The growth and development of a child have a vital role in explaining their social, emotional, physical, and cognitive wellbeing. Various observable traits explain every stage from infancy to late childhood. These characteristics are helpful to parents, teachers, and caregivers in meeting children’s needs that facilitate healthy growth and development. I observed ten-year-old boys M and N (not their names) regularly every evening after school and over the weekend as they interacted with others younger and older than them. They portrayed specific physical, emotional, social, and cognitive changes explainable by various developmental theories. This paper explains Erikson’s psychosocial, Freud’s psychosexual, and Piaget’s cognitive developmental theories, as well as Bandura’s social learning and Kohlberg’s moral development perspectives to expound observed in M and N.
Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory
The theory proposes that individuals have various needs and pursue competence in different areas in their lives. The perspective holds that every person experiences eight developmental stages of resolving a particular crisis or task. People who complete the developmental tasks have a sense of healthy personality and competence, and those who fail a feeling of inadequacy (Feldman 576). The eight stages proposed by this theory include trust vs. mistrust, autonomy vs. shame/doubt, initiative vs. guilt, industry vs. inferiority, identity vs. role confusion, intimacy vest isolation, generativity vs. stagnation, and integrity vs. despair (Feldman 576).
M and N age fall pin the industry vs. inferiority stage (6 to 12 years), where children compare themselves with their friends and classmates. As a result, they can either develop pride and triumph in their social, school, and sports activities or inferiority and inadequacy feelings due to a sense of lacking fitting or necessary qualifications. Positive experiences at home, school, and social places and getting along with peers at this stage are crucial because it alleviates the possibility of developing an inferiority complex.
M and N were coping well with other children of their age as they engage with various playing activities. They seemed to have an easier time with their peers, and their relationship was controlled by mutual interest and not personal feelings. For instance, they always worked together to portray their skills in gaming activities despite having disagreements and M being a better performer than N. Additionally, although they quarreled with their peers over various issues, the need for acceptance by their friends overrode their anger and resentments.
Freud’s Psychosexual Developmental Theory
This theory is based on the idea that individuals’ childhood experiences significantly shape their behaviors and personalities. According to Freud, three parts that interwork, id, egos, and superego, encompass human personality (Feldman 606). This theory proposes that the parts of a child go through psychosexual developmental stages, including oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital (Feldman 606). While id and ego are related to impulses or desires and reasoning, respectively, and comprise part of the mind, the superego develops as children interact with others who want them to conform to social norms. Therefore, the application of social morals and values due to the superego restricts the id’s desires.
Ages define the five developmental stages, oral 0 -1 year, anal 1 -3 years, phallic 3 -6 years, latency 6 -12 years, and genital 12 years and above. M and N fall under the latency stage, where children start developing the superego. They portray morally acceptable behaviors and adopt significant adults’ values, such as parents and teachers. For example, M and N were cautious about the language they were using while interacting with adults. They were polite, calm, and concentrating on what they were being told. Conversely, they quickly apologized to their peers when they hurt them while playing. Indeed, they were able to reason what is right and wrong and pursue the former.
Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory
This theory indicates that there are four specific stages through which an individual’s cognitive abilities develop. It is based on the idea that exploration and manipulation of the world or environment allow children to construct knowledge (Feldman 564). Piaget main interest was in the way child’s thinking develops and how it relates to their childhood development. According to Feldman, children move through four stages as they grow and their brains develop, and every phase has distinct characteristics of thought processing (564). The stages include sensorimotor (0 -2 years), preoperational (2 -6 years), concrete operational (7 -12 years), and formal operational (12 years and above) (Feldman 564).
M and N are in the concrete operational stage because their age is ten years. Logical and focused reasoning is the main feature that characterizes children in this phase of development. Feldman indicates that they demonstrate a rational understanding of conservation principles (564). They can gather information and formulate organized thoughts and opinions. For example, M and N effectively expressed their thoughts on current events. They demonstrated understanding of the Covid-19 pandemic and approached to prevent its spreading. They avoided activities that would bring them close together, engaged in cycling and skating, and wore masks. Additionally, they discussed sports, supported different clubs, and gave opinions about the team that would win or lose. Indeed, their activities and thoughts about the teams they supported were organized.
Kohlberg’s Moral Development Theory
This theory explains children’s moral development by expanding Jean Piaget work. The moral development theorist believed that it follows several stages like cognitive development. The theory proposes that children progress through three levels of morality, the pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional, where each comprises two stages (Feldman 574). Notably, each phase gives a foundation of moral development in different contexts.
A child’s behavior in stage 1 and 2 in level 1 (pre-conventional morality) is driven by punishment avoidance and individual interests, correspondingly. According to Feldman, the need for social approval and obeying authority and conforming to social characterize stage 3 and 4, respectively, in level 2 (574). While the balance of individual rights and social order determine a person’s behavior in stage 5 in level 3, conducts are driven by internal moral principles in stage 6 (Feldman 574).
M and N fall under the level of conventional morality, which begins at the early stages of adolescence. Feldman indicates that personal and societal relationships define a child’s sense of morality (574). Children act to alleviate chances of disapproval, emphasizing good behavior and being nice to others in state 3. Conversely, they accept rules and convention without questioning in stage 4 since it vital element for maintaining functioning societies. For example, M and N were always nice to their peers by allowing them to use their bicycles and sharing items. Additionally, they observed regulations set by the government to curb the spreading of COVID-19.
Bandura’s Social Learning Theory
This theory focuses on how cognitive and environmental factors interact to influence an individual’s learning and behavior. It accentuates the importance of observing and imitating other people’s behavior, attitudes, and emotional reactions (Feldman 306). Various influential models, such as parents, teachers, friends, and television characters, surround children in society. A child observes them as they portray varying behaviors and tend to imitate them. The latter occurs regardless of whether the behavior is appropriate or not (Feldman 306). Bandura indicates a meditational process involving attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation when a person observes a model and imitates their behavior. For instance, M and N tried new cycling and skating techniques during one Sunday that they had watched on television on Saturday.
A child’s growth and development is instrumental in explaining their social, emotional, physical, and cognitive wellbeing. Different observable behaviors explain every stage from infancy to late childhood. Erikson’s psychosocial, Freud’s psychosexual, and Piaget’s cognitive developmental theories, as well as Bandura’s social learning and Kohlberg’s moral development perspectives, are essential theories that explain children’s behaviors at varying phases of childhood. My observation in M and N supports the ideas emphasized in the theories. The need for acceptance by peers, cooperation due to mutual interests supported Erikson’s psychosocial theory.
The portrayal of morally acceptable behaviors as they interacted with other children and adults and adopted significant adults’ values reinforced the idea presented in Freud’s psychosexual developmental theory. Moreover, the need for approval by peers effectively presenting their opinions about football teams that they support and conforming to rules and regulations for Covid-19 supported both Piaget’s cognitive developmental and Kohlberg’s moral development theory. Further, Bandura’s social learning theory ideas were evident as M and N imitated the cycling and skating techniques that they observed on television.
Feldman, Robert S. Understanding Psychology. 14th ed. Mcgraw-Hill Education, 2018.