Developmental Psychology

The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896–1980) developed his theory of genetic epistemology throughout a nearly 60-year career as a professor and experimental researcher. Before he was 30 years of age, he was world renowned for his explorations of the cognitive development of children. Piaget is credited with fundimental contributions to the disciplines of child psychology, educational psychology, and, most famously, his cognitive development theory. Piaget’s experimental studies of infants, children, and adolescents provided insight into the nature of knowledge and how it is acquired. He took children’s thinking seriously and respected them as the architects of their own intellectual development.

Piaget’s child-centered research and observations of infants and children led him to the discovery that children think in different ways than adults as they progress through four distinct stages of development.
• Sensory-motor stage (birth to about 2 years): Infants rely on their senses to understand the world around them.
• Preoperational stage (about 2 to 7 years): Pre-school children develop an increased capacity for symbolic thinking and the use of language and images.
• Concrete-operational stage (about 7 to 11 years): Children think logically and begin to see the world from others’ perspective.
• Formal operational stage (age 11 to adult): Hypothetical and abstract reasoning with systematic problem solving and abstract thinking.

The formal operational stage begins at approximately age eleven to and lasts into adulthood. During this time, people develop the ability to think about abstract concepts. Skills such as logical thought, deductive reasoning, and systematic planning also emerge during this stage. Piaget believed that deductive logic becomes apparent during the formal operational stage. Deductive logic requires the ability to use a general principle to determine a specific outcome. This type of thinking involves hypothetical situations and is often required in science and mathematics. While children tend to think very concretely and specifically in earlier stages, the ability to think about abstract concepts emerges during the formal operational stage. Instead of relying solely on previous experiences, children begin to consider possible outcomes and consequences of actions. This type of thinking is important in long-term planning. In earlier stages, children used trial-and-error to solve problems. During the formal operational stage, the ability to systematically solve a problem in a logical and methodical way emerges. Children at the formal operational stage of cognitive development are often able to quickly plan an organized approach to solving a problem and have abstract thoughts.
During the formal operational stage, the child goes through dramatic changes concerning his or her physiological and psychological state. During their course of development, adolescents face various developmental challenges and conflicts. These challenges need to resolve in order to move forward through their development. Hence, adolescence is a transitional period, where an individual goes from childhood to full maturity.

Adolescents change cognitively in terms of the way that they think about social matters. Adolescent Egocentrism governs the way that adolescents think about social matters and is the heightened self-consciousness. This self awareness is reflected in their sense of personal uniqueness. Adolescent Egocentrism can be dissected into two types of social thinking: imaginary audience that involves attention getting behavior, and personal fable which involves an adolescent’s sense of personal uniqueness and invincibility, among others.

The world renowned psychiatrist, Erik Erikson, presented the eight stages of emotional development which compliments Piaget’s theory. He stated that in the stage of adolescence (which he calls Identity vs. Role Confusion) the child learns how to answer satisfactorily and happily the question of “Who am I?” But even the best – adjusted of adolescents experiences some role identity confusion. For instance, most teens experiment with minor delinquency, rebellious behavior, and self – doubting thoughts. Love, trust and authority can be the factors which decide what an adolescent’s personality and emotional development will be.

The nature of love, and how the capacity to love develops, has become the subject of scientific study over the last decade. It has great implication for child development. Scientists have found that in addition to shaping the brains of infants, a mother’s love acts as a guide for love itself. It has far reaching effects on her child’s development and ability to love throughout life. However, what is less obvious is that a parent’s love is equally, if not more important for a child during adolescence. Although parents normally remain an important source of guidance and support, part of the adolescent’s struggle is to work toward independence from them. Thus adolescents continue to rely on their parents for material support and instrumental rewards, normally respecting their ideals as sources of continuity and stability. They are less likely, however, to see their parents as helpful in developing their views on present and future issues. For their part, parents generally feel an obligation to “socialize their adolescents properly” by choosing their friends and placing them in certain groups and, hence, tend to be judgmental as their adolescent children explore different directions. Therefore, close friendships, because they involve non-judgmental yet caring equals, help the adolescent develop a sense of identity by offering a climate of growth and self-knowledge that the family may not be equipped for.

In Tanach we see such a strong friendship in David and Yonasan. Although Yonasan was defying his father by seeing David, their bond was too strong to break. When it came to choosing between obeying his father and saving David’s life, Yonasan chose to save David, even though it meant facing his father’s angry wrath afterward. Their friendship had meant to much to him.

Trust is another important aspect in an adolescent’s life. They need to trust, and be trusted. If a teen feels like they aren’t being trusted they may rebel. A study was done to see a pre-teen’s trust in their parents and the results showed that early and middle adolescents were willing to depend on mothers and fathers. However, with increasing age, adolescents were less likely to share private thoughts, feelings, and secrets with parents. While daughters and sons were similar in their willingness to depend on parents, daughters reported sharing confidences more with mothers and less with fathers. This is unlike the son’s whose preference was the father. Contrary to expectations, adolescents’ trust in best friends did not vary with age, but females reported greater trust in friends than did males.

In Judaism, trust plays a major role. Emunah, trust in our G-d, trust in our rabbis and teachers, trust in our parents, and trust between peers is what makes someone a better person. If one does not place his trust in people, then he will have a hard time in life and always be looking behind his back to see what someone is doing. Trust is one of the keys to a happy and healthy life. The famous story of Peter, the boy who ‘cried wolf’ is a well known example of an adolescent taking advantage and misusing given trust. He had the trust of the townspeople until he used it up and no one wanted to help him when he really needed it.

As a child enters adolescence, perhaps due to the fact that logical and abstract reasoning skills increase, and there is also a greater tendency to question authority. Also adolescents test the limits of new adult roles because they feel as if they don’t fit in with the younger children anymore, and need to prove to the adults that they are “just like them”. At this time, emotional adaptation becomes necessary for both adolescents and their parents.

Authority is also a big factor in the Jewish outlook on life. We have the authority of rabbis and parents which we must accept, and of course, it all stems from our submission to the will of Hashem. There’s a story about a man who didn’t listen to his rabbanim, and as a result, the people in his town did not want to accept him into their circles. They ignored him and his life was becoming increasingly difficult. After a while, this man realized that he could not go on without the support of his peers, and he knew that they were right for not befriending him. He understood that in order to live a decent life, one must accept authority. Once he was able to mend his ways he became reaccepted and lived a happy life.

Jean Piaget’s cognitive development theory not only describes perfectly what is going on in each child’s brain as they grow and develop but it also pays tribute to the psychologist Erikson, whose theory compliments Piaget’s. Most theories on development stem from Piaget’s original theory. Love, trust and authority may not be written straight out in his texts, but somewhere along the lines, Piaget knew what comes into play in the development of a child and that those three factors are definitely important to a healthy development. ?


2] Psychology today – Psychological journal:
3] Associated :
4] Wikipedia-online encyclopedia:
5] Looking Forward Through the Lifespan by K. Peterson