sucking Reflex

          Touch an object or nipple to the infant’s mouth and she’ll make rhythmic sucking movements

Moro Reflex

          If a baby’s position is abruptly changed or if he is startled by a loud noise, he will make a hugging motion 


         Physical growth and development of the body, brain, and nervous system

          Increased muscular control occurs in patterns; order of maturation is almost universal

    Cephalocaudal: From head to toe

    Proximodistal: From center of the body to the extremities


Emotional Development

         Basic emotions: Anger, fear, joy; appear to be unlearned

          Social smile: Smiling elicited by social stimuli; like seeing a parent’s face

Social Development

          Development of self-awareness, attachment to parents/caregivers, and relationships with other children/adults

Contact Comfort (Harlow)

          Pleasant and reassuring feeling babies get from touching something warm and soft, especially their mother



          Emotional attachment: Close emotional bond that infants form with parents, caregivers, or others

          Separation anxiety: Crying and signs of fear when a child is left alone or is with a stranger; generally appears around 8-12 months

          Separation anxiety disorder: Severe and prolonged distress displayed by children when separated from parents/caregivers

    Children usually grow out of this

Quality of Infant Attachment (Ainsworth)

          Secure: Stable and positive emotional bond

          Insecure-avoidant: Anxious emotional bond; tendency to avoid reunion with parent or caregiver

          Insecure-ambivalent: Anxious emotional bond; desire to be with parent or caregiver and some resistance to being reunited with mother

Affectional Needs

          Emotional needs for love and affection

 Parenting Styles (Baumrind, 2005)

Authoritarian Parents

          Enforce rigid rules and demand strict obedience to authority

          Children tend to be emotionally stiff and lacking in curiosity

Overly Permissive

          Give little guidance

          Allow too much freedom, or don’t hold children accountable for their actions

          Children tend to be dependent and immature and frequently misbehave


          Provide firm and consistent guidance combined with love and affection

          Children tend to be competent, self-controlled, independent, and assertive

Language Acquisition

          Cooing: Repetition of vowel sounds by infants; typically starts at 6-8 weeks

          Babbling: Repetition of meaningless language sounds (e.g., babababa); uses consonants B, D, M, and G; starts at 7 months

More on Language Acquisition

          Single-word stage: The child says one word at a time

          Telegraphic speech: Two-word sentences that communicate a single idea (e.g., “want cookie”)

Noam Chomsky and the Roots of Language

          Biological disposition: Presumed readiness of humans to learn certain skills such as how to use language 

    Chomsky: Language patterns are inborn


          In early language development, any behavior, such as touching, vocalizing, gazing, or smiling, that allows nonverbal interaction and turn-taking between parent and child

Parentese (Motherese)

          Pattern of speech used when talking to infants

    Marked by higher-pitched voice; short, simple sentences; slowed speech and exaggerated voice inflections; and repetition

Jean Piaget and Cognitive Development

          Piaget believed that all children passed through a set series of stages during their cognitive development; like Freud, he was a stage theorist

Piaget: Assimilation

          Application of existing mental patterns to new situations; new situation is “assimilated” to existing mental schemes

Piaget: Accommodation

          Existing ideas are changed to fit new requirements; mental schemes are changed to accommodate new information

          More advanced form of cognitive processing

Four Stages of Piagetian Cognitive Development

The Sensorimotor  Stage (0-2 Years)

          All sensory input and motor responses are coordinated; most intellectual development here is nonverbal

    Object permanence:  Concept that objects still exist when they are out of sight

TT Preoperational Stage (2-7 Years)

          Children begin to use language and think symbolically, yet their thinking is still intuitive and egocentric

Intuitive Thinking

          Makes little use of reasoning and logic

Egocentric Thinking

          Child is unable to accommodate viewpoints of others; thoughts are self-centered


          Mentally changing the shape or form of a mental image or idea; children younger than 6 or 7 cannot do this


 The Concrete Operational Stage
(7-11 Years)

          Children become able to use concepts of time, space, volume, and number BUT in ways that remain simplified and concrete, not abstract

Piaget’s Conservation

          Mass, weight, and volume of matter remain unchanged even when the shape or appearance of objects changes

Piaget’s Reversibility of Thought

          Relationships involving equality or identity can be reversed

    If A=B then B=A


The Formal Operations Stage
(11 Years and Up)

          Thinking now includes abstract, theoretical, and hypothetical ideas

    Abstract principles: Concepts and examples removed from specific examples and concrete situations

    Hypothetical possibilities: Suppositions, guesses, or projections

Lev Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory

          Children’s cognitive development is heavily influenced by sociocultural factors

          Children’s thinking develops through dialogues with more capable people

Zone of Proximal Development

          Range of tasks a child cannot yet master alone even though they are close to having the necessary mental skills; they need guidance from a skilled partner in order to complete the task


