Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development expresses that children move through four different stages of mental development growing up. His theory focuses not only on understanding how children acquire knowledge but also on understanding the nature of intelligence. The stages of his theory are the sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage and formal operational.
Piaget had believed that children play a very active role in their learning process. They go through new experiences, they take mental notes on how things went, whether they liked the outcome or not, and they simply learn about the world in their own ways and at their own pace. As kids interact with the world around them, they are contently adding more and more knowledge to their brain, they build upon their existing knowledge, and adapt their previously held ideas to accommodate new information.
Looking at the first stage of development which is the sensorimotor stage which is looked through the ages of birth to the age of two years old. The sensorimotor stage is where the infant knows the world through their own movements. The infant knows the world through their own movements and perceptions. They learn through basic actions such as looking, listening and sucking on their pacifier or even their bottles and such. They also learn through their hands as the feel and grasp onto things. Infants begin to learn that items and the things around them continue to exist even though they may not see them. Which was believed by developing this was an important element because then they can begin attaching names and words to objects. Children also begin to learn that their actions can cause things to happen in the world around them.
During this earliest stage of cognitive development, infants and toddlers obtain knowledge through sensory experiences and manipulating objects. Children not only learn how to perform physical actions, such as crawling and walking, they also learn some language from those who interact with them and around them. The sensorimotor stage is where children go through a period of dramatic growth and learning. As children interact with their environment and learn through basic reflexes, senses and motor responses, they are always discovering how the world around them works.
As they grow into the ages of two years old through the age of 7 we see the preoperational stage. In this stage, the children begin to think symbolically and learn to use words and pictures to represent different objects. Children at this stage also tend to only think of themselves and they struggle to see things from the perspective of others. As they may have already developed a bit of language it is in the preoperational stage where it is an emergence of language. Children become much more skilled at pretend play during this stage of development, yet still think very concretely about the world around them.
Soon after we hit the concrete operational stage between the ages of 7 through 11 years old. During this stage, children begin thinking logical and organized about concrete events and begin to understand the concept of conservation. Children also begin using inductive logic, or reasoning from specific information to a general principle. While they may still be very concrete and literal about their thinking, they become much more efficient at using logic. Children in the concrete operational stage, become better at thinking about other people’s perspectives and begin to understand that they have different thoughts when compared to others and that not everyone necessarily shares their thoughts, feelings, and opinions.
Through all, we hit the formal operational stage which is from the age of 12 years old and up. Some major characteristics and the development changes here are that the adolescent or young adult begins to think abstractly and reason about hypothetical problems. Teens begin to think more about moral, philosophical, ethical, social, and political issues that require theoretical and abstract reasoning. They begin to use deductive logic, or reasoning from a general principle to specific information.
The final stage of Piaget’s theory involves an increase in logic, the ability to use deductive reasoning, and an understanding of abstract ideas. At this point, people become capable of seeing multiple potential solutions to problems and think more scientifically about the world around them.
It is important to note that Piaget did not view children’s intellectual development as a quantitative process; that is, kids do not just add more information and knowledge to their existing knowledge as they get older. Instead, Piaget suggested that there is a qualitative change in how children think as they gradually process through these four stages. A child at age 7 doesn’t just have more information about the world than he did at age 2; there is a fundamental change in how he thinks about the world.
Moving forward we can also look at Erik Erikson who was an ego psychologist and developed one of the most popular and influential theories of development. Erikson’s theory centered on psychosocial development rather than psychosexual development. The stages that make up Erikson theory are stage one, trust vs. mistrust, stage 2, autonomy vs. shame and doubt, stage 3, initiative vs. guilt, stage 4, industry vs. inferiority, stage 5, identity vs. confusion, stage 6, intimacy vs. isolation, stage 7, generativity vs. stagnation and stage 8, integrity vs. despair.
Erikson believed that personality developed in a series of stages. Where it described the impact of social experience across the whole lifespan. Erikson was interested in how social interaction and relationships played a role in the development and growth of human beings. Each stage in Erikson’s theory builds on the preceding stages and paves the way for following periods of development. In each stage, Erikson believed people experience a conflict that serves as a turning point in development. In Erikson’s view, these conflicts are centered on either developing a psychological quality or failing to develop that quality. During these times, the potential for personal growth is high but so is the potential for failure.
