Lindstrom 1

Four Theories of Developmental Stages Term Paper II

Professor Villalta 2012-02-24 6:00 PM Wednesday Psychology 1 Nathan W. Lindstrom (415) 860-4211

Lindstrom 2 THE


stages, namely Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, Freud’s psychosexual development, and Erikson’s psychosocial development. Furthermore, the applicable stages from each of these models will be applied to six different periods of my own life: less than one year old; at age five; at age eleven; at age seventeen; at my age as of the time of this writing, that is, thirty; and in the future as I grow older. ✦ PIAGET’S


of four periods or stages, the first of which is the sensorimotor period. This period may be further broken down into six substages.
Figure 1. year old. Less than one

The first is known as the It is

Reflex Schema stage, and occurs during the time span of birth to one month. The second is the

associated primarily with the development of reflexes.

primary circular reaction stage, which occurs from one month to four months and is primarily associated with the development of habits. The third is the secondary circular reactions stage from four to eight months, and is primarily associated with the development of coordination between vision and prehension. The fourth is called the coordination of secondary course round modest circular reactions stage, and occurs from eight to twelve months, the time that object permanence is believed to be developed. The fifth substage is the tertiary circular reactions stage, occurring from twelve to eighteen months. months. Unlike Piaget’s approach, which focuses on the growth of intelligence and the emergence and construction of schemata, Kohlberg focuses on the stages of moral development. However, his first stage, the preThe sixth and final substage is considered the beginnings of symbolic representation, and takes place from eighteen to twenty-four

Lindstrom 3 conventional level, does not begin until age four, and so will be explored in the next section. Freud’s theory of psychosexual development posits that, from birth, humans have instinctual sexual appetites (libido) which unfold as a series of stages. Each stage is characterized by the erogenous zone that is the source of the libidinal drive during that stage. These are the oral stage, the anal stage, the phallic stage, the latency stage, and the genital stage. Freud believed that if, during any stage, the child experienced anxiety in relation to that drive, then the themes related to this stage would persist into adulthood as neurosis. Figure 1, shown above, represents the oral stage: until I was well into the anal stage, I had a pacifier that was as much, if not more, satisfying than my mother’s nipple. Without it I would cry and be fussy; but with it, my oral pleasure needs were met and I was a pleasant and tractable baby. Perhaps the pacifier also represented an entity within my neonatal environment which was trustworthy: when present, it always provided the same level of comfort; it never went away on its own or pushed me away. The first stage of Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is that of trust versus mistrust during infancy. The concept of trust versus mistrust is present throughout my entire life, as it is in the life of everyone else. Therefore, had the concept not been addressed, taught and handled properly during my infancy, I could have been negatively affected and thus might never have fully immersed myself in the world. Had I not learned to trust myself, others and the world around me then I could have lost the virtue of hope, which is directly linked to this concept. ✦ WITHIN PIAGET’S

development, the preoperational stage comes between the ages of two and six the years old, and for represents procedure

Lindstrom 4 mentally acting upon objects. The hallmark of this stage is sparse and

logically inadequate mental operations, and the formation of immature schemata. During this stage the child learns to use and to represent objects by images and words, that is, they learn to use symbolic thinking. Thinking is still very much egocentric, as the child continues to have difficulty taking the viewpoint of others. Here, in figure 2, colorful polygons are capable of holding more meaning to me than just their basic nature: they can be arranged into a tower, for example, or other symbolic shapes. They can also be classified by color; for example, at that age, I was capable of grouping together all the red blocks regardless of shape or all the square blocks regardless of color. Unlike Piaget’s approach, which focuses on the growth of intelligence and the emergence and construction of schemata, Kohlberg’s stages of moral development tries to explain the development of moral reasoning through six stages which are grouped into three levels. The first level is the pre-conventional level, which consists of two stages: obedience and punishment orientation (wherein the child asks, “how can I avoid punishment?”) and self-interest orientation (wherein the child asks, “what is in it for me?”). In the first stage individuals focus on the direct consequences that their actions will have for themselves. For example, an action is perceived as morally wrong if the person who commits it is punished. The worse the punishment for the act is, the more “bad” the act is perceived to be. In addition, there is no recognition that others’ points of view are any different from one’s own point of view.
Figure 2. Five years


second stage shows a limited interest in the

old. needs of others, but only to a point where it might further one’s own

interests, in a kind of “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” approach. In other words, concern for others is not based on loyalty or intrinsic respect. For Freud, in the anal stage of psychosexual development, the focus of drive energy moves from the mouth to the anus. This stage lasts from about the 15th month to the third year of age. In this stage, the formation of