          Framework or temporary support.  Adults help children learn how to think by scaffolding, or supporting, their attempts to solve a problem or to discover principles

    Scaffolding must be responsive to a child’s needs

Types of Child Discipline

          Power assertion: Using physical punishment or a show of force (e.g., removing toys or privileges)

          Withdrawal of love: Withholding affection

          Management techniques: Combine praise, recognition, approval, rules, and reasoning to encourage desirable behavior

Effective Parenting

          Have stable rules of conduct (consistency)

          Show mutual respect, love, encouragement, and shared enjoyment

          Have effective communication

    You-message: Threats, name-calling, accusing, bossing, criticizing, or lecturing (avoid this)

    I-message: Tells children the effect their behavior had on you (use this)


          Natural consequences: Effects that naturally follow a particular behavior; intrinsic effects

          Logical consequences: Rational and reasonable effects defined by parents


          Culturally defined period between childhood and adulthood

          Puberty: Hormonal changes promote rapid physical growth and sexual maturity

Life Events

          Developmental tasks: Any skill that must be mastered, or personal change that must take place, for optimal development (e.g., learning to read and adjusting to sexual maturity)

          Psychosocial dilemma: Conflict between personal impulses and the social world

Lawrence Kohlberg and Moral Development

          Moral development: When we acquire values, beliefs, and thinking abilities that guide responsible behavior

          Stage theorist, like Freud and Erikson

Kohlberg’s Three Levels of Moral Development

          Preconventional moral reasoning: Moral thinking based on consequences of one’s actions (punishment, reward, exchange of favors) or choices

          Conventional moral reasoning: Reasoning based on a desire to please others or to follow accepted rules and values

          Postconventional moral reasoning: Follows self-chosen moral principles, not those supplied by outside authorities

Erik Erikson’s Eight Stages of Psychosocial Dilemmas

Stage One: Trust versus Mistrust (Birth–1)

          Children are completely dependent on others

    Trust: Established when babies given adequate warmth, touching, love, and physical care

    Mistrust: Caused by inadequate or unpredictable care and by cold, indifferent, and rejecting parents

Stage Two: Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt (1–3)

          Autonomy: Doing things for themselves

          Overprotective or ridiculing parents may cause children to doubt abilities and feel shameful about their actions

Stage Three: Initiative versus Guilt

          Initiative: Parents reinforce via giving children freedom to play, use imagination, and ask questions

          Guilt: May occur if parents criticize, prevent play, or discourage a child’s questions

Stage Four: Industry versus Inferiority (6–12)

          Industry: Occurs when child is praised for productive activities, such as painting and building

          Inferiority: Occurs if child’s efforts are regarded as messy or inadequate

Stage Five (Adolescence): Identity versus Role Confusion

          Identity: For adolescents; problems answering, “Who am I?”

          Role Confusion: Occurs when adolescents are unsure of where they are going and who they are

Stage Six (Young Adulthood): Intimacy versus Isolation

          Intimacy: Ability to care about others and to share experiences with them

          Isolation: Feeling alone and uncared for in life

Stage Seven (Middle Adulthood): Generativity versus Stagnation

          Generativity: Interest in guiding the next generation

          Stagnation: When one is only concerned with one’s own needs and comforts

Stage Eight (Late Adulthood): Integrity versus Despair

          Integrity: Self-respect; developed when people have lived richly and responsibly

          Despair: Occurs when previous life events are viewed with regret; experiences heartache and remorse

Gerontology and the Study of Aging

          Ageism: Discrimination or prejudice based on a person’s age

          Gerontologists study aging and its effects

          Intellectual Abilities:

    Fluid abilities: Abilities requiring speed or rapid learning; based on perceptual and motor abilities; may decrease with age

    Crystallized abilities: Learned (accumulated) knowledge and skills; vocabulary and basic facts

Death and Dying; Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

          Ross was a thanatologist: One who studies emotional and behavioral reactions to death and dying

          Ross described five basic reactions to death that occur, not necessarily in the following order or experienced by everyone

Five Basic Reactions to Death

Denial and Isolation

          Denying death’s reality and isolating oneself from information confirming that death will occur (“It’s a mistake; the doctors are wrong”)


          Asking, “Why me?” 

          Anger may then be projected onto the living


          Terminally ill will bargain with God or with themselves  (“If I can live longer I’ll be a better person”)


          Feelings of futility, exhaustion and deep sadness


          If death is not sudden, many will accept death calmly

          Person is at peace finally with the concept of death



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