Human Growth and Development

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After taking this Human Growth and Development course online, three theories that were discussed stood out to me. Those theories were the racial identity development theory, gender and sexual (orientation) identity development theory, and the learning theory. These theories stood out to me because I believe they are a very important aspect of human growth and development. These theories shape the external world in which we live. They also have a large impact on the way individuals view themselves in society.

In the world we live in today, African Americans are being discriminated against because of the color of their skin. Racial and ethnic inequalities have become a very big issue within the United States. The theory discussed in this Human Growth and Development course that relates to this issue is the racial identity development theory. The racial identity development theory focuses on the idea of racism, and how it is used to shape one’s view of others who do not look the same as they do. According to Welsing (1991), “A functional definition of racism (white supremacy), is the behavioral syndrome of individual and collective color inferiority and numerical inadequacy that includes patterns of thought, speech and action, as seen in members of the white organization (race)” (p. 12).

This means that Welsing believes that racism is when an individual who oftenly identifies as being Caucasian, believes that the color of their skin makes them superior to those who are individuals of color. When an individual is racist, they say very hurtful and derogatory things to the people that do not have the same skin color as they do. They also engage in violent, and sometimes detrimental action to physically harm others. They do whatever it takes to make those people feel as inferior as possible to make them feel good about themselves. Although Caucasian individuals treating people of color unfairly because of the color of their skin is most commonly discussed when it comes to racism, people of color can form prejudice views and discriminate against Caucasian people as well. However, it does not have the effects as socially constructed white supremacy does.

An example of racism in the United States is the fact that African Americans are having to endure police brutality. Police brutality is the when the police officers who are supposed to be protecting the rights and safety of all citizens, decide to use extreme violent force on people of color when it is not necessary at all. There have been several incidents where a white police officer decided to shoot and kill an unarmed African American individual because the police thought the individual had a gun. The police always try to justify their actions of shooting and killing these innocent people of color by explaining that they felt as if their lives were in danger. The society in which we live has labeled people of color as violent thugs, rapists, and criminals. Every person of color is not a bad person. I don’t believe that we should be putting all people of color in these derogatory categories. However, some people of color do participate in these types of actions, which gives the entire group of people a bad name. This aids in the stereotypical characteristics given to people of color.

I believe that the racial identity development theory aids in our deeper understanding of development by forcing us to reflect upon the way we treat individuals who are a different race than we are. It allows us to examine the prejudices and discriminatory practices against people of color. It also allows individuals to examine themselves. According to Cress (1991), “If hate and lack of respect are manifested towards others, hate and lack of respect are felt most often at deeper levels towards the self” (p. 8). This means that the hate and lack of respect towards other human beings are expressed because the individuals engaging in this unjustifiable behavior are unhappy with themselves. Expressing their hatred towards others makes the individual feel like they are superior than those around them.

An improvement to this theory would be to explain to individuals that racism is ignorant. It is nothing but a concept to keep the individuals of this world divided. This theory should discuss the impacts racism has on different groups of people, because it affects everyone. It is not just a concept that involves Caucasians and African Americans. It involves Latinos, Asians, and Indians as well. Every Caucasian individual is not a racist. There are some good people in every race as well as bad. You can not label an entire group of people just because there are some bad apples in the bunch. I also believe that the sensitivity to this subject should improve. If the racial injustices of this world are ever going to come to an end, we as a people have to come together to interpret the problem and find a solution that includes everyone.

The second theory that stood out to me was the gender and sexual (orientation) identity development theory. This theory focuses on the lesbian and gay identity development.The society in which we live has established sexual identity standards for both men and women. What is considered the norm in the society in which we live, is for men to be sexually attracted to women. Women are expected to be sexually attracted to men. It is considered deviant if a man is sexually attracted to another man, or if a woman is sexually attracted to another woman. However, the sexual (orientation) identity theory shows us that those that do not conform to society’s sexual identity standards are normal living in a heterosexist society.

The sexual (orientation) identity development theory examines the fact that homophobia is a large issue in the society we live in today. Homophobia is the discrimination and hatred toward people who identify as homosexual. Homosexual individuals are individuals that are sexually attracted to the same sex. Those that are a part of the homosexual community are often treated with the least amount of respect. This is because heterosexuality is what is considered the normal and most common sexual identity. For this reason, those who identify as homosexual face hostility and are treated as lower class citizens. There have been instances where those who identify as gay or lesbian have been violently beaten because of their sexual orientation.

This has made it hard for homosexual individuals to live comfortably in the society we live in today. Several individuals who are apart of the lesbian and gay communities can not be themselves when living their daily lives. These people may be discriminated against in the workplace, educational institutions, or even within their own neighborhoods. Many of these individuals do not have any real support in regards to their sexual orientations. This makes several individuals angry with themselves and as well as with others. According to Welsing (1991), “Homophobia began as a form of self-alienation, and has evolved into the most highly refined form of alienation from others as well” (p. 9).

