Naturalistic Observation

Table of Content

This paper is going to describe the behavior and cognitive traits that can be inferred from that behavior of a two year old child that I observed in the park as she was playing with her mother. The child that I observed is a girl, has blonde hair and is physically well-developed for her age. She is around two, weighs approximately twenty (20) pounds and is about two (2) feet tall.

When it comes to the stage of cognitive development in terms of Piaget’s theory, the girl was quite certain at the preoperational stage. According to Piaget, at this stage children begin to develop symbolic modes of thinking, and even though their logic is often faulty, it is enough to satisfy their basic needs at this stage and advance further development. A landmark experiment that proves that a child is at this stage is when he or she witnesses the experimenter pour water from a glass of one shape into a glass of a different shape. If the child claims that the amount of water has changed, then he or she is at the preoperational stage. Unfortunately, I was not able to see indicators as clear as this one; however, I could be sure that the child I was observing was at this stage because she was able to speak almost fluently and understood everything that her mother told her. According to Piaget, language use is one of the crucial skills at this stage. Since she is only two, I could conclude that she has mastered that ability relatively recently.

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Emotional and Social Development (Erikson’s Stages)

In terms of Erikson’s phases of psychosexual development, I would judge the girl I observed to be at the anal stage. Anal stage, according to Erikson takes place between the first and third years of a child’s life. Since the girl I observed was around the age of two and was normally developed in all other respects, I assume that she has reached that stage. Furthermore, Erikson argued that the main task of that stage is toilet training, and it could be observed that the girl did not wear diapers, which means that she exhibited all the traits of a child at this stage. She also clearly showed the need for autonomy and free choice since she was running around the park choosing the activities she wanted to engage in by herself.

Her mother did not impose too strict control on her, which in Erikson’s view would be a good decision. Does the child meet milestones and stages in the physical, cognitive, and social/emotional development? As can be seen from the account of the stages of cognitive and psychosexual development, the child observed the regular pattern of development in all areas. Her physical traits are completely normal, so it seems that she is a well-developing, healthy child. From what she was saying and doing during the time I observed her, it might be concluded that she is even intellectually gifted. For instance, she was able to conduct a full conversation with her mother, which is unusual for a child of that age.

Is there anything unusual or “off-development” for this child (deficits as well as giftedness)? No, the child is well developed, according to her age in relation to all stages. My thoughts about observation

This sort of practical exercise was quite useful for me as I was able to integrate theoretical insights that I acquired and compare them against the data from the real world. It is interesting that both theories that I applied correctly predicted the cognitive traits and behavioral patterns of the child, which proves that they have a great deal of empirical validity. On the other hand, the fact that theories which have so different principles and draw so different conclusions are confirmed by this example is problematic because it seems that it is difficult to see which one has more explanatory power. Instead, it seems that these theories simply rely on different sets of data. For instance, in determining the stage of cognitive development, I had to examine whether the child is able to speak a language, while in the case of psychosexual theory, I needed to see if the child still wears diapers.

Therefore, it seems that these theories simply explain different aspects of development even though the general conclusions that they reach aspire to explain the entire developmental process by means of the theoretical mechanisms that they use. One could, perhaps, try to explain cognitive development in light of the psychosexual theory, or conversely, but, in my view, that would not make for a very sound and elegant theory. My opinion about what I observed and the application of the theories of development In my opinion, Piaget’s cognitive development theories and Erikson’s psychosexual theories help me to identify if there is something off-development in any child and I would conclude by saying that these theories are quite accurate in explaining and predicting development in their domains despite the flaws they might have, and being acquainted with them is quite useful for anyone who aspires at raising or working with children.


  1. Berk, L. (2009). Development Throughout the Lifespan. London: Pearson.

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Naturalistic Observation. (2016, Jul 19). Retrieved from

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