Sample Essay on Development Theories

Individuals’ developmental transformations are critical in enhancing educational outcomes. Through development theories, individuals can acknowledge how desirable change can be achieved effectively in society. One of the significant theories in development is holistic self-authorship theory. The theoretical framework of holistic self-authorship, which was explained by Baxter Magolda, is tied to individual’s beliefs, identity, as well as relationships. I can relate self-authorship theory to my development history because I have found my identity through what I believe in, and how I relate to other people in society. A self-authoring individual assumes internal and external responsibilities in his/her thinking, feeling, as well as acting. Some of the theories that can be compared to self-authorship include psychosocial and cognitive development, social and psychosocial identity development, and moral development. All these theories are vital in explaining the social and cognitive development that I have undergone in my lifetime. Throughout my life, I have persisted in creating meaning in life through owning some beliefs, developing my own identity, and establishing mutual relationships with others.

Holistic Self-Authorship Theory

Since my adolescent period, I have been struggling to create meaning to everything I do. I have fallen out with some relative and friends because I do not like to hang with people who tend to manipulate me. I have transformed into a person that I am because I have strong convictions that tell me to stick to my dreams. The demand to create meaning to my life has triggered the need for self-authorship. According to Baxter Magolda, self-authorship involves “the developmental capacity to internally define one’s own beliefs, identities, and relationships” (Schuh, 2012, p. 154). Self-authorship permits me to use my thoughts critically, act realistically, and interrelate mutually, by reflecting on what I have gone through and filtering external expectations. Situations may vary, but achieving life goals should be attained through transformational development. Self-authorship is like a piece of clay, which can be molded into something new, depending on the potter’s design.

My journey to maturity and autonomy can be analyzed through the elements of self-authorship. The three elements involved in this theory enable individuals to transform themselves into the kind of persons that they long to become in the future. The three critical elements of self-authorship, as explained by Magolda, include:

  • Trusting my internal voices: Gaining power over my thoughts and responses has resulted in high levels of confidence within my internal intuitions. When I was young, I did not know how to hide my anger. I did could not understand why my parents would sometimes fail to pay for my school trips yet they were still working. Magolda (2009) noted that individual began to trust their internal voices when they realized that whatever happens around their environments is beyond their control, but they can react towards their environment through their inner control. Being confident about internal voice enables an individual to move from subject to object, as one can take responsibility of his/her own action after interpreting the reality.
  • Building an internal foundation: Individuals can develop a personal philosophy that guides their actions. I have vowed that I would never take drugs because they not only create mental harm, but are also illegal. When individuals organize their actions into commitments, they form a viewpoint that assists them interpret reactions into ideas. An internal foundation is established, where one can refer when in need of solving a dilemma. For instance, matters of career choices, relationships, and security, can be dealt with through an internal foundation. Being religious implies that one has already established an internal foundation, which offers consolation in times of need.
  • Securing internal commitment: I became aware that individuals could live life realistically when they integrate internal voices with their external world. I have seen individuals succeeding in various careers when they demonstrate serious commitment, and I believe that what I am doing right now in college would contribute immensely in my career achievements. When individuals construct commitments, they choose to live by them in their entire lives, thus, acting like their homes. Such commitments become almost natural that individuals can exploit them subconsciously. The commitments are already secured, such that individuals can utilize them to fight challenges in life. A sense of freedom is created when individuals are assured that their commitments are well secured internally, as they can withstand life’s challenges without fear of losing the minds.

As a student, having the three elements has helped me to remain focused on my capacity to accumulate knowledge, understand myself, and develop a proper relationship with other students. I have developed a habit of seeking help from career guiders, as well as my lecturers, in an attempt to utilize the time that I have with such people. Students usually face numerous challenges as they go through their studies, thus, understanding their internal voices can help them to navigate those challenges and become successful in the future. When the lecturer indicates I should cover certain topics within a stipulated time, I have to ensure that I have postponed other personal commitments and concentrate on attaining the educational goal.

Phases of Self-Authorship

Being a self-authoring individual does not happen abruptly; it involves going through four phases, which I have personally gone through in my lifetime. The first phase involves following formulas. From childhood until my last year in middle school, I was virtually copying my parents, relatives, friends, teachers, and elders, on how to live a successful life. I grew knowing that being disrespectful to older people would amount to punishment by my parents; hence, I learned to respect older people because I feared punishment. Although I am an extrovert, I rarely questioned some practices. I hardly doubted that my parents could direct me into bad life. My parents were quite categorical when it came to choosing friends. I was warned of the dangers of staying away from home until late hours. Issues of religion were always at center stage.