I believe that the sexual (orientation) identity theory aids in our deeper understanding of development because it forces us to reflect on the way we treat other individuals based on their sexual orientation. It allows us to take a step back and examine ourselves. We should not treat people with disrespect just because of the person they choose to love. Who are we to judge them? Instead of judging them and making them feel as if they were outcasts, we should comfort them and treat them with the same respect we want them to show us. I believe that the sooner we can accept the fact that everyone is not going to conform to the socially constructed sexual identity standards society has established, the sooner we can live peacefully. An individual should be able to be sexually attracted to whomever they desire without being judged for it.

An improvement to the sexual (orientation) identity theory, would be to educate the individuals within our society on ways we can stop the spread of homophobia instead of just explaining that homophobia is an issue. We need to be coming up with ways to make those who are a part of the LGBTQ feel welcomed by letting them know that it is okay to be who you are and to love who you want to love no matter what society thinks. In addition to making the LGBTQ community feel welcomed and respected, we have to realize that everyone will not agree with this. We do not live in a perfect world. This theory explains that those who do not agree with homosexuality are the problem. However, discriminating against those who do not agree will not make the problem go away. You can not tell an individual that they are wrong because of what they believe. Some people do not agree with homosexuality because of their religion. Who are we to tell them that their religion is wrong? In my opinion, that is discrimination as well.

The last and final theory that stood out to me in the course, was the learning theory. There are three learning theories. Those theories are the behaviorist, cognitive, and constructivist theory. The behaviorist theory examines the fact that changes in behavior or new behaviors are formed between stimuli and responses. This means that behaviorists believe that learning is observable behaviors acquired through the environment’s conditions. Behaviorists also believe examine the ideas of nurture vs. nature. Behaviorists believe that nurture is what aids in the human learning experience rather than the nature of the individual. Watson, who is a behaviorist believes that the nature of an individual does not determine the fate of the individual.

Watson (1924) stated, “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select-doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant, chief, and yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors” (p. 10). This means that behaviorists believe that an individual can be taught to be or do anything regardless of his natural aspects. Another example of this would be punishing individuals for bad behavior, and rewarding them for good behavior. This external experience teaches the students that if you are good, you will be rewarded. Bad behavior results in disciplinary action. According to Crain, “Skinnerians often suggest that we combine extinction for undesirable behavior with positive reinforcement for desirable behavior. In one study, teachers simply ignored nursery school children whenever they were aggressive and gave them praise and attention whenever they were peaceful or cooperative. The result was a quieter classroom…” (p. 194).

The cognitive theory examines the influence of external and internal forces on an individual’s mental and thought processes. The internal and external forces produce learning experiences. This means that cognitivists believe that individuals learn based on the things one experiences on the outside and inside of their psyche. This applies to both human beings as well as animals. The constructivist theory examines the fact that learning is an active and continuous process. This means that individuals are always experiencing things that aid in their learning processes. An individual has a learning experience everyday that they are alive. The brain is constantly developing.

I believe that the learning development theories aid in our deeper understanding of development by forcing individuals to reflect upon the internal and external forces that provide learning experiences. It makes us realize that not only do individuals learn from the nurturing of their parents, but they can learn from interactions with those that are outside of their families as well. Individuals within the society in which we live are learning everyday. The external and internal forces they experience shape their perspective of the world around them. It is important to understand that learning is a very vital part of the human existence. The things human beings learn aid in the advancement of institutions, technology, and many other things that make the human experience as easy and stress free as possible.

An improvement to the learning theories would be to educate the individuals within our society on how to make sure we are using the correct learning techniques that will aid in the healthy development of the psyche. Everyone does not learn the same way, so what may work for some may not work for others. The learning theories should discuss what we should do about these types of situations. Individuals who have mental disabilities may have a hard time processing and understanding certain things. I would like to know what the learning theorists think about the learning process of those who have mental illnesses, and if they believe their learning process work the same way as mentally healthy individuals.

The racial identity development, sexual (orientation) identity, and the learning theories are related because they have an impact on each other. In order for an individual to be a racist, which means to discriminate against an individual based on their skin color, they learn the behavior from those around them. This is an example of nurture. In order for an individual to be homophobic, they learn the behavior from those around them that disagree with homosexuality. I believe that the learning theory sets the foundation for all the other theories, because without knowledge we cannot make any changes to this chaotic world.

Although these three theories are related, certain aspects make them dissimilar. The racial identity development, sexual (orientation) identity, and the learning theories are dissimilar because the racial identity development theory examines the idea that white individuals discriminate against people of color. The sexual (orientation) identity theory examines the fact that a variety of people are discriminating against the homosexual community. The learning theories examine the internal and external forces that aid in the learning process.

In conclusion, I have thoroughly enjoyed this course. I have learned a lot more than I intentionally expected to. The theories I have learned about forced me to reflect on the way I treat others, and how much of an impact I have on the individuals living in the world around me.I believe that what I have learned aided in me growing as a person. I hope that I can shine a light on some of the issues that are keeping the human race divided. Together we stand, divided we fall.


  1. Crain, W. C. (2005). Theories of development: Concepts and applications. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
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Human Growth and Development. (2019, Jun 11). Retrieved from

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