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Erikson Vs Piaget Essays Of Elia

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A comparison of piaget freud and erikson

The field of psychology may have grown to be respected as a science.

Objectivity and the scientific method are both part of the psychologist's mode

of operation. However, even the greatest of psychologists can only theorize

about what makes human beings act the way they do. Absolutes are not part

of psychology . Everything is relative and open to speculation. Theorists give

us their views or ideas about life.

In the field of psychology, there have been many different areas of

interest. Human development is one of the most popular areas of interest for

those who study psychology. Freud, Erikson and Piaget are all great theorists

with different ideas concerning human development. Each theorist developed

ideas and stages for human development. Their theories on human

development had human beings passing through different stages. Each theory

differed on what these stages were. These theories also differed with their

respect towards paradigmatic assumptions, learning and development, and

relationship towards educational practice.

Freud is known as the father of psychology. Although some of his

work has been dismissed, most of it still holds weight in the world of

psychology. Freud believed that human development was fueled by inner

forces. He believed the most powerful of all inner forces was our sexual

being. Freud linked everything with sex. This includes any bodily pleasure

whatsoever. Thus, when Freud discusses the sexual needs of children, they

are not the same kind of sexual needs that an adult would experience.

Children experienced sexual gratification in different ways. Sucking their

thumbs or retaining their excrement could be seen as sexual gratification for

small children. Freud also specified certain areas of our body as erogenous

zones. Those areas included the mouth and genitals. This all fit in to Freud's

obsession with sex. An obsession that could be linked to the era that Freud

lived in. It was a very conservative period in history. Sexual feelings were

often repressed.

Freud's theory on human development could be labeled the

psychosexual stages of development. Freud believed human beings passed

through different stages in their life based on which part of their body gave

them sexual gratification. Freud's psychosexual stages of development are

five in total.

The Oral stage takes place from birth to about one year. During this

stage, a child is orally oriented. The mouth is the child's erogenous zone.

Everything a child touches is put in his mouth. Freud believes children do

this because it gives them pleasure. When a child sucks his thumb, it does so

because it gives it gives him gratification. According to Freud, the

gratification is sexual.

The second stage in Freud's psychosexual development theory takes

place between the ages of two and three years of age. The erogenous zone

shifts location, thus moving from one stage to another. The second erogenous

zone in Freud's stages of human development is the anal region. Freud

believes children experience sexual gratification during bowel movements

and when they withhold bowel movements. Some children may even

experience pleasure handling, looking at, or thinking about their own feces.

Once the Anal stage of development has been completed, the next

stage of development for Freud is the Phallic Stage. This usually occurs at

about three years of age. The shift in erogenous zones moves from the anal

region to the genital organs. This stage is also known as the Oedipal Stage of

psychosexual development. This name comes from the legendary king,

Oedipus, who killed his father and married his mother. During this stage

children take interest in their sexual organs. Soon they notice differences and

similarities between themselves and their parents. Each sex wants to be with

the parent of the other sex, for girls this is referred to as the elektra complex.

Once the children realize they can not be with their mother or father, they

identify with the parent of the same sex.

The next stage is called the stage of Latency. This stage is

characterized by a lack of change or absence of erogenous zones. After the

realization that the child can not be with a parent sexually, the child shifts its

attention to same-sexed relationships. Boys will shift their sexual urges and

drives to something acceptable, such as sports. This is a time of relative calm.

The last stage of Freud's psychosexual development is the Genital

Stage. The erogenous zone returns in a very powerful way in the genital

organs. This stage takes place from puberty into adulthood. This stage is

marked by true sexual desire and sexual relationships.

Erikson took Freud's ideas and enhanced them. He added stages for the

adult years. He also shifted his attention to identity rather than sexuality.

Erikson developed the psychosocial stages of development. He is known for

his eight stages of life.

Erikson's first stage is during infancy. It deals with trust versus

mistrust. The child develops an outlook on life and whether the world can be

trusted or not. The child develops trust if the parents give the child something

it can rely on. The child develops a sense of optimism or pessimism during

this stage. according to Erikson.

The next stage in Erikson's psychosocial development is during early

childhood and is known as autonomy versus shame and doubt. The child

becomes autonomous and realizes he can say yes or no. This stage will

determine whether or not a child develops a sense of self-certainty.

Erikson's next stage takes place during the ages of three to six years.

This stage is marked by initiative versus guilt. This stage is important in

developing the child's sense of enterprise. The child develops initiative when

trying out new things and is not scared of failing.

The fourth stage of Erikson's developmental theory takes place at about

six years of age and lasts till puberty. This stage deals with industry versus

inferiority. The child learns skills of the culture and must deal with feelings

of inferiority.

Adolescence brings about the next stage for Erikson. This stage is

known for identity versus identity confusion. During this stage, Erikson

believes adolescents must develop a sense of self and who they are. They

develop a sense of identity.

The sixth stage for Erikson is known for intimacy versus isolation.

