Theories Of Child Development Essay

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Theories abound around how people develop emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually. This essay will examine the theories of five leaders on the subject of development.
Jean Piaget believed in four stages of development that were fairly concrete in description (Atherton, 2010).
1. Sensorimotor stage (birth – 2 years old) – Children begin to make sense of the world around them based on their interaction with their physical environment. Reality begins to be defined.
2. Preoperational stage (ages 2-7) – Concrete physical stimuli are needed in order for a child to develop new concepts.
3. Concrete operations (ages 7-11) – As a child accumulates experience with the physical world, he/she begins to conceptualize to explain those experiences. Abstract thought is also emerging.
4. Formal operations (beginning at ages 11-15) – Conceptual reasoning is present and the child’s cognitive abilities are similar to an adult’s (Atherton, 2010).

Piaget was firm in his concept of these stages. He was convinced that a person had to progress from one stage to the next, that this was a natural biological process influenced by the environment and experiences. Biology limits the point in time, but the environment determines the quality of development.
Lev Vygotsky stages of development were not defined by age or biology. Social and cultural experiences were the basis for his theory. Consciousness was an end product of social interactions (Kearsley, 1994-2010). The history of the child’s society and his own personal history determine how the child thinks. Language is crucial for development as it is with words that a child conceptualizes and makes sense of the world (Schütz, 2004). A precept of Vygotsky’s theory was the zone of proximal development or ZPD. ZDP is the difference between what a child is able to solve on its own (actual developmental level) and what a child can learn only with the help or experience of another person. “An essential feature of learning is that it awakens a variety of internal developmental processes that are able to operate only when the child is in the action of interacting with people in his environment and in cooperation with his peers” (2004).
Erik Erikson like Piaget had distinct stages of development assigned to specific ages. However Erikson ascribed development even into old age. Eight stages beginning with birth to old age described a conflict that had to be resolved by the person before moving on to the next, termed the epigenetic principle (Boeree, 2006). As each conflict is resolved a person gains strength to move on to a more complex battle. These struggles are inner conflicts revolving around Freud’s theories of ego, i.e. the first stage, birth to age one, trust vs mistrust is the conflict or stage eight, age 50 and beyond, integrity vs despair. As a situation arises a person has two ways of resolution, adaptive or maladaptive (Cramer, Flynn, & LaFave, 1997). This conflict...

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