Child and Adolescents Development Theories The first psychologist to make a systematic study of cognitive development was Jean Piaget in the 1920’s. “Piaget believed that human beings organize new information in two ways: through assimilation and through accommodation” (Rathus 241). He showed that children think in dramatically different ways than adults. There are three basic components to Piaget’s Cognitive Theory are schemas, the processes of adaption, and four stages of development. Piaget described schemas as the building blocks of intelligent behavior.
The processes of adaption to the world is categorized as assimilation, accommodation, and equilibration. When “using an existing schema to deal with a new object or situation” is an assimilation (McLeod). Accommodation “happens when the existing schema (knowledge) does not work, and needs to be changed to deal with anew object or situation” (McLeod). “The force, which moves development along” is equilibration (McLeod). Piaget believed leaps and bounds are the way that cognitive development progresses (McLeod). Piaget said that children “go through four universal stages of cognitive development” (McLeod).
The sensorimotor stage, ranges from birth to about age 2”, having infants focus of learning on trial and error (Sensorimotor). Initially, children “rely on reflexes, eventually modifying them to adapt to their world” (Sensorimotor). Objects and events can be mentally represented by children around age two to seven while they go through the preoperational stage (Preoperational). During the preoperational stage children can engage in symbolic play and animism. “Their thoughts and communications are typically egocentric” (Preoperational).
The major turning point in the child’s cognitive development is considered the concrete stage when the children are typically age’s seven to eleven (Concrete). Piaget believes that “the child is now mature enough to use logical thought or operations but can only apply logic to physical objects” (Concrete). At about age eleven, the formal operational stage begins (Formal). The children now become adolescents and “gain the ability to think in an abstract manner, the ability to combine and classify items in a more sophisticated way, and the capacity for higher-order reasoning” (Formal). Lawrence Kohlberg agreed with Piaget’s theory of moral development in principle but wanted to develop his ideas further” (Kohlberg). “Kohlberg devised a cognitive theory about the development of children’s moral reasoning” (Rathus 246). There are three levels and two stages of each level in Kohlberg’s theory (Rathus 246). The first level is preconventional morality which all children should know that “authority is outside the individual and reasoning is based on the physical consequences of actions” (Kohlberg).
Obedience and Punishment Orientation, stage 1, occurs when “the child/individual is good in order to avoid being punished” (Kohlberg). At stage 2, individualism and exchange, children recognize that “different individuals have different viewpoints” (Kohlberg). People who are at the conventional morality, level 2, understand that “Authority is internalized but not questioned and reasoning is based on the norms of the group to which the person belongs” (Kohlberg).
Stages three and four deal with good interpersonal relationships and maintaining the Social Order (Kohlberg). People in these stages are “seeking and maintaining the approval of others using conventional standards of right and wrong” and becomes aware of moral judgments (Kohlberg). Finally in the post conventional morality level “individual judgment is based on self-chosen principles, and moral reasoning is based on individual rights and justice” (Kohlberg). People in stage five realize that laws have value and should not be violated (Rathus 247).
Stage six is when people rely on their conscience and they are “not necessarily in agreement with others” (Rathus 247). Like Piaget and Kohlberg, Sigmund Freud believed that “an individual’s personality develops through a series of five stages” (Rathus 327). Freud’s theory of psychological development begins at the very beginning of an individual’s life (Rathus 327). During stage one, the oral stage of development, “and infant’s first reaction is too many objects is often to suck on them” with their mouths-main source of pleasure (Rathus 327, 329).
Between ages one and a half and two and a half children learn they can control their own bodily functions (Rathus 329). This is considered to be the anal stage, according to Freud. The phallic stage at the third age of life is when children begin to notice the differences between the opposite sex and “may also develop strong attachments to the parent of the opposite sex” (Rathus 329). At puberty people enter the genital stage (Rathus 329). In the final stage Freud’s psychological development theory, the adolescent becomes more aware of his or her own gender identity” (Rathus 329). During the highest stages of development in Kohlberg’s and Piaget’s concepts, a person in different. “Piaget concluded that the systematic approach indicated the children were thinking logically, in the abstract, and could see the relationships between things” (McLeod). Kohlberg states in his last two stages that people not only can see relationships between things but, become aware of why those things are in relation and when they will work for or against an individual” (Kohlberg).
Kohlberg also said that people at the final stage of his theory “have developed their own set of moral guidelines” (Kohlberg). Piaget underestimated the ability of children unlike Kohlberg. CITES McLeod, S. A. (2009). Jean Piaget | Cognitive Theory. Retrieved from http://www. simplypsychology. org/piaget. html McLeod, S. A. (2010). Sensorimotor Stage – Object Permanence. Retrieved from http://www. simplypsychology. org/sensorimotor. html McLeod, S. A. (2010). Concrete Operational Stage. Retrieved from http://www. simplypsychology. rg/concrete-operational. html McLeod, S. A. (2010). Preoperational Stage – Egocentrism. Retrieved from http://www. simplypsychology. org/preoperational. html McLeod, S. A. (2010). Formal Operational – Piagetian Stage. Retrieved from http://www. simplypsychology. org/formal-operational. html McLeod, S. A. (2011). Kohlberg – Moral Development. Retrieved from http://www. simplypsychology. org/kohlberg. html Rathus, Spencer A. Holt Psychology: Principles in Practice. Austin, TX: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2007. Print.
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