Child Developmental Theorists


Over many years, development theories have been made about the development of children and the stages they move through in order to grow and mature. There are five stages of childhood development; cognitive, physical, social & emotional and moral & spiritual. In this report, there will be a focus on three types of development theories. The three development theories that will be researched in this report are Jean Piaget (1896-1980), Erik Erikson (1902-1994) and Abraham Maslow (1908-1970).

Developmental Theory One- Jean Piaget

4.1Jean Piaget was born on the 9th August 1896 in Neuchatel which is in the Francophone region of Switzerland. As a young boy he was always interested in biology and the natural world. He attended the University of Neuchatel and also briefly attended the University of Zurich. He didn’t study biology however. His interests changed as he became older and he graduated from university with two published papers on his thinking at that time. After he graduated he moved from Switzerland to Paris, France where he taught at a boy’s school.

Get quality help now
Marrie pro writer
Verified writer

Proficient in: Child development

5 (204)

“ She followed all my directions. It was really easy to contact her and respond very fast as well. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

It was here at this school, where he was helping to mark the Binet intelligence test, that he noticed that the younger children were consistently answering the same questions wrong, which the older children were getting right. From these results he produced the theory that young children’s cognitive processes are naturally different to adults thinking.

In 1923, Piaget married and had three children, which he studied through infancy. Through the next couple of decades he became Directors and chiefs of a couple of different organizations and universities.

Get to Know The Price Estimate For Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Write my paper

You won’t be charged yet!

Piaget sadly passed away on the 16th September 1980.

4.2Piaget’s theories are focused around two areas, which are language and cognitive. His theory was split into four parts which were the sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage and the formal operational stage. These will be expanded on later on in the report.

4.3Some significant ideas in Piaget’s cognitive theory include the following: cognitive development is mainly a result of the child’s active and independent interaction and exploration of their environment, that the role of the adult is as a provider and facilitator for the child, that children have differently distinct thinking processes from, that new knowledge is compounded on from previous knowledge and lastly that intellectual functioning is a very important factor in determining the behaviour of the child.

4.4In Piaget’s theory, it is split into four parts which are the sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage and the formal operation stage. The sensorimotor stage for a child is between the ages of birth to approximately two years of age. For children in this stage, they have minimal competence in representing their environment using a different range of images, language and/or symbols. Infants also have no awareness of objects or people. Piaget called this a lack of “object permanence”. When people develop object permanence it means that they can understand that people and objects continue to exist even when they aren’t in that present environment.

The preoperational stage is from the ages of approximately two to seven years. These years can differ or change for any stage depending on the developmental of the child. This stage focuses around the language area of development. In this stage, children develop an internal representation of the world which helps them describe events, people and feelings which may be their own and/or others. During this stage they also use symbols as a way of playing and explaining themselves. Although the child’s thinking has developed from the sensorimotor stage it is still extremely lower than the thinking of adults. Children in this stage are very egocentric. This means that the child only thinks from their perspective and has no concept of thinking for others.

In the concrete operational, children have some difficulty with abstract thought and often think in very “concrete” terms- hence the name. Their thinking is very black and white and they are attentive to the values of
fairness and rules. The concrete operational stage is focused around children from the ages for seven to twelve years old. In this stage, children also have a better understanding of time and space, but still have limits to their thinking. They also tend to think in a more logical manner and begin to overcome the egocentric manner and characteristics of the previous stage.

In the last stage, the formal operational stage, it usually focuses around children aged twelve years old and continues into adulthood. In this stage they finally begin to develop the ability to think formally, logically and abstractly. At this stage they can think hypothetically and problem solve using their logic.

Developmental Theory Two- Erik Erikson

5.1.Erik Erikson was born in Frankfurt, on the 15th May, 1902 to Danish parents and died on the 12th May 1994 in America. Erikson was the result of an extramarital affair by his mother. The circumstances surrounding his birth were concealed throughout his entire childhood. Erikson had a major issue with identity which is shown through his theories and through his life.

5.2.Erikson’s theory is based around psychosocial development. His theory was organized into eight stages which extended from birth to death. These stages are hope, will, purpose, competence, fidelity, love and care. These eight stages are expanded and explained later on in the report.

5.3.Erikson’s theory was based around the psychosocial beliefs that: a.People tend to have the same basic needs
b.Personality develops and changes in response to the basic needs c.Development occurs in stages that reflect physical life span changes d.That in each stage of development, the individual us confronted by a “crisis” or developmental task which is critical to that particular stage of development e.Lastly, that the motivation of each person to meet these challenges will vary from stage to stage as their needs vary.

5.4.Stage One in the theory of Erikson is Hope: Trust vs. Mistrust and is from birth to one years of age. The psychosocial crisis is trust v. mistrust and the virtue is hope. This stage focuses around if the infant’s needs are being met by the parents as infants depend entirely on their parents, especially their mother who provides food, sustenance and comfort. What the parent provides their child is what the child will learn to accept. For example, if the parents expose the child to warmth, a sense of regularity and dependable affection then the infant will view the world with trust. If the parents fail to provide these things and instead provide an insecure, cold, abusive and unloving environment then mistrust of the world will be developed.

The second stage is Will: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt which is from the ages of two to four years of age. This stage is focused around the question of “can I do things by myself or must I always rely on others?” As the child begins to gain motor skills and enough knowledge, they begin to explore their surroundings. In this stage caregivers are encouraged to support self sufficient behaviour which enables the child to become capable of fulfilling their own needs such as dressing and feeding themselves.

Stage three is Purpose: initiative vs. guilt and focused around the ages of four to six years of age. The main question in this stage is “Am I good or bad?” In this stage, children learn how to control and understand the world around them.

