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Development theories undoubtedly play an imperative role in enhancing the understanding of human development and consequent guidance of children's and adolescents' development. A number of development studies have been put forth by various psychologists in an attempt to describe how human beings develop physically, emotionally and psychologically. This paper will base its focus on Piaget's cognitive theory, Freud's psychosexual development theory and Erikson's psychosocial development theory. It will seek to compare and contrast the three theories with an objective of identifying the similarities and differences that exist between them. A major objective in this discussion will be the establishment of the interactions between cognitive, emotional and physical development as witnessed in the overall child development. Further, this paper will address the importance of understanding the development of a normal child and that of an adolescent; which is highly regarded in assisting children to reach their potential.
Key concepts in theories
Piaget's cognitive development theory
Jean Piaget developed four stages of development that can be used to effectively understand the development of mind processes and the acquisition of knowledge in children (Siegler & Ellis, 1996). Through the four stages, the theory explains how human beings' cognitive abilities develop from birth into the adulthood. In the sensorimotor stage for example, children understand the about themselves and the reality through coordination of sensory experiences such as hearing and seeing (De Lisi, 2002). Through interactions with the environment, they are able to differentiate themselves from objects. As children develop, they increasingly improve their cognitive abilities until they are able effectively relate their surroundings to acquired knowledge.
This theory seeks to establish the major developmental aspects in human intelligence development (Shaffer & Kipp, 2009). The theory describes how children develop from a point where their intelligence is barely visible to a point where they are able to think logically and they can easily draw conclusions if presented with particular information. This is witnessed at the formal operations stage, which is the final stage where individuals are capable of hypothetical reasoning and where social matters become of more importance. Individuals also develop personal uniqueness in the way they address various issues.
Piaget's theory maintains that cognitive development is a core factor in human development and that language development is highly dependent on cognitive development (Shaffer & Kipp, 2009; Flavell, 1996). In each stage, children acquire new skills and cognitive abilities which they must understand before they can proceed to the next level. The experiences which are often associated with the environment denote schemes of actions that highly contribute to intelligence and language development.
Freud's psychosexual theory
Freud puts forth that human beings are born as pleasure seekers and that this kind of pleasure is sought from a variety of erogenous zones (Shaffer & Kipp, 2009). These erogenous zones change as an individual develops from a toddler to an adult and different ways of seeking this pleasure is derived. In children between birth and one year for example, children derive pleasure from suckling and putting things in their mouth. Fixation at this stage could lead to excessive oral stimulation habits including eating, smoking and drinking during adulthood. At puberty, individuals experience a different level of development and sexual pleasure is likely to be sought.
Freud uses the term libido to describe sexual and psychic energy. According to Freud, the level of libido expressed depends on the stage of development and this may be expressed in different ways. The libido should not exceed a certain level in each development stage as this would mean that there would be less for the rest of the stages (Miller, 2009). Libido in children up to the age of two who are in the oral stage for example is portrayed through the mouth. This then proceeds to the anal libido. Later, in the genital stage, a different level of development is witnessed as libido begins to be prepared for its sexual role.
The theory classifies human development into five stages which every individual is expected to pass through. The theory maintains that each person must pass through the various stages, failure to which fixation and reaction formation may occur (Miller, 2009). Fixation refers to a situation in which an individual tends to have lingering desires towards pleasures that are experienced at a certain stage. Reaction formation on the other hand may cause an individual to seek lingering desire from a certain source or act in an opposite way.
Erikson's psychosocial theory
Erikson's theory seeks to explain development in relations to the social aspect. In essence, individuals are viewed as social beings that develop behavior in accordance to their environment. The theory consists of eight stages; which must be experienced by every individual in order to enhance normal development (Hamachek, 2009). A major concept in this theory is the existence of conflicts at each stage of development. According to Erikson, a conflict occurs at each stage, serving as a turning point to development. Such conflicts may either lead to development or failure in development of the desired quality. Chances for personal growth at this juncture are high and so is the failure potential.
