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Theory Paper

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Paper 1: Theory

Purpose: To explain and apply human development theories

To practice professional writing in APA format


It is well established that teenage drivers have higher accident rates than do older drivers. One of the reasons is that they have particularly high rates of driving while intoxicated. Currently, there is considerable educational information available at schools, in the media, from parents, and from other sources describing how dangerous it is to drive after drinking alcohol. Nevertheless, despite this awareness of the risk of driving while drunk, many teenagers still engage in this behavior.  Why would a teenager engage in a behavior that he or she knows places him or her at high risk for a driving accident? One might think that the rate of driving while intoxicated would be close to 0, given how strongly teenagers are advised not to do so. A school principal comes to you, as a young human development scholar, and asks for some ideas about why drunk driving occurs and what the school can do about it.

To address the principal’s request, analyze why drunk driving occurs using three of the following theories from your textbook, lesson, and two outside scholarly references:

  • Freud’s psychosexual theory
  • Erikson’s psychosocial theory
  • operant conditioning (Skinner)
  • social learning theory
  • Piaget’s theory of cognitive development
  • Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory

*NOTE: the outside resources should be on the theories themselves, NOT on drunk driving

For each of the three theories, you should include the following:

  1. Its basic purpose.
  2. A brief description of the theory’s major claims. For example, a few of Freudian theory’s major claims include that personality consists of an id, ego, and superego and that much of our behavior is caused by unconscious motivations. A few of operant conditioning’s major claims are that behavior that is reinforced is more likely to occur again and that behavior that is not reinforced will be less likely to occur in the future.
  3. How the theory could be used to help us understand why teenagers may drink and drive when they know it is risky to do so.

Then, in a concluding section, state which theory you believe does the best job of helping us understand why driving while intoxicated occurs. Most importantly, defend your choice in terms of why this theory is better than the others in explaining this phenomenon. Finally, provide advice to the school principal regarding how to reduce the rate of teen drunk driving.

Rubric: Papers will be graded according to the benchmarks shown below. A plus sign (+) means that the benchmark was exceeded (excellent work), an X indicates that the benchmark was met but can be refined (good work), and a minus sign (-) means that there is noticeable room for improvement.

Introduction __________8 points
  • The introduction introduces the reader to the topic and justifies why it is important to look at why some teenagers drink and drive.
  • The introduction provides a transition to the rest of the paper.
  • The introduction clearly tells the reader what the paper will focus on—how theories help us understand why some teenagers drive intoxicated.
Body __________14 points
  • The paper addresses three of the appropriate theories.
  • The description of each theory is accurate and sufficiently detailed.
  • The theory is appropriately used to explain driving while intoxicated.
  • Two scholarly sources on theories are successfully integrated into the text of the paper.
Conclusion __________8 points
  • The conclusion clearly states and defends which theory is best for understanding the phenomenon of driving while intoxicated even when knowing it is dangerous to do so.
  • Advice regarding how to reduce drinking and driving is provided to the school principal.
  • The conclusion moves beyond simple summary to include implications for the future or thoughtful analysis of the topic. The conclusion leaves the reader with some new, interesting, or important ideas for the future.
Organization __________15 points
  • Organization is clear; main topics and/or sections are logically arranged.
  • Ideas flow logically within and between paragraphs.
  • Paragraph divisions are logical, and appropriate transitions are provided.
  • Subheadings are used to break up the text.
  • Paper stays within the page limit.
Writing Quality __________15 points
  • Writing is clear.
  • Writing is professional (e.g., avoids conversational tone, contractions, and first person, uses APA format, relies on the active voice).
  • Paper shows evidence of careful proofreading and editing.
  • Spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, etc., are correct and do not detract attention from the content.

TOTAL = _________ 60 points

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