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Summary of Theories of Child Development


Develop-mental stage






12 months)

"Trust vs. Mistrust" - child in stable functional family tends to experience the world as a safe place to explore

"Oral Stage" - child learns feeding is pleasurable, needs to be loved and nurtured

Concrete Þ Abstraction: progression from "Sensorimotor" (concrete) to "Object Permanence" (abstract)

  • Sensorimotor: children learn by interacting with environment directly
  • OP: understanding that just because something is not physically seen, it can still exist (peek-a-boo is no fun for a 1y/o)


(12-36 months)

"Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt" - child is struggling between self needs and parental constraints on childís impulsive behaviors, results in shame and doubt felt by child (typically from overcontrol of parents)

  • Sense of Willpower - results from sense of self-control (autonomy) without loss of self-esteem (because of limited overcontrol by parents resulting in shame and doubt)

"Anal Phase" - needs to learn autonomy and self control. Struggles with compromising the desires of the id and the constraints set by Mom. Develop a sense of "doing for oneís own self" as primary motivation

"Pre-operational Thinking" - goal is to achieve Symbolic Thought - cognitive development. Interactive communication is critical for child to develop this and is dependent on kidís emotional attachment to primary caregiver.


(3-6 y/o)

"Initiative vs. Guilt" : Initiative - child exercising will power to do what it wants to; Guilt - results from over restriction of the initiative

  • Sense of Purpose - develops from Initiative wihtout sense of guilt, childís developing conscience helps control the initiative; prepares child for competitive schooling
  • Socialization occurs

"Genital Stage" - learns whole body pride

  • Castration Anxiety - generalized concern for body integrity (children have concept their body is an oozing mass covered in skin)

"Pre-operational Thinking - cont" - associate observations with experiences and personalize them (via magical thinking). Moral laws exist as indivisible parts of certain behavior. i.e. obeying adults is "good" but doesnít realize why an act is "good" other than from the observation that adults donít get mad when you obey them so it must be good



"Industry vs Inferiority" - focused on converting the energy of earlier stages to the task of learning

  • Industry: ready to learn, successfully mastered other stages of development
  • Inferiority: not ready to master new material, feel inadequate

"Latency" - sexual energy spend competing within the family is sublimated outward

"Concrete Operational" - inductive Þ deductive. Child can now reason and have scientific reasoning (replaces magical thinking). Stage of creative cultivation

Problems seen if proper develop-ment is absent

Infancy: develop notion that world is not a safe place and exploring is risky

Toddler: child does not enjoy learning and helping

Pre: children show aggressive initiative

Elem: sense of inferiority when faced with challenges

Infancy: avolition - canít experience pleasure (donít feel worthy, e.g. anorexics)

Toddler: problems with dependency

Pre: gender identity (tomboy)

Elem: homophobia - fear of being different


Toddler: delay in cognitive development


Elem: delay in creative cultivation

Simplified Summary

Age (yrs)





0 - 1

Basic trust vs. mistrust


Sensorimotor (0-2 yrs)

Stranger anxiety

1 - 3

Autonomy vs. shame and doubt


Pre-operational (2- 7 yrs)

Separation anxiety

3 - 5

Initiative vs. guilt



Imaginary companions

6 - 11

Industry vs. Inferiority


Concrete operations (7-11 yrs)

Logical thought

11 - 20

Identity vs. role confusion


Formal operations (11-20 yrs)

Abstract thought