According to Jean Piaget’s theory of Cognitive Development children’s cognitive development formal operations is established at the cognitive development stage of about age 12 to 15 years. This is reflected in the child’s ability to reason adolescence hypothetically and independently on concrete states of affairs, with the structures represented by the logical combination systems. The rates at which children will progress through the development succession developed by Piaget may vary from one culture to the other; in addition, different children vary in terms of the areas of functioning to which they do apply their formal operation, in line with their aptitudes and professional specialization.
Therefore, this paper aims at making most of Jean Piaget’s theory of ego-centrism of childhood and adolescent to help figure out the reflection of de-egocentricity which is the essence of child and adolescent development concerned in the film The Outsiders through the character Ponyboy Curtis a 14 year old in the film. The film showcases a clash between two gangs, the greasers and Socs, whereby young adults comprise the gang members as well as their major protagonists.
Introducing the Theory of ego-centrism of childhood and adolescence
Jean Piaget a Swiss scholar started studying intellectual development in the 1920s, with the theory of ego-centrism of childhood and adolescence being of great importance to Piaget, and especially so in genetic epistemology. According to Piaget, egocentrism is the most striking deficiency that contributes to other intellectual shortcomings. In his definition, Piaget looks at ego-centrism as the tendency to view the world from one’s own perspective and having a difficultly recognizing the other party’s point of view.
This condition is mainly caused by the fact that the child will only talk about themselves failing to put he or herself in the others point of view. This is the case in the first two stages of Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Theory. The four stages in the theory are the first between birth to 2 years which is the sensor-motor stage, 2 to 7 years the preoperational stage, concrete operational stage between 7 to 11 years, and the final stage consists of formal operations from 11 years and above.
Adolescents are observed to be less egocentric than the younger children, this is attributed to the fact that as they grow they become aware of the existence of others existence. Thus, it is believed adolescents gradually abandon egocentrism of children in many aspects. However, it is important to note that when these abilities first develop, adolescents may have a problem distinguishing their thinking from that of the thoughts of others. Therefore, an adolescent may regards others point of view with their own way of think; hence one will tend to think of how others will think of him or herself (Shi, 2014).
On the other hand, de-egocentrism is based on Jean Piaget’s theory of ego-centrism of childhood and adolescence. The influence of ego-centrism tends to diminish with the coming of age, that is, adolescents tend to dispose of their ego-centrism along with the coming of age. Thus, the others can look at the process of de-egocentrism as the essence of children and adolescents abandoning their ego-centrism when communicating with each other, trying to appreciate the others point of view and trying to make they be understood (Shi, 2014).
De-egocentrism in the film
The plot runs by Ponyboy Curtis a young adolescent and a member of the lower-class gang greasers. The Ponyboy lives with his two elder brothers Darrel and Soda. Well Ponyboy seem to prefer Soda to Darrel since the elder Darrel tends to treat him as if he was 6 instead of 14 years. When the Socs gang attacks Ponyboy on his way home, Darrel blames him for not carrying a blade with him. From his point of view, Ponyboy feels Darrel is only blaming him since he is views him as another mouth to find and somebody to shout at. At this point Ponyboy does not understand why Darrel shouts at him, causing a misunderstanding between the brothers portraying Ponyboy’s egocentrism. He regards Darrel with his own way of thinking, failing to understand him from Darrel point of view. Darrel sacrifices everything to see to it that Ponyboy is successful in life, and believes Ponyboy will never fail to live up to his expectations, however, all these is beyond Ponyboy’s understanding (Ford, 1983).
According Shi (2014), Ponyboy’s egocentrism seem to be cast off when the brothers are reunited in the hospital. Ponyboy sees Darrel crying with tears rolling downs his chicks, and he realizes all over sadden that Darrel does care about him as he is trying too hard to make something of his younger brother Ponyboy. It is at this point that Ponyboy accomplishes the task of de-egocentricity through the realization of the importance of understanding others. During this transformation, Ponyboy undergoes a great deal of frustration, by which he realizes the significance of understanding others. With the casting off of his bias against his brother, he manages to distinguish his thinking on his own thoughts, from the thinking about the thoughts of his brother in the process comprehending his brother’s viewpoint.
Ponyboy’s egocentrism gives rise to the breakdown of Soda his second brother in the film. Ponyboy might have loved Soda more than anybody else in their family; however, he failed to understand him. When Soda finally breaks, Ponyboy tries to understand Soda’s distress of breaking up with his girlfriend and his dilemma towards his conflicts between Darrel and him. It is from this point that Ponyboy starts attaching great importance to others instead of only himself, in the process giving up his ego-centrism, which his process of de-egocentricity. The brothers get to mature in understanding with the three of them understanding and realizing they ought to stick to together against all odds. Thus, the process of de-egocentricity helps them realize the importance of brotherly affection.
Ponyboy and Cherry Valance a cheerleader at the school and the Soc’s leader’s girlfriend enjoy a friendly chart and share some interesting time with Ponyboy. They are both interested in watching the sunsets though from different places. Cherry is from the upper class while Ponyboy is from the lower class, and despite this difference, they can enjoy the same sunset showcasing a level of de-egocentricity. However, Cherry will not accept Ponyboy as friend in public and evens warns him against it, displaying her ego-centrism. Later own Cherry’s de-egocentrism makes her stand in defense of the greasers when they are attacked by the Socs (Shi, 2014).
Under human growth and development, socialization is a very important aspect. This is a process by which acquire behaviors and beliefs of the culture they live in, and this process is known to bring about three outcomes, which are self regulation allowing one to have self-control. The second outcome is role preparation allowing preparation of occupational and gender roles, and thirdly, is the cultivation of sources of meanings providing consolation and guidance. In the film The Outsiders, Ponyboy undergoes a complete transformation from hoodlums into a promising adolescent who peruses glorious victory through valiant deeds. Thus, socialization means adolescents trying to comply with set social norms which act a turning point in the development of adolescents.
Jean Piaget is among the psychologists who believe that peers may contribute as much as an adult or even more to the development of a child or an adolescent (Piaget, 2008). For instance, Johnny is an adolescent as young as Ponyboy, who is seen to be gloomy after being beaten up badly by the Socs. Having been deprived of family affection he seen as the gang’s pet and everyone’s kid brother. Lacking a positive self-identity he is forced to seek self-esteem by identifying with the group ‘the greasers’. Ponyboy and Jonny develop great friendship and they get along well together. When Ponyboy has conflicted with his brothers he runs off to find consolation in Johnny (Shi, 2014).
De-egocentricity is characterized by the understanding of others among adolescents individuals, which is a reflection of adolescents’ internal coming of age is the processes undergone by Ponyboy. On the other hand, socialization signifies the consciousness of social norms to behave in a way that is acceptable to the society, which is an observable external behavior of coming of age. Therefore, through a psychoanalytical study The Outsiders reveals a crucial process of young adults’ de-egocentricity and socialization so as their own values and fulfils the task of coming to age as Jean Piaget puts it in his Theory of Cognitive Development.
Ford, F., Hinton, S. E., Dillon, M., Macchio, R., Swayze, P., Lowe, R., … & Waldspurger, R. The Outsiders (film). Piaget, J. (2008). Intellectual evolution from adolescence to adulthood. Human Development, 51(1), 40-47. Shi, D. (2014). De-egocentricity and Socialization: A Study of Hinton’s The Outsiders. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 4(4), 668-674.