Developmental Theory: Piaget and Bowlby

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The human development issue has been of a relevant nature within the human society. There are different developmental theories that have been researched and published by some of the world's most renowned psychologists. This among them involves the theory of Bowlby on attachment that lays emphasis on the vitality of a trusting and secure mother-infant bond on well-being and development. The theory on psychosocial by Erikson who believed that childhood played a crucial part in the development of personality will also be featured. This paper is going to look into these theories and determine how they relate to each other not forgetting to also point out the differences that are in existence between the two (Child Development, 2017).

Zastrow (2016) describes human development as the continuous process of growth and change, involving physical, mental, emotional, and social characteristics that occur over a lifespan. It involves characteristics that occur in a lifespan in a physical, mental, emotional, and social (p.77). This human growth tends to follow a sequential pattern. However, there are individual differences caused by inheritance and the surrounding. One of the human development stages is the preschool stage; it is the stage right before a child goes to formal school. It is a very important stage because his personality is being shaped with the help of those around them. In addition, they become more independent and interact with others.

The psychosocial theory by Erikson was established from Sigmund`s psychosexual theory and his widespread practical field research. It lays emphasis on the change and growth of the individual. He managed to include social and cultural bits into Freud`s sexually and biological oriented theory and concentrated on the manner in which the ecology and experience shaped personality and behavior. A human development lifespan subdivided into eight stages was first developed by Erikson. There is an element of crisis that is associated with each one of the stages that have two opposing emotional forces which are to be solved by the individual in order to successfully progress to the stage that comes next. A basic quality is formed when there is a good balance of the two forces while a penchant on the side of one of the contrasting forces brings about malignancy or maladaptation. There is a link between the stages of transition. It is not an accomplishment scale where the phases of crisis can be resolved eternally. There is a possibility of a previous crisis to reoccur in a positive or negative manner (Thomas, 2014).

The driving force of the stages is sexual and physical growth, which stimulates the issues in life that form the crises. Age is not a precise driving factor thus the age range is just but a rough guide, more so during the advanced stages when there is a variation in influences and timing. There is a variation of interpretation in terms of age between academics and writers. The lack of an interpretation of fixed stages of age by Erikson was deliberate as no given person can be able to do it. Bowlby`s theory of attachment was derived from the theory of objects relations and lays emphasis on the creation, furtherance, and caregiver-child relationships growth, alongside sways over emotional and social life. Eventually, the attachment theory by Bowlby was prolonged beyond early childhood and infancy into adulthood and adolescence by Shaver and Hazan (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2016).

Erikson`s theory first stage matches the theory of infant attachment by Bowlby, where the caregiver's experience with the baby is vital. Bowlby states that there is a development of models of the world and of self through interaction with the figure of attachment by the baby. A negative model results in a lesser satisfactory attachment while positive model results in a secure attachment. Sensorimotor behaviors such as crying are made use of by the infant to make aware of and seek closeness to the figure of attachment. A sense of physical security and stress reduction in a situation that is stressful in nature is attained through the use of this attachment behavioral system. A secure attachment is developed by caregivers who are available, responsive, sensitive and warm. A feeling of worthiness is created when there is a sense of trust. The infant is able to see the world as an inviting and safe place when there is a continuous success in leaving and safe returning to a base of security. This results in a gain of confidence to independently move around. There should be good feeding and care for the infant, but caution should be taken not to overindulge or over protect as this results into a wrong sense of trust encouraging gullibility. Thus from this attachment can be regarded to as the basis for identity (Child Development, 2017).

Bowlby claimed that attachment is a basic need for an emotional bond with each other that goes beyond the need to be fed. He was of the opinion that this is an evolving need in which a strong bond of emotion between the infant and the mother raises the chances of survival of the infant. He grouped the attachment according to stages and came up with four stages of attachment. Pre-attachment (6 Weeks to between 6 and 8 months) is the first stage where infants carry themselves in a manner that attracts the attention of adults. They become soothed when in the presence of the mother and other people. Attachment in making (6 weeks to about 6 to 8months) is the second phase A sense of trust is build towards the mother by the infants, such that they can rely on them when they are in need. Clear Cut attachment (6 to 8 months- 1 and a half years to 2 years) comes in third place. This is where the attachment is recognized. This is shown through the infant`s preference of the mother over everybody else. Anxiety separation kicks in when the mother leaves. Creation of reciprocal relationship (18 months up to years) comes last. Development of language results in the reduction of anxiety. An understanding of the departure and return periods of the mother is developed by the infant (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2016).

On the other hand, Erikson refers to his first stage of development as the mistrust vs. trust stage. Where the infant is still just as in the case of Bowlby's theory still highly reliant on the consistency of the caregiver for survival obtaining a feeling of safety, trust, and comfort. Shame vs. Autonomy comes in second. The kid attains a superior sense of control by training towards gaining feelings of independence and control. Initiative vs. guilt stage then sets in where the kids begin to proclaim their control and authority in the areas in which they have influence through social interactions and play. The stage that comes in the fourth place is inferiority vs. industry in which the main area of interest by the child is gaining fresh skills, resulting in the sense of self-gratification. The last stage in this theory is the role confusion vs. identity stage. Children in this stage are in the process of getting to find out their own identity, and a successful completion of this process results in the sense of control and independence by the child (Thomas, 2014).

Erikson believed that the success of a succeeding stage was highly dependent on how successful the previous stage was while Bowlby laid emphasis on the security of the bond between the mother and the infant in the success of the stages. The two theorists applied different principles but just seem to have found common ground in their arguments as they complement each other well. A lot of similarities between the two theories in the stages are evident in the paper. The theories provide much-needed quality information on the development of a child that can be useful to many both at the moment and in the future. They complement each other and cover each other's deficiencies while also boosting each other and the two researchers contributed so much to getting to understand the developmental framework of a child.


Child Development. (2017, February 15). Retrieved December 01, 2017, from Top of Form Thomas, R. M. (2014). Creating human development theories: A guide for the social sciences and humanities. Zastrow, C., & Kirst-Ashman, K. K. (2016).Understanding human behavior and the social environment. Boston, MA, USA: Cengage Learning.

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Developmental Theory: Piaget and Bowlby. (2018, Dec 27). Retrieved April 18, 2024 , from

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