This stage takes place during young adulthood. The person seeks

commitments from others. If he is unsuccessful, he may take on isolation.

Erikson believes this stage is important in learning love.

The seventh stage for Erikson takes place during adulthood. It is

marked by generativity versus stagnation. During this stage, the adult is

concerned with guiding the next generation. This stage according to Erikson

gives the adult a sense of caring.

Erikson's last and eighth stage takes place at a mature age. Old age is

marked by integrity versus despair. During this time, the person may achieve

a sense of acceptance of their own life, which in turn allows for the

acceptance of death. When one passes through this last stage, Erikson

believes that a person has achieved wisdom.

Piaget also believed in developmental theory. Her stages were

cognitive stages. These stages were based on what the child can do.

According to Piaget a child passes through four stages in its life. Piaget was

interested in the child's abilities and senses, not sexual desires like Freud was.

Piaget believes the first stage of development should be a cognitive

one. Her first stage is known as the sensorimotor stage. It takes place from

birth to about two years of age. During this time a child learns motor

meaning, object permanence, and Th. beginning of symbolic representation,

also known as language. The child will change from someone who responds

only through reflexes to one who can organize his activities in relation to his

environment. It does this through sensory and motor activity.

The next stage in Piaget's cognitive development theory is the

preoperational stage. This takes place from about two to seven years of age.

During this stage the child's language develops. He develops a

representational system and uses symbols such as words to represent people,

places, and events.

From about the ages of seven to thirteen, Piaget believes children enter

the concrete operational stage. They can solve problems logically. They can

understand rules and form concepts. Some children become moralistic.

The last stage Piaget believes is the formal operational stage. This

stage takes place from about twelve years of age through adulthood. Once

someone has reached this stage, one should be able to think abstractly,

manipulate abstract concepts, use hypothetical reasoning, and use creative

language. Someone should be able to think about the possibilities.

These three theories on human development each have their own good

points and bad points. One problem all theories must deal with are

paradigmatic assumptions. These are ideas that the theorist has taken for

granted as facts. An example is Freud's notion that women suffer from a lack

of self esteem or self worth all their lives because of penis envy. Freud's

assumption could have been a product of the times he lived in. It was a time

when women were treated as second class citizens. Today, the idea of penis

envy has lost its worth. Freud's assumption that sex is the driving force

behind everything could also be a product of his times. Sexual feelings were

often repressed. The problem with paradigmatic assumptions is that each

person grows up in a different culture and some theories don't apply to

everyone. The problem with psychology remains that it is not an exact

science. It is difficult to develop good paradigmatic asumptions because of

that. Erikson assumes a child must learn these virtues or skills in this order.

But, what if a child does not? Someone may never has a meaningful

relationship, but they may develop wisdom. This would undercut Erikson's

assumptions that everyone must pass through these stages in this order.

Piaget also has some assumptions in her theory. A man who never learns to

add, may be able to think hypothetically. These mistakes only show that

psychology still has its flaws.

Each of these theories has some value because they are not totally

wrong. These theories have withstood criticism and are some of the best.

Each theory is similar in its time table and sequence of life events. Where

they differ is in their focus. Freud focuses on sex, Erikson focuses on the self

and social orientation, and Piaget focuses on the child's ability and senses.

Each theory is also useful when applied to its relationship to

educational practice. Each theory guides a teacher in trying to understan

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While theorists have different ideas and perspectives, insight on child and adolescent development can assist teachers and parents in helping children reach their full developmental and learning potential. Having knowledge about the development of a child and adolescent provides clues in understanding behavior and what is “normal,” or typical, in growth and development in the early months and years of life.

Three developmental theories are broken down to understand the concepts, points of similarity and difference, and the interaction of cognitive, physical, and emotional development of a child. The three theorist perspectives analyzed in this essay include Erikson, Kohlberg, and Piaget.

Erikson’s Psychosocial Stage Theory

Erikson’s view

Erikson’s theory is from a psychoanalytic perspective, which believes that development forms by uncontrollable forces that drive human behavior. He expands on Freud’s theory of psychosexual stages, but Erikson focuses on social changes instead of sexual (Heffner, 2004). Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development breaks down in eight stages throughout the human lifespan, and believes “personality is influenced by society and develops though a series of crisis” (Papalia, D. & Olds, S. & Feldman, R., 2006). Each of Erikson’s stages are described as a crisis in personality requiring a positive and negative trait. When the outcome of each stage (or crisis) is successful, a virtue (or strength) develops. The eight stages include:

Basic trust vs. mistrust (birth to 12-18 months); baby develops sense of whether the world is a good and safe; the virtue is hope

Autonomy vs. shame (12-18 months- 3 years); child develops balance of independence and self-efficiency over shame and doubt with virtue of will

Initiative vs. guilt (3-6 years), child develops initiative without guilt with the virtue being purpose

Industry vs. inferiority (6 years to puberty),child must learn skills of culture or face feelings of incompetence; the virtue is skill

Identity vs. identity confusion (puberty to adulthood), adolescent must determine sense of self, or confusion about roles may be experienced; the virtue is fidelity

