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Child and Adolescent Development

Submitted by:
Manuel Andrew Josh C. Lo
Submitted to
Mr. Erwin S. Campuso
Who was Sigmund Freud?
“My Life is interesting only if it is related to psychoanalysis” Freud 1884
Sigmund Freud (born Sigismund Freud) was an Austrian neurologist born on the
6th May 1856 in a small town named Freiberg, Moravia (now the Czech Republic).
Although born to a relatively poor Jewish family, Freud originally planned to study
law at the University of Vienna but later changed his mind and opted for
medicine. Upon graduating, Freud began work in a psychiatry clinic in the Vienna
General Hospital. Psychiatry at this time however took no interest in the
psychological components of mental health, but simply viewed behaviour in light
of the anatomical structures of the brain.
After spending four months abroad on placement in the Salpetriere clinic in Paris,
Freud began to harbour an interest in “hysteria” and particularly the hypnosis
methods of its leading neurologist, Jean Martin Charcot. Upon his return to
Vienna, Freud left the Vienna General Hospital and set up a private practice
specialising in “nervous and brain disorders”. There, along with his colleague
Joseph Breuer, Freud began exploring the traumatic life histories of clients with
hysteria, leading to the view that talking was a “cathartic” way of releasing “pent
up emotion”. Consequently, along with Breuer, Freud published “Studies on
Hysteria” (1895) and began to develop the first ideas towards psychoanalysis.
It was about this time also that Freud began his own self-analysis in which he
meticulously analysed his dreams in light of unconscious processes culminating in
his next major work “The Interpretation of Dreams” (1901).Freud had by now also
developed his therapeutic technique of free association and was no longer
practicing hypnosis. From this he went on to explore the influence of unconscious
thought processes on various aspects of human behaviour and felt that amongst
these forces the most powerful were the sexual desires in childhood which were
repressed from the conscious mind. Although the medical establishment as whole
disagreed with many of his theories, in 1910 Freud along with a group of pupils
and followers founded the International Psychoanalytic Association, with Carl
Jung as president.
In 1923 Freud published “The Ego and the Id” revising the structural make-up of
the mind, and continued to work feverishly during this period developing his ideas.
By 1938 and the arrival of the Nazis in Austria, Freud left for London with his wife
and children. Throughout this time he was plagued by cancer of the jaw and after
undergoing 30 operations, he died in London on 23rd September 1939.

Freud’s Main Theories

Psychosexual Development & The Oedipus Complex
One of Freud’s more famous theories was that of psychosexual development.
Fundamentally, Freud postulated that as children we move through a series of
stages centred on erogenous zones. Successful completion of these stages, Freud
argued, led to the development of a healthy personality, but fixation at any stage
prevents completion and therefore the development of an unhealthy, fixated
personality as an adult. Although elements of this theory are still used in modern
day psychodynamic/psychoanalytical therapy, over time the therapy has been
replaced by more modern theory.

1. Oral Stage (Birth to 18 Months): Child becomes focused on oral pleasures such
as sucking. Difficulties at this stage could lead to an oral personality in
adulthood centred around smoking, drinking alcohol, biting nails and they
can be pessimistic, gullible and overly dependent on others.
2. Anal Stage (18 months to 3 Years): Focus of pleasure here is on eliminating
and retaining faeces and learning to control this due to societal norms.
Fixation here can lead to perfectionism, a need to control or alternatively the
opposite; messy and disorganised.
3. Phallic Stage (Ages 3 to 6 Years): During the phallic stage the child’s pleasure
move to the genitals and Freud argued that during this stage boys develop
an unconscious sexual desire for their mothers and fear that because of this
their fathers will punish them by castration. This became known as the
Oedipus Complex after the Sophocles tragedy. A fixation at the stage could
lead to confusion over sexual identity or engaging in sexual deviances.
4. Latency Stage (Ages 6 to puberty): Sexual urges remain largely repressed at
this stage.
5. Genital Stage (Puberty Onwards): This final stage leads to the individual
switching their interest to members of the opposite sex.

Id, Ego, Superego & Defences

In his later work, Freud proposed that the human psyche could be divided into
three parts: Id, Ego and Superego. Freud discussed this model in the 1920
essay “Beyond the Pleasure Principle”, and elaborated upon it in the “The Ego
and the Id” (1923).

