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Jean Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development and Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory: Analytical Essay on Child Development

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Table of contents

  1. What is attachment?
  2. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development.
  3. Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytic theory
  4. Similarities between Freud and Piaget
  5. Difference between Freud and Piaget
  6. Personal experience using Piaget’s and Freud’s theories
  7. Relevance to today’s Educational System
  8. What is attachment?

    How can young children be better supported for transition from home to school?

What is attachment?

Two theories of Child/Adolescent development are Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development and Freud’s Psychoanalytic theory. Piaget was a strong proponent of constructivism which viewed learning as a search for meaning and described elements that helped predict what students understand at different stages of development. Freud emphasises the importance of the unconscious mind. Sigmund Freud alleged that we are forced to act in a way or another due to the unconscious process. These unconscious processes make us feel remorseful or nervous or otherwise comfortable. Our character was formed by attempting to prevent uneasiness which is provoked by these unconscious feelings and behaviours. (Rummel, 2008)

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development.

Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development implies that children move through four unique phases of mental development. His theory centres around seeing how children obtain information, as well as on understanding the nature of intelligence. Piaget stated that children play a functioning part in the learning process, acting much like little researchers as they perform tests, mention objective facts, and find out about the world.

Quite a bit of Piaget's attentiveness in the cognitive development of children was inspired by monitoring his own children. Piaget implies that intelligence is something that develops through a progression of stages. He specified that older children don’t simply think more rapidly than younger kids. Considering his perceptions, he reasoned that kids were not less clever than grown-ups, they basically think in an unexpected way (Fancher, 2012).

Piaget's stage theory illustrates the intellectual development of children. Intellectual development includes changes in cognitive process and capabilities. During his children observations, Piaget created a stage theory of cognitive development that comprised of four different stages:

  • Stage 1 – Sensorimotor Stage (0 to 2 years) - This stage is divided in six different sub-stages. Kids start to use the reflex aspect. According to Piaget this is the difference between human and animal.
  • Stage 2 – Preoperational Stage (2 to 7 years) - At this stage, kids start to take part in representative play and figure out how to manipulate figures. In any case, Piaget noticed that they don't yet comprehend concrete logic.
  • Stage 3 – Concrete Operational Stage (7 to 11 years) - At this stage, kids would have gained the reasoning aspect. Reasoning is more organised and logic.
  • Stage 4 – Formal Operational Stage (12 to 15 years) - The last phase of Piaget's theory includes a rise in logic thinking, the capacity to utilize deductive thinking, and a comprehension of dynamic thoughts. Now, teens can anticipate what works and what does not work.

To have a better understanding of some of the things that occur during cognitive development, it is imperative initially to look at several thoughts and ideas presented by Piaget. These are some of the elements that impact how youngsters learn and develop.

  • Schema: A schema illustrates both the psychological and physical activities engaged with understanding and knowing. Schemas are classifications of learning that assist us to translate and comprehend the world.
  • Assimilation: Human also learns by assimilation. A person can use current experience, skills and behaviour to understand the world around him. The way a person takes in new data into our existing schema is known as assimilation.
  • Accommodation: It involves adjusting current schemas, or thoughts, due to new data or new encounters.
  • Organisation: As youngsters advance through the phases of cognitive development, it is imperative to keep up a harmony between applying past learning (assimilation) and changing conduct to represent new information (accommodation).

Each child pass through each phase in the same sequence, and child development is determined by genetic growth and interaction with the surroundings.

Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytic theory

Sigmund Freud believed that children are well brought up as adults depending how their parents dealt with their basic sexual and aggressive desires when they were young. He said that children must go through multiple stages of sexual development. Each stage focuses on sexual activity and the pleasure received from a particular area. He named the stages: Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency, and Genital.