Intimacy vs. isolation (young adulthood), person seeks to make commitments to others and when unsuccessful, isolation and self-absorption may result; the virtue is love

Generativity vs. stagnation (middle adulthood), adults are concerned guiding the next generation or feels personal impoverishment; the virtue is care

Integrity vs. despair (late adulthood), acceptance of own life and death, or despairs over inability to relive life; the virtue is wisdom

(Papalia, et al., 2006, table2-2)

Kohlberg’s Moral Understanding Stage Theory

Kohlberg’s view

Kohlberg builds off of Piaget’s moral reasoning theory, but Piaget’s viewed the concepts of development of children as fairness through interaction of peers; whereas, Kohlberg thought “all social relationships offer opportunities for social role-taking—taking the perspective of others—and thus stimulate moral development” (Papalia, et al., 2006). Kohlberg’s focus was a child’s development of right, wrong, and justice; he argues that child developments progress consecutively, and are based on spirituality and God through stages of “thought processing, implying qualitatively different modes of thinking and of problem solving” (Cory, 2006). Kohlberg explains moral reasoning in three levels and divides each into two stages. The first level, from ages 4 to 10, Kohlberg calls preconventional morality. Stage one of reasoning in preconventional morality level is a child’s orientation toward punishment and obedience. In this stage, children obey rules to avoid punishment. In stage two, instrumental purpose exchange, children “conform to rules out of self-interest and consideration for what others can do for them” (Papalia, et al., 2006).

Conventional morality is the second level, reached after age 10. Maintaining mutual relations and getting approval of others, wanting to please and help others happens at stage three. In stage four, an individual begins social concern and having a conscience, and understanding the principles of authority. In level three, post-conventional morality, development is in early adolescence, young adulthood—or never. Stage five of level three describes a person developing, or understanding morality of contract, individual rights, and democratically accepting the law. In this stage, people are aware of principles and think rational deciding between human need and the law. Morality of universal ethical principles is the concept of stage six.

Piaget’s Cognitive Development Stage Theory

Piaget’s view

Jean Piaget’s theory focused on cognitive development as mental operations mature based on “simple sensory and motor activity to logical, abstract thought” (Papalia, et al., 2006). Piaget’s view was that growth occurs as a child matures and interacts with his or her surroundings; he looks at the human mind as a focal point and base for everything around it (Heffner, 2004). Cognitive development occurs in three interrelated processes, according to Piaget. The interrelated processes are organization, adaptation, and equilibration. Piaget’s stages of cognitive development are broken down and explained in a web page created by James Atherton:

(0-2 yrs) Differentiates self from objects and recognizes self as agent of action and begins to act intentionally: e.g. pulls a string to set mobile in motion or shakes a rattle to make a noise; Achieves object permanence: realizes that things continue to exist even when no longer present to the sense

(2-7 years) Learns to use language and to represent objects by images and words. Thinking is still egocentric: has difficulty taking the viewpoint of others. Classifies objects by a single feature: e.g. groups together all the red blocks regardless of shape or all the square blocks regardless of color.

Concrete operational

(7-11 years) Can think logically about objects and events; Achieves conservation of number (age 6), mass (age 7), and weight (age 9) .Classifies objects according to several features and can order them in series along a single dimension such as size.

Formal operational

(11 years and up) Can think logically about abstract propositions and test hypotheses systematically; becomes concerned with the hypothetical, the future, and ideological problems. (Atherton, 2009)

Similarities, differences, & key concepts

The major points of similarity, or agreement, in each viewpoint are; development occurs in stages in all three perspectives, and all theorists believe development begins from birth. One of the differences is each theorist’s interest. Erikson’s interest was in how children socialize and how this affects their sense of self. His concept was that if a stage of crisis were unsuccessful, the result would be an inability to get to the next stage; which in turn contributes to an unhealthy personality and sense of self.

Kohlberg’s interest was how children get a sense of right and wrong, with a theory that originates from character of God. Piaget’s interests were intellect and the ability to see relationships mature, with a concept based off sensory and motor activity. A difference between Kohlberg and Piaget’s theory is that Kohlberg’s theory may not apply equally to genders and cultures; whereas, Piaget’s theory is believed to be a fixed order in all children and cultures, with ages of each stage varying from child to child.

The importance of understanding normal child and adolescent development


Indeed, while theorists have different ideas and perspectives, parents and teacher who have some knowledge have a better chance in helping children reach their full developmental and learning potential, and they will be more aware when development and growth are in the normal range.


Cory, R. (2006, August 13). Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development. Retrieved June 29, 2009,

From Aggelia Internet Publishing: http://www.aggelia.com/htdocs/kohlberg.shtml

Heffner, C. L. (2004, March 21). Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development. Retrieved

June 29, 2009,from All Psych Online: The Virtual Psychology Classroom:


Papalia, D. & Olds, S. & Feldman, R. (2006). A Child’s World: Infancy Through
Adolescense .

NY, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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