Development of the Cognitive Process


The process of cognitive development involves various changes in the thinking process, which begin at infancy and improve progressively as an individual develops. During this period, an individual attempts to adapt to the immediate external environment through two major processes, which include assimilation and accommodation (Santrock, 2010). Here, assimilation involves the use of the external environmental cues to change the pre-existing cognitive structures relative to different situations. Conversely, accommodation entails the process of restructuring the pre-existing cognitive structures to fit the experience obtained from the environment. As a result, Jean Piaget proposed the cognitive development theory, which states that most children develop different ways of thinking through interacting with the environment (Santrock, 2010).

According to Piaget’s theory, cognitive development occurs in four stages. The sensorimotor stage occurs in the period between birth and age two. Here, children start to learn from the environment and develop different aspects of language (Santrock, 2010). In addition, most children learn how to use different sensory and motor functions of the body. Subsequently, the pre-operational stage begins at age two and lasts until age seven. During this period, children are capable of using mental structures to comprehend different concepts, interact with people, learn different languages, and participate in various games. Additionally, the concrete operational stage starts at age seven and ends at age 11. Here, children are capable of thinking, solving problems, and processing different information (Santrock, 2010). However, most children are incapable of comprehending and working with abstract information. Therefore, during the formal operational stage, which begins at age 11 and extends through adolescence into adulthood, adolescents develop the ability to understand and work with abstract information, solve complex problems, and think in a symbolic and logical manner.

However, some neuro-behavioral development disorders can hinder or alter some aspects of cognitive development and as a result, some disorders associated with lack of attention may arise. For instance, lack of attention control is also known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which is characterized by inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity in children, adolescents, and adults. This essay presents a case study involving a young girl suffering from ADHD. Therefore, the essay analyzes different features of ADHD relative to the girl’s cognitive development. As a result, the essay describes the developmental features of memory, attention, intelligence, language, cognition, and information processing and how ADHD affects different aspects of cognitive development.

Case Summary

The case presented in this essay involves an interview I held with one family, which adopts a young girl suffering from ADHD. The family adopted the girl when she was eight months old. However, upon investigating the girl’s background, the family found out that the girl’s biological mother used to smoke marihuana and drink a lot of alcohol when she was pregnant with the girl. As a result, when the girl grew older, her behavioral patterns changed, and she could make loud noises while playing alone; she could not sit still; she had a tendency to lose her toys; she was forgetful in accomplishing her daily activities; and she also had problems with following instructions.

Case Analysis

Studies show that the period between conception and birth is very important to the fetus because it depends on the mother for its nutritional requirements. In addition, this period involves rapid development of embryonic tissues, organs, and organ systems (Santrock, 2010). Therefore, alcohol in-take and drug abuse can potentially disruptive the normal development of different tissues and organs including the brain and the nervous system. Furthermore, during childhood, further brain development occurs to maintain the ability of children to remain attentive and resist distraction. This function of the brain entails the working memory. Here, the working memory involves those parts of the brain where information can be stored and manipulated within a short period of time. However, children with ADHD have problems being attentive because of their weak working memory. Therefore, children with ADHD demonstrate poor literacy, executive functions, numeracy, verbal functions, and non-verbal tasks, which are memory-intensive (Santrock, 2010). Furthermore, normal children develop attention and executive functions in parallel at the age of 7-12 years. During this period, children are capable of carrying out selective tasks, ignoring distracters, and responding rapidly to their targets. However, children with ADHD are incapable of finishing their tasks, they respond rapidly to distracters, and have difficulties concentrating on one activity such as playing (Santrock, 2010).

On the other hand, development of language in children is a step by step process, which begins at six months for most children. At six months, a child should be able to respond to voices and different tones. Subsequently, a child learns different aspects of language and speech until age eight when one is capable of following complex instructions and paying attention to grammatical constrictions and speech sounds (Santrock, 2010). However, the subject child in this case demonstrates various weaknesses in language development because she did not receive her mother’s attention and guidance prior to the period of language development. Therefore, most children with ADHD are incapable of paying attention to both simple and complex instructions. Conversely, children with ADHD encounter other problems associated with syntax, pragmatics, semantics, and metalinguistics, which influence the normal process of language development.

Moreover, the process of language development occurs concurrently with cognition development in normal children. Here, a child is capable of processing, organizing, and storing different concepts regarding language because different cognitive functions are prerequisites in language development. That is, the cognitive structures play a role in assimilating linguistic information from the environment, manipulating it, and accommodating or using it in different ways. However, it is probable that the young girl suffered alterations in her cognitive development due to poor nutritional nourishment and therefore, it is possible that poor language development observed in the subject girl is associated with poor functioning of some cognitive structures in the brain (Santrock, 2010).

Additionally, intellectual development undergoes several stages, which start immediately after the sensory-motor period through late adolescence into early adulthood. During the initial stages of intellectual development, an individual experiences different cognitive changes and characteristic alteration of behavior and finally the development of abstract, organized, and logical thoughts. Therefore, paying attention to the external environment is imperative in intellectual development. As a result, children with ADHD demonstrate poor intellectual skills because they are unable to respond or pay attention to external cues (Santrock, 2010).

Lastly, cognitive development is characteristic of significant changes in an individual’s ability to process information and put it into practice. Here, the human mind plays a pivotal role in transferring information from the external environment using different senses and storing it for a short or long period of time. This process follows a store model as proposed by the human information processing theory. Here, information from the environment enters the sensory register unit before it proceeds to the short-term memory unit for processing. Subsequently, the information moves to the long-term memory unit for further processing and storage (Santrock, 2010). However, the information processing model breaks easily in children with ADHD because they have a weak short-term memory.


The essay presents an in-depth analysis of the case involving a young girl suffering from ADHD relative to the process of cognitive development. The discussions above show that ADHD affects different aspects of life-span development particularly development of the cognitive process, which entails development of memory, attention, language, cognition, information processing, and intelligence. Therefore, there is the need to provide timely and proper medical and behavioral interventions to children with ADHD to allow them to develop normally and realize their full potential.


Santrock, J.W. (2010). A topical approach to life-span development (5th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

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PsychologyWriting. "Development of the Cognitive Process." September 10, 2023.