  • Stage 1: Oral Stage: This stage starts from birth to one year old. Freud believes that at this point the erogenous zone is the mouth. An infant satisfies himself through eating and sucking and the mouth becomes a pleasurable source. Here an infant, only rely on others cares, therefore he learns to trust others. Behavioural problems such as smoking, and nail biting may develop if too much dependency on others was not resolved.
  • Stage 2: Anal Stage: This stage happens between 1 to 3 years old. The anus is the erogenous zone of this stage. In this stage the child satisfies himself by controlling and releasing the bladder and bowel movements. The child will develop a sense of accomplishment if he learns to control his bodily needs. Here Freud believes that when reinforcement parenting strategy is used by the parents, the child will develop positive outcomes. Positive environment helps children to grow healthier and become competent, productive and creative, while unhealthy environment distorts the child’s personality development.
  • Stage 3: Phallic Stage: This stage happens between 3 to 6 years old. The genitals are very important in this stage. In this stage the child realize the biological difference male and female. Freud believed that children may develop sexual attraction with their opposite sex parent.
  • Stage 4: Latency Stage: This stage happens from 6 years to adolescence. This stage is characterised by the temporary cessation of sexual energy. Here the children learn to channel their sexual fantasies to socially productive activities. They start forming a friendship and be more social. The ego and superego develop making an adolescent capable of dismissing sexual urge.
  • Stage 5: Genital Stage: This is the final stage that happens during puberty to death. Here is the sexual interest in the opposite sex. The libido becomes active once again and result of this is the sexual interest in the opposite sex. Different from the earlier stage, the person will be guided by the ego and superego. The person will be able to form his/her own belief as he/she will be more mature and not just to conform what others are doing.

Another part of Freud’s theory focused on identifying the parts of consciousness. Freud proposed this theory and stated that our childhood experiences shape up our personality.. Freud developed the Structural Model, which explains our mind divided in three sections the Id, Ego and Super Ego.

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  • We are born with the Id, the pleasure- seeking, the Id that cares only about self-satisfaction. When we are born we cry to be fed, we only care about our basic needs to fulfil us.
  • In our first 3 years we start to develop the Ego, it depends of one’s personality. Its purpose is to satisfy the Id but we start to think before we act. The ego is in the middle balancing the Id and superego.
  • Superego is developed at around the age of 5, at this age we begin to learn rules imposed on us society. This development is based on the moral principles; we start to distinguish what is right and what is wrong.

Freud believes that a healthy person has a strong ego as a part of his personality. He generated the idea that these 3 parts may conflict with each other and create a repression. He believed that mental illness is caused by tensions created by repressions and can be cured by digging down into the unconscious to make the conscious aware. For example, a person that may had a bad relationship with his father may be angry to most man without knowing why. By psychotherapy the patient will start to be aware of his feelings.

Similarities between Freud and Piaget

  1. Both Freud and Piaget shared an interest in development. Both believe that understanding childhood is a key to understanding adulthood.
  2. Both recognized the similarities between children and adults. Freud suggested that even infants are sexual beings while Piaget found that young children reason.
  3. They see that infants and young children seek pleasure and avoid pain, seek rewards and try to avoid punishment.
  4. Both Freud and Piaget were concerned with universal process of moral development. Freud was interested in the process by which The Superego functions appears, while Piaget was interested in changes in the reasoning for moral judgments.
  5. Freud and Piaget believe that the child is the principal agent for his own moral development. the young child is affected by his parents’ standards, but he is not simply the passive recipient of those standards.

Difference between Freud and Piaget

  1. Freud was interested in expressions of aggression while Piaget was not.
  2. Freud emphasizes what might be called moral feelings, while Piaget was more interested in moral judgment.
  3. Freud gathered data on childhood through free associations whereas Piaget observed children.
  4. Freud argues that the parents are an influence on their kids, while Piaget says that peers are more important than parents are.
  5. Freud felt it necessary to construct the concept of the “Id”; Piaget was not, but he did feel it necessary to construct the concept of egocentrism.

