Comparing Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development to
Erikson’s Stages of Social Development
Child psychologist, Jean Piaget, believed that a
person understands whatever information fits into his
established view of the world. Piaget described four
stages of cognitive development and related them to
a person’s ability to understand.
The Sensorimotor Stage occurs from birth to 2
years. It is during this stage that the child
learns about his or herself and the environment
around them by use of motor and reflex actions.
The Preoperational Stage begins from about the
time the child starts to talk to about age 7. With
the child’s new knowledge of language, he is able
to begin using symbols to represent objects and
The Concrete Stage occurs from about first grade
to early adolescence. The child has now developed an
ability to make rational judgements. There is no
longer the need to live in a fantasy world as
The final stage in Piaget’s Cognitive Development is
the Formal Stage. There is no longer the need for
concrete objects to make rational judgements. He is
now capable of hypothetical and deductive reasoning.
Psychiatrist Erik Erikson believed that each
person had Eight Stages of Development. He called
them the “Eight Stages Of Man.” These stages were
formulated, not through experimenting, but through
wide ranging experience in psychotherapy.
Stage 1, Learning Basic Trust Versus Basic Mistrust,
is the period of infancy through the first one or
two years of life. A child, well handled, nurtured,
and loved, will develop trust and security. Badly
handled, the child becomes insecure and mistrustful.
Stage 2, Learning Autonomy Versus Shame, occurs
between 18 months and 2 years. Autonomy is not,
however, entirely filled with self assurance,
initiative, and independence. For children in the
early part of this stage, there is a stormy self
will, tantrums, stubbornness and negativism.
Stage 3, Learning Initiative Versus Guilt, occurs
from 3 1/2 years to 5 years. During this stage,
the healthily developing child learns to imagine, to
broaden skills through active play.
Stage 4, Industry Versus Inferiority, occurs from
5 years to 12 years of age. This stage has the
child mastering more formal skills of life, such as,
relating with peers according to rules, progressing
from free play to play that may consist of rules
and demand formal teamwork, and mastering reading,
mathematics and social studies.
Stage 5, Learning Identity Versus Identity
Diffusion, occurs from 13-14 years to 20 years of
age. Now an adolescent, the child learns how to
answer satisfactorily and happily the question of
“Who am I?” Most boys and girls experiment with
minor delinquency, rebellion, self doubts and so on.
Stage 6, Learning Intimacy Versus Isolation,
occurs from 20-25 years of age. The successful young
adult, can for the first time, experience true
Stage 7, Learning Generativity Versus
Self-Absorption, occurs from 25-30. This stage has
the adult being very generative, both in marriage
Stage 8, Integrity Versus Despair, occurs from
30-40 years. He trusts, he is independent and he
dares the new. He is proud of what he creates- his
children, his work, or his hobbies.
Piaget and Erikson have very different views on
the ways a child develops. Piaget’s first stage,
birth – 2 years, has the child imitating behavior,
exploring their own body and senses. He feels the
child, at age 0-4 months, has the basic “out of
sight, out of mind” attitude. Erikson, however, feels
that the child that is nurtured and loved, will
develop trust, security and optimism.
Piaget’s stages from 2 years to 4 years, have
the child living in a basic fantasy world. While
Erikson’s stage, at this same age, has the child
focused on himself. He is oriented to his parents
and needs limits, support, and secure environment.
Through ages 5-7 years, Piaget notes the same
behavior as when the child was 2-4 years, with the
added development of concrete mental operations.
Erikson notes that the child now identifies with
his/her own gender, enjoys group play and maintains
The 7-11 years, according to Piaget, are
Concrete Operation years. He begins to think
rationally and to generalize. Erikson shows his child
continuing his enjoyment in group play and in peer
relationships. He is often competitive, impressed by
older role models, learns behavior from parents,
The years of 12-16 for the Piaget child, show
him capable of cognitive problem solving and decision
making. Erikson’s child, during these same years, is
oriented to the present rather than the future. He
is preoccupied with self presentation, physical
maturity, and acceptance by peer group.
During the ages of 16-18 years, Piaget’s child
is capable of synthesizing a wide range rational
material. Erikson’s child is primarily concerned with
his individual identity, financial independence,
deepening relationships, self exploration, distancing
from family and making own decisions.
In conclusion, Piaget and Erikson see the
development of children in 2 very different ways.
Piaget believed that a person understood whatever
information fit into his established view of the
world. His stages were based on research, while
Erikson’s were based on experience. There are no
similarities in the stages of these 2 men. Erikson’s
stages lean more to the realistic side, in my
opinion. Life and experience was the best teacher in
North Central Regional Educational Laboratory
Program Implications Based on Children’s Cognitive
and Social Development
Encarta Encyclopedia 2000
Piaget’s Cognitive Stages
Encyclopedia Britannica CD ROM
Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development
Child Development Institute
Stages of Social Emotional Development In
Children and Teenagers
An article by Jim Anderson, SSP
The ABC Classroom: I am, I belong, I can
Cite this Comparing Piaget and Erikson Essay
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