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There are five major perspectives that underlie much influential theory and research on child development: “(1) psychoanalytic, which focuses on unconscious emotions and drives; (2) learning, which studies observable behavior; (3) cognitive, which analyzes thought process; (4) contextual, which emphasizes the impact of historical, social, and cultural context; and (5) evolutionary/sociobiological, which considers evolutionary and biological underpinnings of behavior” (Papalia, Olds, & Feldman, 2008, p. 27). From these five major perspectives there are several theories that have been developed. Theories are an explanation based on observation and reasoning. These theories seek to describe, explain, and predict child development. In this paper, I will choose three theories of development to discuss and analyze their key concepts, their similarities, their major points of differences, how their domains of development influence each other, and how understanding development helps those who work with developing children.
Three Theories of Development
The three important theories regarding development I have chosen are Erickson’s psychosocial theory, Freud’s psychosexual theory, and Piaget’s cognitive-stage theory. Erickson believes that a child’s personality develops in stages. He also believed it developed over a life-span, unlike Freud believed it develops in early childhood. Erickson’s theory covers eight stages across the life-span (Papalia et al, 2008). The eight stages are basic trust versus mistrust, autonomy versus shame and doubt, initiative versus guilt, industry versus inferiority, identity versus identity confusion, intimacy versus isolation, generativity versus stagnation, and integrity versus despair.
The first stage trust versus mistrust is developed during infancy to around twelve plus months. Infants rely completely on their caregivers, the quality and dependability received from the caregiver builds the type of trust they will develop. Children who have built trust within this first year usually feel safe and secure. Children that have developed mistrust within the first year usually feel insecure. The second stage is autonomy versus shame and doubt it is developed from a little over a year to three years old. Children in this age range are learning how to be independent. The parents are guiding, directing, and praising attempts teaching the children autonomy. If children are successful during this stage they are independent, confident, and secure. If they are not successful during this stage they have a feeling of self-doubt. The third stage is initiative versus guilt. (Papalia et al, 2008).
It is developed between the ages of three to six. Children during this stage are exploring new things. They take initiative if they feel supported by their caregivers. If they don’t they feel guilt and lack initiative. The fourth stage is industry versus inferiority it is developed during six years to puberty. Young children start to learn about their culture, environment, and themselves. The fifth stage is during puberty to young adults; it is identity versus identity confusion. Young adults are learning a sense of who they are and who they want to become. The sixth stage is during young adults; it is intimacy versus isolation. This is when people seek to be loved and build relationships. The seventh stage is generativity versus stagnation; it is developed during middle adulthood. It is when one feels they are successful and is concerned about the next generation. The last of Erickson’s stages is integrity versus despair. This stage takes place during late adulthood when elderly feel a sense of acceptance of their life’s accomplishments and accepts death. All of these stages have a possibility of a positive or a negative outcome. Erickson believed with each stage’s successful outcome is the development of a particular virtue or strength (Papalia et al, 2008). The next theory to describe is Freud’s Psychosexual Theory.
Freud believed personality is developed in unvarying sequences of stages of personality development during infancy, childhood, and adolescence (Papalia et al, 2008). Like other stage theories, when completed they could end up in success or failure. He has five stages in his theory. They are oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital. He believed the first three stages; during the first five to six years of life are the most crucial in developing ones personality (Papalia et al, 2008).
In the first stage, oral; from birth to a year and a half, he believed babies got their most pleasure from feeding. He believed too little or too much gratification could cause oral fixation or oral personality (Heffner, 2001). In the second stage, anal; from a year and a half to three years old, children develop a sense of gratification when eliminating feces. A fixation can also be developed during this stage causing anal retentive or anal repulsive. The third stage is the phallic stage; it is developed from three to six years. During this stage the child attaches to the parent of opposite sex and later identifies with the same-sex parent (Papalia et al, 2008). The gratification moves from the anus to the genitals during this stage. The fourth stage is the latency stage; from six years to puberty, this stage is an emotionally calmer stage. These children are building their talents, skills, and abilities for school. The fifth and final stage is the genital stage that last through adulthood (Papalia et al, 2008). The sexual urges reappear in this stage. Although Freud’s theory is quite complex, he believed all of these steps are necessary in developing ones personality. The last theory to describe is Piaget’s cognitive-stage theory.
