Assignment 1 – Critical Expository Essay

Developmental Perspectives on School Aggression and Bullying


You are a developmental psychologist who works primarily with preschool to primary school children. A local primary school’s principal phoned you to ask for your assistance. Two boys in Grade 2 (eight years of age) have been engaging in aggressive behaviour and bullying toward each other. This has caused many disruptions in class and on the playground, and is affecting them, the teachers, classmates and their parents very negatively. They have been called in to the principal’s office many times, but nothing has worked so far. The principal has decided to seek your assistance and advice in better understanding these boys’ behaviour so that he and their parents can make an informed decision about what steps to take next.

In order to help the principal, you must conduct research and write a comprehensive essay explaining this behaviour through different theoretical lenses.

You are required to write an essay that uses the following developmental perspectives to explain behaviour:
1. Freud’s psychoanalytic theory

2. Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development

3. Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning

4. Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model

You need to provide a description of each theory, and then use each theoretical principle to explain the possible causes for the aggressive behaviour and bullying. In addition, you need to provide your critical opinion on which theory you feel best describes aggressive behaviour and bullying and why. You need to discuss this in light of the South African context.

A minimum of eight references from recognised academic journals/books is required. Strong integration of references throughout the work will improve the overall quality of your essay. While seminal texts may be dated, research articles should be less than five years old to ensure that they are relevant to your discussion. You may use no more than two of the prescribed readings for the course as references, and you may not use your textbook as a reference (ever!).

Presentation Requirements:

The essay should be no longer than 2 000 words (excluding references). It must be typed, with the following formatting: Times New Roman, size 12, double spaced on A4 Word document (this is part of APA 7th format). Please include an APA cover page and a full reference list. A table of content is NOT required. Your paper and reference list must be completed in accordance with APA 7th referencing and formatting requirements.

Technical Requirements:


Should ideally be more or less 10 % of your overall word count.

Should NOT have a heading (The title of your paper will be inserted at the top of your first page, and your introduction should immediately follow).
Should start with a strong opening statement introducing the overall idea of your paper to the reader.

Should begin with more general information introducing the topic to the reader, setting the tone, and providing necessary background (this part should not be too detailed or contain information that is better suited to the body paragraphs).
Should outline what the paper will discuss (but do NOT include information about the conclusion in your introduction ever!).
Should ideally end in an arguable thesis statement summarizing the paper’s main idea/argument.

Body paragraphs:

You may choose to use headings to make your work easier to follow (but ensure that you use

correct APA format for headings – there are different levels of headings that should be formatted differently).
Should each start with a topic sentence that makes it clear to the reader what the rest of your paragraph is addressing (it should summarise the paragraph’s main idea/argument).
After the topic sentence, you will need to address the paragraph’s topic in the following way:

o Provide supporting details for the topic sentence (here is where you can add definitions, statistics, etc., to help unpack and support your topic sentence).
o For each piece of supporting evidence, you should have an explanation (unpack the quote/statistic or any other piece of evidence by fully explaining it).

o After providing supporting evidence and explanation, usually some form of analysis should follow. What does what you just said mean in this particular context? Why is this significant/important? (This is your higher‐order type of writing where it is not only about reporting facts but figuring out what the implications of the facts are).

Should end with a linking sentence. A linking sentence is a sentence that links the current paragraph’s idea with the next paragraph’s idea, so that your readers have some idea of what comes next, and your argument is easier to follow. Failure to provide linking sentences will result in “choppy” writing, and you will lose marks. Linking sentences are necessary whether or not you make use of headings.


A conclusion should also not consist of more than 10% of your overall word count and should also be substantial enough to provide closure to the paper (in other words, it can also not be too short).

Should start by echoing the thesis statement at the end of your introduction – Note the word “echo”: this means you should not repeat it word‐for‐word, but rather restate it in a different way.

Should summarise the main points discussed in the body paragraphs, but should also not repeat them word‐for‐word, and should not announce them (for example, saying things like “In this essay, I discussed …” or “Firstly, this essay discussed …”, etc.). The readers should be reminded of what was said in a more sophisticated way.

Should provide a final “take‐home” message or thought – it should provide closure to the paper in a way that reminds the reader of the significance of the information presented, like your summary reminds them of the actual content.

This is usually where you link your argument to larger implications or wider contexts, but remember, your job with this assignment is to provide an answer to a practical question – why did these boys behave the way they do?
Please do not make recommendations for future research as you would when writing a research report – this is not a research report. A research report requires a completely different format.
Do NOT introduce new information not already discussed in the paper or bring in new research/points in the conclusion.

 Answers to Above Questions on Child and Adult Development

Answer 1: Freud’s psychoanalytic theory is an important behaviour theory that focuses on the role of unconscious processes and early childhood experiences. According to this theory, it is mainly the unresolved conflicts that give rise to aggressive behaviour especially during the phallic stage of psychosexual development. In the given case scenario of Grade two boys, the aggressive behaviour between them can be the result of unresolved Oedipal or electra complexes.

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