Several theories have been developed from the five major perspectives used to research child development. These perspectives include psychoanalytic, learning, cognitive, contextual, and evolutionary/sociobiological perspectives (Papalia, Olds, & Feldman, 2008). Researchers use theories to explain child development. The theories are important because they propose ideas or explanations to describe development and to predict kinds of behaviors. In this paper, I will discuss and describe three theories of development, their key concepts, their similarities, their differences, how the domains of development influence each other, and how understanding development helps those who work with developing children.
Three Theories of Development:
Some important theories of child development include Freud’s psychosexual theory, Erickson’s psychosocial theory, and Piaget’s cognitive-stage theory. “Sigmund Freud believed that people are born with biological drives that must be redirected to make it possible to live in society” (Papalia et. al, 2008). He proposed that development happens throughout five stages in a child’s life. The first stage is referred to as the oral stage. It occurs between birth and 18 months. During this stage, the baby’s chief source of pleasure involves mouth-oriented activities (Papalia et. al, 2008). The second stage is referred to as the anal stage. It occurs between one year and three years of age. During this stage, the child derives sensual gratification from withholding and expelling feces (Papalia et. al, 2008). The third stage is referred to as the phallic stage. This stage occurs between three to six years of age. During this stage, the child becomes attached to parent of the other sex and later identifies with same-sex parent (Papalia et. al, 2008). The fourth stage is called the latency stage. It occurs between six years and puberty. This stage is a time of relative calm between more turbulent states. The final stage is called the genital stage. It occurs from puberty through adulthood. This stage is a reemergence of sexual impulses of the phallic stage, channeled into mature adult sexuality (Papalia et. al, 2008). According to Freud, personality is mostly established by the age of five. Early experiences play a large role in personality development and continue to influence behavior later in life.
“Erik Erickson’s psychosocial theory asserts that people experience eight ‘psychosocial crisis stages’ which significantly affect each person’s development and personality” (Chapman, 2010). The first stage of life is infancy which Erickson called ‘Trust v. Mistrust.’ During this stage an infant learns to develop trust and mistrust with the world around him. The second stage is during early childhood called ‘Autonomy v. Shame and Doubt.’ In this stage, the child develops a balance of independence and self-sufficiency over shame and doubt (Papalia et.al, 2008). The third stage is ‘Initiative v. Guilt.’ This stage is during the preschool age. The child develops initiative when trying new things and is not concerned about guilt. The fourth stage is referred to as ‘Industry v. Inferiority. This stage is when the child must learn skills of culture or face feelings of incompetence (Papalia et.al, 2008). It usually occurs during the school age. The fifth stage which happens during adolescence is called ‘Identity v. Role Confusion.’ During this stage the adolescent must determine who they are or a sense of self. There may be some confusion of roles. The sixth stage is called ‘Intimacy v. Isolation.’ This stage occurs as young adults. During this stage the person seeks to make commitments to others or suffer from isolation and self-absorption (Papalia et. al, 2008). The seventh stage is referred to as ‘Generativity v. Stagnation.’ This is a parenting stage. During this stage, the mature adult is concerned with establishing and guiding the next generation or they feel personal impoverishment (Papalia et. al, 2008). The final stage is ‘Integrity v. Despair.’ This stage occurs at a mature age such as with grandparents. During this stage, the elderly person achieves acceptance of his own life, allowing acceptance of death, or else despairs over inability to relive life (Papalia et. al, 2008).
There are two major aspects to Jean Piaget’s cognitive-stage theory. They are the process of coming to know and the stages we move through as we gradually acquire this ability (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). His theory of cognitive development is a description of cognitive development as four distinct stages in children. These stages include sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete, and formal. The first stage is the sensorimotor stage which occurs from birth to two years of age. During this stage, the infant builds an understanding of himself and reality and how things work through interactions with the environment (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). The second stage is the preoperational stage. This stage occurs from ages two to four. During this stage, the child is not yet able to conceptualize abstractly and needs concrete physical situations (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). They classify objects in simple ways or features. The third stage is the concrete operations stage. It occurs from ages 7 to 11. During this stage, the child begins to think abstractly and conceptualize; creating logical structure that explains his or her physical experiences (Huitt & Hummel, 2003). As physical experiences accumulate, accommodation increases. The final stage is the formal operations stage. The formal operations stage begins around ages 11 to 15. At this stage, cognition is in its final form. The person no longer requires concrete objects to make rational judgments. They are capable of deductive reasoning and begin to think like an adult. “Research has challenged Piaget’s idea that thinking develops in a single, universal progression leading to a formal thought” (Papalia et. al, 2008).