The Id: According to Freud the id is the completely unconscious, impulsive and
demanding part of the psyche that as a child allows us to get our basic needs
met. This part of the psyche operates on what Freud termed the pleasure principle
and it’s all about getting our every need and wish met with no consideration of
the reality. The id seeks immediate gratification.
The Ego: The ego is based on the reality principle. It understands that the Id can’t
always have what it wants because sometimes that can cause problems for us in
the future. As such the Ego is the gatekeeper to the id, allowing it sometimes to
have what it wants but always making sure that the reality of the situation is taken
into account.
The Super-Ego: By the time we reach age 5, Freud argued that we had
developed another part of the psyche called the Super-Ego. This is the moral part
of the psyche and regardless of the situation always believes we should do the
moral thing. Some conceptualise this part as our conscience.
As such, it is the role of Ego to strike a balance between the demanding id, versus
the self- critical super ego. Freud stated that in healthy individuals the ego is doing
a good job in balancing out the needs of these two parts of the psyche, however
in those where one of the other parts is dominant the individual struggles and
problems develop in the personality. The balancing act between these two
aspects of the psyche can sometimes be difficult for the Ego and so it employs a
variety of different tools to help mediate known as Defence Mechanisms. Some
examples of defence mechanisms are:

 Displacement: “i.e. arguing with your partner after an argument with a friend”
 Projection: “ i.e. Stating that the other person is stupid when you’re losing the
 Sublimation: “i.e. Becoming a boxer so that you can hit others in a more
socially acceptable way”
 Denial: “i.e. Denying that your husband is having an affair and carrying on as
 Repression: “i.e. Forgetting something happened because it is too
emotionally painful”

The Unconscious
The concept of the unconscious was central to Freud’s view of the mind. He
believed that the majority of what we experience day-to-day (the emotions,
beliefs and impulses) takes place in the unconscious and is not viewable to us in
the conscious mind. In particular, he used the concept of repression to
demonstrate that although an individual may not remember something
traumatic happening to them, this memory is locked away in the
unconscious. Yet importantly, these memories remain active in the unconscious
and can reappear in consciousness under certain circumstances and can cause
problems for us even in the unconscious.

Our conscious mind, however, according to Freud makes up a very small amount
of our personality – as we are only aware of the small tip of the iceberg of what is
actually going on in our minds. Freud also added a third level to our psyche known
as the preconscious or subconscious mind. This part of the mind is the one that
although we are not consciously aware of what’s in it at all times, we can retrieve
information and memories from it if prompted. This is one of the most important
Freudian contributions and is still very much used in psychotherapy today.

Modern Day Psychoanalysis

Although Freud’s main theories may seem a little strange at first (lots of criticism
has come of them over time), much of Freud’s work remains central to some of
our most fundamental understandings of psychology and of counselling and
psychotherapy. For example, the use of free association, transference and
counter-transference, dream analysis, defence mechanisms and the
unconscious mind are all of immense value to modern day psychodynamic and
psychoanalytical practice.
Freud’s theories radically altered the way that people understood the mind back
in the 1900’s, and his development of the “talking cure” cannot be
underestimated. Freud’s initial investigations and clinical practice are to
psychology and psychiatry, as Newton is to physics. While we have in some
respects rejected some of his theories in light of new evidence it was his ideas
which provided a platform for other psychologists, philosophers, therapists and
doctors to build on an explore.

Piaget's (1936) theory of cognitive development explains how a child constructs a mental model
of the world. He disagreed with the idea that intelligence was a fixed trait, and regarded cognitive
development as a process which occurs due to biological maturation and interaction with the
environment. Piaget was employed at the Binet Institute in the 1920s, where his job was to develop
French versions of questions on English intelligence tests. He became intrigued with the reasons
children gave for their wrong answers to the questions that required logical thinking. He believed
that these incorrect answers revealed important differences between the thinking of adults and
children. Piaget (1936) was the first psychologist to make a systematic study of cognitive
development. His contributions include a stage theory of child cognitive development, detailed
observational studies of cognition in children, and a series of simple but ingenious tests to reveal
different cognitive abilities.