Stage one, trust vs. mistrust occurs between birth and one year of age and is the most fundamental stage in life. This is because, an infant is dependent, developing trust is based on the dependability and quality of the child’s caregivers. At this point in development, the child is utterly dependent upon adult caregivers for everything that he or she needs to survive including food, love, warmth, safety, and nurturing. Everything. If a caregiver fails to provide adequate care and love, the child will come to feel that he or she cannot trust or depend upon the adults in his or her life. If a child successfully develops trust, he or she will feel safe and secure in the world. Caregivers who are inconsistent, emotionally unavailable, or rejecting contribute to feelings of mistrust in the children under their care. Failure to develop trust will result in fear and a belief that the world is inconsistent and unpredictable.
Stage two, autonomy vs. shame and doubt takes place during early childhood and is focused on children developing a greater sense of personal control. At this point in development, children are just starting to gain a little independence as they start to perform basic actions on their own and making simple decisions about what they prefer. By allowing kids to make choices and gain control, parents and caregivers can help children develop a sense of autonomy. Erikson believed that toilet training was a vital part of this process simply because learning to control one’s bodily functions leads to a feeling of control and a sense of independence. Other important decisions include gaining more control over food choices, toy preferences, and clothing selection. Children who successfully complete this stage feel secure and confident, while those who do not are left with a sense of inadequacy and self-doubt. Erikson believed that achieving a balance between autonomy and shame and doubt would lead to will, which is the belief that children can act with intention, within reason and limits.
Stage 3, initiative vs. guilt takes place during the preschool years. At this point in psychosocial development, children begin to assert their power and control over the world through directing play and other social interactions. Children who are successful at this stage feel capable and able to lead others. Those who fail to acquire these skills are left with a sense of guilt, self-doubt, and lack of initiative.
Stage 4, industry vs. inferiority takes place during the early school years from approximate age 5 to 11. Through social interactions, children begin to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments and abilities. Children who are encouraged and commended by parents and teachers develop a feeling of competence and belief in their skills. Those who receive little or no encouragement from parents, teachers, or peers will doubt their abilities to be successful. Successfully finding a balance at this stage of psychosocial development leads to the strength known as competence, in which children develop a belief their abilities to handle the tasks set before them.
Stage 5, identity vs. confusion takes place during the teenage years. This stage plays an essential role in developing a sense of personal identity which will continue to influence behavior and development for the rest of one’s life. During this stage, children explore their independence and develop a sense of self. Those who receive proper encouragement and reinforcement through personal exploration will emerge from this stage with a strong sense of self and feelings of independence and control. Those who remain unsure of their beliefs and desires will feel insecure and confused about themselves and the future. Ego identity is the conscious sense of self that we develop through social interaction and becomes a central focus during the identity versus confusion stage of psychosocial development. Our ego identity constantly changes due to new experiences and information we acquire in our daily interactions with others. As we have new experiences, we also take on challenges that can help or hinder the development of identity. Our sense of personal identity is shaped by our experiences and interactions with others, and it is this identity that helps guide our actions, beliefs, and behaviors as we age.
Stage 6, intimacy vs. isolation which starts at early adulthood when people are exploring personal relationships. It was vital that people develop close, committed relationships with other people. Those who are successful at this step will form relationships that are enduring and secure. Those who have a strong sense of personal identity tend to develop intimate relationships. Those with a poor sense of self-do tend to have less committed relationships and are more likely to suffer emotional isolation, loneliness, and depression.
Stage 7, generativity vs. stagnation takes place during adulthood, we continue to build our lives, focusing on our career and family. Those who are successful during this phase will feel that they are contributing to the world by being active in their home and community. Those who fail to attain this skill will feel unproductive and uninvolved in the world. Care can be achieved when this stage is handled successfully. Being proud of accomplishments, watching children grow into adults, and developing a sense of unity with life partner are important accomplishments of this stage.
Stage 8, integrity vs. despair is the final psychosocial stage that occurs during old age and is focused on reflecting on life. This is the point where people look back on the events of their lives and determine if they are happy with the life that they lived or if they regret the things they did or didn’t do. Those who are unsuccessful during this stage will feel that their life has been wasted and will experience many regrets. The individual will be left with feelings of bitterness and despair. Those who feel proud of their accomplishments will feel a sense of integrity. Being successful this phase means looking back with few regrets and a general feeling of satisfaction. These individuals will attain wisdom, even when confronting death.
All in all, we capture two great theories of development, through them both we see great points, but I would have to side more with Erik Erikson. This is because I believe that things happen out of the cause of something else. Growing up I can see how far I have come and can relate to Erikson theory through all stages.
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