Key Concepts of the Theories:
These three theories also have key concepts that distinguish them from others. The key concepts of Freud’s psychosexual theory include the id, ego, superego, drives, conscious and unconscious. He proposed three key concepts, the id, ego, and superego, develop early in life. The personality forms through conflicts between the id and a child’s environment. “Ego processes work toward satisfying id impulses through thoughts and actions without generating strong feelings of guilt in the superego” (Newman & Newman, 2009). The ego processes serve both the id and the superego, striving to provide gratification, but in morally and socially acceptable ways. The ego also gives one personality. The strength of the ego determines the person’s effectiveness in meeting his or her needs, handling the demands of the superego, and dealing with the demands of reality.
The key concepts of Erikson’s psychosocial theory are cultural influence, basic virtues, maladaptations, malignancies, and the development of the ego or self. Erikson believed that the personality was influenced by society and develops by a series of crises or stages. He also believed an individual’s culture and society had an influence on their development. Basic psychosocial virtues are a result of successfully passing through each crisis with a balance of the two extremes. Some of these virtues included hope, willpower, purpose, competence, fidelity, love, care, and wisdom. Erickson created maladaptations and malignancies to represent the negative outcomes arising from an unhelpful experience through each of the crisis stages (Chapman, 2010). These negative outcomes can result in thoughtless or arrogant actions to withdrawal or rejection.
The key concepts of Piaget’s cognitive-stage theory include organization, adaptation and equilibrium. Organization is the tendency to create ways of thinking or systems of knowledge. This process includes schemas, which are organized patterns of behavior a person uses to think about or act in a situation. Adaptation is how a child handles new information from what they already know. This process includes assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is the process of taking in new information into our existing cognitive structures (Papalia et. al, 2008). Accommodation is modifying ones cognitive structures to include the new information (Papalia et. al, 2008). Equilibrium is a constant striving for a stable balance. Children maintain a balance between applying previous knowledge (assimilation) and changing behavior to account for new knowledge (accommodation). By keeping a stable balance or equilibrium, children are able to move from one stage to the next.
Similarities of the Three Theories of Development:
The theories of Freud, Erikson, and Piaget all had some similarities. Because Erikson’s psychosocial theory was based on some aspects of Freud’s psychosexual theory, they are similar more often than Piaget’s cognitive stage theory. He added to Freud’s theory, but in a different view. Each of these theories is concerned with human development. Another similarity is that all three of these development theories are stage oriented. Freud and Erikson’s theories address basic qualitative changes in self-understanding and social orientation. Piaget’s did not offer any hypothesis about the qualitative changes. Each of these theories is similar in its time table and sequence of life events. Both the psychosexual and the psychosocial theories describe characteristics and functions of the ego system. Freud and Erikson viewed adolescence as a time of turmoil and stress. Erikson believed the turmoil resulted from an identity crisis rather than a struggle between the id and ego. While Freud and Piaget’s theories ended at adolescence, Erickson’s theory covered one’s whole life. They each believe development occurs over a series of stages, but at various ages. The child needs to complete one stage before moving on to the next. If they are not successful with each stage, they may have turmoil in their life. They will have difficulties moving on to the next stage. Another similarity is that all of these theories are useful when applied to its relationship to educational practices. Teachers are able to use these theories to guide them in trying to understand the way a child learns and how they are developing.
