Theories of cognitive development in children
Human development is a complex subject that has attracted dozens of researchers trying to understand and explain how children grow, learn, and behave. Cognitive development in children refers to the process of development of thinking in the course of childhood. But defining thinking can be difficult since it entails many things, including how one perceives things, constructs their thoughts, memory, language development, decision-making ability, and other changes that occur as the child grows.
To understand the development process in children, a number of theories have been developed. These theories focus on the social, emotional, and intellectual changes that happen as a child grows.
- Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development
This is one of the most influential theories of cognitive development. According to Jean Piaget, children think differently than adults. In his theory, Piaget sought to explain how the thinking process and mental states change with age. His theory also looks at how the thought process impacts the way a child perceives the immediate environment. According to him, as a child grows, so does the way they think and reason. He separated the development process into schemas, namely the sensorimotor stage, pre-operational stage, concrete operations stage, and formal operational stage. These schemas act as units of knowledge for accommodating old experiences and a basis for acquiring new knowledge.
- Freud’s Psychosocial Developmental Theory
Sigmund Freud developed this theory from experience while treating his patients with mental illnesses. Sigmund noticed that childhood experiences and other unconscious desires significantly impact behavior patterns as an adult. According to him, the development process occurs in stages, and the child encounters conflicts at each stage that impact the development process.
- Erickson’s Psychosocial Developmental Theory
In his theory, Erickson presented an eight-stage framework describing the growth process from infancy to death. While closely related to Freud’s theory, Erickson focused on the social interaction and conflicts that a person experiences in the eight stages. Erickson was convinced that social interaction had a significant impact on the growth and development of a child.
4.. Bowlby’s Attachment Theory
John Bowlby, another influential psychologist, was of the opinion that the development process of a child is the innate need to create and develop attachments. These attachments can include people, places, or anything that may influence the development process over the years.
- Bandura’ social Learning Theory
According to Bandura’s theory, while much of the child’s learning is from conditioning and reinforcement, modeling and simple observations also play a critical role in influencing the child’s behavior. Apart from watching live models, the child can also learn by listening to verbal instructions or from observing real or fictional characters in films and books performing and displaying the behaviors.
While not all these theories are accepted today, they have significant input in our understanding of the child’s development process. Many psychologists still refer to these theories to understand how their patients think and behave.