The fourth stage is from age seven to twelve. This stage is called Competence: Industry vs. Inferiority. The main question asked in this stage is “How can I be good?” Through social interactions, children begin to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments and abilities. They also find it easier to share and co-operate with others. When the children are encouraged by parents, teachers and peers they begin to believe in their skills. Those children who receive little encouragement from anyone will doubt their own abilities and doubt their ability to becoming more successful.

Stage five is Fidelity: Identity vs. Role confusion and is from the ages of 13 to 19 years of age. The main question asked in this stage is “Who am I and where am I going?” In this stage the adolescents are developing and exploring their independence and sense of self. Like the other stages, those who receive encouragement will emerge from this stage with a strong sense of self and a feeling of not only independence but control of themselves and sometimes others as well.

The sixth stage is Love: Intimacy and Isolation. This stage includes the ages from 20 to 40 years old. The main question in this stage is “Am I loved and wanted?” and “Shall I share my life with someone or live alone?” During this stage there is the exploration of personal relationships. Erikson believed that people developed a close and committed relationship with other people. Those who are successful will then develop relationships which become safe, committed and secure and are able to incorporate a level of intimacy. If they are unable to develop these relationships they may develop a sense of isolation.

The seventh and second last stage of Erikson’s theory is Care: Generativity vs. Stagnation and is from the ages of 45 to 64 years of age. “Will I produce something of real value?” is the main question asked in this stage. During this stage, they have already developed and build on their lives, with a main focus on family and career. Those who are unsuccessful during this stage and fail to obtain this skill may feel unproductive and uninvolved in their world.

The last and eighth stage is Wisdom: Ego Integrity vs. Despair which is from the age of 65 onwards. The main question is “Have I lived a full life?” This phase is mainly focused on looking back over life and assessing their achievements. Those who are unable to complete this stage will experience a large amount of regrets and despair; however those who are successful look back on their life with few regrets and a feeling of satisfaction.

Developmental Theory Three- Abraham Maslow

6.1Abraham Harold Maslow was born on the April 1st 1908, in Brooklyn, New York. Maslow had six siblings and was the eldest child. Maslow recalls his childhood as rather lonely and unhappy. This was because his parents were un-educated Jews, and he was brought up in a non Jewish neighbourhood. This resulted in Maslow spending most of his time in libraries and with books. Maslow wanted to pursue law, but ended up graduating at the University of Wisconsin with a psychology degree. While studying at the University, he married his first cousin Bertha in December 1928. While at numerous other universities, including Columbia and Brooklyn he researched and found mentors which he began to take notes on, resulting in the basis of his research. Maslow sadly died on June 8th 1970 of a heart attack while being a resident fellow of the Laughlin Institute in California.

6.2Maslow’s theory has a couple of areas of development it focuses on. Due to the number of levels, there are a large number of areas which are developed such as emotional development, cognitive development and social development. Using these areas of development, Maslow developed his Hierarchy of Needs, which was a layer of needs. Each layer has to be completed before you are able to move up to the next level. Some people never manage to reach the top layer, but some people manage to reach that level very early on in adulthood.

6.3The principle idea of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is self actualization. In the Hierarchy of Needs, above air, water, food and sex he laid out five broader layers of basic needs. Above these basic needs, higher levels of needs exist. These five broader layers of basic needs, which can be classified as other principle ideas are physiological needs, the need for safety and security, need for love and belonging, need for esteem and the need to self actualize.

6.4In this report, the focus will be on an interpretation of the Hierarchy of Needs which is shown in the diagram below and only shows the basic needs. These basic needs are human instinct. These basic needs are expanded:

a)Physiological Needs: This need is a biological need. This layer consists of the need for oxygen, food, shelter, water, health, sex and a constant body temperature. These are in the first layer because if a person was deprived of these needs, they would not be able to survive and would come first in a person’s search for satisfaction.

b)The second tier in the Hierarchy of Needs is Safety. This layer consists of the need for security of body, employment, resources, morality, family, health and property. This layer can only be achieved when the first layer has been achieved to its full extent. This goes for every tier/layer in the Hierarchy of Needs.

c)The third tier in the Hierarchy of Needs is Love and Belonging, which focuses on building friendships, family and sexual intimacy. Once the second layer has been completed, the need for friends, family and sexual intimacy and affectionate relationships in general becomes larger. This stage also means giving and receiving love, affection and the sense of belonging. If this level doesn’t get reached, the person can often be susceptible to loneliness and experience social anxieties.

d)Esteem is the second last tier in Maslow’s theory which focuses on self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others and respect by others. Maslow split this level into two types of esteem- high and low. The lower type of esteem is the need for the respect of others and the need for status, fame, glory, attention, reputation, dignity and in some cases dominance. The higher form of esteem is the need for self respect and the need for feelings such as confidence, achievement, independence and freedom. Once self respect has been accomplished, it is a lot harder to lose than the lower form of esteem. If this level isn’t reached, a person can feel inferior, weak, helpless and worthless.

e)The last tier in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is self actualization which is one of the principal ideas of the theory. This last layer has the needs of morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice and the acceptance of facts. Maslow describes this level as a person’s need to
be and do what that person “was born to do. All these stages can be seen in this diagram below.


Through Jean Piaget’s, Erik Erikson and Abraham Maslow’s theories we can see how each man has developed how they think children develop whether it be through language, cognitive, emotionally, socially or a mixture of all or some. Each theory gives an in depth explanation on how they think children and in some cases, adolescents develop. Some people only believe one theory but there are also others who believe in many different theories on the development of children. Whatever theory/theories people believe is not right or wrong as there are many different views on the subject.

Cite this page

Child Developmental Theorists. (2016, Mar 27). Retrieved from

Child Developmental Theorists

👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!

Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.

get help with your assignment