One could probably say that development is one of the main aspects in a human being’s life. Therefore a child’s cognitive and psychological development is crucial from early days to late adult life. Among the first psychologists, Jean Piaget’s (1896-1980), Rathus 2007(*),work remains relevant to contemporary theories of child development. He was of the opinion that cognitive development was discontinuous and was composed of four stages. Piaget saw assimilation, a baby adapts to the outside world, and accommodation, the world is adapted to the baby’s needs, as the two basic notions of people’s intelligence.
He also suggested that babies understanding of the world go through a process of organization of knowledge known as schemas. When children start exploring the world they go through the process of assimilation and accommodation and attempt to understand it by exercising their acquired schemas. For instance at times that children have a new experience they go through the feeling of misunderstanding and when that happens they investigate the situation by using assimilation and accommodation to have a balance, Piaget named this process, equilibration. Piaget believed that human beings are able to construct and reconstruct their knowledge of the world as a consequence of their interaction with the environment.
Erik Erikson (1902-1994), Rathus 2007(*), theory of development is focused on conscious choice and self-direction. His theory of psychological development, Freudian rooted, contains eight stages, each representing a life crisis. Unlikely Piaget’s stages, Erikson’s stages embraces social factors and events from birth to mature late life of a human being. Even though a common set of development stages was not held by Piaget and Erikson work it is said that they have worked in parallel.
Piaget’s cognitive development work was based on observation and interviewing children. He characterized young children’s thinking by egocentrism. Such was seen by Piaget as guiding children to project their thoughts and wishes onto others. Piaget’s views of cognitive development are within four stages: sensorimotor; preoperational; concrete operational and formal operational. Erikson believed that people undergo several stages along their lives, therefore his theory of psychological development consists of eight stages: trust versus mistrust;; autonomy versus shame and doubt; initiative versus guilt; industry versus role diffusion; intimacy versus isolation; generativity versus stagnation and integrity versus despair. Though this paper will only be giving focus on the stages from birth to adolescence.
Piaget named his first stage sensorimotor for the reason that from birth to two years old is when children learn to coordinate perception of themselves and the environment with muscular activities and it ends by children gaining the basic language. The second stage, preoperational, from 2 to 7, children start to picture the world mentally in a egocentric way. They use some language and symbols to represent objects and relationships. They tend to focus on one thing or situation at a time and see the world as to meet their needs. Children in this stage believe that rain is a human invention and their main focus is on what impresses them most in a situation. An example of this is the experiment done by Piaget with one of his children. He showed the child two glasses, one thinner and taller than the other.
In the presence o the child the same amount of liquid from a smaller glass, the of the same size, is poured into the taller one and after the child seeing and being explained the whole process, is asked which glass has the most liquid. Looking at both glasses the child replies that the tallest has the most liquid. Such answer is given because children at this stage do not understand the law of conservation. Piaget’s third stage , concrete operational, from 7 to the age of 12, shows that children begin to develop a capacity for adult logic. It is when a child is able to centre on two things or situations at the same time and they become more subjective.
At this stage children also begin to understand that the fact that their parents might be angry with them do not interfere on the feelings and love they have for them. Formal operations, the last stage of Piaget, represents cognitive maturity which involves being able to think abstractly and hypothesize. Adolescents have a greater capacity to appreciate the environment and the world of imagination as well as to focus on many aspects of a situation, make their own judgments and solving problems. Adolescents tend to carry experiments to see if they are right or wrong about something.
Piaget came to these conclusions because he got curious about children’s wrong answers when he had the task of adapting English verbal reasoning items for use with French children therefore he started to investigate children logic development in their mistakes by finding meaningful patterns along the years, Rathus 2007(*). Erik Erikson psychosocial theory starts with trust and mistrust, from 0 to 1 years old.
This is the time when babies begin trusting their mothers or carers and the environment, also they appear to correlate their surroundings with feelings, developing a sense of confidence. If their mother is not considerate they may cultivate a sense of fear and disbelief in the world. The following stage, autonomy versus shame and doubt occurs from age 1 to age 3. Is when children go through the process of learning to control their body functions.
Therefore toilet training takes place making them more independent and self-controlled to make choices. The third stage is initiative versus guilt it has to do with children trying out new things and being more on the move. They get involved in social interaction easily and may be capable of leading. The not so positive aspect of this stage would be the development of self-doubt, guilt and lack of initiative.
In the next stage from 6 to 12 years old, children are described as becoming enthusiastic about new skills and tasks as well as productivity. They not only learn about cultural values, feeling proud of themselves and for what they are capable of but also learn to love to learn and to play. On the other hand they may acquire feelings of doubt in succeeding in the world as well as inferiority or excessive competition, and this would be seen as a downside of such life crises.