Piaget’s cognitive-stage theory is based on qualitative changes in thought occur between infancy and adolescence and he believed children are active initiators of their development (Papalia et al, 2008). “Piaget described four stages of cognitive development and relates them to a person’s ability to understand and assimilate new information” (Piaget’s Cognitive Stages, n.d.). His stages of cognitive development are sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operations, and formal operations.
The first stage sensorimotor stage is from birth to two years old. Piaget believes “infants gradually become able to organize activities in relation to the environment through sensory and motor activity” (Papalia et al, 2008, p. 30). The second stage preoperational is from two years old to seven years old. During this stage, “a child develops a representative system and uses symbols to represent people, places, and events. Language and imaginative play are important manifestations of this stage, thinking is still not logical” (Papalia et al, 2008, p. 30). The third stage concrete operations are from seven years old to eleven years old. During this stage, “a child can solve problems logically if they are focused on the here and now but cannot think abstractly” (Papalia et al, 2008, p. 30). The fourth and last stage is formal operations; it is from eleven years old through adulthood. In this stage people can think abstractly, deal with hypothetical situations, and think about possibilities” (Papalia et al, 2008, p. 30). Piaget believed all of these stages were important in developing a child. “At each stage a child’s mind develops a new way of operating” (Papalia et al, 2008, p. 34).
Key Concepts of the Theories
Three key concepts of Erickson’s psychosocial theory are basic virtues, maladaptations, and malignancies. Erickson believed with each stage there could be a positive virtue or strength developed. According to Erickson’s, the successful completions of each stage are as following from first stage to the eighth stage are hope, self-esteem, purpose, skill, fidelity, love, care, and wisdom. Each of these virtue help develop a child’s personality or Id. He also believed that if the stage was unsuccessful, they had the potential for a negative outcome. “Erickson developed terminology ‘Maladaptations and Malignancies’ to represent the negative outcomes arising from an unhelpful experience through each of the crisis stages” (Chapman, 2010). Erickson’s lists of maladaptations for each stage are: sensory distortion, impulsivity, ruthlessness, narrow virtuosity, fanaticism, promiscuity, overextension, and presumption (Chapman, 2010). The malignancy correspondents are: withdrawal, compulsion, inhibition, inertia, repudiation, exclusivity, rejectivity, and disdain (Chapman, 2010). There are many examples that can come from these malignancies and maladaptations. Some can be more severe than others, including mental and emotional problems. He used these key concepts to identify traits in people. Freud has many key concepts in his psychosexual theory.
Three key concepts of Freud’s psychosexual theory are id, ego, and superego. “Freud proposed three hypothetical parts of the personality – the id, the ego, and the superego – that develop early in life” (Papalia et al, 2008, p. 27). He believes babies are born with an id. The id does not care about what other people want. It seeks immediate pleasure or satisfaction for itself. “The ego, is the conscious self, it develops gradually during the first year or so and operates under the reality principle” (Papalia et al, 2008, p. 27). It starts to realize there are others in this world and they have feelings also. The ego meets the needs of id but is more sensible about situations. At around age 5, Freud believes the superego develops and contains the conscience (Papalia et al, 2008). This is the moral part of every individual. The superego forms an idea of social do’s and don’ts. Many of these moral and ethical ideas are placed by the parents or caregivers. It then tells a child what is right or wrong. This stage is the beginning of when a child learns about guilt and shame; and then begins to experience both of them. Freud used these three key concepts “to show how a child translates the demands of the intrapersonal world into his or her own personal way of functioning and at the same time, new demands and experiences continue to play a role in the development of personality” (Newman, & Newman, 2009, p. 54). Piaget also discusses key concepts in his theory.
Three key concepts of Piaget’s cognitive-stage theory are assimilation, accommodation, and equilibration. According to Piaget, “cognitive growth occurs through three interrelated processes: organization, adaptation, and equilibration” (Papalia et al, 2008, p. 34). In organization, this is a system or structure that incorporates knowledge and grows more complex as a child grows. In adaptation, children learn how to handle new information, how to process it and incorporate it with what they already know. In adaptation, Piaget involves two steps assimilation and accommodation. Piaget believes children move through succeeding stages of cognitive organization and that this progress is accomplished by assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is when children take new information and incorporate it into existing cognitive structures; and accommodation is modifying one’s cognitive structures to include the new information (Papalia et al, 2008). Assimilation and accommodation are two key concepts on how children process knowledge and develop their learning habits. Equilibration is the third key concept chosen. It is when children are learning new information it determines how the information should be processed either by assimilation or accommodation. These three key concepts are important in developing cognitive growth. All three of these theories have key concepts, they also have many similarities.
