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Part 2 - Parenting psychoeducation / Cognitive development

Updated: Mar 17

Welcome again, this time to the second post in these parenting series. Here will discuss the theories of cognitive development by Piaget and Erikson.

If you are still still here, I think we already have a mutual understanding in the first post that information is power. We will cover a lot of information in the following two posts. In the next post Part 3 we will focus on attachment theory and different attachment styles and at last, parenting styles.

Let's arm ourselves with information as a parent.

I will try my best not to make this post lecturelike, dry and boring. I want you to bear with me if this sounds too raw at the beginning. I promise we will ground and applicable to life it eventually in the next two posts, if not this.

I will be drawing in a lot from various resources as well as two very helpful workshops that I attended last week. First workshop I attended was the Psychoeducational workshop for parents by Skills for Change agency* delivered by Narges Khazraei. Second one was EveryMind agency * on Building Resilience in Children by Dr. Mariko Estrada. I found both of them very helpful in different ways and use the information I gained to construct this post.

We will cover three main topics in this post;

  1. Theories of cognitive development by Piaget and Erikson,

  2. What is attachment? Different attachment styles

  3. Parenting styles

Let's start with the first topic.

Theories of cognitive development by Piaget and Erikson

Jean Piaget's Theory and Stages of Cognitive Development

Piaget is a Swiss psychologist who studied cognitive development of children and his theory suggests children move through four stages of mental development.

These four stages are;

  • Sensorimotor stage: birth to 2 years

  • Preoperational stage: ages 2 to 7

  • Concrete operational stage: ages 7 to 11

  • Formal operational stage: ages 12 and up

Piaget believed that older and younger children think differently. He also suggested that children think different than adults and they act as little scientists as they observe the world and their actions then do experiments to see different possible outcomes or consequences. They learn through observing and understanding the consequences of these experiments and derive mental operations, as he called them, which eventually lead to their mental development.

Let's look into different intellectual development stages he mentioned;

  • Sensorimotor stage: birth to 2 years

This stage is characterized by motor activity and understanding the world through movement, sensations and visual stimuli. A lot of experimenting and trial & error goes into this stage of development. The goal of this stage is establishing object permanence which means, knowing that an object still exist even if it can't be seen.

  • Preoperational stage: ages 2 to 7

The next stage, preoperational stage is characterized by language, memory and imagination development. Children at this stage start to play pretend play and role play. It is still hard for children at this stage to think logically and they are egocentric, meaning that they have difficulty thinking outside of their own view and understanding other people's point of view or feelings. The goal of this stage is the language development and symbolic thinking. AT this stage children start to attach meaning to objects and think about things symbolically meaning that a word or an object can be used to represent something other than itself.

  • Concrete operational stage: ages 7 to 11

At this stage, children start to think logically and understand the concept of a conversation. They become less egocentric and start to manipulate symbols in a more logical and methodical way. The goal of this stage is the development of operational (logical) thought, which means for a child to start solving problems inside their heads even though they might not have encountered them in the physical world.

  • Formal operational stage: ages 12 and up

The last stage that Piaget defined is the formal operational stage in which children start to use symbols and thinking in a more abstract and logical way. They can think abstractly and try to deal with hypothetical problems and . The goal of this last stage is development of scientific reasoning and ability to deal with several potential solutions to a problem and develop their own hypothesis based on previous knowledge

To summarize, Piaget summarized four different stage of mental development for children which had their unique goals. Now that we know the Piaget's theory let's move on to Erickson's.

Erik Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development

Erik Erickson's theory on development focuses on psychosocial aspects - which means both psychological and social aspects. He defined eight stages in his theory as follows:

  • Stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust

  • Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

  • Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt

  • Stage 4: Industry vs. Inferiority

  • Stage 5: Identity vs. Confusion

  • Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation

  • Stage 7: Generativity vs. Stagnation

  • Stage 8: Integrity vs. Despair

Erikson suggested that personality developed in stages which builds upon one another. According to him, every stage presented a unique psychological conflict which can be either lead to better development of a psychological quality or failing to do so.

Depending on the way people dealing with conflict successfully or not, they would either emerge with psychological strength and mastery or fail to the necessary skills and a strong self which could lead to feelings of inferiority.

In the following chart, each psychosocial stage and the unique conflict it presents are summarized. For the sake of clarity and time, I will focus on explaining first three stages only in this article and I encourage you to read further from here, here and here.

Image: verywell.com

Stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust

The first stage of Erikson's theory occurs until 1 year of age and he defined it as the most fundamental stage in life. This stage is where the trust is developed depending on the availability, reliability and quality of child's caregivers.

At this stage, the infant is highly dependent on caregivers for survival for physical needs such as food, diapering and safety and psychological and emotional needs as love, warmth and nurturing. Therefore development of trust or mistrust depends on caregivers being able to provide these needs and in case they fail to do so, the child will not be able to develop trust and depend upon adults.

Two possible outcomes of this stage are either development of trust and feelings of safety and security in case caregivers are consistent, emotionally available. In the scenario, where caregivers are not consistent, reliable or available will contribute feelings of mistrust which could lead to fear of an inconsistent and unpredictable world.

Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

The second stage focus on ages early childhood between 2 and 3 and it is concerned with development of personal control by children. Children at this age have started to develop independence by performing basic acts by themselves and showing preferences. Caregivers can help children at this age to become independent and autonomous by allowing them to make choices and gain sense of control over their lives. An important event during this stage that contributes significantly to child's autonomy is the potty training as well as food and choice preferences and selecting their own clothes.

Two possible outcomes of this stage are either developing a strong sense and feeling of autonomy or feeling ashamed for the accidents and doubting their own abilities.

Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt

The third stage of development focus on ages between 3 to 5 which are the preschool years.

At this stage, children start to become more assertive, making more choices and taking age appropriate decisions as well as trying to control the world around them through playing and interacting with their social environment. Children who are successful at this stage gain initiative and they feel capable to manipulate their environment as well as leading their peers.

Therefore, the two possible outcomes of this stage could be feeling capable in the world and developing a sense of purpose in contrast to feeling guilty and doubtful.

To summarize, Erikson focuses on different stages of psychosocial development that a person goes through during their life time. Each stage focuses on a unique ability to master such as trust, autonomy or initiative through psychological conflict that people go through during that stage.

Now that we know both theories, we can move forward to understand aspects of parenting.

I guess I don't need to explain this fact. As a parent you already know how many different hats you have to wear. A parent is a guide, caregiver and teacher. She or he bonds with her/his child, entertains her/him and most importantly children and parent development attachment. It is very important to realize that attachment does not just mean loving or bonding with your child.

Let's meet at the Part 3 next post which will continue from where we left here and discuss attachment theory and different attachment styles and at last, parenting styles.

March 1, 2021


*I highly recommend for newcomers, immigrants and refugees to check these settlement agencies for their services as they offer a variety of them including free mental health resources and counseling.

Skills for Change :https://skillsforchange.org/

Where to Start : https://wheretostart.ca/


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