What Piaget wanted to do was not to measure how well children could count, spell or solve
problems as a way of grading their I.Q. What he was more interested in was the way in which
fundamental concepts like the very idea of number, time, quantity, causality, justice and so on
emerged. Before Piaget’s work, the common assumption in psychology was that children are
merely less competent thinkers than adults. Piaget showed that young children think in strikingly
different ways compared to adults. According to Piaget, children are born with a very basic
mental structure (genetically inherited and evolved) on which all subsequent learning and
knowledge are based.

The goal of the theory is to explain the mechanisms and processes by which the infant, and then
the child, develops into an individual who can reason and think using hypotheses. To Piaget,
cognitive development was a progressive reorganization of mental processes as a result of
biological maturation and environmental experience. Children construct an understanding of the
world around them, then experience discrepancies between what they already know and what
they discover in their environment.

There Are Three Basic Components To Piaget's Cognitive Theory

1. Schemas
(building blocks of knowledge).
2. Adaptation processes that enable the transition from one stage to another
(equilibrium, assimilation, and accommodation).
3. Stages of Cognitive Development:
A. sensorimotor,
B. preoperational,
C. concrete operational,
D. formal operational.

Imagine what it would be like if you did not have a mental model of your world.
It would mean that you would not be able to make so much use of information
from your past experience or to plan future actions. Schemas are the basic
building blocks of such cognitive models, and enable us to form a mental
representation of the world. Piaget (1952, p. 7) defined a schema as:

"a cohesive, repeatable action sequence possessing component actions that are
tightly interconnected and governed by a core meaning."

In more simple terms Piaget called the schema the basic building block of
intelligent behavior – a way of organizing knowledge. Indeed, it is useful to think
of schemas as “units” of knowledge, each relating to one aspect of the world,
including objects, actions, and abstract (i.e., theoretical) concepts.

Wadsworth (2004) suggests that schemata (the plural of schema) be thought of

as 'index cards' filed in the brain, each one telling an individual how to react to
incoming stimuli or information.
Assimilation and Accommodation
Jean Piaget (1952; see also Wadsworth,
2004) viewed intellectual growth as a
process of adaptation (adjustment) to the
world. This happens through:

Assimilation – Which is using an existing

schema to deal with a new object or

Accommodation – This happens when the

existing schema (knowledge) does not
work, and needs to be changed to deal
with a new object or situation.

Equilibration – This is the force which

moves development along. Piaget
believed that cognitive development did
not progress at a steady rate, but rather in
leaps and bounds.

Equilibrium occurs when a child's schemas can deal with most new information
through assimilation. However, an unpleasant state of disequilibrium occurs when
new information cannot be fitted into existing schemas (assimilation).

Equilibration is the force which drives the learning process as we do not like to be
frustrated and will seek to restore balance by mastering the new challenge
(accommodation). Once the new information is acquired the process of
assimilation with the new schema will continue until the next time we need to
make an adjustment to it.

Stages of Development
Piaget proposed four stages of cognitive development which reflect the increasing sophistication
of children's thought:

1. Sensorimotor stage (birth to age 2)

2. Pre-operational stage (from age 2 to age 7)

3. Concrete operational stage (from age 7 to age 11)

4. Formal operational stage (age 11+ - adolescence and adulthood).

Each child goes through the stages in the same order, and child development is determined by
biological maturation and interaction with the environment. Although no stage can be missed
out, there are individual differences in the rate at which children progress through stages, and
some individuals may never attain the later stages.

Piaget did not claim that a particular stage was reached at a certain age - although descriptions
of the stages often include an indication of the age at which the average child would reach each

Sensorimotor Stage (Birth-2 yrs)

The main achievement during this stage is object permanence - knowing that
an object still exists, even if it is hidden.

It requires the ability to form a mental representation (i.e., a schema) of the


Preoperational Stage (2-7 years)

During this stage, young children can think about things symbolically. This is the
ability to make one thing - a word or an object - stand for something other than

Thinking is still egocentric, and the infant has difficulty taking the viewpoint of

Concrete Operational Stage (7-11 years)

Piaget considered the concrete stage a major turning point in the child's
cognitive development because it marks the beginning of logical or operational

This means the child can work things out internally in their head (rather than
physically try things out in the real world).