The main concept in this theory is ego identity development. According to Erikson, individuals have a conscious sense about themselves that is developed through social interaction (Manen, 1997). With continued experience and the acquisition of new experiences, people's ego identity keeps changing. This is represented in the eight stages that make up the Erikson theory.
Erikson's theory emphasizes the sense of competence which is believed to influence actions and behaviors. Accordingly, each stage in Erikson's theory is characterized by an urge to become competent in a particular area in life (Schunk, 2000). In the event that a stage is well handled, an individual develops a certain feeling of mastery which is normally referred to as ego quality or ego strength. Inadequacy may however result if the individual does not go through the stage successfully.
Comparing and contrasting the developmental theories
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The above discussion clearly portrays that the three developmental theories explain human development in different ways. Similarities however exist as this discussion will illustrate. To begin with, all the three developmental theories tend to explain individual development in the form of stages; which a normal person must go through in order to enhance effective development. All the development theories aim at explaining development from infancy up to a certain time during maturity. Each of these theories begins from zero years and proceeds to different levels of maturity.
Each theory insinuates that failure to go through each of these stages could result in catastrophic effects on an individual. In Piaget's theory for example, a child may have difficulties in developing problem solving abilities is he or she did not effectively manage to acquire knowledge during the sensorimotor and preoperational stage since this is where the basis for knowledge is built. According to Freud's and Erikson's theory, behaviors that are expected in certain stages are likely to recur in future.
There is a great resemblance between Freud's psychosexual theory and Erikson's psychosocial theory. This can be explained by the fact that Erikson's theory is an improvement of Freud's theory which sought to explain development after puberty. Accordingly, a similarity is expected. Erikson's theory however contains 8 stages while Freud's theory contains 5 stages. Erikson's theory further explains development after puberty to old age.
There are significant differences among the three theories in that each is composed of different aspects and explains human development in its own unique manner. Piaget's theory attempts to explain development through defining how cognitive abilities develop from one stage to the other. In each stage, a different level of knowledge is acquired and this plays a significant role in developing cognitive abilities. Freud focuses on sexual aspects to explain human development. According to Freud, an individual experiences different sources of sexual stimulation or libido and each person must go through all the stages in order to develop normally. Failure to pass through one stage leads to fixation and behavior related to a certain age may be exhibited later in life. Finally, Erikson's theory bases its arguments on the social aspects as drivers to development.
There is a difference in the number of stages identified in each theory. In Piaget's theory there are 4 stages, 5 stages in Freud's theory and 8 stages in Erikson's theory. Each theory describes different occurrence at the various stages that is quite unique from the other.
Piaget's theory and Erikson's theory describe development up to the adult level while Piaget's theory describes development up to the puberty level. This insinuates that these theories recognize the importance of development even in later stages of life and not up to puberty alone as identified in Freud's theory.
Interaction between cognitive, physical, and emotional development
A child's development occurs through a combination of cognitive, physical and emotional capabilities such that there is a strong interrelation among all these aspects. While each of these aspects has unique traits, they all depend on each other in order to influence coordinated behavior in human beings (Schunk, 2000). The development of human intelligence is highly influenced by physical growth. This is because the brain must develop physically in order to enhance accommodation of various cognitive factors. Accordingly, brain development is consistent with cognitive abilities and this depends on age.
Cognitive development definitely affects physical because physical development is enabled by an individual's brain and motor skills to control the physical skills (Miller, 2009). It means that physical activities are dependent on coordination from the brain. Similarly, the utilization of cognitive knowledge must be accompanied by the use of physical features in order to make it comprehensive. For example, children must learn to write, a process that is only possible if the child can effectively coordinate his or her hands as a result of physical development that leads to firmer muscles, which enable the child to have a firm grip on a pen.
