Comparing the Theories of Development

There is no single theory that can give a comprehensive idea of human lifespan development. To get a more or less complete picture of it, it is important to get acquainted with several theories that are expressed in the type of periodization. This paper aims to compare and contrast two major theoretical perspectives of lifespan development: Erikson’s psychosocial theory and Piaget’s cognitive theory.

The psychosocial perspective of development by Erik Erikson shows a close connection between the human psyche and the nature of society. In the first stage of infancy, the emotional communication of the infant with adults is the leading activity that affects future development. The second stage of early childhood is associated with the formation of autonomy and independence. In the third stage of childhood, individual perception of the self appears. In the fourth stage of early school age, if children successfully master new skills, they become confident (Erskine, 2019).

On the contrary, failures lead to the emergence of inferiority. In the fifth stage of adolescence, ego identity is formed. In the sixth stage of youth, close cooperation with people is relevant. In the seventh stage of adulthood, people invest themselves in work and caring for children. If there is no work, family, or children, the person is devastated. The final period of maturity is the time of physiological and psychological balance. In the eighth stage, a complete form of ego identity is created based on the entire path of personality development.

Like Erikson, Jean Piaget also distinguished several stages of human development. However, he believed that instead of social, the correct development of the cognitive sphere increases the likelihood of successful and happy adult life. He distinguished four stages: sensorimotor, preoperative, operational, and the stage of specific operations. The sensorimotor stage lasts from 0 to 2 years when motor skills develop (Erskine, 2019). The children go through the preoperative stage from 2 to 6 when they perceive their point of view as the only correct one. The operational stage lasts from 6 to 11 when the child can connect thoughts and reason logically. The stage of specific operations begins at the age of 11 when abstract thinking and the ability to explain complex things and phenomena develop.

Erik Erikson developed his theory much later than Piaget, but he was also involved in the formation of the unique stages in human life. Despite the use of stages, they both differ in timing. Erikson’s theory states that the first stage ends at one year while Piaget postulates that the first stage ends at two years. Their developmental views show significant differences in late adolescence as well. Piaget views the adolescent as a rational being with rational thoughts. Erikson states that at this stage, the teenager focuses on independence in decision making, relationships, and self-discovery. The reason for the differences is that Piaget’s stages were based on research and observation while Erickson’s were formed from experience.


Erskine, R. G. (2019). Child development in integrative psychotherapy: Erik Erikson’s first three stages. International Journal of Integrative Psychotherapy, 10, 11-34.

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PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Comparing the Theories of Development." September 19, 2023.

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PsychologyWriting. "Comparing the Theories of Development." September 19, 2023.