The human-being is such a diverse creation of nature that he passes through multiple phases, and each phase has its own set of changes and challenges. The phase of child development has intrigued psychologists all over the world for centuries now.

Whether that’s child behavior psychology or the child thought-process in general, psychologists have debated about the science for long now, whether that’s mental, emotional, social or other aspects of child psychology.

Key Personalities & Critical Theories in the field of Child Psychology

The following are thought-leaders in the field of child psychology, whose notions have shaped the future of the science as we find it today. Any child psychology curriculum is considered empty in the world, without a study of these child psychologists and their theories.

John Bowlby & Attachment Theory

John Bowlby (1907-1990) was a British psychologist, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, who developed a theory to describe the dynamics of long-term relationships between humans.

The Attachment Theory, as it was named, integrated the fields of psychological, evolutionary, and ethological theory, to articulate the notion that each child needs at least one primary caregiver to develop a bond with, that will result in the normal procession of social and emotional development.

Jerome Kagan & Developmental Psychology

Kagan is one of the pioneers of the core fields of developmental psychology. He earned a B.S. Degree from Rutgers University in 1950, Master’s from Harvard and his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1954. After completing his Ph.D., Kagan spent a year as an instructor in Psychology at Ohio State University.

His research focused on personality traits beginning with infancy and continuing through adulthood.  He was one of the first few to point out possible biological influence on child psychology.

Lawrence Kohlberg & the Stages of Moral Development

Larry Kohlberg (1927-1987) was an American psychologist born in Bronxville, New York, who served as a professor at the University of Chicago and Harvard. Having specialized in research on moral education and reasoning, he is best known for his theory of stages of moral development.

The stages were divided into 3, with the order being Pre-Conventional, Conventional, and Post-Conventional. The first stage covered areas such as obedience and self-interest, the second covering interpersonal and authority, and the last one covering topics such as universal principles.

Erik Erikson & The Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development

Erik Erikson (1902-1994) was a Danish-German-American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst. After his graduation from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute in 1933, he emigrated with his wife, first to Denmark and then to the United States, to escape a Nazi invasion.

He became the first child psychoanalyst in Boston & held positions at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard’s Medical School and Psychological Clinic. His theory implied that the ideal human development process encompasses eight stages that dictate overall child development, with factors such as trust, will, shame, sense of purpose etc. coming into perspective.

Jean Piaget & the Theory of Cognitive Development

Jean Piaget  (1896-1980) was a Swiss developmental psychologist who also served as the Director of the International Bureau of Education. His studies on children revolved around epistemology, which focuses on the dynamics of knowledge, its scope and limitations.

His most famous work is the Theory of Cognitive Development, which placed knowledge as the core child development, how it is acquired, used, implemented etc. And the process he used to explain it was spread over five core stages, from Assimilation & Accommodation to Former Operational.

Lev Vygotsky & Social Constructivism

Vygotsky (1896-1934) was a Russian psychologist who is considered to be the father of Social Constructivism. Born in Belarus, he was raised in the city of Gomel and attended the Moscow State University, later transferring to the Shaniavsky People’s University.

His studies implied that human social groups construct knowledge for one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared artifacts with shared meanings, and then everyone derives from these socially-acceptable meanings.

Judith Rich Harris & The Modular Theory of Social Development

Judy Harris (born 1938), is an American titan of psychology, who graduated from esteemed schools such as Brandeis University and Harvard. Her most active research years were from 1977-1985, during which time she received the honorable  American Psychological Association’s George A. Miller Award for an Outstanding Recent Article in General Psychology.

Her theory focused on studying children as a peer group, rather than from the family perspective, and stated that the eventual adult personality of a human is dependent on how they were raised as a child by their parents. Her famous book, No Two Alike: Human Nature & Human Individuality is famous proponent of this.