Free «Piaget versus Erikson» Essay Sample

Piaget versus Erikson

Developmental psychology has a list of arguable issues. Particularly, developmentalists have different opinions about heredity versus environment, active versus passive learning, critical versus sensitive periods, and continuous versus discontinuous change. This paper will discuss the views of Erik Erikson and John Piaget on these controversies. As both scientists are authors of stage theories, their attitudes are expected to be similar.

Heredity Versus Environment

Modern developmentalists do not separate heredity (nature) and environment (nurture). They state that both nature and nurture have an influence on people’s development (Belsky, 2012). However, some experts believe that people are primarily shaped by heredity, whereas other researchers claim that people’s social activity determines who they are and how they behave (Spencer, 2010). Besides, there are some features that are affected by either heredity or environment. Nature has a direct impact on a person’s physical characteristics (e.g. eye color, blood group). Nurture, however, affects learning ability (e.g. the language that the person chooses to speak). When humans are born, they can understand all the phonemes. By six months, babies lose this ability and start to understand only the phonemes that they hear (Spencer, 2010),

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Piaget and Erikson also address the issue of heredity versus environment. Piaget identified Stages of Cognitive Development, which children have to complete one by one. The stages would be impossible without social environment. One of the basic concepts of Piaget’s theory is schemata. This is the mental structure, which reflects the environment. The schemata are modified through the learning process because of assimilation and accommodation (Snowman & McCown, 2011). Assimilation is the process of adding new data to the available schemata, whereas accommodation changes new data into the schemata. From these concepts, Jean Piaget determined four stages of cognitive development, such as sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete and formal operations. At the last stage, abstract thinking develops. Therefore, Jean Piaget addresses the issue of heredity and environment but the controversy could be called “heredity/environmental shemas” (Belsky, 2012). Overall, the scientist was a supporter of hands-on experiences (Belsky, 2012). He did not openly discuss the influence of heredity because its impact on cognitive development was smaller than the impact of experience. Nevertheless, the scientist believed that stages of cognitive development were genetically determined, so this allows concluding that human development is affected by both heredity and environment.

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Erick Erikson’s psychosocial development theory also would not exist without referring to environment. For example, infants need constant mother’s care and nutrition to develop basic trust to the world. If the baby fails to overcome this hurdle, he/she will have problems with establishing close relationships with other people in the adulthood (Belsky, 2012). Then, the child needs freedom from parents to be able to create a separate self. Social interaction is also necessary for developing initiative, industry, identity, intimacy, generativity and integrity (Belsky, 2012). The title of the Erickson’s theory demonstrates the scientist addresses heredity versus environment.

However, Erickson does not discuss the impact of heredity on psychosocial development because it is not as significant as that of environment. Even if the children are born with perfect genes, they could fail the psychosocial development from the first stage. At the same time, children with worse genes can successfully complete the tasks if they are raised in the proper environment (Smart, 2011). For instance, if an ill baby is provided with care and love during the first year of life, she/he has all chances to develop trust and move to the next stage. Nevertheless, Erickson did not ignore the influence of heredity. Thus, it is possible to conclude that he accepts the influence of both factors on human development.

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Active Versus Passive Learning

Active versus passive learning is one more controversy in the phycology of child development. Active learning means that a child forms own environment, whereas passive learning stipulates that the environment shapes the child (Levine & Munsch, 2010). Nowadays, researchers cannot decide which kind of learning is the most influential. As for Jean Piaget and Erik Erikson, they both support active learning. They believe that children are able to construct their understanding of life experiences and search settings that match their genetic ability. Their personal features affect the ways others respond to them. Moreover, Erick Erikson encourages parents to start giving babies autonomy when they are one-year-old. This is necessary for developing the sense of independence, which makes parents children feel secure. Piaget also asks to give freedom for developing skills beginning from the first years of life because children develop effectively only through active learning (Levine & Munsch, 2010).

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Critical Versus Sensitive Periods

Sensitive periods in human development are periods when some skills are learned easier than in any other time. Sensitive periods are viewed as the windows of opportunity. Certain social and cognitive development processes explain why it is do easy to learn specific kinds of skills (Spencer, 2012). Critical periods are times when people can learn some skills. If they fail to do this, they lose this opportunity forever (Spencer, 2012). Critical periods in human development are related to critical visual and motor times. However, experts only agree about the critical data for learning first language (Belsky, 2012).

Erik Erikson and John Piaget also determine sensitive periods for learning certain skills. For example, Erikson states that the first year of life is the best time for developing basic trust. This is the time when the child only needs nutrition and care, and he/she cannot develop other skills physically. In case of failing to complete the stage, the person can still learn the skill but it will be more difficult. Piaget states that the child should start learning to move and apply senses for few years. This is also explained by their psychical ability. Inability to learn these skills will lead to difficulties because children will have to learn other tasks then, what is impossible without completing previous stages.

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