Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive and Perceptual Development
The theorist Jean Piaget developed a theory about the cognitive development of young children (Lowenthal, 1975). This theory was called the preoperational stage which ranges from roughly two years to seven years and is sectioned into the preconceptual phase and the intuitive phase (Lowenthal, 1975). During the preconceptual stage, the child is egocentric and is unable to see things from another person’s point of view (Lowenthal, 1975). Children are in this phase approximately from the ages of two to four. In the intuitive phase, the young child starts to see simple relationships and classifications (Lowenthal, 1975). This phase in childhood development roughly lasts from ages four to seven (Lowenthal, 1975). The child is labeled as “intuitive” because even though he is able to make theses classifications, he still does not understand the logic behind why or how (Lowenthal, 1975). During this stage, children have a hard time understanding logic because of centration, focus on appearance, static reasoning, and irreversibility (Berger, 1994). Children tend to focus on one aspect of a situation and exclude all others (Berger, 1994). In addition, they may be focused on the appearance of one thing and ignore other attributes (Berger, 1994). They also believe that the world is static and unchanging (Berger, 1994). Lastly, children during this stage fail to understand that reversing something may restore what there previously was (Berger, 1994). Social interaction is an important part of a child’s development (Alves, 2014). According Vygotsky, people are constructed and progress as they interact socially, re-creating the culture developed by earlier generations (Alves, 2014). This is something that begins in childhood (Alves, 2014).
While observing the child, he was informed that someone who worked at his school would be at the park. He had a difficult time understanding this because he had only seen her at school, therefore, he thought that is where she lived. This is an example of static reasoning. Since the teacher was always at school, he assumed that is where she always was and she never left. In addition, during the observation, his cup of ice cream melted, therefore he assumed that it had to be thrown away. He did not realize that putting it back in the freezer would restore it to what it was. Thus, he was exhibiting the idea of irreversibility.
Kohlberg’s Moral Development
The theorist Kohlberg identified six stages of moral development in the ages of early childhood (Sanders, 2018). These stages spanned three levels of moral reasoning (Sanders, 2018). The stages are referred to as preconventional, conventional, and postconventional (Sanders, 2018). The preconventional level of moral reasoning develops during the first nine years of life (Sanders, 2018). During this phase, children consider rules to be fixed and absolute (Sanders, 2018). “Moral behavior is determined by the concepts of punishment, reward, and reciprocity” (Sanders, 2018). In the first phase of the preconventional level, children determine whether actions are right or wrong by if they receive discipline or not (Sanders, 2018). Children value pleasing those who are in authority over them and act in a way to avoid punishment and disappointment (Salkind, 2005). “Morality focuses on the power and possessions of those in authority and on the necessity for the weak to please the strong in order to avoid punishment. A child does or does not act in order to avoid displeasing those who have power over him or her” (Salkind, 2005). In the second stage, right and wrong are determined by what brings rewards and personal gain (Salkind, 2005). Children want to do good things if it will be reciprocated (Salkind, 2005). That is their motivation. “Morality focuses on the pleasure motive. A child does what he or she wants in order to get what he or she wants from others. There is a sense of fair exchange based on purely pragmatic values and of noninterference in the affairs or values of others” (Salkind, 2005). Therefore, children act in such a way to receive some sort of satisfaction during this level of moral development (Salkind, 2005).
While being interviewed, the child was asked questions to assess his sense of moral judgement. When asked if he made good choices at school, he responded affirmatively. However, when asked why, his response was, “It will make mommy and daddy happy and I won’t have to sit in time out.” This is an example of the first stage of the preconventional level of Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. The child’s reasoning for making good choices was to avoid punishment and please his parents. The child was also asked the question, “Would you take a friend’s toy out of their hand if you knew your teacher would not see?” Again, his response correlated with this stage in moral development. His response was, “No, it is a bad choice and it will make my teacher sad.” Even though the child was informed that the teacher would not see, he still wanted to avoid the action that would displease the authority figure.
Erickson’s Stages of Social and Emotional Development
. Emotional regulation is the primary task between the ages of two and six (Berger, 1994). During this process, children develop their idea of self-concept which is their awareness of who they are (Berger, 1994). Erik Erickson was a theorist who studied groups of American Indian children to help formulate his theories about emotional development (“Erik Erickson”, 2017). “Emotional regulation is part of Erickson’s third developmental stage, initiative versus guilt. Initiative includes saying something new, expanding an ability, beginning a new project, expressing an emotion. Depending on what happens when they try a new action, children feel proud or guilty” (Berger, 1994). In addition, play is an important aspect of a child’s social development (Berger, 1994). Many children prefer to play make-believe with their peers (Berger, 1994). Also, during this age in development, they prefer to play with children of the same sex and the games they play are tied to gender as well (Berger, 1994). Play also helps with emotional development as children learn to empathize with others (Berger, 1994).
While interviewing the one of the child’s parents, they commented on their child’s social development. She said that her child would prefer to play with other kids than by himself which is common for his age group. When the child was asked if he preferred playing with girls or boys, he replied that he liked to play with both boys and girls which is unique to his age group. Furthermore, his mother mentioned that he does not get frustrated as easily. Instead, he is beginning to pause and think about what is bothering him, so he can find a better solution. Therefore, he has regulated that part of his emotional development.
Physical and Motor Functional Development
As a child develops physically, many changes occur during early childhood. For instance, their proportions shift radically (Berger, 1994). The child will begin to slim down while their fat turns to muscle and their lower body lengthens (Berger, 1994). In addition, their center of gravity moves from their chest to their abdomens (Berger, 1994). Which allows them to do cartwheels, somersaults, and many other things involving their gross motor skills (Berger, 1994). Around the age of five, children can do activities that require balance and coordination (Berger, 1994). Most four-year old’s are able to hop on one foot, brush their teeth, and dress themselves (Berger, 1994). There are biological differences in the rate of development in motor skills (Berger, 1994). Fine motor skills are mature more quickly than in boys (Berger, 1994). Whereas, boys mature in their gross motor skills generally before girls do (Berger, 1994).
When the child’s mother was asked about her child’s physical development, she noted that, “He has grown a few inches and leaned out. When he has a growth spurt, he complains of some leg pains. We also notice he is clumsy around the times he has growth spurts.” This correlates with the typical leaning out that occurs during this time of development. The child was also given tasks to assess his motor skills. He was able to successfully hop on one foot, button a shirt, brush his teeth, and kick a ball. All of these tasks were appropriate and fell within the standards for his age group.
In summation, the different developmental stages help better understand the standard for childhood development. The child that was interviewed was within the average developmental range for his age. While this standard is used as a general guide for development, some children are unique and progress at different times. However, the different stages are a good guide for assessing a child’s development.


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