Children can conserve number (age 6), mass (age 7), and weight (age 9).
Conservation is the understanding that something stays the same in quantity
even though its appearance changes.
Formal Operational Stage (11 years and over)
The formal operational stage begins at approximately age eleven and lasts into
adulthood. During this time, people develop the ability to think about abstract
concepts, and logically test hypotheses.

Erik Erikson (1950, 1963) proposed a psychoanalytic theory of psychosocial
development comprising eight stages from infancy to adulthood. During each
stage, the person experiences a psychosocial crisis which could have a positive
or negative outcome for personality development. Erikson's ideas were greatly
influenced by Freud, going along with Freud’s (1923) theory regarding the
structure and topography of personality. However, whereas Freud was an id
psychologist, Erikson was an ego psychologist. He emphasized the role of culture
and society and the conflicts that can take place within the ego itself, whereas
Freud emphasized the conflict between the id and the superego.
According to Erikson, the ego develops as it successfully resolves crises that are
distinctly social in nature. These involve establishing a sense of trust in others,
developing a sense of identity in society, and helping the next generation
prepare for the future. Erikson extends on Freudian thoughts by focusing on the
adaptive and creative characteristic of the ego and expanding the notion of the
stages of personality development to include the entire lifespan. Like Freud and
many others, Erik Erikson maintained that personality develops in a predetermined
order, and builds upon each previous stage. This is called the epigenetic principle.
The outcome of this 'maturation timetable' is a wide and integrated set of life skills
and abilities that function together within the autonomous individual. However,
instead of focusing on sexual development (like Freud), he was interested in how
children socialize and how this affects their sense of self.

Psychosocial Stages
Erikson’s (1959) theory of psychosocial development has eight distinct stages,
taking in five stages up to the age of 18 years and three further stages beyond,
well into adulthood. Erikson suggests that there is still plenty of room for continued
growth and development throughout one’s life. Erikson puts a great deal of
emphasis on the adolescent period, feeling it was a crucial stage for developing
a person’s identity.

Like Freud, Erikson assumes that a crisis occurs at each stage of development. For
Erikson (1963), these crises are of a psychosocial nature because they involve
psychological needs of the individual (i.e. psycho) conflicting with the needs of
society (i.e. social).

According to the theory, successful completion of each stage results in a healthy

personality and the acquisition of basic virtues. Basic virtues are characteristic
strengths which the ego can use to resolve subsequent crises.

Failure to successfully complete a stage can result in a reduced ability to

complete further stages and therefore a more unhealthy personality and sense
of self. These stages, however, can be resolved successfully at a later time.
Stage Psychosocial Crisis Basic Virtue Age
1. Trust vs. Mistrust Hope 0 - 1½
2. Autonomy vs. Shame Will 1½ - 3
3. Initiative vs. Guilt Purpose 3-5
4. Industry vs. Inferiority Competency 5 - 12
5. Identity vs. Role Fidelity 12 - 18
6. Intimacy vs. Isolation Love 18 - 40
7. Generativity vs. Care 40 - 65
8. Ego Integrity vs. Despair Wisdom 65+

1. Trust vs. Mistrust

Is the world a safe place or is it full of unpredictable events and accidents waiting
to happen? Erikson's first psychosocial crisis occurs during the first year or so of life
(like Freud's oral stage of psychosexual development). The crisis is one of trust vs.

During this stage, the infant is uncertain about the world in which they live. To
resolve these feelings of uncertainty, the infant looks towards their primary
caregiver for stability and consistency of care.

If the care the infant receives is consistent, predictable and reliable, they will
develop a sense of trust which will carry with them to other relationships, and they
will be able to feel secure even when threatened.
Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of hope. By developing a sense of trust,
the infant can have hope that as new crises arise, there is a real possibility that
other people will be there as a source of support. Failing to acquire the virtue of
hope will lead to the development of fear.

For example, if the care has been harsh or inconsistent, unpredictable and
unreliable, then the infant will develop a sense of mistrust and will not have
confidence in the world around them or in their abilities to influence events.

This infant will carry the basic sense of mistrust with them to other relationships. It
may result in anxiety, heightened insecurities, and an over feeling of mistrust in the
world around them.

Consistent with Erikson's views on the importance of trust, research by Bowlby and
Ainsworth has outlined how the quality of the early experience of attachment can
affect relationships with others in later life.

2. Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

The child is developing physically and becoming more mobile. Between the ages
of 18 months and three, children begin to assert their independence, by walking
away from their mother, picking which toy to play with, and making choices
about what they like to wear, to eat, etc.

The child is discovering that he or she has many skills and abilities, such as putting
on clothes and shoes, playing with toys, etc. Such skills illustrate the child's growing
sense of independence and autonomy. Erikson states it is critical that parents
allow their children to explore the limits of their abilities within an encouraging
environment which is tolerant of failure.

For example, rather than put on a child's clothes a supportive parent should have
the patience to allow the child to try until they succeed or ask for assistance. So,
the parents need to encourage the child to become more independent while at
the same time protecting the child so that constant failure is avoided.

A delicate balance is required from the parent. They must try not to do everything
for the child, but if the child fails at a particular task they must not criticize the child
for failures and accidents (particularly when toilet training). The aim has to be “self
control without a loss of self-esteem” (Gross, 1992). Success in this stage will lead
to the virtue of will.
If children in this stage are encouraged and supported in their increased
independence, they become more confident and secure in their own ability to
survive in the world.

If children are criticized, overly controlled, or not given the opportunity to assert
themselves, they begin to feel inadequate in their ability to survive, and may then
become overly dependent upon others, lack self-esteem, and feel a sense of
shame or doubt in their abilities.

3. Initiative vs. Guilt

Around age three and continuing to age five, children assert themselves more
frequently. These are particularly lively, rapid-developing years in a child’s life.
According to Bee (1992), it is a “time of vigor of action and of behaviors that the
parents may see as aggressive."

During this period the primary feature involves the child regularly interacting with
other children at school. Central to this stage is play, as it provides children with
the opportunity to explore their interpersonal skills through initiating activities.

Children begin to plan activities, make up games, and initiate activities with
others. If given this opportunity, children develop a sense of initiative and feel
secure in their ability to lead others and make decisions.

Conversely, if this tendency is squelched, either through criticism or control,

children develop a sense of guilt. They may feel like a nuisance to others and will,
therefore, remain followers, lacking in self-initiative.

The child takes initiatives which the parents will often try to stop in order to protect
the child. The child will often overstep the mark in his forcefulness, and the danger
is that the parents will tend to punish the child and restrict his initiatives too much.

It is at this stage that the child will begin to ask many questions as his thirst for
knowledge grows. If the parents treat the child’s questions as trivial, a nuisance or
embarrassing or other aspects of their behavior as threatening then the child may
have feelings of guilt for “being a nuisance”.

Too much guilt can make the child slow to interact with others and may inhibit
their creativity. Some guilt is, of course, necessary; otherwise the child would not
know how to exercise self-control or have a conscience.
A healthy balance between initiative and guilt is important. Success in this stage
will lead to the virtue of purpose.

4. Industry (competence) vs. Inferiority

Industry versus inferiority is the fourth stage of Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial
development. The stage occurs during childhood between the ages of five and

Children are at the stage where they will be learning to read and write, to do
sums, to do things on their own. Teachers begin to take an important role in the
child’s life as they teach the child specific skills. It is at this stage that the child’s
peer group will gain greater significance and will become a major source of the
child’s self-esteem. The child now feels the need to win approval by
demonstrating specific competencies that are valued by society and begin to
develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments.

If children are encouraged and reinforced for their initiative, they begin to feel
industrious and feel confident in their ability to achieve goals. If this initiative is not
encouraged, if it is restricted by parents or teacher, then the child begins to feel
inferior, doubting his own abilities and therefore may not reach his or her potential.

If the child cannot develop the specific skill they feel society is demanding (e.g.,
being athletic) then they may develop a sense of inferiority. Some failure may be
necessary so that the child can develop some modesty. Again, a balance
between competence and modesty is necessary. Success in this stage will lead
to the virtue of competence.

5. Identity vs. Role Confusion

The fifth stage is identity vs. role confusion, and it occurs during adolescence, from
about 12-18 years. During this stage, adolescents search for a sense of self and
personal identity, through an intense exploration of personal values, beliefs, and

The adolescent mind is essentially a mind or moratorium, a psychosocial stage

between childhood and adulthood, and between the morality learned by the
child, and the ethics to be developed by the adult (Erikson, 1963, p. 245)

During adolescence, the transition from childhood to adulthood is most

important. Children are becoming more independent, and begin to look at the
future in terms of career, relationships, families, housing, etc. The individual wants
to belong to a society and fit in.

