Second only to the study of God is the study of human behavior. The search for who we are as humans and how we are unique is a fascination of mankind from the beginning of time.
The Psalmist David stated so well the question at hand,
“What is man that thou dost take thought of him, and the son of man, that thou dost care for him? Yet, Thou hast made him a little lower than God and dost crown him with glory and majesty. Thou dost make him to rule over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet” (Psa 8:4-6)
More on Human Development
Unfortunately, most of the “quality” research in this field has been done by investigators who are not necessarily Christian oriented. Some of the professors with whom this author studied, were either of the older Freudian, the neo-Freudian, the Eriksonian, or one of the Humanistic disciplines of thought.
What is Human Development?
Human development is the study of the quantitative and qualitative changes in the development of the human being. Quantitative changes are changes in the number or amount of something, such as height, weight, or size of vocabulary. Qualitative changes have to do with changes in kind, structure, or organization, such as changes in a person’s intellect, personality, moral understandings, etc. The scientific study of human development includes all people regardless of race, colour or cultural background. The study of human development is primarily interested in patterns that govern the development of the species Homo sapiens.
Jesus said that we would know the truth and that the truth would set us free. The study of human development is an effort to learn the truth that can be used in dealing with the problems humans experience in the process of growing. There are two ways of studying the development of humans. Basic research is that kind of research that is undertaken in the spirit of intellectual curiosity with no immediate practical goal in mind. Applied research addresses an immediate problem. Both of these kinds of research complement each other.
Many of the theories that are explored in this study may not completely fit into the Christian frame of reference. Many of the theories have been, in part at least, rejected at one time or another by other theorists, Christian and non-Christian alike. What then is a theory?
A theory is a set of interrelated statements about a phenomenon. The four main theories of human development are: psychoanalytic, mechanistic, organismic, humanistic.
- Psychoanalytic perspective — there are underlying, unconscious forces that motivate behaviour.
- Mechanistic position — human beings are reactors rather than initiators, and change is viewed as quantitative. It includes observable behaviour. This theory is held by those who are called “behaviourists.”
- Organismic position — people are active contributors to their own development. Development occurs in a series of qualitatively different stages. The main proponents of this theory are Piaget and Kohlberg among others.
- Humanistic perspective — The individual has the ability to foster his or her own development and to do this in a positive way through human characteristics of choice, creativity, and self-realization (A. Maslow, Buhler, Charlotte, Rogers).
The Research Methods:
Understanding research methodology is important in understanding how theories are developed. There are five nonexperimental methods for studying people: case study, naturalistic observation, The clinical method, interviews, and correlational studies. Each approach has its weaknesses.
The two major techinques of data collection are the longitudinal and the crosssectional design. Further discussion can be found in Chapter 3, Page 50.
The study of people must reflect certain ethical considerations. In a carefully designed study, the re-searcher considers its effect on the participants, as well as its potential benefits to the field of human behavior.
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In this way desiring to declare more fully to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, God interposed by an oath, so that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us, which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters into that within the veil, where the Forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Heb 6:17-20)