Lindstrom 5 ego continues. For me, the major experience during this stage was toilet

training. I can recall an incident wherein my mother kept me on the training toilet for over an hour while I steadfastly refused to move my bowels. However, upon finally being released to go play in the back yard, I promptly defecated in the sandbox. This behavior arose out of a conflict between my id, which asked for immediate gratification of its drives and the demands of my parents. With myself, as in all children, the resolution of this conflict can be gradual and non-traumatic, or intense and stormy, depending upon the methods the parents use to handle the situation. The ideal resolution will come if the child tries to adjust, but also the parents are moderate, so that the child will learn the importance of cleanliness and order gradually, which will lead to a self-controlled adult. The phallic stage extends from about three to five years of age, and the erogenous zone associated with it is the genitals. Even though the gratification is focused on the genitals, this is not in the form of adult sexuality, since children are not yet physically mature. However, stimulation of genitals is welcomed as pleasurable. Boys, like adult males, may have erection during their sleep. Children become increasingly aware of their body and are curious about the bodies of other children, but also their parents’, so that very often children of this age are observed taking off their clothes and playing “doctor” with each other. I know that during this period I often removed my clothing at wholly inappropriate times, such as when guests were visiting, or while in public. I would also frequently attempt to sleep in the nude. According to Erikson, when a child reaches the age of one to three, the child begins developing a sense of autonomy. During this autonomy versus self-doubt stage, the child discovers that he is no longer attached to the primary caregiver but is a separate and autonomous individual. The child’s autonomous behavior is a way of forming their own identity apart from their caregivers. This stage is the time when a toddler has the will to become independent. Shame and doubt is likely to occur when the toddler is

Lindstrom 6 not given any choices or boundaries despite being determined to become independent. The strong will exhibited during this period may also cause conflict between the child and caregiver. Immediately following the muscular-anal stage, the child passes into Erikson’s initiative versus guilt stage. Initiative adds to autonomy the quality of undertaking, planning, and attempting a task for the sake of being active and on the move. The child is learning to master the world around him, learning basic skills and the principles of physics. At this stage the child wants to both begin and complete his own actions. Guilt is a new emotion and is confusing to the child; he may feel guilty over things which do not logically produce guilt, and may feel guilt when his initiative or actions do not produce the desired results. ✦

Lindstrom 7 THE

the four

stages of Piaget’s cognitive development theory. This stage occurs between the ages of seven and twelve years and is characterized by the appropriate use of logic. during this stage categorization, Important processes include seriation, reversibility,


conservation, and elimination of egocentrism. Of these, categorization and conservation are the most important. Categorization is the ability to name and identify sets of objects according to
Figure 3. Eleven years old.

appearance, size or other characteristics, including the idea that one set of objects can include another.

For example, the ball shown in figure 3 was my favorite due to its size; I had other balls, but categorized that ball as both my favorite and my largest ball. Conservation is the understanding that quantity, length, or number of items is unrelated to the arrangement or appearance of the object or items. Kohlberg states that the conventional level of moral reasoning is typical of adolescents and adults. Persons who reason in a conventional way judge the morality of actions by comparing these actions to societal views and expectations. The conventional level consists of the third and fourth stages of moral development: in the third stage (good orientation), the self enters society by filling social roles. Individuals are receptive of approval or disapproval from other people as it reflects society’s accordance with the perceived role. They try to be a good boy or a good girl to live up to these expectations, having learned that there is inherent value in doing so. In the fourth stage (authority-maintaining) it is important to obey laws, dictums and social conventions because of their importance in maintaining a functioning society. Moral reasoning in stage four is thus beyond the need for individual approval exhibited in stage three; society must learn to transcend individual needs.

Lindstrom 8 The next stage in Freud’s theory of psychosexual development is the latency stage, and is typified by a solidifying of the habits that the child developed in the earlier stages. The drives of the id are not accessible to the ego during this stage of development, since they have been repressed during the phallic stage, and thus are seen as dormant and latent, and the gratification the child receives is not as immediate as it was during the three previous stages. Pleasure is now mostly related to secondary process thinking. Drive energy is redirected to new activities, such as those related to school, hobbies, and friends. Erikson specifies that from age six and lasting until puberty, the child enters the competence versus inferiority stage. To bring a productive situation to completion is an aim which gradually supersedes the whims of play. The fundamentals of technology are developed during this time. To lose the hope of such “industrious” associations may pull the child back to the more isolated and less conscious familial rivalry of the oedipal time of the preceding stage. At this stage, children might express their independence by being disobedient and rebellious. Children in this stage

have to learn the feeling of success. If the child is allowed too little success, he may develop a sense of inferiority or incompetence. Too much industry leads to narrow virtuosity. The optimum result is a balance between industry and inferiority which leads to competency. ✦ PIAGET’S twelve of the

around into

years ability and

of to




adulthood. It is characterized by the acquisition think abstractly, reason all logically, draw conclusions from

available information.