This is a major stage of development where the child has to learn the roles he will
occupy as an adult. It is during this stage that the adolescent will re-examine his
identity and try to find out exactly who he or she is. Erikson suggests that two
identities are involved: the sexual and the occupational.

According to Bee (1992), what should happen at the end of this stage is “a
reintegrated sense of self, of what one wants to do or be, and of one’s
appropriate sex role”. During this stage the body image of the adolescent

Erikson claims that the adolescent may feel uncomfortable about their body for
a while until they can adapt and “grow into” the changes. Success in this stage
will lead to the virtue of fidelity.

Fidelity involves being able to commit one's self to others on the basis of
accepting others, even when there may be ideological differences.

During this period, they explore possibilities and begin to form their own identity
based upon the outcome of their explorations. Failure to establish a sense of
identity within society ("I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up") can lead
to role confusion. Role confusion involves the individual not being sure about
themselves or their place in society.

In response to role confusion or identity crisis, an adolescent may begin to

experiment with different lifestyles (e.g., work, education or political activities).
Also pressuring someone into an identity can result in rebellion in the form of
establishing a negative identity, and in addition to this feeling of unhappiness.

6. Intimacy vs. Isolation

Occurring in young adulthood (ages 18 to 40 yrs), we begin to share ourselves

more intimately with others. We explore relationships leading toward longer-term
commitments with someone other than a family member.

Successful completion of this stage can result in happy relationships and a sense
of commitment, safety, and care within a relationship. Avoiding intimacy, fearing
commitment and relationships can lead to isolation, loneliness, and sometimes
depression. Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of love.

During middle adulthood (ages 40 to 65 yrs), we establish our careers, settle

down within a relationship, begin our own families and develop a sense of being
a part of the bigger picture.

We give back to society through raising our children, being productive at work,
and becoming involved in community activities and organizations.

By failing to achieve these objectives, we become stagnant and feel

unproductive. Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of care.


As we grow older (65+ yrs) and become senior citizens, we tend to slow down
our productivity and explore life as a retired person. It is during this time that we
contemplate our accomplishments and can develop integrity if we see
ourselves as leading a successful life.

Erik Erikson believed if we see our lives as unproductive, feel guilt about our past,
or feel that we did not accomplish our life goals, we become dissatisfied with life
and develop despair, often leading to depression and hopelessness.

Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of wisdom. Wisdom enables a person
to look back on their life with a sense of closure and completeness, and also
accept death without fear.
Lawrence Kohlberg (1958) agreed with Piaget's (1932) theory of moral
development in principle but wanted to develop his ideas further.

He used Piaget’s storytelling technique to tell people stories involving moral

dilemmas. In each case, he presented a choice to be considered, for example,
between the rights of some authority and the needs of some deserving individual
who is being unfairly treated.

Level 1 - Pre-conventional morality

At the pre-conventional level (most nine-year-olds and younger, some over nine),
we don’t have a personal code of morality. Instead, our moral code is shaped by
the standards of adults and the consequences of following or breaking their rules.

Authority is outside the individual and reasoning is based on the physical

consequences of actions.

• Stage 1. Obedience and Punishment Orientation. The child/individual is good in

order to avoid being punished. If a person is punished, they must have done
• Stage 2. Individualism and Exchange. At this stage, children recognize that
there is not just one right view that is handed down by the authorities. Different
individuals have different viewpoints.

Level 2 - Conventional morality

At the conventional level (most adolescents and adults), we begin to internalize
the moral standards of valued adult role models.

Authority is internalized but not questioned, and reasoning is based on the norms
of the group to which the person belongs.

• Stage 3. Good Interpersonal Relationships. The child/individual is good in order

to be seen as being a good person by others. Therefore, answers relate to the
approval of others.

• Stage 4. Maintaining the Social Order. The child/individual becomes aware of

the wider rules of society, so judgments concern obeying the rules in order to
uphold the law and to avoid guilt.

Level 3 - Post-conventional morality

Individual judgment is based on self-chosen principles, and moral reasoning is
based on individual rights and justice. According to Kohlberg this level of moral
reasoning is as far as most people get.

