The Theories of Piaget and Kohlberg

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Assignment 2: The Theories of Piaget and Kohlberg

Many researchers have written about child development, but none are quite as well known as Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg. Jean Piaget’s cognitive development theory and Lawrence Kohlberg’s moral development theory have been essential for researchers to gain a better understanding of child development. While these theories are unique in explaining different types of child development, they have many similarities and differences as well.
Jean Piaget’s cognitive theory states that a child goes through many set stages in his or her cognitive development. It is through these stages that the child is able to develop into an adult. The first of these stages is called the sensorimotor period in which the child’s age ranges from 0-2 years old. During this sensorimotor period of a child’s development, the child’s main objective is to master the mechanics of his or her own body. Towards the end of this period, the child begins to recognize himself as a separate individual, and that people and objects around him or her have their own existence. The child, however, does not have a sense of object permanence meaning that when an object is taken away, the child no longer believes that that object actually exists. As the child nears the end of this period of development, he may seek an item that has been hidden in the location where he or she last saw it, but does not look elsewhere (Smith). During the preoperational period, which lasts from age 2-7, the child has come a long way in his or her cognitive development since his or her birth. In this period, the child has a very basic understanding of the inner workings of his or her mind and is ready to interact with their environment in a more symbolic way. A limitation during this period is known as egocentrism. The child has a hard time realizing that though there are many other people and things in their world, none of them are more important that the child himself. The child believes that his point of view is the only point of view of the world. This is caused by his inability to put himself in someone’s else’s shoes (Smith). The concrete operational period, spanning between the ages of 7 and 11, is marked by the onset of logic to the young mind. The child is able to mentally manipulate objects and events. In other words, he or she can imagine squashing a clay ball ...

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...ed to these two theories. Piaget’s theory seems to focus more heavily on nature since every child has to go through the processes that he describes. Kohlberg views the person as able to actively interact with his or her environment. While the individual cannot fully change the environment, the environment can fully mold the individual. A person’s actions are the result of his or her feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and experiences and thus Kohlberg’s theory stresses the importance of the element of nurture. The two theories are similar in that both believe that the stages of development are hierarchical in that later stages of development build on earlier ones. Furthermore, both theorists believed that the stages of development imply qualitative differences in children’s thinking and ways of solving problems (Bissell). Thus, these two theories have both similarities and differences in the way in which they describe human development.
The theories of Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg contributed greatly to the field of psychology. They are similar in some ways and distinct in others, but both theories served to lay the foundation for a major facet of modern developmental psychology.
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