Contrasts of Differences across the Three Theories of Development:
These theories also have some differences. All of these theorists agree that notable development occurs during adolescence in a number of areas. However, there are differing viewpoints about some aspects of adolescence, including:
Whether development is continuous or discontinuous with the preceding and following stages in the life cycle; Whether the period of adolescence is one of turmoil and stress or is relatively uneventful; Whether it is critical for adolescents to accomplish specific developmental tasks during this time; or Whether internal or environmental factors have a more significant influence on the experiences and outcomes of adolescent development (ETR, Associates, 2009).
One difference in these theories was that three theories had different stages at different ages. Freud developed five stages in his theory based on the id, ego, and superego. Erickson developed eight stages based on individual development. Piaget developed only four stages based on how we think. Each theory also had a different focus. Freud focused on sex, Erikson focused on the self and social orientation, and Piaget focused on the child’s abilities and senses. They also differed with respect towards learning and development, and their relationship towards educational practice. Freud’s psychosexual theory was fueled by inner forces. His theory was linked to sex and the sexual being. Erickson’s psychosocial theory took some of Freud’s aspects and shifted the focus to identity rather than sexuality. “Like Freud, Erikson viewed adolescence as a time of turmoil and stress. He thought that turmoil resulted from an identity crisis rather than a struggle between the id and ego” (ETR Associates, 2009). Piaget’s cognitive stage theory was based on what a child was able to do and how they developed cognitively over their lifetime.
How the Domains of Development Influence Each Other:
There are three domains of development; physical developments, cognitive developments, and psychosocial developments. Physical developments influence cognitive development, cognitive development influences psychosocial development, and so forth. Each of these domains has an influence on each other. A child’s physical development can influence their cognitive development because of their brain development, gross motor development, and fine motor development. The brain develops mostly before birth and continues to grow rapidly the first year of life. Physical development also determines the timing of language development. Physical changes, which mostly occur in early childhood, are accompanied by rapid changes in the child’s cognitive and language development. Cognitive development also begins with coordinating body movements with incoming sensory data. Language is a powerful tool to enhance cognitive development. Cognitive development, although occurs throughout one’s lifetime, occurs mostly in middle childhood and adolescence years. Using language allows the child to communicate with others and solve problems. The development of language and cognitive skills influences psychosocial development. Psychosocial development begins during infancy and toddlerhood years and continues through middle childhood and adolescence. Cognitive development influences self-concept and independence. The growth in socioemotional skills includes the formation of peer relationships, gender identification, and the development of a sense of right and wrong.
How Understanding Development Helps Those Who Work With Developing Children:
Understanding child growth and development are important parts of teaching young children. Children differ in physical, cognitive, social, and emotional growth patterns. By understanding these theories of development, those who work with developing children can understand how a child is developing and what areas need improvement for their proper development. If one understands the theories of development, they can understand the characteristics of learning in childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence years. They can assist in developing the child’s cognitive skills, knowledge, social roles, and moral reasoning. Children can also be identified as gifted and talented or with any disability. Teachers are able to understand the learning abilities of their students by understanding these theories of development. They can create their lesson plans and such with this in mind.
Parents who understand these theories and human development are able to help their children develop physically, emotionally, and mentally. An understanding of a child’s needs, cognitive abilities, psychosocial crises, and moral and social development can help us with raising our children. We can understand their learning skills and need and therefore are able to select the kinds of books and reading-related activities that will be most satisfying to a child of a particular age. We are also able to understand how children with disabilities develop compared to other children and can adapt to the changes. Those who work with developing children can relate the theories of development with the child’s individual developmental level and social and cultural environment.
In conclusion, human development and behavior has been researched and analyzed for centuries. Sigmund Freud, Eric Erikson, and Jean Piaget are all great theorists with different ideas concerning human development. Their theories had similarities and also differences but all had important explanations to describe one’s development and to predict their behavior. Each theory had its own key concepts. The domains of human development influence each other to determine how one will develop or the kind of person they will turn out to be. Other factors, such as culture and environment, can also affect a person’s development. These three theories are all equal in importance towards human development. One can only research and understand each theory and use the knowledge from them to help a child develop into a well-rounded individual.