Only 10-15% are capable of the kind of abstract thinking necessary for stage 5 or
6 (post-conventional morality). That is to say, most people take their moral views
from those around them and only a minority think through ethical principles for

• Stage 5. Social Contract and Individual Rights. The child/individual becomes

aware that while rules/laws might exist for the good of the greatest number, there
are times when they will work against the interest of particular individuals.
The issues are not always clear-cut. For example, in Heinz’s dilemma, the
protection of life is more important than breaking the law against stealing.

• Stage 6. Universal Principles. People at this stage have developed their own set
of moral guidelines which may or may not fit the law. The principles apply to

E.g., human rights, justice, and equality. The person will be prepared to act to
defend these principles even if it means going against the rest of society in the
process and having to pay the consequences of disapproval and or
imprisonment. Kohlberg doubted few people reached this stage.

A Russian psychologist who lived during the Russian Revolution, developed a
theory of development known as the Sociocultural Theory of Cognitive
Development in the early twentieth century.

As a proponent of the sociocultural perspective to development, Vygotsky’s

sociocultural theory gained worldwide recognition. It began to exert influence
when his work was finally translated into English in 1962 and the importance of
both sociocultural perspective of development and cross-cultural research was

Vygotsky’s main assertion was that children are entrenched in different

sociocultural contexts and their cognitive development is advanced through
social interaction with more skilled individuals. The Vygotsky theory of cognitive
development is mainly concerned with the more complex cognitive activities of
children that are governed and influenced by several principles. Believing that
children construct knowledge actively, Vygotsky’s theory is also one of those
responsible for laying the groundwork for constructivism.

Zone of Proximal Development

Vygotsky is most recognized for his concept of Zone of Proximal Development or
ZPD pertaining to the learning of children. Children who are in the zone of proximal
development for a specific task can almost perform the task independently, but
not quite there yet. However, with an appropriate amount of assistance, these
children can accomplish the task successfully.

The lower limit of a child’s zone of proximal development is the level of analysis
and problem-solving reached by a child without any help. The upper limit, on the
other hand, is the level of additional responsibility that a child can receive with
the support of a skilled instructor.

As children are verbally given instructions or shown how to perform certain tasks,
they organize the new information received in their existing mental schemas in
order to assist them in the ultimate goal of performing the task independently. This
emphasis on the concept of Zone of Proximal Development made by Vygotsky
underscores his conviction that social influences, particularly instruction, are of
immense importance on the cognitive development of children.

More Knowledgeable Other

Children are entrenched in a sociocultural backdrop (e.g. at home) in which
social interaction with significant adults, such as the parents, plays a crucial factor
that affects their learning. These adults need to direct and organize the learning
experiences to ensure that the children can master and internalize the learning.

According to the Vygotsky theory, any person who possesses a higher skill level
than the learner with regard to a particular task or concept is called a More
Knowledgeable Other or MKO. This person may be a teacher, parent, an older
adult, a coach or even a peer.

Vygotsky’s concept of scaffolding is closely related to the concept of the zone of
proximal development. Scaffolding refers to the temporary support given to a
child by More Knowledgeable Others, usually parents or teachers, that enable
the child to perform a task until such time that the child can already perform the
task independently.

Scaffolding entails changing the quality and quantity of support provided to a

child in the course of a teaching session. The more-skilled instructor adjusts the
level of guidance needed in order to fit the student’s current level of
performance. For novel tasks, the instructor may utilize direct instruction. As the
child gains more familiarity with the task and becomes more skilled at it, the
instructor may then provide less guidance.

Children who experience more difficulty in task performance are in need of

greater assistance and guidance from an adult. When the child has learned to
complete the task independently, the scaffolds are removed by the adult, as they
are no longer needed.

A major contribution of Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development is the

acknowledgement of the social component in both cognitive and psychosocial
development. Due to his proffered ideas, research attention has been shifted
from the individual onto larger interactional units such as parent and child,
teacher and child, or brother and sister.

Vygotsky’s theory likewise called attention to the variability of cultural realities,

stating that the development of children who are in one culture or subculture,
such as middle class Asian Americans, may be totally different from children who
hail from other societies or subcultures. It would not be fitting, therefore, to utilize
the developmental experiences of children from one culture as a norm for
children from other cultures.

