Good Example Of Comparing Erikson AND Piaget Essay

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Jean Piaget, Development, Psychology, Children, Family, Theory, Brain, Adulthood

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2023/05/15

If you look at the way children were handled even a couple of generations ago, it was in vogue to look at children as smaller versions of adults. They might have been smaller, but they were expected to move as quickly as possible into adopting adult patterns of behavior. Such maxims as “Spare the rod, spoil the child” and “Children should be seen and not heard” were signs that the whims of childhood were not things to be indulged but instead were to be tamped down as quickly as possible by the realities of adulthood. It was not uncommon for children to have left home by the age of fifteen or sixteen to set out on their own, particularly if they were going to work the land or start an industrial vocation, until well into the twentieth century. Childhood did not lengthen until the twentieth century, and it was not really until the later half of that century that children were indulged, encouraged to live as kids longer instead of rushing into adulthood. While this may have helped emotional development, it has also played a part in hindering young people’s transition into adult responsibilities. Piaget’s paradigm of development is superior to Erikson’s in this regard, because Piaget’s development rightly comes into fruition in early adolescence. This follows the suggestion that adolescents are mentally capable of much more than we tend to expect from them.
When it comes to lifespan development, Erikson’s theory turns all of life into eight stages, beginning with infancy and continuing all the way into old age (Davis and Clifton). His claim is that environment interacts with individuals to affect the pattern of development (Rathbus 14). Each phase involves a pattern of crisis and either success or failure, depending on how the individual deals with the challenge. People gain skills in an orderly progression as they move from one stage to the next, lessening the risk of insecurity as they move forward. Piaget’s theory, though, focuses on a person’s thought process, and his work emphasizes the ages younger than thirteen. People develop their cognitive skills starting as infants all the way to the operational stage, which kicks in at the age of 12 and occurs when abstract ideas still make sense. When Piaget named the cognitive stages, he was identifying the cognitive ability that the child/adult was achieving.
Erikson’s paradigm takes its inspiration from Freud’s psychoanalytic ideas (Smart 29). Erikson’s theory is also newer than Piaget’s, which is in line with the notion that the idea of indulging children came later and later in life. Erikson contributed more ideas to Freudian theory, in short that a person’s environment plays a large role in determining his personality (McLeod). Erikson also recognized that autonomy was important, particularly in eliminating doubt and shame. Pursuing this autonomy was a challenge that lasted an entire lifetime in Erikson’s paradigm.
Piaget, though, vies an adolescent as a being who is already equipped with a rational thinking process. Erikson suggests that teenagers focus on autonomy in their decision making and self discovery, but Piaget’s focus was on the cognitive workings rather than the affective ones. An interesting difference between the work of these two theorists is that Piaget’s taxonomy came from observation and research, while Erikson’s came from experience. Erikson suggested that the psyche was always under change, which makes sense given his debt to the psychoanalytic paradigm. Piaget focuses on the theoretical changes, ignoring the ego altogether (Wood, Smith and Grossniklaus). Piaget assumes that the senses that a child has and the capability for change are uniform and serve as the basis of development.
Another crucial difference is that Erikson focused on the development of the personality, using questioning methods and observation to form his theories. Piaget used a variety of questioning methods as well, but his methods were focused on cognitive development, while Erikson’s were focused on the development of the personality.
In the final analysis, while Erikson’s theories are more in line with the modern philosophy that affective processes are crucial in the formation of the personality, it is also worth pointing out that affective findings are much more subjective. Piaget looks at what a person should be able to do based on his cognitive skill level, while Erikson tends to look at what people would prefer to do (Cherry). Treating adolescents as though they are less capable than they are sets them up for failure. It’s true that adolescents may have different emotional needs, but they are also capable of more, cognitively speaking, than many modern theorists may believe. It is this buying into the idea that adolescents are less capable that has led to the infantilization of much of modern culture – and, in large part, to people waiting to assume adult responsibilities in the world until well into their twenties – if not even later. So the kids may be having more fun these days, but they are contributing less with their lives than they might otherwise be able to do. Buying into Erikson’s affective scheme alone ultimately does a disservice to teens.

Works Cited

Cherry, Kendra. “Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development.” 23 December 2015.
Web. 13 January 2016.
Davis, Doug and Clifton, Alan. “Psychosocial Theory: Erikson.” Haverford University., n.d. Web.
13 January 2016.
McLeod, Saul. “Erik Erikson.” Simply Psychology 2013. Web. 13 January 2016.
Rathbus, Spencer. Childhood and Adolescence: Voyages in Development. New York: Centage
Learning, 2010. Print.
Smart, Julie. Disability across the Development Live Span. New York: Springer Publishing
Company, 2011. Print.
Wood, Kay, Smith, Harlan, and Grossniklaus, Daurice. “Piaget’s Stages.” University of Georgia,

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