Importance Of Understanding Child And Adolescent Development

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Cognitive developmental theories are based on research that indicates an individuals' development from birth to adulthood. It was once believed that babies weren't aware of their surroundings until they started to learn to speak, however we all know this isn't the case and researchers have proved this theory in a number of studies. From birth through infancy and into adulthood we constantly develop and learn from genetic and learned factors. "As children grow into adolescents and then into adults, individual and innate characteristics (hereditary) and life experience (environment) play an increasing role as children adapt to internal and external conditions…" (Papalia, Olds, Wendkos, Feldman, Duskinn p 12) We learn from our surroundings as well as from inherited traits.

This paper examines three cognitive theories namely Piaget's Cognitive Theory, Social Cognitive Theory and Erikson's Cognitive Theory. This paper examines the key points and postulates of the theories, the basic similarities and differences between the theories. It is very significant to understand the relationships between adolescent and child development for the proper rearing of an individual. This paper also explains the reason for this.

Piaget's Cognitive Stage Theory

Psychologist and life scientist, Jean Piaget, formed a theory that was based on the fact that children go through 4 developmental stages from birth to the age of 15. His research was done on his own children of which he formulated his conclusion of how a developing child perceives the world around them. "His theory concerned the growth of intelligence which for Piaget, meant the ability to more accurately represent the world and perform logical operations on representations of concepts grounded in the world." (Nation Master Encyclopedia 2005). Jean Piaget's 4 stages of development are as follows:

Sensorimotor Stage

This stage involves children from birth to the age of two. The baby establishes an apprehension of herself or himself and realism (and the way matters work) by encounters with the surroundings and ecology.(Learning Theories Knowledge Base 2009). This stage is when a baby starts to identify the difference between right and wrong, and yes and no. Because they can relate to a wide range of viewpoints, they no longer feel that there is an absolute standard of right and wrong (Papalia, Olds, Wendkos, Feldman, Duskinn p. 355). The baby is capable of distinguishing between herself or himself and various other substances around. The cognitive process happens through absorption (the arrangement of entropy and absorbing it into subsisting scheme) and adjustment (when a substance cannot be absorbed and the schemes have to be altered to admit the substance).

Preoperational Stage

This stage comprises children from the age of two to four. The infant is still not capable of conceiving theoretically and requires strong physical circumstances. Substances are relegated in simple methods, particularly by significant characteristics. During this stage it is said that a child has the inability to be able to "put themselves in others shoes". They think that everyone else feels the same way they do when they are feeling a certain way. The child is typically described as being "egocentric" during this phase. "Egocentrism refers to the child's inability to see a situation from another person's point of view. According to Piaget, the egocentric child assumes that other people see, hear and feel exactly the same as the child does." (McLeod 2007).

Concrete Operations

This stage comprises children between the ages of seven to eleven. Jean Piaget's concrete operational approach is the third of four stages. According to Piaget this stage of development begins at around age seven and ends at about age eleven."During this time, children gain a better understanding of mental operations, children begin thinking logically about concrete events, but have difficulty understanding abstract or hypothetical concepts" (Van Wagner 2005). This stage is seen beginning at the elementary years. The infant initiates to conceive theoretically and gestating, making coherent structures that explicate her or his physical encounters.

Formal Operations

This stage comprises children between the ages of eleven to fifteen. This child learns to think creatively and logically putting outcomes to particular actions. By this particular stage, the individual no longer needs strong substances to decide intellectual assessments. He or she is able to reason with deduction and hypothesis. "As adolescents enter this stage, they gain the ability to think in an abstract manner, the ability to combine and classify items in a more sophisticated way." (McLeod 2007). Piaget used a series of experimental data from a number of children to come to the conclusion that children develop a significant amount of logical reasoning during this period.

