Application of Development Theories to Real Life Examples

child development
  1. Application of Social and Emotional Theory

Erik Erickson’s Psychosocial Theory

Erikson’s psychosocial theory is one of the social and emotional and social theories of development. Through this theory, Erickson suggests that personality is developed though a series of stages (Bee and Boyd, 2009). Erik Erickson provides the effects of social experiences of an individual through the entire lifespan. The stages that an individual undergoes during development are: infancy (birth-3 years), Early Childhood (2-3 years), Preschool (3-5 years), School Age (6-11 years), Adolescence (12-18 years), Young Adulthood (19-40 years), middle adulthood (40-65 years), and Maturity (65 years to death). This case study analysis focuses on the School Age stage because the child described in the study is in the fifth grade and has 10 years.

According to Erickson, school age stage of a child is characterized with the conflict of Industry vs. Inferiority. At this stage, children go to school and have to cope with changing social and academic aspects (Erickson, 1968). As children of this age interact socially with peers, they either develop pride for their accomplishments or feelings of inferiority for their failures. Children begin to undertake new complex activities and master new skills. Parents and teachers praise children at this stage for their tasks in order to enhance confidence in them.

In the case study, James is in the Industry vs. Inferiority stage of development as suggested by the psychosocial theory. James is 10 years old, in fifth grade, and is trying to cope with challenging and changing social and academic demands. As he tries to meet the academic standards required by his teacher Miss Rowe and his mum, he faces challenges in his social life as he faces bullying from his peers including his classmate Nathan who is bigger than him.

However, when a new friend arrives in the school, he develops new skills and gains confidence to improve in academic work. His teacher and mother also praise him in order to enhance confidence in him. This reflects the stage of industry vs. inferiority as suggested by Erickson’s theory of psychosocial development.

Attachment Theory

The attachment theory focuses on the long term relationship that may occur between human beings in their development. As a child grows through infancy to early childhood and middle childhood, he/she needs to develop a close relationship with at least one caregiver in order to develop normally (Grossman and Waters, 2005). According to the attachment theory, attachment in during middle childhood and adolescence becomes more complicated as age, social experience and cognitive growth advance the development of the child.

Mercer (2006) suggests that at the age of 7-11, a child moves from proximity and availability of the caregiver to a stage of coregulation where the child and the caregiver maintain a secure-base contact. The child moves towards a stage of independence but he/she negotiates some means of communication and supervision (Grossmann and Waters, 2005). At this stage, children also direct attachment behaviours towards their peers if their primary caregivers are unavailable. As the child goes into formal school system, his/her attachment with parental figures lessens.

This theory can be seen clearly in the development of James who is 10 years old. James is not happy when her mother wakes her up in the morning because he does not want to go to school. This shows that James is moving from the stage of proximity to her mother who is her primary caregiver to a stage of independence where he can skip school, but maintains some communication with her mother through negotiation. As the mother insists that James should go to school, she is bargaining with him and finally they arrive at some common communication agreement.

The attachment of James to his parental figure (her mother) lessens as he joins school. That is why he does not inform her about his bully peers who bully him at school. When Daniel arrives and becomes his new friend, he discusses class work with him and influences the confidence of James positively. This shows the graduation of James’ attachment from her parental figure to his peers as suggested by the attachment theory.

  1. Application of Cognitive theory

One of the main cognitive theories that apply to the development of a child is Jean Piaget’s cognitive development theory. The theory suggests that the cognitive development of a child involves the development and construction of a mental model of the world (Piaget, 1957). Piaget suggests that mental modeling of the world by children and adults enables them to use information from their past experiences to make plans for their future. Essentially, the cognitive development theory of Jean Piaget focused on how children developed through leaning and thinking.

Jean Piaget also highlighted some stages of development which children and adults undergo. These stages are sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage, and formal operational stage (Salkind, 2004). This case analysis applies to the concrete operational stage of development. This stage involves children with seven to eleven years. At this stage, children usually become more knowledgeable and understand what is going on in their surroundings. They understand more about their mental activities and they think clearly about concrete events within their surroundings. However, they still have difficulties in understanding abstracts and hypotheses.

This indicates that children in the concrete operational stage use inductive logic easily but are unable to use the deductive logic. Inductive logic enables children to go from a specific experience to a general principle while the deductive logic entails going from the general principle to a specific experience.

Children in this stage are also able to understand the reversibility of relationships (Wadsworth, 2004). For instance, a child is able to understand that mental order categories can be reversed. At the concrete operational stage, the child becomes more social and is aware that different people have different perspectives about issues and that such views differ from their own. However, the child at this stage does not know the content of another person’s perspectives.

This theory applies to the case of James. At the age of 10, James has developed the ability to understand that his peers including Nathan have different perspectives from his perspectives. James knows that his bullies have different perspectives on bullying from his perspectives. He also identifies a new friend called Daniel who has a different perspective on bullying. Daniel helped James to get out of the bullying problem by protecting him from his bullies. James and his mother helped James by taking him home after school so that the boys bullying him do not get the chance to do so.

The theory also suggests that children at the concrete operational stage such as James understand their mental operations. This is clearly seen in James when he performs well academically while undergoing social changes. James also understands that her mother is struggling to afford a living and education for him, and as the only man in the house he thinks that he is responsible for improving the situation at home. He understands that he can do so by performing well at school and that he should not add more problems to her already troubled mother by refusing to go to school. This indicates that the case of James reflects the Piaget’s cognitive theory of development which holds that children understand the mental operations and events operating around them between seven and eleven years.

  1. Evaluation

I think that using the social and emotional theories of development is equally important as using cognitive development theories to analyse the case of James who undergoes social and academic changes in his fifth year grade at the age of 10. Erickson’s psychosocial theory enables readers of the case to understand the conflict that exists among children at the school-going age (Santrock, 2008). We understand the conflict that James struggles with in his relationship with his bully peers by considering the psychosocial theory. The theory is relevant for explaining the case because it enhances understanding about the conflict between industry and inferiority that James undergoes at school.

The attachment theory which is also a social and emotional theory of development presents a good demonstration of how James is developing socially and emotionally. The attachment of James to her mother has shifted to his attachment to peers at school. This indicates that the attachment theory is a relevant theory in the growth of James. Through the case of James, it can be seen clearly that James is developing in an environment of attachment to social figures at home and at school. Therefore, the attachment theory applies to the case.

Lastly, the Piaget’s cognitive theory of development is relevant to the case because it demonstrates how James uses his cognitive ability to understand mental operations around him. I think the theory is the most important and relevant theory for the case of James because he combines his mental abilities in class with the understanding of his social environment to develop his confidence and perform well at school.


References list

Bee, H. and Boyd, D. (2009). The Developing Child, 12th Edition. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Erikson, E.H. (1968). Identity, Youth and Crisis. New York: Norton.

Grossmann, K.E., and Waters, E. (2005). Attachment from infancy to adulthood: The major           longitudinal studies. New York: Guilford

Mercer, J (2006). Understanding Attachment: Parenting, child care, and emotional development.   Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

Piaget, J. (1957). Construction of reality in the child. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Salkind, N. J. (2004). An introduction to theories of human development. Thousand Oaks, CA:      Sage Publications, Inc.

Santrock, J.W. (2008). A topical approach to life-span development, 4th edition. New York City:   McGraw-Hill.

Wadsworth, B. J. (2004). Piaget’s theory of cognitive and affective development: Foundations of             constructivism. Longman Publishing.

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