Personal experience using Piaget’s and Freud’s theories

  • Being an LSE, I put Piaget’s theory into practice on daily basis. Piaget believed that “mastery” happens at different steps for the different students in the class. All lessons are adapted according to the students’ level of understanding. To accommodate different learning styles diversity of classroom activities are planed such as auditory and visual. Piaget affirmed that students develop understanding by trial and error. I also allow students to learn from their own mistakes. Although sometimes certain mistakes can be prevented, I patiently guide the learner to the right direction. As an Lse, I also do my best to try to comprehend the students’ reasoning from their perspective so that I can understand better their point of view. To promote learning, I as an educator is responsible to apply learning theories in classroom as these are essential for effective learning.
  • A real example of Freud’s psychoanalysis theory in my life is my fear from diving. This can possibly be connected to a bad experience I had when I was young. I still can remember myself swimming and diving with my sister. I used to close my eyes under the water. I was under the water when suddenly, I was hurt badly by a jellyfish on my face. Till now I still have an abnormal fear from diving. For me this is an example of psychoanalysis as it shows that my behaviour today is affected by a childhood experience.

Relevance to today’s Educational System

  • Jean Piaget’s cognitive development theory is well renowned within the psychology and education section. Piaget’s cognitive theory has a huge influence on child’s development understanding. Piaget’s observation that children really think uniquely in contrast to grown-ups, helped introduce another period of research on the cognitive development of kids. Piaget’s theories centred on kids’ development in stages. These stages help to clarify a child’ point of view and how they see the world. This enables educators and guardians to have a better understanding of kid’s developmental level. Hence, in an educational setting, youngsters will profit by working and learning at their own particular level. (Nicola, 2016)
  • Freud’

What is attachment?

The attachment theory was developed by John Bowlby by Mary Ainsworth, a psychoanalyst who investigated the impacts of separation among babies and their guardians (Fraley, 2010). Bowlby assumed that the extreme behaviours new-born children would take part in to maintain separation or while reconnecting with a physically separated parent, behaviours like crying, shouting, and clinging, were transformative systems – practices that were strengthened through regular determination and improved the kid’s odds of survival.

These attachment behaviours are intuitive reactions to the apparent danger of losing the survival point of interest that go with being thought about and took care of by the main caregiver(s). Since the babies involved in this behaviour will probably survive, the instincts were normally chosen and fortified over ages. (Ackerman,2018)

Bowlby named these behaviours “attachment behavioural system”, the framework that aides us in our examples and tendencies for shaping and looking after relationships (Fraley, 2010).

Research on Bowlby’s theory of attachment demonstrates that babies put in a new circumstance and isolated from their guardian(s) will generally respond in one of three different ways upon reunion with the guardian(s) (Fraley,2010):

  1. Secure attachment – these babies were upset upon detachment yet looked for comfort and were effortlessly consoled when the guardian(s) returned. (Ackerman,2018)
  2. Anxious – resistant attachment – some of the babies experienced a greater level of distress and, after re-uniting with the guardian(s), appeared to both look for consolation and endeavour to “punish” the guardian(s) for going away. (Ackerman,2018)
  3. Avoidant attachment -babies in the third class of attachment style demonstrated no stress or minimal stress upon partition from the guardian(s) and either disregarded the guardian(s) after re-uniting, or effectively maintained a strategic distance from the guardian(s). (Ackerman,2018)

In later years, analysis would add a fourth attachment style to this listing: the disoriented attachment style, which alludes to kids that have no foreseeable pattern of attachment practices (Kennedy and Kennedy,2004)

It bodes well that a youngster’s attachment style is generally an element of the providing care the kid gets in his or her initial years; the individuals who got support and love from their guardians are probably going to be secure, while the individuals who experienced irregularity or carelessness from their guardians are probably going to feel more anxiety encompassing their relationship with their guardians. (Ackerman,2018)

How can young children be better supported for transition from home to school?

A child might find it easier to start school if she/he had opportunities to spend some time with other children and adults before. Therefore, children who attend child care centres or nurseries tend to get into school routine very easy. Good exposure to story telling and use of items like scissors, crayons, markers, paint and papers will also help the kid in transition as they will find familiar things when they go to school. Sometimes the children will be invited to visit the school with the parent before the day arrives; this is also a good idea as they will be familiar with the new class and teacher.

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Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development and Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory: Analytical Essay on Child Development. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from
“Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development and Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory: Analytical Essay on Child Development.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022,
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