Friday, 20 July 2012

0 Comparing and Contrasting Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson Work on Child Psychology

Development psychology has undergone many changes since the beginning of the 20th century. Most early theorists influenced the field of psychology significantly. Notable theorist whose impact determines child psychology and early childhood education are Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson. This paper delves into the contribution of these two theorists in their study of various development stages, the differences and similarities in their theories and significance of these stages. 

Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory 
The theory proposed by Piaget focuses on the various stages of a child where transition from one stage to the other follows a sequence. He developed the stages with key ideas as his building blocks. It is necessary to look into the concepts that form the bases of his theory. Firstly is the issue of schemata that he conceptualized as the mental structure that represents the world. Through the learning process, children change their schemata by adapting, due to assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation adds new information to the existing schemata while adaptation modifies new information into the schemata. Ideally, there is balance between assimilation and accommodation to ensure equilibrium. 

From the above ideas, he developed the four stages through observation of children. He believed all children passed through the stages sequentially throughout their lifetime. The stages are divided based on age and abilities accompanying them. He divided the stages into four (Snowman et al 33). 

Sensorimotor stage: This represents the period from infancy and up to two years of age. At this period, movement and application of senses takes place. Additionally, mental images begin to form while images of objects remain engrained in the child’s mind. 

Preoperational period: It takes place between two and seven years where symbolic thoughts develop. Reasoning is nonetheless shallow. Measurement abilities are equally low even when features of objects change. 

Concrete stage: Children between the ages of seven to eleven learn to reason and perform mental problems on numbers; the children also look into problems from different perspectives and can reverse activities mentally. 

Formal operation stage: It occurs from eleven years of age to adulthood. Abstract thinking takes center stage. Similarly, in this stage hypothesis formation and deduced reasoning become easier to understand. 

Eric Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory 
He developed his theory much later than Piaget did, but he also dealt in development with eight unique stages across the life of a person. New hurdles characterized each stage; the way the person deals with hurdles at a stage determines the aftermath. Consequently, naming of the stages occurred with the likely outcomes in mind. The stages include: 

Trust vs. mistrust: Occurs in children below the age of one. The theory posits that, in this stage, the infant is totally dependent on parents and caregivers. Thus, trust is established when the infant feels safe under care; likewise mistrust occurs when safety is minimal. Mistrust and minimal attachment of the child also creates an environment of fear. 

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt: Takes place between one and three years of age. The child develops some sense of independence through learning basic life skills. When children accomplish the purpose of the stage they feel secure. Failure, on the other hand, leads to self-doubt and insecurity. 

Initiative vs. Guilt: Takes place between three and six years of age, children become aware of the social environment. Social settings affect the children to exert authority when opportunity is provided. 

Industry vs. Inferiority: It covers the ages of six to twelve; competition with fellow children brings out the abilities and skills of the children. A feeling of competency for the victors follows while feelings of doubts linger on the minds of unsuccessful children. 

Identity vs. Confusion: The period coincides with the onset of adolescence up to young adulthood. An individual forms an identity, understands his/her role in society and experiences a sense of direction in life. Those who do not succeed emerge bruised with feelings of insecurity of the future. 

Intimacy vs. Isolation: Relationships are significant factors for the success of individuals; success depends on healthy and secure relationships. Lack of identity leads to lower self-esteem and higher rates of depression (Snowman et al. 29). 

Generativity vs. stagnation: In adulthood, people are productive in their lives through family, work and career. Success in this stage exudes feelings of accomplishment to the society. Failure leads to stagnation in life and unproductive lives. 

Integrity vs. Despair: Eric’s last stage deals with the period of old age, people look back into their lives, and accomplishment during one’s life brings bout feelings of contentment while failure leads to disappointment at the wasted opportunities. Additionally, satisfaction follows those who have accomplished their life long wishes (Snowman et al. 30). 