Cognitive development is directly related to emotional development because an individual's reasoning ability affects their ability to understand their emotions and feelings (Miller, 2009; Kolak, 1993). It is through cognitive development that a person can understand various reactions that occur when they are happy, sad, angry or excited. Individuals rely on this knowledge to understand why they react in various ways and how to suppress undesirable feelings that may lead them to take unprecedented actions.
Emotional development is also interrelated to physical development. As a person grows for example, their way of thinking changes and this may be reflected through emotional outbursts. Different stages in life help lead to further emotional growth as individuals understand the physical developments that they are experiencing. During puberty for example, physical development highly affects emotional development because individuals are likely to face various physical changes thus impacting on their emotional balance (Shaffer & Kipp, 2009). As they grow older, they gradually accept these changes as part of development such that emotional development is said to have occurred.
Why understanding of normal child and adolescent development is important in assisting children to reach their potential
Understanding child development is highly essential in the development of health and resilience children. This is because it ensures that parents and teachers can guide children through the various stages of development. By understanding these stages, parents and teachers ensure that children and adolescents develop various skills through providing them with activities and learning atmospheres that aid children in acquiring the required skills (Miller, 2009). For example, parents can easily identify the stage at which they should train their children on how to use the toilet by understanding Freud's theory of psychosexual theory. Teachers can also learn which material can aid children and adolescents in developing cognitive abilities (Manen, 1997). For example, a teacher should be able to identify the stage at which mathematical equations can be used to guide children's problem solving abilities through understanding Piaget's cognitive theory.
Understanding children's and adolescent's development helps parents and teachers to track the children's development through creating reasonable expectations for their children. This insinuates that situations where parents and teachers expect too much from children and adolescents are avoided. For example, a parent who shames a child because of their inability to do what is beyond their comprehension may end up frustrating the child and he or she develop a permanent sense of incompetence or inferiority (Miller, 2009). Some parents tend to treat their children like miniature adults such that they are punished for behaviors that could be considered normal in their current level of development. By understanding the children's and adolescents' development, parents would learn what to expect at various stages of development and hence work towards guiding their children accordingly.
Proper understanding of child and adolescent development is helpful to parents as they can easily identify when a child lags behind his or her peers (Siegler & Ellis, 1996). This may be done through comparing the children's and adolescents' behaviors with those of their age mates in order to determine whether they are growing in the intended manner. Observations of children as they pass various stages of life can raise alarm on abnormal development and thus seek pediatrician intervention before it is too late. According to Gallagher (2004) understanding children's development can help parents and teachers in identifying psychological ailments such as autism, such that corrective actions can be taken to avoid undesirable effects. Poor development among adolescents can also be rectified through guidance and counseling.
Understanding children's development helps parents and teachers to guide children into understanding other children's limits. It is notable that children tend to expect their counterparts to have the same knowledge they possess such that children in lower development stages are likely to be looked upon (Schunk, 2000). Parents and teachers can guide children through the stages so as to ensure that children understand that other children are in different levels of trajectory growth. This way, children in higher levels would learn to accept others and show compassion based on the knowledge that others may not necessarily know what has not been taught to them. The younger children would therefore be in a position to learn effectively without being innately rushed by their older counterparts.
This discussion undoubtedly establishes that there is need to effectively understand the various development theories in order to understand a child and adolescent development. Furthermore, there is a significant interrelation between the cognitive, physical and emotional development such that these must be well balanced to ensure effective development of an individual. The discussion establishes that there exist similarities in the three theories in that each of them attempts to explain how human beings move from one stage to another during development. While each covers different aspects of development, it is notable that these are important features in the development of children and adults which parents and teachers should understand in order to guide children through the development. As indicated in the discussion, a great importance is placed on understanding the development of children and adolescents as this ensures that parents and teachers can monitor development and also avoid rushing children through development. Indeed, development theories undoubtedly play an imperative role in enhancing the understanding of human development and consequent guidance of children's and adolescents' development.
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