The second phase is the crossroads, where I became doubtful about following other people’s advices. This phase particular occurred when I became an adolescent. I realized that not everything I was told to do could work on my situations. For instance, I could not understand why my parents were against my idea of going to movie theaters. Perhaps they feared that I would be tempted to watch adult movies, or imitate bad behaviors from the movie characters. Actually, they knew that at my age, I was likely to be swayed into dreadful behaviors, such as irresponsible sex and substance use. I hated the phrase “Don’t do …” I desired to be independent, but I was still under my parents’ supervision. Besides, I never allowed other students to harass me just because they tend to be older than I am. The dilemma of making choices did not leave me, even as I proceeded to college, as I was still not sure of my career choice. Luckily, my religious beliefs saved me from indulging into reckless behaviors, as well as having faith in my inner convictions.

The third phase is to become a designer of my own life. Before I completed my secondary education, I made a choice of my career. However, I was not quite sure of what I would like, since I was still struggling inside myself; I wanted to my own driver, yet I did not know how to negotiate every part of my life. I began to weigh options of what would happen if I made an undesirable choice, and the benefits of being responsible of my life. Eventually, I opted to consult my parents concerning my career after realizing that no one can survive alone. My aim of consultation was not to change what I had already chosen, but to assess my parents’ suggestions. My parents did not agree instantly about my choice, though I was able to convince them later that I was determined to work hard to achieve that goal. I really felt that I was mature enough to live by my dreams, and if I was wrong about my career choice, my lecturers were in a better position than my parents are, to advise me on the appropriate course.

The fourth stage is the establishment of internal foundation. I am currently in this phase, where I feel grounded in the perception of who I am. My journey to enlarge empathy of relationships has become easy because I am convinced that uncertainty and external influences are there. Students must accept that changes will always be present, and would occur due to unforeseeable circumstances (Schuh, 2016). I am free to make my own decisions, based on the strong inner conviction and self-concept. I joined the college that I deemed right because I knew what I want to attain in life. I always ensured that I seek help from my lecturers and counselors whenever I feel that I am losing direction in life. My parents are aware that they can no longer influence me to change what I believe in, as the best they can do is to support me to attain my career goals.

Psychosocial and Cognitive Development

My journey to maturity has encountered a struggle to create meaning to my life by searching for my personal identity. Before I joined college, I used to argue with my brother concerning how we should undertake our responsibilities at home. Although we have a domestic helper in our home, we had a duty of ensuring that our rooms are clean. My room was always untidy with clothes all over the place. My brother would always advise me that I should learn to be the kind of person that I would like to be in the future. Nowadays, we do not argue as I have already matured into an independent person who can make my own decision. I have endured to learn in the most difficult way, but I do not regret being the person that I have become. According to Thompson (2012), social-cognitive processes make children to become emotionally sensitive, which in turn make them build up their moral reasoning.  Through cognitive development, I was able to develop thoughts that made other people perceive me as a grown-up person.

While psychosocial development is concerned with the struggle to attain autonomy and the establishment of identity, cognitive development entails a progression from thinking like a child towards harboring adult thoughts. Psychosocial development theory can be linked to self-authorship theory, since it is built on the notion that development in individuals occur through a series of interconnected stages, and that every stage has a significant period of development. The theory presents a life-span view of how interactions between individuals contribute in human development (Newman, B. & Newman, P., 2014). The psychosocial theory is applied in the establishment of identity, particularly to students, who are undergoing a chronological sequence of their growth cycle.

The psychosocial development theory asserts that individuals must undergo eight stages of maturity to complete a life cycle. Being a person involves making meaning to everything that a person does in life. I have observed my life’s cycle, and I can attest that I have undergone numerous changes before I became aware of what I want in life. An individual cannot have feelings, experience, thought or perception without involving the process of making meaning, which begins from childhood.

The first step of psychosocial development involves trust and mistrust, where children depend solely on their caregivers. At this stage, children develop trust of whoever takes care of them, but they can develop distrust, if their caregivers are not emotionally available. The second stage involves the development of autonomy or doubt. At this stage, children can attain autonomy by performing some actions by themselves. However, failure to gain autonomy may lead to self-doubt. The third stage incorporates initiative and guilt. As a child, one feels comfortable when he/she is capable of leading other, but failure to assert power may lead to culpability and self-doubt. The fourth stage touches on industry and inferiority. At this stage, children can exploit their talents and skills through social interaction, but lack of support from parents can lead to loss of self-esteem.

