"People need to not only help themselves, but help others as well." This quote was a strong theme in President Barack Obama's presidency. But why do some people differ in the extent to which they provide service to others? As our new President, Barack Obama takes office, he has asked for help in determining how people become service orientated. It is important, to understand how a person may be brought up to help others and what attitudes are associated with the desire to help others. Many things such as values, peers, parents, and environment are factors that aid in determining whether or not someone will be service orientated. A person continues to develop throughout life, but when or how is it that a person's desire to help others develops. Is it formed through Piaget's theory, or is it through observation learning explained in Banura's social learning theory, or maybe even during one of Erikcon's eight stages of psychosocial theory? These theories provide insight into finding out how individuals develop the desire to help others; this paper will discuss each in detail and apply it to the development of service orientation.
One way to look at development is through Piaget's four levels of development. This is significant because it is characterized by a general cognitive structure that affects all of the child's thinking. This theory focuses on how children construct knowledge and how their constructions change over time. Each stage represents the child's understanding of reality during that period. Accumulation from one stage to the next is imperative in the child's understanding of environment. Through repeated, positive or negative, reinforcements the child is able to differentiate and integrate its elements and effects. This is a process of reflecting abstraction. Children try to weave all that they know about objects into a complete theory, which is tested daily by experiences because their theories lead children to expect certain things to happen. When information is collected, it is stored in mental categories called schemes. Schemes related to objects, people and places. As with real scientific theories, when the predicted events do occur, a child's belief in her theory grows stronger. When the predicted events do not occur, the child must revise her theory.
Piaget's theory, overall, explains that children think and learn to form ideas to information that help them understand their environment. Piaget's theory can be used to explain the development of service orientation. Paiget's final, and most important step in determining what makes a person more service oriented, is called operational thought. This step is defined by the child's ability to think in an abstract manner by understanding abstract ideas, and imagining new possibilities, such as service orientation. This step is the most important determinant in whether or not a person chooses to help others. It concentrates on values and future ideas that are starting to become present and because this step continues into adult hood, the ideals grow too making it possible for teens to pick up the need and want to help others through reinforcement. If someone wanted to influence a child to be service orientated the fourth step is the one that will have the greatest impact in their development toward social orientation. For example, If the child's parent is involved in helping others, then the child will pick up on these abstract ideas around the age of twelve. As the child grows, he or she will have a better understanding of service orientation and become more likely to be involved as adults.
Another developmental theory to examine is Bandura's social learning theory. In contrast to psychodynamic theory, social learning theory is the theory that people learn new behaviors through reinforcement, punishment, or observational learning. These behaviors are learned solely from experience, and then lead to future behaviors. The behaviors are then, followed by a consequence, either a punishment or reward. If the observed behavior is acted on, and receives a positive reward then the behavior is likely to be repeated in the future. On the reverse side, if a behavior is acted on and a punishment is set forth, then the behavior is less likely to be repeated in the future. In order for observational learning to be successful there has to be motivation to imitate the behavior that is being modeled. Observation is a vital component in social learning theory because behavior is influenced through watching others. An example of observational learning would be, a daughter dressing in her mother's clothes imitating her.
Social learning theory is one that can explain the formation of an individual's wiliness to provide service orientation to others. According to the theory, experience and observation are cognitively made sense of to determine future behaviors. Even though social learning is acquired mostly during adolescence, it has a major impact on the way adults do things, such as whether or not they choose to help others. If a Child grows up watching their caregivers doing things such as volunteering, raising funds, giving to charities, or helping clean up the community, then they have a much higher chance of mimicking what they grew up seeing. Children are able to cognitively process these observations, and decide whether to imitate their parents, or create their own. For example, a child whose parents are active in the community will observe their parents actively participating in events, making phone calls, raising money, etc. Because of this, the child will process their observation of their parents and more than likely act in somewhat similar behaviors.
The final theory that will be discussed was developed by Erikson. Erikson's theory is a widely know theory in human development and has been applied to many different situations. Erikson believed in a life cycle composed of eight stages of development. The name of each stage represents the challenge people face at a certain age. Later stages are built on the foundation laid in previous ones. When challenges are met successfully, people are well prepared to meet the challenge of the next stage.
There are three stages that contribute the most to service orientation. Stage four (industry vs. inferiority) is present in school aged children. The basic relationships in this stage are with school, teachers, friends, and neighbors. If this step is fulfilled it will positively result in the child's growth of purpose and direction. The negative outcome could result in inhibition. Focusing on the task of trying to figure out what can be done to get more people involved helping others this step is very important. Without successful completion of this step the child might feel as if they have no purpose in the world. It is impossible to try to help others when one cannot begin to help themselves. Right after this step, in step 5 (Identity vs role confusion) focuses on adolescents. During this time adolescents are in the strongest relationships with peer groups and influences. The positive outcome of this step can result in fidelity and devotion, while the negative outcome can result in repudiation (Hertenstein) These three stages all work off of one another in determining whether or not a child might grow up to help others or not. These stages show that the child must be accepting of themselves and the world around them before they can devote their energy to helping others. To promote people to help others in this case one must first help themselves reach a stable step in order toConclusion
From the three theories previously presented, Bandura's social learning theory is the best when explaining the development in an individual's desire to help others. Further research could be done to provide the President's service Czar with information on how to get families involved focusing on the social learning theory of behaviors. Bandura's theory argued that infant's minds are essentially "blank slates" and argued that learning and observing determines what people will become. With correct techniques, anything can be learned from almost anyone. Experience, reinforcement and punishment are key to development of an adolescent. Reinforcement, however, should be focused on the most in order to get people to become more service orientated. Reinforcement is the consequence of a behavior that determines whether a behavior is repeated in the future. If President Barack Obama decided to apply the concept of Bandura's social learning theory to try to get Americans more service orientated, they would need to start by getting families involved through reinforcement. Again, it is important to understand that people observe and learn through others. Reinforcement would be key in getting the American public involved. For example, A father who wants his daughter to be more service orientated should reinforce her with praise, food treats, or money whenever she participates in an act to help others. Negative reinforcement should be applied when the action being taught is not met. The father could take away entertainment, or make her do chores. This situation applies to the general public. In order for the government to get people more involved there needs to be an initiative to start, or even a role model, such as a celebrity to mimic the behavior first. The initiative would have to deal with the entire population. Something such as money would be a very strong reinforcement to get people to participate in helping others. If further research is done and committed to the involvement of the American public to become more involved social learning theory would yield strong results in the reinforcement of service orientation.