The Vygotsky theory of cognitive development has significant ramifications in

education and cognitive testing. Vygotsky was a strong advocate of non-
standard assessment procedures for the assessment of what and how much a
child has learned and in the formulation of approaches that could enhance the
child’s learning. His ideas have effected changes in educational systems through
the increased importance given to the active role of students in their own learning
process and the encouragement of teacher-student collaboration in a reciprocal
learning experience.

American psychologist, Urie Bronfenbrenner, formulated the Ecological Systems

Theory to explain how the inherent qualities of a child and his environment
interact to influence how he will grow and develop. Through the Bronfenbrenner
Ecological Theory, Bronfenbrenner stressed the importance of studying a child in
the context of multiple environments, also known as ecological systems in the
attempt to understand his development.

A child typically finds himself simultaneously enmeshed in different ecosystems,

from the most intimate home ecological system moving outward to the larger
school system and the most expansive system which is society and culture. Each
of these systems inevitably interact with and influence each other in every aspect
of the child’s life.

The Urie Bronfenbrenner model organizes contexts of development into five levels
of external influence. The levels are categorized from the most intimate level to
the broadest.

The Bronfenbrenner Model: Microsystem

The microsystem is the smallest and most immediate environment in which the
child lives. As such, the microsystem comprises the daily home, school or daycare,
peer group or community environment of the child.

Interactions within the microsystem typically involve personal relationships with

family members, classmates, teachers and caregivers, in which influences go
back and forth. How these groups or individuals interact with the child will affect
how the child grows. Similarly, how the child reacts to people in his microsystem
will also influence how they treat the child in return. More nurturing and more
supportive interactions and relationships will understandably foster the child’s
improved development.

Given two siblings experiencing the same microsystem, however, it is not

impossible for the development of the two siblings to progress in different
manners. Each child’s particular personality traits, such as temperament, which is
influenced by unique genetic and biological factors, ultimately have a hand in
how he is treated by others.

One of the most significant findings that Urie Bronfenbrenner unearthed in his
study of ecological systems is that it is possible for siblings who find themselves
within the same ecological system to still experience very different environments.

The Bronfenbrenner Model: Mesosystem

The mesosystem encompasses the interaction of the different microsystems which
the developing child finds himself in. It is, in essence, a system of microsystems and
as such, involves linkages between home and school, between peer group and
family, or between family and church.

If a child’s parents are actively involved in the friendships of their child, invite
friends over to their house and spend time with them, then the child’s
development is affected positively through harmony and like-mindedness.
However, if the child’s parents dislike their child’s peers and openly criticize them,
then the child experiences disequilibrium and conflicting emotions, probably
affecting his development negatively.

The Bronfenbrenner Model: Exosystem

The exosystem pertains to the linkages that may exist between two or more
settings, one of which may not contain the developing child but affects him
indirectly nonetheless. Other people and places which the child may not directly
interact with but may still have an effect on the child, comprise the exosystem.
Such places and people may include the parents’ workplaces, the larger
neighborhood, and extended family members.

For example, a father who is continually passed up for promotion by an indifferent

boss at the workplace may take it out on his children and mistreat them at home.

The Bronfenbrenner Model: Macrosystem

The macrosystem is the largest and most distant collection of people and places
to the child that still exercises significant influence on the child. It is composed of
the child’s cultural patterns and values, specifically the child’s dominant beliefs
and ideas, as well as political and economic systems. Children in war-torn areas,
for example, will experience a different kind of development than children in
communities where peace reigns.

The Bronfenbrenner Model: Chronosystem

The chronosystem adds the useful dimension of time, which demonstrates the
influence of both change and constancy in the child’s environment. The
chronosystem may thus include a change in family structure, address, parent’s
employment status, in addition to immense society changes such as economic
cycles and wars.

By studying the different systems that simultaneously influence a child, the

Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Theory is able to demonstrate the diversity of
interrelated influences on the child’s development. Awareness of contexts can
sensitize us to variations in the way a child may act in different settings.

For example, a child who frequently bullies smaller children at school may portray
the role of a terrified victim at home. Due to these variations, adults concerned
with the care of a particular child should pay close attention to behavior in
different settings or contexts and to the quality and type of connections that exist
between these contexts.