Child Developmental Theories
PSY 104 Child and Adolescent Psychology
June 29, 2009
Child Developmental Theories
While theorists have different ideas and perspectives, insight on child and adolescent development can assist teachers and parents in helping children reach their full developmental and learning potential. Having knowledge about the development of a child and adolescent provides clues in understanding behavior and what is "normal," or typical, in growth and development in the early months and years of life.
Three developmental theories are broken down to understand the concepts, points of similarity and difference, and the interaction of cognitive, physical, and emotional development of a child. The three theorist perspectives analyzed in this essay include Erikson, Kohlberg, and Piaget.
Erikson’s Psychosocial Stage Theory
Erikson’s theory is from a psychoanalytic perspective, which believes that development forms by uncontrollable forces that drive human behavior. He expands on Freud’s theory of psychosexual stages, but Erikson focuses on social changes instead of sexual (Heffner, 2004). Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development breaks down in eight stages throughout the human lifespan, and believes “personality is influenced by society and develops though a series of crisis” (Papalia, D. & Olds, S. & Feldman, R., 2006). Each of Erikson’s stages are described as a crisis in personality requiring a positive and negative trait. When the outcome of each stage (or crisis) is successful, a virtue (or strength) develops. The eight stages include:
Basic trust vs. mistrust (birth to 12-18 months); baby develops sense of whether the world is a good and safe; the virtue is hope
Autonomy vs. shame (12-18 months- 3 years); child develops balance of independence and self-efficiency over shame and doubt with virtue of will
Initiative vs. guilt (3-6 years), child develops initiative without guilt with the virtue being purpose
Industry vs. inferiority (6 years to puberty),child must learn skills of culture or face feelings of incompetence; the virtue is skill
Identity vs. identity confusion (puberty to adulthood), adolescent must determine sense of self, or confusion about roles may be experienced; the virtue is fidelity
Intimacy vs. isolation (young adulthood), person seeks to make commitments to others and when unsuccessful, isolation and self-absorption may result; the virtue is love
Generativity vs. stagnation (middle adulthood), adults are concerned guiding the next generation or feels personal impoverishment; the virtue is care
Integrity vs. despair (late adulthood), acceptance of own life and death, or despairs over inability to relive life; the virtue is wisdom
(Papalia, et al., 2006, table2-2)
Kohlberg’s Moral Understanding Stage Theory
Kohlberg builds off of Piaget’s moral reasoning theory, but Piaget’s viewed the concepts of development of children as fairness through interaction of peers; whereas, Kohlberg thought “all social relationships offer opportunities for social role-taking—taking the perspective of others—and thus stimulate moral development” (Papalia, et al., 2006). Kohlberg’s focus was a child’s development of right, wrong, and justice; he argues that child developments progress consecutively, and are based on spirituality and God through stages of “thought processing, implying qualitatively different modes of thinking and of problem solving” (Cory, 2006). Kohlberg explains moral reasoning in three levels and divides each into two stages. The first level, from ages 4 to 10, Kohlberg calls preconventional morality. Stage one of reasoning in preconventional morality level is a child’s orientation toward punishment and...
References: Cory, R. (2006, August 13). Kohlberg 's Stages of Moral Development. Retrieved June 29, 2009,
From Aggelia Internet Publishing: http://www.aggelia.com/htdocs/kohlberg.shtml
Heffner, C. L. (2004, March 21). Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development. Retrieved
June 29, 2009,from All Psych Online: The Virtual Psychology Classroom:
Papalia, D. & Olds, S. & Feldman, R. (2006). A Child 's World: Infancy Through Adolescense .
NY, NY: McGraw-Hill.
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