The fifth stage demonstrates acquiring of identity or getting confused. This stage occurs during the adolescent period, when children begin to exploit their autonomy. The successful accomplishment of this stage guarantees fidelity while failure to have reinforcement amounts to confusion and insecurity. The sixth stage involves understanding intimacy, as lack of intimacy may result in isolation. The seventh stage necessitates an individual to build a career and establish a family as sign of active involvement in community, as opposite of this would lead to stagnation. The last stage involves assessment of individual’s life. Successful accomplishment of this stage depicts integrity, but failure to accomplish this stage effectively leaves an individual with feelings of despair.

My exposure to the world has helped in shaping my character, since I am capable of choosing what is ethical. Cognitive development is a paradigm claiming that individuals construct morality by being active within their social world. Cognitive development is mostly recognized during the adolescent stage, where adolescents begin demonstrating more advanced level of reasoning, as well as the capacity to explore numerous possibilities, based on the current situations. As an adolescent, I began to think intensely how I could establish a home garden, where I would grow vegetables on plastic containers. I was quite responsive on everything around me, including the air that I breathed. I reasoned out that most of the vegetables that we consumed are full of chemicals, which contribute towards the spread of chronic illnesses. If I could plant some vegetables that we could eat at least a month or two, we would reduce the chances of increasing toxic materials in our body.

Comparing Psychosocial/Cognitive Development with Holistic Self-Authorship Theory

The two theories assert that human beings have to undergo a particular process to attain their identity, as well as develop a constructive meaning towards life. The development of an individual involves passing through different phases, which depict moving from childhood to adulthood. My level of thinking has undergone a complete transformation, as I can now draft a hypothesis and endeavor to approve or object it. While psychosocial theory involves eight steps to attain autonomy, the holistic self-authorship theory incorporates four phases of development.

The eight stages of individual development as explained in psychosocial development theory do not always guarantee success, as each stage has some negative consequences when not accomplished successfully. Sometimes, I was not quite sure whether decisions that I made were appropriate. For instance, when I failed to complete my homework on time, I would ask my friends to allow me to copy their work to avoid punishment from our teacher. I argued in my inner thoughts that this is similar to asking my brother to help me with my homework. A dilemma usually emerges when the external formula fails to merge with their internal voices, as explained in the self-authorship theory (Drake, Jordan & Miller, 2013). However, the development phases in the self-authorship model do not indicate the negative aspects of failing to successful accomplishing a given phase.

While the holistic self-authorship theory proceeds as a single phase to explain human development, the psychological and cognitive concept advances as an evolution of human minds. This can be proved by understanding how the cognitive theory explains the development children from the moment they are born towards the acquisition of knowledge. The two theories admit that individuals are not always guaranteed to achieve independence. Individuals do not necessarily attain self-authorship because they do not grow at the same rate. For instance, if will not secure a job after accomplishing my college studies, my parents would continue footing my bills, no matter how old I will be. When children fail to link well with their parents, they end up failing to achieve self-authorship even when they become adults.


Self-authorship theory has offered me a platform to express my beliefs, personal identity, as well as the development of social relations. The theory presents a single segment of development where an individual demonstrates an aspect of self-evolution. Self-authorship resembles other theories that explain the transformation from childhood to adulthood. Psychosocial and cognitive development theory can be equated with self-authorship theory, based on the perception that the former demonstrates individuals’ transformation of thoughts from childhood to adulthood. Understanding how social interaction contributes in human development and identity is an aspect of psychological theory. I always maintain friendships with my peers because I care about how they perceive me. Throughout my cognitive development process, I have continued to create meaning to everything that I laid my eyes on, in addition to maintaining my own beliefs without forgetting societal expectations.



Drake, J. K., Jordan, P., & Miller, M. A. (2013). Academic advising approaches: Strategies that teach students to make the most of college. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Magolda, M. B. B. (2009). The activity of meaning making: A holistic perspective on college student development. Journal of College Student Development50(6), 621-639.

Newman, B. M., & Newman, P. R. (2014). Development through life: A psychosocial approach. Australia: Wadsworth.

Schuh, J. H. (2016). Student services. Place of publication not identified: John Wiley & Sons.

Thompson, R. A. (2012). Whither the preconventional child? Toward a life‐span moral development theory. Child Development Perspectives6(4), 423-429.