During this stage the

young adult is able to understand such abstract

Lindstrom 9 concepts as love, “shades of gray” versus “black and white”, logical proofs, and moral and ethical values. Kohlberg’s post-conventional level consists of stages five and six of moral development. Realization that individuals are separate entities from society now becomes salient. before society’s. In stage five (contractual-legalistic orientation), individuals are viewed as holding different opinions and values. Along a similar vein, laws are Those that do not regarded as social contracts rather than rigid dictums. One’s own perspective should be viewed

promote the general welfare should be changed when necessary to meet the greatest good for the greatest number of people. This is attained through majority decision, and therefore inevitably involves compromise. I was quite the political activist while in high school; convinced that the views of Republicans and Democrats failed to accurately represent the majority, I campaigned strongly for several local and independent candidates (see figure 4). I organized rallies, called people to “turn out the vote”, and This sudden political vim and vigor faded with canvased neighborhoods.

time as I matured and passed out of Kohlberg’s post-conventional level. In stage six (universal ethical principle orientation), morals are based on abstract reasoning using universal ethical principles. Laws are valid only insofar as they are grounded in justice, and that a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws. Rights are unnecessary, as social contracts are not essential for moral action. The fifth and final stage of Freud’s psychosexual development, the genital stage, lasts from puberty onward. This stage represents the major
Figure 4. Seventeen

portion of life, and the basic task that the

individual must accomplish is the detachment from his parents. It is also the years old. time when the individual tries to come to terms with unresolved issues from early childhood. In this stage the focus is again on the genitals, like in the phallic stage; but this time the energy is expressed through adult sexuality. Another crucial difference between these two stages is that, while in the

Lindstrom 10 phallic stage gratification is linked with the satisfaction of the primary drives, the ego in the genital stage is well-developed, and uses secondary process thinking, thereby permitting symbolic gratification. This symbolic gratification may include the formation of love relationships and families, and the acceptance of responsibilities typically associated with adulthood. In Erikson’s identity versus role confusion stage, the adolescent is newly concerned with how he or she appears to others. Superego identity is the accrued confidence that the outer sameness and continuity prepared in the future are matched by the sameness and continuity of one’s meaning for oneself, as evidenced in the promise of a career. The ability to settle on a school or occupational identity is pleasant. In later stages of adolescence, the person develops a sense of sexual identity. ✦

Lindstrom 11 FOR

30 (SEE




models from Piaget, Kohlberg, and Freud are the same: that is, the formal operations stage, post-conventional level, and genital stage remain in effect. However, for Erikson, the early adult stage, which focuses on intimacy versus isolation, covers the period from eighteen to thirty years of age. start of this stage, identity At the role versus

confusion is coming to an end but still lingers at the foundation of the stage. Early adults are still eager to blend their identities with friends,
Figure 5. Thirty years

because they want to fit in. When an early adult

arrives at stage six he should be prepared for intimacy, a close personal old. relationship, and isolation. I realize beyond a shadow of a doubt that had I not gone through several painful breakups with past girlfriends, and had my heart broken, I would not appreciate my wife nearly as much as I do. Additionally, a balance between intimacy and isolation makes love possible, as we must know how to be alone in order to learn to truly love. Having been alone in the past allows me to more fully appreciate having a loving and loyal life partner. ✦ IN










developmental stages specified by Piaget (formal operations stage), Kohlberg
Figure 5. Fifty-five years old (projected).


level), and Freud (genital stage); but I can look forward to passing through the two remaining stages

Lindstrom 12 set forth by Erikson: first the middle adult stage (ages thirty to fifty-five), and finally, the later adult stage (ages fifty-five and older). The foremost challenge I will face during my middle adult stage is that of generativity versus stagnation. Generativity is the concern of establishing and guiding the next generation; for example, work that possess inherent social value and related disciplines are expressions of generativity. Simply having or wanting children does not in and of itself achieve generativity as merely reproducing does not produce a positive effect on society as a whole. Rather, the challenge lies in raising well-rounded children who, free of prejudices and harmful schemata, can go on to be productive and contributing members of civilization. In the later adult stage of life, the challenge will be one of integrity versus despair where the fundamental question will be, “what kind of life have I lived?” A positive outcome of this crisis is achieved if I gain a sense of fulfillment about life and a sense of unity within myself and with others. This way I can accept death with a sense of integrity. Just as a healthy child does not fear life, so a healthy adult should not fear death. Of course, a negative outcome of this crisis would cause me to despair and fear death. The chief value found in these various developmental models is the illumination of why individuals who have been thwarted in the healthy resolution of earlier phases (for example, learning healthy levels of trust and autonomy by age three) have such difficulty with the crises that arise in adulthood. More importantly, these stages allow the quantification of the different steps of maturity, provide practical applications to resolving crisis, and have created new avenues for therapists and their patients to identify key issues that must be addressed in order for the person to successfully achieve the next level of maturity. Erikson put it best when he said: ←
“Every adult, whether he is a follower or a leader, a member of a mass or of an elite, was once a child. He was once small. A sense of smallness forms a substratum in his mind, ineradicably. His triumphs will be measured against

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this smallness, his defeats will substantiate it. The questions as to who is bigger and who can do or not do this or that, and to whom—these questions fill the adult’s inner life far beyond the necessities and the desirabilities which he understands and for which he plans.”

(Childhood and Society, 1950)

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