Similarities of the theories
One of the similarities of Piaget, Freud, and Erickson’s theories is they all believe children develop in learning stages, which are in a predetermined order. They believe with each stage a child’s mind develops a new way of operating (Papalia et al, 2008). Erickson based his theory on Freud’s but he took a more complex look at the factors that impact child development, like an individual’s society. Another similarity is in most stage theories they are progressive, meaning one needs to pass one stage to go on to the next. Although, according to Freud, Erickson, and Piaget, they believe that one could continue on to the next stage but they would have difficulties in completing the next stages, which could lead to an unhealthy personality and sense of self (Heffner, 2001). They all believe if each stage is completed, a healthy development would occur but if it was a failure then an unhealthy development would occur. Just as there are many similarities, there are many contrasts among these three theories.
Contrasts of the three theories
A main contrast of these three theories is, each of these theorists focus on different views of development. Piaget focused on how children think and develop cognitively. While Erickson focused on how a child socializes and learning how it affects their sense of self was the most important to him and his theory. Freud focused on the development of one’s id, ego, and superego, which he believed is fueled by one’s inner forces of their sexual being is the most important in his theory. Another difference between these theorists is the techniques used to test their theories. Freud and Erickson had clinical observations to test their theory, while Piaget used meticulous observations. Some argued that Freud’s concept of id and superego could not be tested (Papalia et al, 2008). Another contrast of these theorists is how each believed the child developed, whether the child was active in development or passive in development. Freud’s theory believed children are passive in their involvement of development. While Erickson and Piaget both believed children were active in their involvement of development. The three theorists have many contrasts and similarities but they all influence each other.
How the domains of development influence each other
The domains of development are physical development, cognitive development, and psychosocial development; all of these developments influence each other in child development. Physical development starts in the prenatal period and continues through adulthood. During the prenatal period, the basic body structures and organs form. The brain is the most physical development during this time. The brain continues to grow rapidly during infancy and toddlerhood, and then continues growing steadily during early childhood. If a child has a problem with their physical development it can interfere with their cognitive development. “An example is a child with frequent ear infections may develop language more slowly than a child without this physical problem” (Papalia et al, 2008, p. 10). Another influence is on how physical development can influence psychosocial development. An example of this is when a child is going through puberty; their physical developments can affect their sense of self, which affects their psychosocial development, and it can also affect their cognitive advances. “Change and stability in personality, emotions, and social relationships constitute psychosocial development, and this can affect cognitive and physical functioning” (Papalia et al, 2008, p. 10). Child development is a combined process of all three of these domains. Whether it is a parent or teacher, anyone who is involved with children needs to know about these domains and how a child develops.
How understanding development helps those who work with developing children
Understanding these developing theories is important to helping children in developing to their fullest potential. Whether it is a parent or an educator, understanding cognitive development is important. When sharing information with children, there are signs to look for that the information is understood. Knowing a child’s cognitive abilities will help parents and educators know how much the child understands. Some important factors to learning about cognitive development are: knowing how a child processes information, retains information, and how they develop memory skills. Not only is it important for parents and educators to understand about cognitive development it also important to understand how a child’s psychosocial develops and psychosexual develop.
Schools are a major part of developing children lives; it is where most children learn about socialization. It is very important for teachers to have a basic understanding of how children develop their sense of self, id, ego and superego to help children socialize. If teachers learn about the different stages of child development it will help them have a better assessment about children’s behavior, their socialization, and their academics. Parents and educators need to understand how a child develops and learning about cognitive, psychosocial, and psychosexual theories will help them to be able to teach developing children. If parents and educators maximize their learning about child development, the students will be successful academically and socially.
In conclusion, after doing much research and learning about Erickson’s psychosocial theory, Freud’s psychosexual theory, and Piaget’s cognitive theory; their key concepts, the differences between them, their similarities, how they influence each other, and why it is important as an educator or parent to understand about these developments in a child, I have concluded that these three theories are all important in a developing child. They all play a major role in developing a well-rounded individual. Understanding the different stages in a developing child will help anyone that is involved in a developing child’s life.
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