Erik’s theory focuses on the entire development process in life in eight stages. He asserts that the environment interacts with an individual to influence the development. In each of the phases, one encounters crisis and success depends on how he handles the challenges. Skills acquired in progression to another stage lessen insecurity in the individual. These challenges occur in the lifespan from infancy to older age of an individual. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development looks into thought processes of a person. His emphasis is mainly in the earlier stages below the age of twelve. Development of cognitive skills occurs from infancy to the operational phase (above 12 years of age) where abstract thoughts make sense. Naming of the stages represents the cognitive skill attained in the child and adult. Despite the use of stages, they both differ on the timing aspect; Erikson’s theory holds that the first stage ends at one year old while Piaget postulates that the first stage ends at two years of age. 

Erikson draws inspiration from the psychoanalytic school of thought as earlier espoused by Freud (Smart 79). His theory came into being later than Piaget’s; Erikson added more ideas to Freud’s theory, that the environment determined personality in individuals. Erikson recognized the significance of sense, autonomy versus shame and doubt provides a compelling example of this. The child uses symbols to represent people and places. Challenges are bound to occur in every stage in Erikson’s theory; in contrast, Piaget focus ends in adulthood while assuming the advent of old age. 

Their views on the development process show remarkable differences in the late teens. Piaget views an adolescent as a rational being with rational thoughts. Erik posits that at this stage, the teenager focuses on independence in decision-making, relationships and self-discovery. Piaget’s stages emanated from research and observation while in Erikson’s case it came from experience. Since Erickson is from the psychoanalyst school of thought, he points out that the ego changes constantly altering the individual’s personality. Piaget solely focuses on changes in his theory of four stages, totally ignoring ego in his analysis. Erikson uses the social setting as the bases of his theory. Piaget bases his theory on the assumption of a child’s senses and capability as determinants of development. 

Erikson dwelled on personality development; thus, he used observation, clinical methods and questions to conclude. Piaget focused on cognitive development through mental processes, where he asked questions and then followed up by other questions. Through his studies, Piaget theorized the manner in which children formed thoughts. 

The theories also contrast in the manner in which they view the stages. According to Piaget, a person may not necessarily go through all phases of his theory; an individual influences their world. Experiences determine development in Piaget’s theory while to Erikson going through all the stages up to old age is seen as essential in explaining the development process. 

Both of these theories examine the issue of developmental psychology using phases to explain the process. Each of the theories posits that each stage has different challenges in the development process. Thus, successive stages build upon each other to the extent that failure in the preceding stage also precipitates failure in the next stage. 

The two theories build on the idea that personality development takes place across a person’s lifespan. Therefore, individuals get inspiration from the surroundings through the learning process. In turn, cognition influences the person to leave a mark in the society and enjoy success. They are also similar on their emphasis on scientific method of enquiries through controlled experiments of a laboratory investigation. Both of the theories have a profound impact on society, especially in early childhood education. However, the integration of the two provides better answers to psychologists and educators on the best way to teach young children. 

Early Childhood, Adolescence and Their Significance 
Early childhood and adolescence are significant stages for individuals, where they grow physically to attain some form of independence. Cognitive development also takes place with language being understood in the early years while abstract thinking occurs at adolescence. Social development and emotional expressions also accompany people in development while security and safety at younger ages leads to a better outlook on the surroundings (Rathus 507). 

Piaget and Erikson contributed a lot in the field of development psychology. Though drawing inspiration from diverse sources in the 20th century, their contributions cannot be ignored despite the time gap. In conclusion, the paper highlighted similarities as well as differences between the two stages. Stages were the main focal points of the theories with each preceding stage unique from the next. 

Works Cited 
Rathus, Spencer. Childhood and Adolescence: Voyages in Development. New York: Centage learning, 2010. Print 

Smart, Julie. Disability across the Development Life Span. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2011. Print Snowman, Jack et al. Psychology Applied to Teaching. New York: Centage learning. 2011. Print


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