Social Cognitive Theory

Albert Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory explicates cognition in terms of the interrelation between demeanor, ecological aspects, and personal aspects. It also furnishes the theoretical account for synergistic cognition utilized to formulate both Cooperative Cognition and Constructivism. (SCT 2007) Bandura conducted several studies on the idea that children learn behavior from others. "Evaluating behavioral change depends on the factors environment, people and behavior. SCT provides a framework for designing, implementing and evaluating programs." (Glanz 2004). An example of Bandura's theory can be observed in a household. If a child has parent's who have anger issues and are always "exploding" when they get upset, chances are the behavior will be observed and performed by their children. The child will learn to think that this is the "correct" way to act and in turn mimic their parents.

As per the Social Cognitive Theory, the learner develops cognition as her or his surrounding comes together with personal encounters and personal lineaments. (Kids Development 2009) Fresh encounters are assessed face-to-face with the past; anterior encounters succor to gradually lead and communicate to the learner as to in what way the present must be looked into.

Erikson's Psychosocial Theory

Erikson's Psychosocial Theory growth is one of the best-recognized hypotheses of personality in psychological science. He conceived that personality springs up in a sequential manner, in eight stages. His theory depicts the affect of social encounter across the entire lifetime. It lays down the basis of a properly growing individual should develop from an infant to maturity. In every stage the individual faces, and hopefully overcomes, fresh challenging situations.

First Stage - Mistrust vs. Trust

This stage comprises infants ranging from birth to two years of age. The child relies on the parents, particularly the mother, for comfortableness, existence, and food. The infant's comparative apprehension of society and world descend from the parents and their involvement with the infant. "During the first year of life, a baby forms their first feelings about the world and whether or not it is a safe place based on the level of consistent care provided by caregivers." (Kids Development 2009) If the parents allow the infant to tenderness, regularity, and reliable lovingness, the perception of the child of the world will be one of faith. If the parents go wrong in furnishing a safe surrounding and in meeting the requirements of the infant, a feeling of disbelief will consequence.

Second Stage - Autonomy vs. Shame

This stage comprises children between the ages of two to three. As the child develops check over eliminative operations and motor capabilities they initiate to ascertain their environment. The parents even in this stage furnish a strong ground of safety from which the infant can embark out to put forward their volition. The forbearance of the parents and support succors further liberty in the infant. "Children who successfully complete this stage feel secure and confident" (Van Wagner 2005).

Third Stage - Initiative vs. Guilt

During the years of primary schooling, children start to asseverate their check and power over the world by aiming play and other social involvement. Children who are flourishing at this stage decipher the capability and ability to guide others. Those who go wrong in attaining these acquisitions are left with a guilty conscience, absence of initiative and self-dubiousness. During this stage it is helpful when parents are actively rewarding their children for doing right rather than wrong. It helps a child prosper more and feel more confident when they know their parents are recognizing their good deeds and encouraging them to act in this manner more.

Fourth Stage: Industry vs. Inferiority

This stage comprises children between the age of five to eleven. Through social involvements, children start to grow a feeling of plume in their works and capabilities. Children who are supported and guided by teachers and parents grow a sense of competency and faith in their acquisitions. "Parents and teachers who provide positive feedback can help children to feel confident and capable, vital characteristics for happiness and future success"(Kids Development 2009) Those who attain no or little support from teachers, friends, or parents will incertitude their capability to be prosperous.

Fifth Stage - Identity vs. Confusion

This comprises teenagers. During teenage years, teenagers are enjoying their liberty and growing a feeling of self. According to Bandura, those who attain support through personal ascertaining will emanate from this stage with a concrete feeling of self and a sense of liberty and check. Those who retain dubious of their faiths and wishes will be unsure and insecure about the futurity and themselves. (Van Wagner 2009).

Sixth stage - Intimacy vs. Isolation

This stage engulfs the period of early maturity when people are experiencing personal kinships. Erikson conceived it was critical that individuals acquire intimate, committed kinships with other individuals. Those who are victorious at this stage will acquire kinships that are committed and safe. Those who won't will endure isolation.

Seventh Stage - Generativity vs. Stagnation

When teenagers become adults, they go on to establish their lives, centering on family and career. Those who flourish during this stage will think that they are adding to the world by being dynamic in their society and home. "These are the years when careers flourish families are raised and people find their comfort zones being productive and responsible members of society." (Kids Development 2009) Those who do not succeed to achieve this acquisition will consider themselves ineffectual and detached from the world.

Eighth Stage - Integrity vs. Despair

This stage comes in to action in old age and is centered on pondering back over life. Those who are abortive during this stage will think that their life had been a waste and will encounter many types of rue. The person will be left with resentments and desperation. Those who have pride in their achievements will have a feeling of wholeness. Prosperously finishing this stage means retrospection with few rues and a sense of satiation. These people will achieve sapience, even when facing demise.

Similarities Between The Theories

All the three theories basically throw light upon the development of personality of an individual throughout their lifetime. They suggest that an individual analyzes his or her surrounding and people around and learn in the process, and the cognition in return helps them, to make an impact on the society and on the world and have a successful life. All the theories assume the utilization of the scientific processes, and usually refuse self-examination as a reasonable process of probe, dissimilar to the pleasure-driven advances like the theories formulated by Sigmund Freud. They denotatively recognize the subsistence of internal mental conditions like trust, wants, support and encouragement. Sensationalism of the theories aggregated with the espousal of internal mental conditions present the validity of the theories as suggested by the three theories. All the theories can be successfully employed educational exercises and kinships.

Differences Between The Three Theories

The theories formulated by Piaget concerns development from birth to the age of fifteen, where as the theories of Erikson concerns the development process from birth till old age. So, Erikson's theory is a wider conceptualization. Piaget observed his own children for the purpose of formulation of the theories, whereas there were no such circumstances in case of the formulation of theories by Eric Erikson. On the contrary, the social cognitive theory does not focus on people belonging to any particular age group.

Erikson's theory bases its assumptions on social and self preferences, whereas Piaget's theory bases its assumptions on the capabilities of a child and senses. On the other hand, the assumptions of the Social Cognitive theory were primarily based on the environment in which an individual lives.

One of the primary formulations in the theory suggested by Erikson was the ego individuality, which is a conscious self-sense that is acquired through coming in contact with various aspects of the society. Erikson suggested that an individual's ego individuality constantly alters due to altering encounters and altering interactions. There is no such definition in the theory proposed by Jean Piaget, although the developmental alterations are discussed in four different stages. This aspect is described in the Social Cognitive Theory as "mutual assessment", as said by one of the famous psychologists promoting this theory, Albert Bandura, emphasizing on the fact that not only does the surrounding around an individual crusade demeanor, but also the demeanor of an individual crusades the surroundings.

Importance Of Understanding Child And Adolescent Development

Since sundry decades, the inter-relation between health, psychological growth and physical development have become apparent. It is very necessary to apprehend how children and adolescents develop, in what environment they are being brought up and how much encouragement and support they receive from their peers and family. As we might have seen through many practical experiences, a happy childhood leads to a contended adult. Individuals who did not have a happy childhood fear from taking new challenges in life, where the ones with a happy childhood can confidently face new challenges, one of the reasons being that they know there are people who will support them and foster them through trifles of life. Adolescents are very fickle and are very likely to be influence by the bad elements of the society. Therefore, parents and peers must understand in what environment and adolescent and a child grows so that he or she acquires the acquisitions to take the right decisions whenever required. Most importantly, the environment in which an individual grows must be monitored and understood well to ensure proper development of the individual.


The basic attention of the researches conducted by Jean Piaget, Eric Erickson and Albert Bandura has been on how to attain, work on and store entropy collected during the lifetime of an individual. There exist diverse practical diligences for cognitive theories, like enhancement of memory, enhancement of resolution-taking efficacy, and the strengthening of educational and emotional spheres in the life of an individual. From birth through adolescence and into our adulthood years theorist have proved that we develop through inherited traits along with influences from our environment.